St Mildred and a monastery that has outlived the Vikings, Danes, Henry VIII and Mr Hitler
Today is the feast of St Mildred (or Mildrith) the patron saint of the Deanery of Thanet, daughter of Domneva (or Domne Eafe or Eormenburh), great great grand-daughter of Ethelbert (who was baptised by St Augustine of Canterbury), and Abbess of Minster.
Over the centuries, Minster Abbey has proved resilient, being refounded after Thanet had been plundered by the Vikings, and again later after the Danish invasion. King Canute granted the property to the monks of St Augustine’s Canterbury in 1027 and the tomb of St Mildred became a place of pilgrimage. Goscelin described St Mildred as “the fairest lily of the English, the one jewel of our fathers.”
Under King Henry VIII, Minster fell to the greatest land-grab in English history and the buildings went into private hands until 1937. In that year, Abbess Benedicta von Spiegel zu Peckelsheim of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Walburga in Eichstatt received a letter from Dom Bede Winslow, a monk of St Augustine’s in Ramsgate with information about Minster.
This receipt of this communication was providential for the holy Abbess and her community on account of the fact that part of her Abbey had, on the same day, been requisitioned for the use of Mr Hitler’s storm troopers. They managed to raise funds, buy Minster, get out of Germany and revive the monastery under the patronage of St Mildred.
The monastery thrives today and offers a place of prayer and spiritual nourishment for the people of Thanet and visitors from all over the world. Since the monastic buildings include part of the old Saxon monastery, it has a claim to be the oldest inhabited building in England.
For some really fascinating information on St Mildred and Minster Abbey, see the articles St Mildred of Thanet, “The Fairest Lily of the English” and St Mildred and the Foundation of Minster-in-Thanet at the blog of the erudite lover of all things old English, A Clerk of Oxford. Also, of course, The Benedictine Nuns of Minster Abbey.