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St Matilda's Church

Our Saints

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A brief introduction to the lives of our saints

St. Matilda
 
"Matilda" is the English form of "Mechtildis," the name of a well-loved  Saint who was the Abbess of Edelstetten in Bavaria. She devoted her whole life to prayer and to austerities of many kind.  She had evident gifts of healing and was prone to ecstatic revelations.  Her reforms at Edelstetten went down well with the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor who supported her efforts to restore proper monastic discipline to her community. Matilda died in 1160.
 
The reasoning behind the church's dedication to St. Matilda is somewhat obscure. No date is given for it. However, we may speculate either that a relic of the saint was brought to Potherton, or that one of the medieval abbots felt an urge to bring a reminder of the constant need for austerity and reform through the new dedication.
 
As the priory was a place also of convalescence as well as retreat St. Matilda's fame as a healer may have a part to play in the choice of name.  It was not the policy always for monastic retreat houses to have a dedication. We may surmise, therefore, that the dedication was made following the building of the nave in recognition of the increasing use of the church as a "chapel-of-ease" in the parish of Chartres Magna.
 
St. Withburga
 
Like Matilda St. Withburga was of a noble family, one of the saintly daughters of King Anna of the East Saxons. She spent much time alone on the Norfolk coast but towards the end of her life she founded a small community of nuns at Dereham in mid-Norfolk, where a well in the churchyard bears her name.
 
On her death in 743 she was buried at Dereham. Her body was translated later to the great Abbey now Ely Cathedral, to lie next to her sisters, Etheldreda and Sexburga.
 
The choice of St. Withburga as a dedication was natural for the nunnery attached to the priory. Indeed, the dedication is recorded earlier than that of the main church.

Devotional Note:  These descriptions are as accurate as present-day scholarship will allow!