A pagan princess, instrumental in the spread of Christianity along the north east coast of Britain, established a monastery on the site where Coldingham Priory is now located.
The exact location of the 7th century monastery has long been a mystery but an excavation in 2018, crowdfunded by DigVentures, with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Friends of Coldingham Priory, has finally confirmed its location.
Tradition had it that Aebbe’s monastery was probably on the headland, at a cliff-top location overlooking the sea, but no hard evidence consistent with an extensive, wealthy Anglo-Saxon monastery was ever found, prompting the latest efforts to locate it to move further inland.
“It is brilliant to finally be able to announce that we’ve found Aebbe’s monastery, and to confirm that part of it is probably underneath Coldingham Priory,” said Manda Forster from DigVentures.
“Aebbe is an extraordinary figure – an example of a powerful Anglo Saxon woman who played a big part in establishing Christianity in the region during the 7th century.
“Now that we’ve got evidence to pinpoint exactly where her monastery was, we can help bring her story back to life,” she added.
“A piece of animal tooth has been radiocarbon dated to between 664–864 AD, indicating that the extensive animal bone spread recorded in Trench 8 is Anglo Saxon in date. We can now confidently say that substantial activity was taking place right in the centre of Coldingham at the time that Aebbe’s monastery existed.”