Athwulf of Thorney (d. 680)

St. Athwulf was an Anglo-Saxon abbot and brother of the more famous St. Botolph, also an abbot as well as a bishop. Very little is known of the life of St. Athwulf; he seems to have lived in the shadows of his more famous brother, content to practice the monastic virtues of work and prayer in relative obscurity. At one time he seems to have been abbot of the famous monastery of Iken in East Anglia, as was his brother St. Botolph. Athwulf died sometime around 680, and both he and St. Botolph were interred at Iken. Some time later, the monastery of Iken was destroyed during the Viking raids of the 9th century. A newer and grander monastery was built on the island of Thorney in Cambridgeshire in 970. The Benedictines disinterred the body of St. Botolph, intending to translate it to Thorney, but when they opened the tomb they discovered the bones of St. Athwulf were so tangled with those of St. Botolph that it was not possible to separate them. Brethren in life and mingled in death, the two saintly brothers were moved together and re interred at Thorney Abbey. The translation was carried out with much pomp on the instruction of King Cnut.

The silent St. Athwulf, abbot and monk, is the perfect exemplar of the contemplative life, while his brother St. Botolph, a missionary and bishop, signifies the active life.

Phillip Campbell, “Athwulf of Thorney,” Unam Sanctam Catholicam, October 10, 2013. Available online at: