St Bega - Background

St Bega at St Bees

St Bees is named after St Bega, reputed to have been an Irish princess who fled from the Vikings in 850AD - but who may not have existed

Her hermitage was near the shore (allegedly), and she became associated with a story of a miraculaous bracelet.  There was almost certainly a pre-Norman religious site in the vicinity, and the medieval Benedictine priory was built on the supposed site.  Unfortunately, very little is known about Bega herself, and she may well never have existed as a person - although there seems no doubt there was a more general Cumbrian cult associated with her (there is another church dedicated to her at Bassenthwaite).  The old English word for a bracelet is beag, and the tale of the miraculous bracelet may be earlier than its personification as the saint

 

Text and photo by Bill Shannon