Æbbe the Younger

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Saint Æbbe of Coldingham
Ecclesiae Anglicanae Trophae - Plate 18.jpg
The self-mutilation of Saint Æbbe and her community. Plate from Ecclesiae Anglicanae Trophae (1584), a collection of engravings by Giovanni Battista de'Cavalieri after murals by Niccolò Circignani in the chapel of the Venerable English College, Rome.
Died2 April 870
Coldingham Monastery, Scotland
Feast2 April

For the earlier Abbess of Coldingham, see Æbbe the Elder.

Saint Æbbe of Coldingham [also Ebbe, Aebbe, Abb], also known as "Æbbe the Younger", (died 2 April 870) was an Abbess of Coldingham Priory in south-east Scotland.[1]

Like many of her fellow female saints of Anglo-Saxon England, little is known about her life.[2] She presided over the Benedictine Abbey at Coldingham.[3]

She is best known for an act of self-mutilation to avoid rape by Viking invaders: according to a ninth-century chronicle, she took a razor and cut off her nose in front of the nuns, who followed her example.[4] Their appearance so disgusted the invaders that the women were saved from rape but not from death, as the Danes soon returned and set fire to the convent, killing Æbbe and her entire community.[5] It has been suggested that this is the origin of the saying cutting off the nose to spite the face.


  1. ^ Farmer, David (2011). The Oxford Dictionary of Saints. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 133. ISBN 978-0-19-959660-7.
  2. ^ Pulsiano, Phillip (1999). "Blessed Bodies: The Vitae of Anglo-Saxon Female Saints". Parergon. 16 (2): 6. doi:10.1353/pgn.1999.0008. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  3. ^ Barret, OSB, Michael. “Saint Ebba, Virgin and Abbess, and her Companions, Martyrs, A.D. 870”. The Calendar of Scottish Saints, 1919
  4. ^ Bartlett, Anne Clark (1995). Male Authors, Female Readers: Representation and Subjectivity in Middle English Devotional Literature. Cornell UP. p. 39. ISBN 9780801430381. Retrieved 8 February 2013.
  5. ^ Horner, Shari (1994). "Spiritual Truth and Sexual Violence: The Old English Juliana, Anglo-Saxon Nuns, and the Discourse of Female Monastic Enclosure". Signs. 19 (3): 658–75. doi:10.1086/494916. JSTOR 3174773.

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