Lindisfarne

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Lindisfarne Priory, Holy Island, Northumberland, England, UK. This remote island, cut off from the mainland twice a day by the tide, was chosen by the Irish Christian Aidan as a base to convert the Anglo Saxons in AD 635. The monks built a wooden church and monastery and from 675 Bishop Cuthbert joined them. It was during this period that the highly decorated Lindisfarne Gospels were produced, now to be seen in The British Library in London. Although the island was hard to reach, and the monastery was defended on the land, it was no problem for the seagoing Norsemen to raid and plunder. In 793 the Vikings arrived, probably from a stronghold further along the coast, and they stole the valuable art and treasures. The repeated raids became such a problem that the monks abandoned the island in 875, taking their remaining belonging and Cuthbert's body to County Durham. The monks returned in the 12th century when the present buildings were started. The church was a scaled down version of Durham Cathedral. The small religious community survived several war periods during the 14th century until 1537 when, under King Henry VIII's proclamation, all monasteries were dissolved with the wealth going to the crown and the king's friends. Local people and landowners demolished the monastery buildings to use the stone; much of which can be seen in the nearby castle, completed in 1550. The church was left complete until the lead roof was removed in 1613 after which the fabric of the building rapidly decayed. The tower collapsed in the 18th century leaving one of the two ribs for the vaulting open to the sky. This is now the priory's most dramatic and recognisable feature. Photographic Information Taken on 18th June, 2013 at 1457hrs with an Olympus OM-2sp through a Zuiko Auto-W 28mm ƒ/2.8 wide angle lens on 35mm Kodak Ektar 100 ASA colour negative film, developed in Fuji-Hunt X-Press C-41 chemicals.. ©2013 Tim Pickford-Jones

This was not your typical monastic community.

Around 630, King Aethelfrith of Northumbria, was killed.  His two sons, Oswald and Oswith, went into exile off the west coast of Scotland.  We believe they were taken in by the Celtic monks on Iona.

Some years later, the young princes returned to rule Northumbria, an Anglo-Saxon kingdom north of Hadrian’s Wall.  And they invited a team of monks from Iona to come to their kingdom, share the Gospel, and make disciples for Christ Jesus.

The monks elected to begin a monastery on a tidal island called Lindisfarne, seated off the eastern tip of the most northern corner of England.

Over the next 29 years, the monks, led by St. Aidan, traveled throughout the region as ambassadors of the Gospel. First they established a school for twelve Anglo-saxon boys, nurturing the faith and the minds of the future leaders of the kingdom.  Then they tirelessly preached and healed and taught and loved on the Britons and Saxons of the region.  All the while modeling a profound commitment to Christ, living extremely humble and aesthetic lives.

The foundation of faith they established would endure despite Viking raids and the Norman invasion.  The monks created extraordinary illustrated copies of the Bible in Latin, and trained up believers in northern England in a spirituality rooted in prayer, study, and service.

That is, in part, the legacy on which Anglican spirituality is founded.

The morning air was crisp as we walked through the seventh century church, and very quiet as we prayed amid the ruins of the monastery on Holy Island.  We gathered in the chancel on the ground where the monks had prayed eight times a day, decade after decade, over several centuries.  Praying for the Gospel to spread among English speaking people like me.

Lindisfarne is a secluded, still space that calls us back to a simple, deep, and courageous faith in Christ.

 

 

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