June 8, 793: Vikings raid Lindisfarne. The Holy Island of Lindisfarne is a tidal island off the northeastern coast of England. A tidal island is connected to the mainland by either a natural or manmade causeway at low tide but is an island at high tide. Lindisfarne was part of the Kingdom of Northumbria, what is now northern England and southeast Scotland. Today, it is in the county of Northumberland. The island’s history begins in the 6th century and the approximately 1000 acres of land (at high tide) became an important part of Celtic Christianity. A monastery was founded by the Irish monk Saint Aidan in the 7th century and he later built a cathedral on the island and became its first bishop.
Aidan brought Christianity to Northumbria and spread the gospel to the local nobility as well as the socially inferior which included both children and slaves. The Roman Empire had brought Christianity to Britain before the fall but the locals were returning to paganism. At Iona, the faith was maintained and missionaries were sent out, Aidan being one of them. Oswald of Northumbria held to the Christian faith and vowed to return it to his people. He was raised in exile in Iona but was returned to the throne in 634 and made good on his promise. He requested missionaries and Aidan was sent. Aidan set up on Lindisfarne, close by the royal castle at Bamburgh. The personable man won friends over slowly as he interacted with the people.
Aidan began his career as a monk but was eventually made an abbot of the monastery. The Venerable Bede offers a detailed story of the saint’s life. The monastery became an important site in Church history. At some time in the 700s, a famous illustrated manuscript was created there. It was called the Lindisfarne Gospels and contained the four gospels. The monastery was filled with monks and learning. And on this day (it is generally accepted), the Vikings came. By this time, more monasteries were built on the mainland and the older site was left without much in the way of defense. It was easy pickings for the Vikings. The locals were dismayed that their holy site could be vandalized while the Vikings were amazed that such wealth was relatively unguarded.
This date is often given as the beginning of the Viking raids on England although they were not immediately capitalized upon. The main body of raiders took off for Scotland. The 9th century raids came from the Danes rather than Norwegians. The first of these raids was in 835 when the Isle of Sheppey, Kent was attacked. Even as others were under attack, life at Lindisfarne flourished with the Liber Vitae of Durham started during this period. By 866 the Danes were in York and in 873 their armies were in Northumberland. With the collapse of Northumbria, the monks fled from the island. Today, about 180 people live there.
Augustine was the Apostle of Kent, but Aidan was the Apostle of the English. – Bishop Lightfoot
Either this is not the Gospel, or we are not Christians. – Thomas Linacre
He who shall introduce into public affairs the principle of primitive Christianity will change the face of the world. – Benjamin Franklin
The sinner is at the very heart of Christianity. Nobody is so competent as the sinner in matters of Christianity. Nobody, except the saint. – Charles Peguy
Also on this day: We All Scream for Ice Cream – In 1786, the first advertisement for commercially made ice cream was published.
Uncle Miltie – In 1948, Texaco Star Theater debuted.
Newspeak – In 1949, George Orwell’s 1984 was published.
They did what? – In 1959, mail was delivered by missile.
A New Cult – In 1794, the celebration of the Supreme Being began in France.
* “LindisfarneCastleHolyIsland” by matthew Hunt – originally posted to Flickr as Holly Island 11. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:LindisfarneCastleHolyIsland.jpg#/media/File:LindisfarneCastleHolyIsland.jpg