Monday, 5 August 2013

Oswald of Northumbria

Oswald (c 604-642) was King of Northumbria, having gained the throne following the defeat of Cadwallon ap Cadfan in battle, after a period in exile precipitated by the death of his father. In doing so, he reunited the kingdoms of Bernicia in the north and Deira in the south to form the Kingdom of Northumbria.

During his exile, possibly in Scotland, he had converted to Christianity; before the battle at Heavenfield, near Hexham, Oswald is said to have prayed, with his army, in front of a wooden cross. The Life of Saint Columba claims that, the night before the battle, Oswald had a vision of Columba in which he was told "Be strong and act manfully. Behold, I will be with thee. This coming night go out from your camp into battle, for the Lord has granted me that at this time your foes shall be put to flight and Cadwallon your enemy shall be delivered into your hands and you shall return victorious after battle and reign happily."

After becoming king, Oswald asked the Irish of Dál Riata to send a bishop to help with the conversion of his people. The first bishop sent was said to have been "austere", and met with little success, and Aidan was sent instead. Oswald gave Aidan the island of Lindisfarne as his base, and the two worked together - Aidan preaching in Irish, and Oswald interpreting into English - to great success.

Oswald was killed at the Battle of Maserfield, modern day Oswestry, during a conflict with the pagan Mercians.


Lord God almighty,
who so kindled the faith of King Oswald with your Spirit
that he set up the sign of the cross in his kingdom
and turned his people to the light of Christ:
grant that we, being fired by the same Spirit,
may always bear our cross before the world
and be found faithful servants of the gospel;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.


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