Holy Island of Saint Cuthbert, Medgaud Island
Lindisfarne | 0 to 800 AD
Roman and Early Medival Era
In the centuries leading up to 0 AD, the area around Lindisfarne was part of the Roman province of Britannia. The region experienced Roman influence and may have had settlements during this time.
Spread of Christianity
Lindisfarne’s Christian history begins with the arrival of Christian missionaries in the early medieval period. In the late sixth century, Saint Aidan, an Irish missionary, established a Christian community on the island, founding the monastery of Lindisfarne before the end of 634, where he remained until his death in 651. He is credited with converting the local population to Christianity. Saint Aidan and his successors played a key role in spreading Christianity throughout the Northumbrian region.
Foundation of Lindisfarne Abbey
Lindisfarne is renowned for its historical and religious importance. In the early Christian period, it was the site of the Lindisfarne Priory, later known as Lindisfarne Abbey, founded in the seventh century. The island is closely associated with Saint Cuthbert, and early Christian saint, Bishop of Lindisfarne, and hermit, whose relics were kept at the priory. He was known for his piety and influence on the spread of Christianity in the region. The Venerable Bede recorded Cuthbert’s miracles and life.
The Lindisfarne Gospels are one of the most famous treasures associated with the island. These illuminated manuscripts of the four Gospels were created on Lindisfarne during the late seventh or early eighth century, and are known for their exquisite artwork. They are now housed in the British Library in London.
Lindisfarne faced Viking raids in the late eighth and early ninth centuries, which had significant impact on the island. The Viking attacks at Lindisfarne, starting in 793 AD, are often seen as the beginning of the Viking Age in England and led to the eventual abandonment of the priory.
The monks of Lindisfarne Priory, carrying the relics of St. Cuthbert and other treasures, fled the island due to the Viking raids. They eventually settled in Durham, where Durham Cathedral was built to house the shrine of St. Cuthbert.
The name Lindisfarne is believed to have Old English origins and a meaning that relates to its geographical location. Lindis is thought to derive from the Old English word lind, which means “linden tree” or “lime tree.” These trees were commonly found in the area. The second part, farne, likely refers to an island or a piece of land surrounded by water. It is related to the Old English word fearn, meaning “fern,” which suggests a place that may have been marshy or had ferns.