Oswald needed someone to teach his people the faith and so he sent to Iona. St Aidan, an Irish monk, with twelve others, was eventually sent. Oswald gave him Lindisfarne, a tidal island, to be the site of his monastery. It would have been a simple affair, with a small church, round bee-hive cells, and workshops. It was also a place of study and training. St Aidan was also made bishop of Lindisfarne. The site of his monastery lies under the present church; the later abbey stands next door.
The King’s castle lay close nearby, at Bamburgh nearby, a powerful symbol of the unity of king, church and people.
Lindisfarne is indisputably the Holy Island of Britain. Typically, in the tradition which St Aidan represents, islands like Iona, and others in Ireland, Wales and Gaul, were chosen for their solitude for the sake of prayer. But they were also bases for evangelism. Bede says:
‘the highest recommendation of his teaching to all was that he and his followers lived as they taught’.
’He never sought or cared for worldly possessions, and loved to give away whatever he received from kings or wealthy folk. Whether in town or country, he always travelled on foot, unless compelled by necessity to ride, and whenever he met anyone, high or low, he stopped and spoke to them. If they were heathen, he urged them to be baptised; and if they were Christians, he strengthened their faith and inspired them by word and deed to live a good life and be generous to others. Aidan cultivated peace and love, purity and humility; he was above anger and greed and despised pride and conceit. He set himself to keep and teach the laws of God, and was diligent in study and in prayer. He used his priestly authority to check the proud and the powerful; he tenderly comforted the sick; he relieved and protected the poor. I greatly admire and love all these things about Aidan, because I have no doubt that they are pleasing to God."
The glory of Lindisfarne is the little hermitage on the island St Aidan used for prayer.