Botwulf of Thorney

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Botwulf of Thorney
Born 7th century
Died 680
Venerated in Anglican Communion
Orthodox Church[1][2]
Roman Catholic Church
Feast 17 June (England)
25 June (Scotland). Translation of his relics: 1 December
Patronage the patron saint of travellers and farming

Botwulf of Thorney (also called Botolph, Botulph or Botulf; died around 680) was an English abbot and saint. He is the patron saint of travellers and the various aspects of farming. His feast day is celebrated either on 17 June (in England) or 25 June (in Scotland), and his translation falls on 1 December.

Life and works

Little is known about Botwulf's life, other than doubtful details in a surviving account written four hundred years after his death by the 11th-century monk Folcard. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records for the year 6531: The Middle Angles, under earldorman Peada, received the true faith. King Anna was killed and Botulf began to build the church at Ikanho. Icanho, which means 'ox hill', has now been identified as Iken, which is located by the estuary of the Alde in the East Anglian county of Suffolk: a church remains on top of an isolated hill in the parish.2 The Life of St Ceolfrith, written around the time of Bede by an unknown author, mentions an abbot named Botolphus in East Anglia, "a man of remarkable life and learning, full of the grace of the Holy Spirit".3

Botwulf is supposed to have been buried at his foundation of Icanho. In 970, Edgar I of England gave permission for Botwulf's remains to be transferred to Burgh, near Woodbridge, where they remained for some fifty years before being transferred to their own tomb at the abbey of Bury St Edmunds, on the instructions of Cnut. The saint's relics were later transferred, along with those of his brother Adulf, to Thorney Abbey, although his head was transferred to Ely Cathedral and other portions to Westminster Abbey and other houses.

Church dedications

Many English churches are dedicated to Botwulf. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Saints, 64 ancient English churches were dedicated to him, but later research has suggested the true number may have been as high as 71. There is a high concentration of dedications in East Anglia. The Stump, in the Lincolnshire town of Boston, is one of the most famous. Boston, or 'Botwulf's town' also gave Boston, Massachusetts its name. St Botolph's Priory in Colchester, Essex, which was the first Augustinian religious house in England,[3] was built on an earlier Saxon church dedicated to St Botolph.[4]

In his role as a patron saint of travellers, four City of London churches were dedicated to him, all of which were close to gates in the City walls: St Botolph Billingsgate, which was destroyed in the Great Fire and never rebuilt; St Botolph Aldersgate; St Botolph-without-Bishopsgate, where the poet John Keats was baptised; and St Botolph's Aldgate. It is believed that these dedications were made because the churches provided places for incoming travellers to give thanks for their safe arrival and for outgoing travellers to pray for a safe journey. An alternative possibility is that the churches were dedicated to the saint because his relics came through the four gates when Edgar moved them from Iken to Westminster Abbey.

Secular connections

St. Botolph founded the monastery of Ikanhoe in Suffolk. Boston was 'Botolphston' (from "Botolph's stone" or "Botolph's town").

He is remembered in the names of both the market town of Boston in Lincolnshire and Boston in Massachusetts, United States.

In Boston Massachusetts, St Botolph gives his name to St. Botolph Club, a private club,[5] a street in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood, and the President's House at Boston College. There is also a St. Botolph Street in London, and several London churches are dedicated to him.

Botolph gave his name to several English villages. Originally called Botulph’s Bridge, Bottlebridge lost its independence when it became part of Orton Longueville parish in 1762.[6]

Cambridge University's poetry journal in the 1950s, in which Ted Hughes contributed, was called St. Botolph's Review. It was named for St. Botolph's Church in Cambridge, since one of its co-founders, Lucas Myers, lived on the grounds of its rectory. A second edition of the journal was published in 2006. St Botolph's College is now frequently used as a hypothetical college in Cambridge University communications and Tripos examinations, alongside the Department of Important Studies.

See also


  1. December 1. Latin Saints of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Rome.
  2. An Icon of St Botwulf adornes the Epiphany Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Boston, MA. (See: here)
  4. Ashdown-Hill, John (2009) Mediaeval Colchester's Lost Landmarks. Published by The Breedon Books Publishing Company Limited. (ISBN 978-1-85983-686-6)
  5. The St. Botolph Club
  6. [1] Local History article published by Canon Dr Owen Spencer-Thomas in Ely Ensign. Accessed 18 August 2010.


  • Attwater, D., The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, London (1965)
  • Care Evans, A., The Sutton Hoo Ship Burial, London (1986) ISBN 0-7141-0544-9
  • Ryan, George E., Botolph Of Boston, Christopher Publishing House (1971) ISBN 0-8158-0252-8
  • Savage, A., The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, Godalming (1995) ISBN 1-85833-478-0

External links