ST. EBBA, ABBESS, AND HER COMPANIONS, MM.
IN the ninth century St. Ebba governed the great
monastery of Coldingham, situated in Merch, or the Marshes, a
province in the shire of Berwick, which was for some time subject to
the English, at other times to the Scots This was at that time the
largest monastery in all Scotland, and had been founded by another
St. Ebba, who was sister to St. Oswald and Oswi, kings of
Northumberland.† In the year 870, according to Matthew of
Westminster, or rather in 874, according to the Scottish historians,
in an incursion of the cruel Danish pirates, Hinguar and Hubba, this
abbess was anxious, not for her life, but for her chastity, to
preserve which she had recourse to the following stratagem. Having
assembled her nuns in the Chapter-house, after making a moving
discourse to her sisters, she, with a razor, cut off her nose and
upper-lip, and was courageously imitated by all the holy community.
The frightful spectacle which they exhibited in this condition
protected their virginity. But the infidels, enraged at their
disappointment, set fire to the monastery, and these holy virgins
died in the flames spotless victims to their heavenly spouse, the
lover and rewarder of chaste souls. See Matthew of Westminster,
Baronius ad an. 870, Cressy, &c.