Saint Pega of Peakirk
Feastday: January 8 – (673 – 719)
Anchoress (c. 719)
Pega was sister to St. Guthlac and she lived a retired life not far from her brother’s hermitage at Croyland, just across the border of what is now Northamptonshire, on the western edge of the great Peterborough Fen. The place is not called Peakirk, i.e. Pega’s church. She attended her brother’s funeral, making the journey by water down the Welland, and is reputed on that occasion to have cured a blind man from Wisbech. She is said to have then gone on pilgrimage to Rome, where she died about the year 719. Ordericus Vitalis says her relics were honored with miracles, and kept in a church which bore her name at Rome, but this church is not now known.
In 664, the great abbey of Peterborough was consecrated in the English kingdom of Mercia, the gift of King Wulfhere and his brother Ethelred to the Church. The consecration was attended by kings, nobles, bishops, and clergy; among them were Wilfrid of York, one of the great monastic founders of early England, and Archbishop Deusdedit of Canterbury. Peterborough became the center of a great religious renaissance in Mercia, with monks and solitaries entering the abbey or settling near its grounds…
St. Pega belonged to one of the great noble families of Mercia, her brother being St. Guthlac, who set up his hermitage in the Peterborough Fens. He had been a member of King Ethelred’s army and at the age of twenty-four laid down his arms and became a monk at Repton. Later, he retired to his isolated island in the Fens, and not far away, on the edge of the Fens, in what is now Northamptonshire, his sister, Pega, built her hermitage, in imitation of her brother.
We know little of their family. They were of the Mercian nobility and close to the king, who later laid down his crown and himself became a monk. Women solitaries were rare in those days, and St. Pega seems to have had a grant from the king for her hermitage. Later a church would be built on the spot, named after her, Peakirk (Pega’s church). Still later, during Norman times, the abbey of Croyland would be built on the site of her brother’s hermitage. In 714, St. Guthlac died and Pega attended his funeral, making her journey down the Welland River.
After his death, Pega went on a pilgrimage to Rome, where she died in 719. Her relics were kept in a church in Rome, but the church is not known. Along with her brother, she is remembered as one of the early saints of the Mercian kingdom and part of the religious blossoming centered in the abbey of Peterborough in eighth-century England.