St Botolph

His name is known in it’s Normanized form Botolph and in it’s more Saxon and and more original form Botwulf.

BotolphIn 654 Ethelhere, King of the Southern Angles gave Botolph a grant of land at Ilkenhoe, where he founded a Monastery after the Benedictine Rule. There was some suggestion that the land granted be already cultivated, however it seems that Botolph preferred previously un-cultivated land. The location of Ikenhoe is a matter of conjecture, however generally it is thought to be Iken in Suffolk UK. The Church that stands there today is under the patronage of St Botolph. The Monastery (Minster) built in timber by St Botolph was destroyed in 870, in an attack by the Danes.

It seems during the reign of Ethelhere which ended in 654 Botolph and his brother Adulf travelled from East Anglia to Germany to study the Gospel. They both became monks, and and Adulf later a bishop. Botolph pursued the construction of the Monastery.

In the period between 654 and 674 it seems there were two significant missionary journeys from Ikenhoe, one along the Thames and included the construction of a Church under the patronage of St Martin on the Kentish side of the river. The other Journey to East Anglia resulted to two churches under the patronage of St Peter and St Paul.

St Botolph is generally regarded as the most influential missionary of the seventh century. There are something like 70 churches bearing his name in and around South East England.

St Botolph was originally buried at the Monastery at Ikenhoe. It seems likely his death was around the 17th of June which seems to be a consistent date for the feast of St Botolph amongst those who remembered the great abbot. The year is a little harder, however it would seem to need be later than 674. He seems to have live and died peaceably enough.

The 11th Century Monk Folcard seems to provide most of the scant information that we have, and given the 400 years that passed presumably with oral tradition it will leave a lot to question. Around the time of The Venerable Bede, so within 2 generations an unknown author speaks of Botolph as being ‘a man of remarkable life and learning, full of grace and the Holy Spirit’

In 970, 100 years after the destruction of the Monastery Edgar I gave permission of the remains of the sain to be traslated to Burgh near Woodbridge about 20 Km from Iken. 50 years later the remains were transferred to their own tomb at Bury St Edmonds, about 100 Km on the instructions of King Cnut. Sometime later the remains were rather split up, his head going to Ely Cathedral another 50 Km away from Iken, and probably the torso to Westminster Cathedral and other bits to other house around the countryside. His brother Adulf was similarly distributed around the various houses, in a time when relics of the saints were considered most important.

So here is one of the most important missionaries in the 7th Century, and pioneer of the Benedictine Rule in England, yet we know little.


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