The Isle of Ely, a hill once surrounded by marshes near the river Ouse,
was a wedding gift from King Tonbert to his bride, Etheldreda (Audrey), in
649. In 673, the isle became the home of a double-monastery, which the
widowed Etheldreda founded and administered. On her death, six years
later, the monastery became a place for pilgrims, who sought favors and
solace at the tomb of St. Etheldreda. Danes destroyed the original
monastery in 870, and a century later, Bishop Ethelwold of Winchester and
King Edgar of England established a male monastery on the site. In 1070,
Ely was the refuge of Hereward the Wake, who, with a band of Danish
settlers, resisted William the Conqueror. Construction of a new church
(now the cathedral) began in the same year. The See of Ely was carved from
the bishopric of Lincolnshire in 1109. Although Ely had much distinctive
architecture, it was not known as a center of learning until the XVI
Century, after the Dissolution.
Karen Rae Keck
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