Lindisfarne, UK - Priory and Castle
Lindisfarne, also known as Holy Island, is found just off the coast of Northumbria. In the early English period, this island was widely known as one of the holiest sites of the country. This is largely due to the cult of Saint Cuthbert that originated on the island and led to a rich monastic culture on the site. Cuthbert went from being a respected bishop on the island to a canonized saint once his corpse was found to be “incorruptible” long after his burial. An incorruptible corpse is one that does not show signs of natural decay, but has miraculously been preserved. After this, his body became a relic and was put on display.
The monks and bishop of the isle were protected from the political side of religious life due to the remoteness of the monetary by the sea. With little conflict in the region and no real secular concerns, the brothers on the island enjoyed wealth and relative peace in their isolated order. Then everything changed when the Vikings attacked in 793 CE.
While not the first such raid on the English coast, the attack on Lindisfarne is largely agreed to be the beginning of the Viking Age. It was one of the first raids on a religious order, and the fact that such a brutal attack by "heathen" men was allowed by both God and Saint Cuthbert horrified the rest of English Christendom.
Long after the end of the Viking Age, in the 16th century, a castle was built on the island. Lindisfarne Castle came too late to help the monks who were attacked, but it was originally built with the defense of the island in mind. It began as little more than a garrison, though it was continuously updated throughout the centuries until it became an Edwardian-style holiday house. In the dining room visitors can find styles from each era of the castle’s life still preserved.
For more on Viking modes of travel, see the entry on the Roskilde Ship Museum.
“The Castle: Peeling Back the Layers.” National Trust, 8 June 2015, www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lindisfarne-castle/features/the-castle-peeling-back-the-layers.
“The Holy Island of Lindisfarne.” Historic UK, www.historic-uk.com/HistoryMagazine/DestinationsUK/Lindisfarne/.
Story, Joanna. “History of Lindisfarne Priory.” English Heritage, www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/lindisfarne-priory/History/.
Story, Joanna. “The Viking Raid on Lindisfarne.” English Heritage, www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/lindisfarne-priory/History/viking-raid/.