Saint Æthelwine, Hermit of Athelney
November 29 is the Commemoration of Saint Æthelwine (Egelwine), Hermit of Athelney
Saint Æthelwine of Athelney (Egelwine, Aylwine) was a prince of the house of Wessex who lived as a hermit at Athelney in Somerset, England in the 7th century.
“Æthelwine of Athelney was a seventh century saint. He lived as a Hermit on the Island of Athelney in the marsh country of Somerset, and is known to us through being recorded in the Hagiography of the Secgan Manuscript. He was venerated as a saint after his death.
Aethelwine was a son of Cynegils, king of the West Saxons from 611-42 AD and the brother of Cenwealh, king of the West Saxons from 642-672AD. William of Malmesbury says that he had a chronic disease.
His name is two Anglo Saxon words, Aethel (prince) and Wine (friend protector). He takes his suffix from Athelney, the island he lived on. Athelney was made falmous as the island fort, in the somerset marshes from where Alfred the Great launched his conquest of the Danes, two centuries after Æthelwine lived there. Translated from Anglo-Saxon the name of Athelney isle is “Æthelinga íeg”, thought to mean the “Island of Princes”(æðeling) and as it had this name prior to Alfred it is possible that it derived from Æthelwine, or that it was an established royal residence, fort or refuge of some type. To give thanks for his victory, Alfred founded on the Isle in 888 AD, a monastery, Athelney Abbey.”
“Originally Athelney was a small island in swampland, in what is now the parish of East Lyng, covered with alders and infested by wild animals. It was inaccessible except by boat, according to William of Malmesbury. Here Alfred found a refuge from the Danes; here he built the abbey. The dedication to St. Egelwine suggests that it may have been an enlargement of a hermitage or monastery already in existence.
He peopled it with foreign monks, drawn chiefly from France, with John the Old Saxon (known as Scotus) as their abbot. The original church was a small structure, consisting of four piers supporting the main fabric and surrounded by four circular chancels.”
The Isle of Athelney, a swampy marshland in Somerset, was Alfred’s last outpost of English resistance to the Vikings.