Opus Anglicanum panels depicting Saint Etheldreda and Saint Anne

c. 1400
linen ground embroidered with silvergilt and silver metal-wrapped thread in underside and surface couching, with coloured silk threads in split stitch
34.7 × 17 cm (each)

Saint Etheldreda was daughter of King Anno of East Anglia and later the Abbess of Ely. She is perhaps the most widely venerated of all medieval English female saints, with more vernacular accounts of her life to her name than any other. One of four siblings, she married twice, first to Tondberct, from whom she was gifted the Isle of Ely before his death in 655. According to legend she married again five years later, this time for the sake of a political union, to Ecgfrith of Northumbria, but she wanted to remain a virgin (having been allowed to do so by her first husband) and refused to conjugate the marriage. Etheldreda fled back to Ely, where in 673 she founded a double monastery on the site of what is now Ely Cathedral. It is believed that she died of the plague, along with several of her fellow nuns, in around 680. According to Bede, her remains were disinterred 17 years after her death and were apparently found in a miraculously incorrupt state. Her shrine in Ely Cathedral quickly became a popular pilgrimage site, drawing thousands of pilgrims to the city.

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Sam Fogg
Art of the Middle Ages