Who Was St. Botolph?
St. Botolph was one of the earliest and most revered of East Anglian saints, and became known as the patron saint of wayfarers.
Botolph and his brother Adolph were young Saxon nobles living in the 7th century, and were sent for their education to a Benedictine Abbey in France. Adolph rose to be a Dutch Bishop, whilst Botolph came back to his native East Anglia. He was given, by King Anna, a grant of land on which to build a monastery. This land was at Icanhoh, a site that has been said to be the present Boston (Botolph’s Town)in Lincolnshire but is more likely to have been Iken, near Aldeburgh in Suffolk. Certainly Icanhoh was in a marshland area, for Botolph was said to have expelled the swamps of their ‘Devils’—in fact, he probably had the marshes drained and eliminated the ‘marsh gas’ with its night glow.
St. Botolph died after a long life of Christian endeavour and teaching in 680. The monastery lived on for two centuries more but in 870AD was destroyed by Danish invaders. King Edgar (963–967AD) ordered that the remains of the saint be taken from the monastery ruins, and be divided into three parts: the head to be taken to Ely, the middle to be taken to Thorney, and the remainder to be taken to Westminster Abbey.
The relics were brought to London through various towns and eventually through the four City gates of Aldersgate, Bishopsgate, Aldgate and Billingsgate. The churches at the entrances to these gates were named after him. The first three remain, but the one at Billingsgate was destroyed in the Great Fire (1666) and never rebuilt. It seems that as his relics were conveyed from place to place, his name became associated with wayfarers and travellers.
Over 70 Churches, along with are five towns and villages, are dedicated to him and although St. Botolph has no place in the Prayer Book Calendar, his feast day is June 17.