PW: St Huna, Priest of Ely

Huna isn’t recorded until the Liber Eliensis (LE, Book of Ely, 12th century) and by Marie de France in her Vie Seinte Audree (late 12th century).

Huna was a priest at Ely and Æthelthryth’s personal chaplain, whose advice on her salvation she valued and who taught her the teachings and deeds of the saints (LE i.15, 18). According to the Liber Eliensis (i.22), he was the priest who presided at her funeral. It claims that he joined her at Ely where he took his vows. After her death, he left Ely to become a hermit on an island in the fens called Huneia. He was considered a holy man and his grave on the small island was known for producing healing miracles. Both the LE and Marie refer to him as a saint. His grave was opened before the 12th century and his coffin was moved to Thorney by people wanting easier access to his healing miracles. St Botulph‘s relics were also relocated to Thorney under the orders of Cnut, so that St Huna was in the company of one of the major East Anglian saints. His feast day is celebrated today on February 13th.

The LE and Marie de France both link Huna with Ymma, Owine, and others who served Queen Æthelthryth. Although they say that Huna joined her at Ely, it is possible that Huna had also been with her in Northumbria. If he only entered the church when she came to Ely he progressed very fast for him to be the lead priest at her funeral only seven years after her arrival. Note the similarity between the names Huna, Ymma, and his brother Abbot Tunna. No source claims that Huna was related to Ymma and Tunna, so it may reflect a naming style common in East Anglia (not unlike her father King Anna son of Enni).

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Sources:

Janet Fairweather, trans. Liber Eliensis: A History of the Isle of Ely from the Seventh Century to the Twelfth. Boydell, 2005.

June Hall McCash and Judith Clark Barban, trans and ed. The Life of Saint Audrey: A Text by Marie de France. McFarland, 2006.

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5 comments on “PW: St Huna, Priest of Ely

  1. Michael says:

    I believe both the Fairweather LE and Dr. McCash’s Vie are a little confused as to Ymma’s situation. Both scholars claim that Ymma, Imma in Bede, was a butler to Hlothere’s mother, AND a retainer for Aethelthryth. The simple truth, stated unambiguously in every text, Bede’s included, is that Ymma was the Saint’s man, not Seaxburga’s. Note line 2119 in Audree. Don’t know that this has anything pertinent to your post, of which I really like the name comment. I wonder if they could all have been related somehow… Anyway, just thought I would throw it out there.

  2. Are they confused or is this what the source actually says? I’ve found many areas where Marie claims Bede as a source but says things I know Bede didn’t say (or just didn’t cover). I think all of Marie’s references to Bede are secondary through the LE, and the LE is using Bede to justify itself. Both are trading on Bede’s reputation.

    I think if they had known that they were related they would have said so. Maybe is just a common East Anglian way of shortening a name. Hun- (or -hun), Tun- and Eormen- (Imma?) are common name elements, sort of like calling St Hild, just Hild when her name was probably a compound one.

  3. Michael says:

    That is a good point. Also, name alliteration seems to be mostly from father to son. You are right about Marie using the LE as her main source. The LE relies heavily on Bede, but I believe that, even there Bede was filtered through someone else. The LE is roughly contemporary with Malmesbury and some of the other Twelfth-century historians, is that correct?

  4. Michael says:

    I think, if I remember correctly, what Marie was trying to do was a verse translation of the LE Aethelthryth story. The intro to Fairweather notes that the compiler of LE mentions another source used to augment Bede on her story, but I haven’t been able to track down a quote yet. I have emailed Dr McCash asking her about the Seaxburga thing. I will let you know when I hear something. It might take a couple of days as she is retired now, and travels a lot.

  5. Robin Thornton says:

    I am a proven descendant of the family Honychurch of Honeychurche hamlet in north Devon. Several researchers claim that the name came from Huna who built a church for the people of the hamlet. Your Huna does not appear to have travelled to the west country. Your comments would be appreciated. Robin Thornton

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