by tonyleather on 13/01/11 at 8:51 am
Travelogue about a memorable visit to Lindisfarne, better known as Holy Island.
There is a very special place, off the Northumbrian coast, where centuries merge as if the rules of time did not apply. A place where men have struggled to survive for over one and a half millennia, and left their indelible mark on history. What remains today is so much more than ancient stones and artifacts. It is a genuine trip through time.
I’d arrived at this place, bare moments before, in a twentieth-century car, yet now, in my mind’s eye, the car has become a rough old, wooden cart, and I a simple peasant, on a pilgrimage. Transported in another way, I stand in awe.
A stiff wind from the North sea blows over me, sharp and salty, as I stand on the bleak, shore, gazing out at the small island, with it’s defiant, tiny castle. A genuine, stone David, bravely squaring up to the great waters, which pound relentlessly at it’s doors.
!n 634 AD, King Oswald of Nothumberland wanted to bring Christianity to his subjects, instead of paganism, and the mission of Aidan was founded here. An abbey was built, and the monks thrived, though after an invasion by the Danes, in 793, the monastery was abandoned until the eleventh century.
From then on, life returned, and many priceless reminders of its passage remain with us today. The oldest surviving English version of the gospels, translated from the Latin by the monk, Aldred in 995, and much more. Where is this magical place, you ask? Lindisfarrne, the Holy island.
Wooden poles, tall and blackened, form a sparse forest of markers on the treacherous sands which separate the island from the shore. Stark reminders of a time when access to it was only possible via perilous paths between the quicksands, yet still I’m drawn, like thousands before me, to go out there.
The single, slimy access road, green with algae and bestrewn with seaweed, is relatively new. This causeway was constructed only this century, though it is covered by high tide for five hours every day. It seems menacing somehow, as you set out to traverse it, but the siren call of the island is completely irresistable, steeped in a history which whispers, insistently, from every inch of ground.
You travel so easily into times past here, for the fervent Christianity of occupants, over the past fourteen centuries, still seems today, very much a living force. Walking, silent and respectful, through the ruins of the great priory, referred to in this area as the ‘Cradle of Christianity’, you can’t help but feel the vibrations of the past.