Facts and Events
While the monastery was under construction, a pagan prince came to Kent seeking to marry Eanswythe. King Eadbald, whose sister St. Ethelburga married the pagan King Edwin two or three years before, recalled that this wedding resulted in Edwin's conversion. Eanswythe, however, refused.
Around 630, the building of the monastery was completed. This was the first women's monastery to be founded in England. St. Eanswythe lived there with her companions in the monastic life, and they may have been guided by some of the Roman monks who had come to England with St. Augustine in 597. She remained at the abbey until her death and was later canonized by the Catholic Church.
The first monastic site became abandoned by the 10th century, and began to be eroded by the sea, a problem which also afflicted a new foundation of 1095. A site further inland was provided for a new foundation of Folkestone Priory by William de Abrincis in 1137, with a church dedicated to St Mary and St Eanswythe. Saint Eanswith's day falls on September 12. Traditionally, this is the date on which her remains were translated to the new church in 1138. The priory was closed at the Reformation, and the Church became Folkestone parish church of St Mary and St Eanswythe. During restoration work at the church in 1885 human remains were discovered in a lead reliquery, embeded within the church wall, which were identified as a 12th century vessel, and the bones of a young woman. This led to the conclusion that they could be the translated relics of Saint Eanswith, hidden away at the Reformation. Eanswith is sometimes portrayed with a fish, along with her abbess's staff, crown and a book. This appears to be a recent attribute, from Folkestone's fishing port connection.