Holy Island Coat of Arms Little-known Saints of the North
© Reverend Canon Kate Tristram
15. CEOLWULF:
 
Ceolwulf became King of Northumbria in 729, after a number of unsatisfactory and short-lived kings. He was the king to whom Bede dedicated what is now his most famous book: the Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation. The king seems to have read this in first draft and then asked for a copy of the final text. No doubt the king would have other copies made to pass on to other kings and scholars: this was one of the ways in that age in which books became known. Bede hoped that his writings would encourage his readers to make right choices. He set before them examples of both good and evil. So no doubt he would have been glad that his book had gained access to the royal court.
 
Ceolwulf himself seems to have been a good man, but perhaps not a strong king. In 731 he was captured and forcibly tonsured by his enemies; he regained his power but then decided to abdicate. He then decided to become a monk here at Lindisfarne.
 
It was not uncommon for noblemen to wish to end their lives in holy places. But was the king's presence entirely to the advantage of Lindisfarne? Apparently he was so generous in endowing the monastery that at this point the monks began to drink beer or wine instead of the previous water or milk. However Ceolwulf himself was looked upon as a holy man; miracles were claimed at his tomb, and eventually his head, with St.Cuthbert's relics, was said to have found its way to Durham.
 
Ceolwulf died in about 764. His life is another example of the importance in that period of the personal connections between kings and Christian leaders, which enabled monasteries like Lindisfarne and Jarrow to flourish and the Christian faith to take root among the people.
 
16. PAULINUS:
 
Paulinus, who became the first Bishop (not Archbishop) of York after the Anglo-Saxon infiltration, was one of the monks sent from the continent by Pope Gregory the Great in 601, to support the mission of St. Augustine in Kent. When King Edwin of Northumbria married the princess of Kent, Ethelburga, Paulinus travelled north with her, partly to be her chaplain and partly to attempt to convert the pagan English, including King Edwin himself, to the Christian faith.
 
In time he succeeded with the King and the nobles. He held mass meetings followed by baptisms in rivers and open-air pools in many places in Northumbria: the nearest to Lindisfarne was at King Edwin's palace at Yeavering, where baptisms were in the River Glen. But the king's main centre was at York, so most of Paulinus' work was in the southern half of the kingdom.
 
When King Edwin was killed in battle in 633 the queen, Ethelburga, decided to return to Kent, and Paulinus went with her. Perhaps he despaired of being able to carry out any further work in the north, in the absence of a friendly king. He became Bishop of Rochester until his death in 644, at about the age of 70.
 
The gap between Paulinus' departure and the coming of Aidan was not more than two years. Whether Paulinus' work helped or hindered Aidan's is difficult to say. Many people had been disillusioned by Christianity when the first Christian king, Edwin, fell in battle: it seemed to them to prove that the pagan gods were stronger. But others, who had experienced the beginnings of a genuine conversion under Paulinus, may have been ready to welcome the new Irish missionary, with his very different methods.
 
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