Lindisfarne is situated off the Northumberland coast in the north east of England, just a few miles south of the border with Scotland. The island is linked to the mainland by a causeway which twice a day is covered by the tide.

Aidan organized the building the first monastery at Lindisfarne in 635. Aidan and his monks came from the Irish monastery of Iona and with the support of King Oswald worked as missionaries among the English living in Northumbria. In their monastery they set up the first known school in this area. Lindisfarne became known for its skill in Christian art of which the Lindisfarne Gospels are the most important surviving example.

Lindisfarne in 2002
Lindisfarne in 2002

Cuthbert became prior of Lindisfarne in 676. During this period Lindisfarne became known for its skill in producing illuminated books. When Cuthbert died in 687 the magnificent Lindisfarne Gospels book was made for the occasion. Lindisfarne, because it had been the home of St. Aidan and St. Cuthbert, was visited by pilgrims and it was claimed was responsible for several miracles.

In 999 attacks by the Danes resulted in the monks of Lindisfarne moving the body of St. Cuthbert and their sacred relics to Durham where it became a popular place with pilgrims.

The first monastery on Lindisfarne was built of wood. The Normans built a more substantial monastery in the 12th century. The monastery was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1536.

Primary Sources

(1) Sidney Heath, Pilgrim Life in the Middle Ages (1911)

Cuthbert is said to have worked many miracles, and on one occasion stilled a tempest. In early youth he was a shepherd, and it was while tending his sheep by night that he had the vision which resulted in his adopting the religious life. He became Prior of Lindisfame, and in 685 was Bishop of the island. Two years later he died. In accordance with his wish his body was wrapped in a linen cloth given him by the Abbess Yeoca, and buried in a stone coffin, the gift of the Abbot Cudda. After the lapse of eleven years the monks wished to remove his relics to a reliquary above ground, and obtained the consent of Bishop Eadbert to their plan. On opening the stone coffin, however, the body was found in such a wonderful state of preservation that the monks hastened to inform the bishop, who directed that a fresh garment should be placed on the saint's body.