I had never heard of Modwen before I moved to Burton-upon-Trent. I bet no one else has, either. But there some very bizarre stories about her abilities to bring people and animals back to life. And the swans...
According to the Life of St Modwenna (a Medieval manuscript now housed in the British Library) she was an Irish noblewoman by birth and founded the abbey on an island in the River Trent. This island is Andressey Island and was known as Andrew's Isle at the time. Modwen, therefore, brought Christianity to Burton-upon-Trent. There was a holy well that was said to restore sight for those with eye problems. Modwen spent seven years at the abbey with two other Irish nuns called Lazar and Althea, before they went on a pilgrimage to Rome. When they came back to England they built a church at Stapenhill in honour of Saint Peter. This is my local parish church.
Modwen, so the story goes, died near Dundee in Scotland, at the age of 130. Her body was brought back to Burton where she was buried, before two swans carried her to heaven. The symbol of the swan is everywhere in Burton because of this. I love this special feature of my town.
Did Modwen ever really exist? The tales are extraordinary. In Gulfyrian I have chosen a few instances that serve my story, but the evidence is quite limited. If only the Dark Age people had used surnames.