[St. Pachomius Library]


VII Century
One of two monasteries founded by St. Erconwald, Barking is considered among the greatest mediæval English nunneries, although the reasons for its reputation seem obscure now. Danes burnt the convent in 870, and King Edgar and St. Dunstan restored it in the X Century, when it adopted the Rule of St. Benedict. Its abbesses included several important people, among them: St. Ethelburga (whose shrine was a pilgrimage destination), St. Hildelith (to whom Aldhelm dedicated a treatise on virginity), and Mary à Becket (sister of Thomas), and Katherine of Sutton (first recorded English female playwright). Many of the nuns came from the upper classes, and wealthy women retired there. The monastery had a rich endowment, and its abbesses were baronesses by virtue of their administrative rank. A flood c. 1377 impoverished the convent, which was dissolved in 1539.

Karen Rae Keck


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