Boisil is chiefly known to us through his influence on the young St.Cuthbert.
He was prior of Melrose, under the abbot Eata, when Cuthbert, aged about 17
and after his vision of St. Aidan's soul being taken up into heaven, decided
to become a monk. It was chiefly through Boisil's reputation as a holy man
that Cuthbert chose Melrose as his community. Boisil is said to have been
standing at the gate as Cuthbert approached the monastery, and immediately to
have recognised the spiritual potential in the new arrival. He seems to have
been an important teacher and friend to Cuthbert, who took him as a role
model, not least in his missionary journeys by foot in search of those who
had not yet heard of the faith of Christ. When Cuthbert was in his late 20s
both he and Boisil caught the plague; Cuthbert recovered, but Boisil had 7
days' warning of his own death. The two of them spent these days in reading
together St. John' Gospel, which Boisil had in a copy conveniently divided
into 7 sections. Boisil had a gift of prophecy, and predicted that Cuthbert
would become a bishop: a saying that haunted Cuthbert until it finally came
true. After Boisil's death Cuthbert succeeded him as prior of Melrose.
One story of Boisil which is not connected with Cuthbert tells how he
intervened to prevent another English monk, Egbert, from taking part in
person in a mission to the Germans. Boisil, now a saint in heaven, appeared
in a vision to another of his former pupils, to tell him to inform Egbert
that it was not God's will that he should go, and Egbert finally reluctantly
It seems that Boisil, who died in about 661, was held in great respect in his
neighbourhood, and the little town of St. Boswell's, not far from Melrose, is
named after him. Like many another good teacher, his fame finally rested
mainly on those whom he influenced.
Chad was one of four brothers who came to St. Aidan's first little school for
twelve boys on Lindisfarne. The other brothers were Cedd, Cynebil and Caelin.
Since Bede puts Chad at the end of the list it is probable that he was the
youngest. Chad proved to be bright and intellectually able, so Aidan sent him
over to the big monasteries in Ireland for some years for his further
education. When he returned he was for a while abbot of the monastery his
brother Cedd had founded at Lastingham. Then King Oswy asked him to become
bishop of York while Wilfrid, who also sought this office, was abroad. This
caused great problems when Wilfrid got back, and eventually the Archbishop
Theodore persuaded Chad to abandon York to Wilfrid. But Theodore was
impressed by Chad and sent him to be bishop of the Mercians, in the west
midlands. Chad fixed his see at Lichfield and remained there for the rest of
his episcopate. He died there in 672.
Chad was a most attractive man. Perhaps, of all the Lindisfarne monks and
missionaries, he was nearest to Aidan in character. Like Aidan he preferred
to do his missionary work on foot, though we are told that Archbishop
Theodore, with perhaps a greater sense of the dignity of the bishop's office,
personally assisted Chad, no doubt with some gentle force, to mount a horse.
Chad was revered for his humble and zealous way of life and was venerated as
a saint from the moment of his death. An illuminated gospel book, very
similar to the Lindisfarne Gospels, was made for his shrine, and is now kept
in the Cathedral at Lichfield, where some of his relics are preserved; the
rest of his relics are believed to be in St.Chad's Cathedral at Birmingham.
Many other churches, both medieval and modern, are dedicated to him.