Lindisfarne: A history

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Lindisfarne is a tidal island off the north-east coast of England. It is one of several islands around the British coastline affectionately known as Holy Island.

The name Lindisfarne means “Land’s Corner.”

Around AD 635 Irish born Saint Aidan founded a monastery on Lindisfarne after been sent from Iona off the west coast of Scotland to Northumbria at the request of King Oswald. It sent a successful mission to Mercia and became the base for Christian evangelizing in the North of England. Monks from the Iona community settled on the island. Northumberland’s patron saint, Saint Cuthbert, was one of the monk’s of the island who later became an Abbot of the monastery. His miracles and life are recorded by the Venerable Bede. Cuthbert later became Bishop of Lindisfarne.

During the early 8th Century the monk Eadfrith is believed to have created the famous illuminated manuscript known as the Lindisfarne Gospels. This manuscript is an illustrated Latin copy of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Sometime in the second half of the 10th century a monk named Aldred added an Anglo-Saxon (Old English) gloss to the Latin text, producing the earliest surviving Old English copies of the Gospels.

In 793 A.D. a Vikings raided Lindisfarne. This caused much consternation throughout the Christian west. This event is now taken to be the beginning of the Viking Age.

Eventually the monks fled the island taking the body of St Cuthbert and the Gospels with them. He is now buried at Durham Cathedral. The bishopric was transferred to Durham in AD 1000. The Lindisfarne Gospels ended up in the British Library in London, somewhat to the annoyance of some Northumbrians.

The priory was re-established in Norman times as a Benedictine house and continued until its suppression in 1536 under Henry VIII.

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