For the earlier Abbess of Coldingham, see Æbbe the Elder.
|Saint Æbbe of Coldingham|
|Died||April 2, 870, Coldingham Monastery, Scotland|
There are several local Scottish legends associated with Æbbe. However, little of historical value is known about her and her existence has been brought into doubt by some historians.
The most often recounted legend is of Æbbe the Younger and her nuns mutilating themselves in the attempt to preserve their chastity from a pillaging Viking horde. There is no contemporary record of this event happening. The first documentary evidence of this attack dates from the 14th century writings of Matthew Paris where he gives the year of the attack as 870. However, it is believed that the monastery at Coldingham had by then been abandoned for nearly 200 years, and historians have been unable to identify any raider on the coast of south-east Scotland for that year. The legend may be the origin of the phrase 'cutting off the nose to spite the face'.
It may be that Paris confused the better known Æbbe the Elder with her pupil, Saint Ætheldreda. Etheldreda, after graduating from Æbbe's tutelage, founded a religious site at Ely. It is recorded that, in 870, the Vikings active in East Anglia sacked Ætheldreda's foundation. Thus a second Abbess Æbbe has been erroneously created to explain the fact that the attack happen nearly 200 years after the death of Æbbe the Elder.