August 23, 2019

Holy Martyr Ebba the Younger, Abbess of Coldingham, and Those With Her (+ 870)

St. Ebba the Younger (Feast Day - April 2)

The Monastery of Coldingham, in the ancient kingdom of Northumbria, founded in the seventh century by Saint Ebba (Aug. 23), sister of the kings Oswald and Oswy, was governed in the ninth century by another Ebba, who presided over a band of holy virgins following the Rule of Saint Benedict. About the year 867 several thousand Danish Viking warriors, under the command of the brothers Hinguar and Hubba, landed on the coast of East Anglia and desolated the whole north country. When Abbess Ebba received tidings of the near approach of the pagan hordes, who had already wrecked vengeance upon ecclesiastics, monks, and consecrated virgins, she summoned her nuns to Chapter, and in a moving discourse exhorted them to preserve at any cost the treasure of their chastity. Then seizing a razor, and calling upon her daughters to follow her heroic example, she mutilated her face by cutting off her nose and upper lip in order to inspire horror in the sight of the barbarian invaders. The nuns without exception courageously followed the example of their abbess. When the Danes broke into the cloister and saw the bloodied nuns with faces thus disfigured, they fled in panic. Their leaders, burning with rage, sent back some of their number to set fire to the monastery, and thus the heroic martyrs perished in the common ruin of their house. Their martyrdom took place on April 2, 870. It has been suggested her sacrificial act is the origin of the saying "cutting off the nose to spite the face."