Name/TitleÆthelthryth (Ethelreada)'s left hand relic, St Ethelreda Catholic Church, Ely
About this objectÆthelthryth (Ethelreada) (c.636–679) was daughter of a king East Anglia in England. Although she made a vow of chastity in her early years, she was married twice persuading her first husband to respect her vow, but had to flee the second marriage. She went to the Isle of Ely in southeast England which her first husband had gifted to her. Here she founded a double monastery—nuns and monks—and was Abbess until her death.
The historian Bede tells that, 16 years after her death in an ordinary graver, her sister exhumed her body in order to rebury it in the new church at Ely. It was uncorrupted, attesting to her sainthood, and it was placed in a white marble coffin found at an abandoned Roman fort before its reburial. Her remains were thought to have been destroyed during the Reformation, but her hand was rediscovered around 1811, secured in a priest’s hiding hole at a Catholic house in southern England. This exhibit is the main part of the hand, now kept in the Catholic church of St Ethelreada’s at Ely, Cambridgeshire. The church in Ely Place, London holds a missing finger.
Subject and Association KeywordsRelics
Subject and Association DescriptionLearn More: Blanton 2007; Maccarron 2011; Rosser 1997.
Medium and MaterialsHuman remains
Object numberEXH76: Æthelthryth relic