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St. Etheldreda of Mercia
(Died AD 819)

Etheldreda, or Alfreda, was one of the three supposed daughters of King Cenwulf of Mercia who rejected advantageous marriages in order to take the veil. Like many English ladies of their time, in AD 819, Etheldreda, Sabina and Edith decided upon a pilgrimage to Rome. Crossing the sea, they landed at Mardick in Flanders and, from here, moved on to Cassel where they were entertained for some days in the monastery. Scarcely had they started to resume their journey, than they were brutally murdered - on 8th December - in a forest by assassins sent after them by the great lords in England, to whom they had been promised, and whom they had thrown over. When the bodies were found, an old blind gentleman put his hand into the blood of these martyrs and, next time he happened to rub his eyes with it, he immediately recovered his sight. As a thanks-offering to God, he had them honourably buried and built a chapel over them, widely celebrated to this day, apparently for the cures and other answers to prayer obtained through the intercession of the three virgins. Pilgrims flocked there from all parts of Flanders and, in time, the village of Caestre grew up around the famous Chapelle-des-Trois-Vierges. The three do not appear to have been official saints, but were afforded the title of Venerable.

 

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