Holy Island Coat of Arms Little-known Saints of the North
© Reverend Canon Kate Tristram
13. BISHOP TRUMWINE:
 
Bishop Trumwine, known affectionately to his friends as 'Tumma', was a contemporary and friend of St. Cuthbert.
 
Probably the best-known incident of his life is illustrated by a picture here on the Island, on the south wall of the chancel of St. Mary's Church. It shows Trumwine heading the church delegation, along with King Edgfrith of Northumbria, to Cuthbert who was at the time on the Inner Farne as a hermit. They had to carry the news, which was not welcome to Cuthbert, that he had just been elected as a bishop, and to implore him to leave his hermitage and come and do that job. Cuthbert tried to resist, but finally agreed. Perhaps that was the occasion when Cuthbert told Trumwine the story of how, when he had been a young boy amusing himself doing acrobatics with his little friends, an even younger boy had begged him to stop behaving in a way not fitting for someone who was going to be a bishop! So Cuthbert always knew this might happen, and then it did.
 
When King Edgfrith managed to push his northern border into Pictland, beyond the Firth of Forth, Trumwine for a little while became bishop of that area, with his centre at Abercorn near Edinburgh. But the Picts got their revenge by luring Edgfrith into the mountains too far north and slaughtering the English army at the battle of Nechtansmere . With many other English people Trumwine and his monks fled further south. His monks then dispersed to several different monasteries, and Trumwine himself found a final home at Whitby, which was then under the care of St. Hild's successor, Aelflaed, sister of King Edgfrith. There he lived a life of austerity and good works, and died in about the year 704. Though he is a lesser-known figure himself it seems likely that he knew personally all the major saints of Northumbria's golden age.
 
14. BENEDICT BISCOP:
 
Biscop Baducing was born into a noble Northumbrian family in the year 628.
 
At first he lived the usual life of a warrior, becoming one of King Oswy's trusted thegns, but at the age of 25 he decided to become a monk. But first he travelled on the continent, staying at 17 different monasteries. He became a monk and took the name 'Benedict'. Altogether in his life he made 5 journeys to Rome, and on the third of these he was asked to escort the new Archbishop of Canterbury, a Greek monk named Theodore of Tarsus, to England and help him settle in. At that point Biscop became Abbot of Canterbury for a short time. But his heart was in his native Northumbria, and eventually he returned here to found his own monastery. The King gave him land, first at Wearmouth and then also at Jarrow. Biscop founded a single monastery on a split site, and was himself its Abbot until his death in 689.
 
He seems to have had no ambition to found more than one monastery, but into that one he poured all his love and care. He himself wrote its Rule, choosing out the best features of the 17 monasteries he had visited. Only the best was good enough for him, and he brought in continental stone-masons and glaziers, to the astonishment of the Northumbrians who had never seen stone buildings or glass windows. At every journey abroad he brought back cartloads of books, and gradually built up a library which was probably the best in England. He borrowed from Rome a master who could teach the monks to sing Gregorian chant and to write Italian handwriting. The interior of his churches glowed with pictures, so that even the illiterate people could know the Bible stories.
 
10 years before he died a 7-year-old child entered the monastery, named Bede.
 
Biscop could not have foreseen Bede's outstanding academic gifts, and yet he had made provision for them. Biscop was a man who loved learning and beauty as well as the simple life. He used his advantages of birth and wealth very imaginatively - and the whole Church has been the richer for his life.
 
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