Folkestone church to unveil reliquary as part of St Eanswythe Day celebrations

First published on: 8th September 2023

St Mary and St Eanswythe Church in Folkestone is to celebrate the life of St Eanswythe, England's earliest saint, with a three-day festival of events.

Founded in the 1130s, it is one of the few churches in England to hold the remains of its patron saint.

The church will begin its celebrations on the weekend before St Eanswythe Day (Saturday 9 September - Sunday 10 September). The events on Saturday include a Ukrainian choir, a mayoral visit, performances from young musicians, and a spiritual workshop. On the following day, a special service for St Eanswythe will be held.

On the evening of Tuesday 12 September, St Eanswythe Day, a new reliquary to house the Saint's remains will be unveiled.

With the support of the Diocese of Canterbury, the church held a competition to design her reliquary which will create a 'home' for the remains of England's earliest verified saint and currently the only verified remains of the Kentish royal dynasty.

The winning design was made by Sophie Hacker.

Talking about her entry, she said: "It has been a privilege to design St Eanswythe's reliquary, to depict her miracles in a style drawing on Anglo-Saxon culture, and to aim for simplicity to express the beauty of her holiness."

The church will also launch a crowdfunder to raise money for the building of the reliquary and the creation of a new pilgrimage centre to tell the story of Eanswythe and welcome visitors from all over the world, utilising existing spaces within the church. 

St Eanswythe's remains were first discovered in 1885 when workers, making improvements to the high altar, found human remains in a badly damaged lead casket hidden inside a secret alcove.

In January 2020, a scientific investigation of the bones by a team of academics and experts from Canterbury Christ Church University verified the remains as those of Eanswythe, who was an Anglo-Saxon, Kentish royal saint and granddaughter of Ethelbert, the first English king to convert to Christianity under Augustine.

She is believed to have founded one of the earliest monastic communities in England in AD 660 on the Bayle - the historic centre of Folkestone.

To find out more about St Eanswythe and the upcoming events, visit the church website.

Page last updated: Friday 8th September 2023 9:08 AM
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