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St. Enswith
(Died AD 640)

Abbess of Folkstone
Died: 31st August AD 640 at Folkstone, Kent

St. Enswith was the daughter of Edbald, King of Kent, and Emma, a princess of Austrasia in modern France. She was sister of the religious King Erconbert, and niece of St. Ethelburga of Lyming, Queen of Northumbria. From her infancy, she despised all that usually amuses and interests children and grew up devoting herself to a religious life. She prevailed on her father to allow her to decline all marital alliances proposed for her and retired, with his consent, to a lonely place between Folkestone and the sea, accompanied by other young women of kindred inclination. There, King Edbald built a church and a monastery for her.

St. Enswith made her monastery a great agricultural establishment, as well as an ascetic sanctuary and literary school. She died young and was buried in her own church. There are many legends about her miraculous powers. Her monastery was built on a cliff and water, being wanted there, she dug a canal with the tip of her crosier and made the water run uphill. She also miraculously lengthened a beam which some carpenters had made too short.

After her death, the encroaching sea ruined the buildings and the body of the saint was moved to the parish church at Folkestone, which Edbald had built in honour of St. Peter. In the process of time, by the devotion of the people to her memory, the church became known as St. Enswith's. She is usually represented in art carrying two fishes.

Edited from Agnes Dunbar's "A Dictionary of Saintly Women" (1904).      Copyright ©1999, LLC