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Kent Past

The History of Kent

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Saint Eanswythe

St Eanswythe was an Anglo-Saxon saint who first established the Christian church in Folkestone. Her parents were Eadbald King of Kent and Emma daughter of the King of the Franks. Emma was a Christian but Eadbald appears to have had pagan and sometimes Christian beliefs. Eanswythe's grandparents were King AEthelberht of Kent and Queen Bertha who both welcomed St Augustine when he arrived in Kent in 597AD. In 630AD Eadbald built a chapel for Eanswythe in his castle somewhere in The Bayle (street) area east of the present church in Folkestone. This chapel was dedicated to St Peter & St Paul. Here a community of nuns settled with Eanswythe as the Abbess and Founder of the First religious Community for women in England. The date of Eanswythe's death is usually given as 640AD. It is said that she chose not to marry and refused a Northumbrian prince as suitor, when his pagan prayers failed a test she put to him, by not succeding in lengthening a beam required for the building of the church. Her own Christian prayers succeeded. Other legends include providing water for her convent by making it flow uphill from the stream a mile away, restoring the sight of the blind and forbidding the birds to eat the nun's corn.

Eanswythe's Saint's Day is on 12th September. This is the date when her relics were translated to the new church in 1138. These relics were rediscovered in a small leaden Saxon casket in the north wall of the High Alter Sanctuary in 1885, when work on the present alabaster arcading of the chancel was being undertaken. In 1980 the bones were examined and catalogued by an expert. The conclusion was that they came from one human skeleton, a young female adult aged between 18 & 25 years and about 5'4" in height. This is consistent with Eanswythe's life story, and is therefore, one of the few churches in England that still contains the remains of its patron saint, as the majority of relics had been destroyed at the reformation.

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