St Oswald

Oswald the victor of the Battle of Heavenfield was a Christian prince of Northumbria. He and his brother had escaped to the island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland. There was a very famous Christian monastery there set up by the Irish saint Columba. Here Oswald learned about Christianity and became a true and loyal follower. But the trials and tribulations of his home were reported to Oswald. After the death of King Edwin at the hands of Cadwallon and Penda, Oswald pledged to save Northumbria from its enemies.

In 634 Oswald returned with a small number of followers to defeat the enemies of Northumbria at the Battle of Heavenfield.

Oswald, the victor, had saved the flickering candle of Christianity in the north. Never again would the candle of Christianity be so threatened.

Oswald immediately set about revitalising Christianity in Northumbria. To do this he turned to Iona to help him bring back Christianity.

The first monk sent from Iona was grim and stern. He shouted and scolded the people of the kingdom, but the people would not listen. Eventually he returned to Iona complaining that the Northumbrians were rough, uncivilised barbarians and were impossible to teach.

In his place St Aidan came to Northumbria. Aidan came as the new bishop to the hall of King Oswald. From the time he arrived, things began to change in the kingdom. Aidan lived simply and humbly, he taught the people clearly and well, so that before long the people of Oswald’s kingdom flocked to hear him. Oswald too won many victories over his enemies and united Northumbria again as it had been under King Edwin.

King Oswald did not rule for long. Like Edwin before him he was killed in battle with a heathen enemy. After his death he was thought of as a saint. Legend has it that as he lay dying he prayed for the souls of his warriors that lay dying about him. This time however the Christian Church in Northumbria did not come to an end with his death; indeed it became stronger, and after a few years another king, Oswald, won a great victory over the heathen enemies of Christian Northumbria.

© Holy Cross Church Haltwhistle 2013