Blessed Ela, Countess of Salisbury?

Ela de Vitre, aka Ela Fitzpatrick. She was Countess of Salisbury in her own right, devoted wife of William Longsword, served as High Sheriff of Wiltshire in her own right too, laid one of the foundation stones of Salisbury Cathedral as a big donor, and was generally a powerful medieval lady. There’s lots to read about her, and she even comes into canonization testimony for St. Edmund of Abingdon (aka St. Edmund Rich), because she was miraculously healed of fever at one point, albeit by a reliquary of the blood of St. Thomas a Becket. (Yeah, not very useful for canonizing St. Edmund.) She founded two religious houses in one day (partly as a memorial for her husband), and she did lots of good things.

But is she a blessed?

Well, frankly, I don’t know. Probably she counts, but it’s murky.

The Big Book of Women Saints by Sarah Gallick lists Blessed Ela on February 24. Her main source for Ela as a blessed (as opposed to a historical figure) is Agnes Dunbar‘s excellent Dictionary of Saintly Women, Volume I, and the Bibliotheca Sanctorum (1961-1964), aka the Enciclopedia dei Santi. It was put out by a Vatican-backed university, so there’s some officialness there.

I don’t know what the Bibliotheca Sanctorum‘s sources are. Dunbar’s sources are  A Menology of England and Wales by Richard Stanton (which just says there’s no “proof of cultus for Ela), and Bucelinus’ Menologium Benedictinum. Also, Bishop Challoner’s A Memorial of Ancient British Piety, or , a British Martyrology, which says in the Supplement for February 1 that Ela did have cultus: “At Lacock in Wiltshire, the memory of that venerable Servant of God Ela, countess of Salisbury, who was so devoted to religion, that she founded two monasteries in one day, viz. that of the Carthusians at Henton in Wiltshire, and that of the Canonesses of S. Austin, at Lacock. In this latter leaving the world and all its vanities, she took the habit of religion, Anno 1236, was made abbess Anno 1240; resigned her office Anno 1257; and went to our Lord in a good old age, Anno 1261. [Dugdale.]” He also says there was once a parish church in Chester dedicated to a St. Ella, but that’s probably not her. “Dugdale” is referring to the author of Monasticon Anglicanum, of which more will be said below.

Anyway, Bishop Challoner was a bishop making a calendar, so… yeah, probably things got official there. A “Servant of God” doesn’t have a memorial day, though, so that would usually mean she was a Venerable or a Blessed.

Gabriel Bucelinus, the author of Menologium Benedictinum, lists Blessed Ela on February 1, with Henriquez as his source. Chrysostomo Henriquez, the author of Menologium Cisterciensis, calls her Blessed Ela, and also lists her day as February 1. But he’s notorious for thinking all sorts of people were Cistercians who weren’t. (Like St. Dominic’s brother Mannes, who was not only a Dominican but one of the first guys to sign on.) He also talks about a source called Catalogus Principum Feminarum, which supposedly listed illustrious Cistercian ladies, and he quotes from it; but alas, I haven’t found this book even on Worldcat. (Heroides Marianae, a book about illustrious women of rank who were also known to be Marian devotees, lists Ela twice, once for each religious house, because the author doesn’t realize that “Sarum” and “Salisburiae” are the same place.)

In this case, history tells us that Ela was a Cistercian fan, but the guys at Citeaux had put the temporary kibosh on chartering any more Cistercian monasteries for women, by the year that Ela decided to found a monastery for women. So she ended up founding a house of Augustinian canonesses, and later became one of them and their abbess too.

Anyway, Sir William Dugsdale’s big compendium, Monasticon Anglicanum, has most of the cool info about the houses she founded as well as Ela, including the story that William Talbot went looking around Normandy for where she’d been stashed by the De Vitre family. You also find out that “Ela” was her grandmother’s name, and that several of her descendants also bore it. “Ela” was either a short form of “Adela” or a transmogrification of “Helie” (her grandmother’s mom’s name).

Lacock Abbey surrendered its rights to King Henry VIII and was despoiled of its lead and lands and goodies, then given to some poor noble sap who had to make it watertight again. A couple of the Harry Potter movies were filmed there. It was used for corridors and the Herbology class.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Saint Names, Saint Stories

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s