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
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
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