Holy Island Coat of Arms Little-known Saints of the North
© Reverend Canon Kate Tristram
17. FINAN:
 
Finan was the second bishop of Lindisfarne, succeeding Aidan on his death in 651ad, a hard act to follow! Like Aidan he had been an Irish monk on Iona. During his 10 years here Finan energetically promoted the missionary work of Lindisfarne, for which Aidan had prepared the ground. Just south of Northumbria was the kingdom of Mercia and Middle Anglia, where the great king Penda, though himself remaining pagan, had no objection to the Christian mission. Finan sent a team of three English monks and one Irish there. He had the pleasure of baptising Penda's son Peada, and eventually of consecrating the Irish monk in the team, whose name was Diuma, to be the first bishop of Mercia and the Middle Angles. Finan also baptised the king of the East Saxons, and sent Cedd to be missionary and bishop to the people there.
 
Here on the Island Bishop Finan constructed a second church, not of stone but of hewn oak and thatched with reeds. Later the Archbishop Theodore of Tarsus came up to consecrate it to St.Peter. This church must lie under our ruined priory church.
 
Finan was very keen to defend Irish customs against continental ones, and had a blazing row with one Ronan over this: he was a visitor who came to tell the Lindisfarne monks what they should be doing.
 
Finan also warmly encouraged the 18-year old Wilfred, who as a boy had been educated in our monastery, in his desire to visit Rome. He did not know what he was doing, for Wilfred came back in love with all things Roman, and determined to change Lindisfarne. But Finan did not live to see this. He died in 661ad.
 
18. EANFLAED:
 
Eanflaed, or Enfleda, was the first child of Edwin and Ethelburg, King and Queen of the newly formed Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria. On the day that she was born a great drama happened at the court. An envoy of the hostile king of Wessex came with a poisoned dagger to murder Edwin, and he escaped only because a loyal friend, Lilla, leapt in and took the fatal blow. Lilla died; Edwin lived; an hour or two later Eanflaed was born. Edwin was not yet a Christian, though he was moving towards it. As an act of thankfulness he allowed his new daughter to be baptised. So baby Eanflaed became the first Anglo-Saxon Christian in Northumbria.
 
When she was 7 her father was killed in battle, and her mother, who had been a princess of Kent, fled back there with her family. From there in time Eanflaed, now 16 years old, returned to the north to be the bride of King Oswy. Of course her faith and practice was that of the continental Christians, and she stuck to those customs. Her husband was Irish-trained by Aidan and the monks of Iona, and the disagreement in his own family was one reason, though probably a minor one, for his summoning the Synod of Whitby, which decided that Northumbria should accept Christian leadership from the continent in the future.
 
Eanflaed had shown herself interested in monasticism when she persuaded her husband to found a monastery at Gilling, as an act of penance after he had murdered his kinsman Oswin. She also supported and encouraged the young Wilfrid. So it was not surprising that when her husband died she decided to be a nun, and went to Whitby, where her relative Hild was Abbess, and where her own daughter, Aelflaed, had been sent as an infant. Eanflaed succeeded Hild as Abbess in 680. During her rule the relics of her father Edwin were received at the monastery and his cult as a saint was promoted.
 
Eanflaed is an example of the importance of women in the church at the time, especially of aristocratic widows, of whom there were many in that very violent age.
 
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