Last Updated: 06 September 2018.
Lindisfarne is also known as Holy Island, Insula Sacra, Lindisfarena, and Medcaut. It lies off the coast of Northumberland, in the United Kingdom.
People have lived on the island for a long time. It is best known for its religious centre established by Saint Aiden in the seventh century. At that time, it served as a base for missionaries trying to convert northern England to Christianity. In time, the centre would also be important enough to hold a bishopric, too. Another holy man, St Cuthbert also visited the island and the monks buried him here upon his death by the end of the seventh century. Shortly after, at the start of the eighth century, the monks produced the masterpiece called the Lindisfarne Gospels.
Viking Age Relevance
By 793 CE, the Norsemen attacked the island for the first time. This is generally accepted as the first Viking attack on the ‘civilised world’, even though the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle alone has two earlier recordings of attacks in southern Britain years before 793. Alcuin, a scholar at the court of Charlemagne, wrote letters to his acquaintances on the island after the attack, to share his outrage about the raid. When the Vikings take complete control of the island in the 9th century, the monks flee with the remains of Saint Cuthbert and settle in what is to become Durham.
If you cross the causeway to visit the island today, you will find the ruins of the Priory and its impressive archway. This is not the original priory and built only by the twelfth century. The original monastery sacked by the Vikings has never been found, but a company called DigVentures has been searching since 2016. Their third and most recent excavation started in September, 2018. See their progress here.
Artefacts from Lindisfarne
The archaeologists work on the basis of crowdfunding and excavated the field right next to the Priory in 2016. This immediately revealed a 7th–8th-century grave marker. Here it is in a spectacular 3D image:
- The British Library, ‘Lindisfarne Gospels’. Last Accessed 01 December 2015. https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/lindisfarne-gospels. ↩
- N. Attwood, ‘The Holy Island of Lindisfarne – The Viking Attack.’ Lindisfarne.org.uk. Last Accessed 01 December 2015. https://www.lindisfarne.org.uk/793/. ↩
- James Grout, ‘Lindisfarne’ The Encyclopaedia Romana. Last Accessed 01 December 2015. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/britannia/anglo-saxon/lindisfarne/lindisfarne.html. ↩
- English Heritage, ‘History of the Lindisfarne Priory.’ Last Accessed 03 May 2017. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/lindisfarne-priory/history/. ↩
- BBC News, ‘Lindisfarne monastery evidence found by amateur archaeologist.’ Last Updated 05 July 2016. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-tyne–36712209. ↩