Holy Island Coat of Arms Little-known Saints of the North
© Reverend Canon Kate Tristram
9. BOISIL:
 
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 agreed.
 
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.
 
10. CHAD:
 
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.
 
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