Loretta 2021


Annual Commemoration of the Anniversary of the Death of Lady Loretta de Braose,  4th March 1266
Thursday 4th March 2021

This year we will be celebrating the life and death of Lady Loretta de Braose online on Thursday 4th March at 19.30- 20.30  GMT with a talk by Dr Hilary Pearson D Phil:

“Annora De Braose: The Recluse Of Iffley”

followed by Compline and prayers near the grave of Lady Loretta.

Annora was Loretta’s  sister  and also an anchoress  – in Iffley, Oxfordshire. Dr Pearson is a resident of Iffley and on the PCC of St Mary the Virgin, Iffley parish church.  After a career as an intellectual property lawyer she obtained a doctorate in medieval history from the University of Oxford. One of her particular areas of interest is medieval religious women and their spirituality.

800th Anniversary Celebration

In 2021 we are celebrating the 800th anniversary of the enclosure of Lady Loretta de Braose, anchoress at St Stephen’s for over 40 years.  As part of these celebrations a symposium on “Medieval Spirituality and the Modern World” will be held online and, if circumstances allow, at St Stephen’s Church Canterbury in early September. We don’t know precisely when the enclosure ceremony was performed, so we have chosen a time when we hope many of us will be able to meet in person. 

Although 800 years separates us from the life of Lady Loretta, the medieval spiritual tradition of which she was part has much to teach us today; perhaps something we have become more aware of since Covid-19 has made us all “involuntary anchorites” – at least for a few weeks. 

A distinguished group of experts on various aspects of spirituality have agreed to take part:

Dr Hilary Pearson has a doctorate in medieval history from the University of Oxford, and one of her particular areas of interest is medieval religious women and their spirituality.  She lives in Iffley, near Oxford where Loretta’s sister Annora was also an anchoress, so she has a particular expertise in the de Braose family. 

Sara Maitland is a well-known author of both novels and non-fiction (her Book of Silence is a contemporary spiritual classic), columnist in The Tablet and lives as a modern hermit in South-west Scotland.

Tom Herbst is a Franciscan and a chaplain at the University of Kent.  Loretta was an early patron of the Franciscans in England and Franciscan spirituality is particularly relevant today in view of climate change and its influence on our present Pope and his important encyclical Laudato Si

Kevin Maddy is Rector of St Stephen’s and a Benedictine oblate. He is particularly interested in the relationship between traditional and modern monasticism and the relevance of the Rule of St Benedict in 21st century life. 

Thomas Quartier OSB is presently a monk of Kaisersberg Abbey in Leuven and Professor of Liturgical and Benedictine Studies at both the Catholic University of Leuven and Ramboud University, Nijmegen, in the Netherlands.  He has written several books on monasticism in German and Dutch and is engaged in dialogue with several popular artists, including Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.

The symposium will include the opportunity for questions and discussion of the various contributions, and will end with an appropriate liturgical celebration of Loretta’s life and witness

Precise details will be released once the likely progress of the pandemic is clearer. If you want to be sent these please email your contact details to {This email is obscured. Your must have javascript enabled to see it}

Who was Lady Loretta?

From 1221 to 1265 Lady Loretta de Braose, an English noblewoman lived at St Stephen’s as a anchoress; a woman who lived  her whole life alone in one room, usually attached to a church, spending her time in prayer and offering counsel to visitors through a window.

An introduction to Lady Loretta

A talk given by Rev Dr Julie Hopkins on the anniversary of Loretta’s death in 2019

The Lady Loretta and her sister

An older  and more romantic account of Lady Loretta’s life, with some information on her sister Annora, who was also an anchoress, at Iffley near Oxford.  This comes from an unpublished manuscript by Rev H E B Arnold, a priest in the early 20th century whose approach was somewhat less historically rigorous. 

You can read more about Annora here and more about the anchorite movement here.