Houses of Benedictine nuns: The abbey of Minster in Thanet

Page 151

A History of the County of Kent: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1926.

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The story of this house is told by William Thorne (fn. 1) and Thomas de Elmham, (fn. 2) the latter of whom gives the text of several doubtful charters (fn. 3) granted to it by early, Kentish kings. Egbert, king of Kent, is said in expiation of the murder of his kinsmen Ethelred and Ethelbert at Eastry with his consent by his servant Thunor to have given land in Thanet to their sister Domneva for the foundation of a monastery. The boundaries were determined by the course taken by a tame doe belonging to her, and Domneva, who is also called Ermenburga and Eabba, built the monastery on the south side of the island near the water and was consecrated abbess by Theodore, archbishop of Canterbury (669-90). . She was succeeded on her death by her daughter Mildred, (fn. 4) who had earlier been a nun at Chelles near Paris, and who afterwards became the principal Kentish saint with the exception of St. Augustine.

Edburga (fn. 5) became abbess on the death of Mildred, and finding the monastery too small she built another near by, which she, caused to be dedicated in honour of St. Peter and St. Paul by Cuthbert, archbishop of Canterbury (741-58), and removed the body of Mildred there, the translation producing many miracles. In or before her time Ermengitha, sister of Domneva, built another monastery a mile to the east, but all traces of this had disappeared before Elmham wrote his chronicle.

Edburga died in 751, and in her place Sigeburga was ordained abbess by Cuthbert. The first raid of the Danes took place in her time, and thenceforward little by little the monastery began to decline. She died in 797, and was succeeded by Siledritha, who worked hard at restoration, but was eventually burnt with all her nuns in the monastery by the Danes.

The monastery was again burnt by the Danes in 980, (fn. 6) and in 1011 Leofruna, the abbess, was taken captive by Sweyn. (fn. 7) After this it was deserted by the nuns and inhabited only by a few clerks; and in 1027 Cnut granted the body of Mildred and all her land to the abbey of St. Augustine, the body being translated to Canterbury on 18 May, 1030. (fn. 8)

Abbesses Of Thanet

St. Mildred
St. Edburga, died 751 (fn. 9)
St. Sigeburga, died 797 (fn. 10)
Leofruna, occurs 1011


  • 1. Twysden, Decem Scriptores, 1906-12.
  • 2. Hist. Mon. St. Aug. (Rolls Ser.), 215-25.
  • 3. Ibid. 288, 305, 310, 314.
  • 4. For an account of her life see Dict. Nat. Biog. xxxvii, 376.
  • 5. Ibid. xvi, 305.
  • 6. Decem Seriptores, 1780.
  • 7. Ibid. 1908.
  • 8. Ibid. 1783.
  • 9. Hist. Mon. St. Aug. (Rolls Ser.), 220.
  • 10. Ibid. 221.