Lindisfarne is somewhere special, and anyone who’s been here will know exactly what I mean.
Religion and spirituality come together on Lindisfarne and it’s not difficult to see why St. Aidan chose this spot to bring Christianity to the North of England.
At one time, I thought that to have spiritual feelings I needed to embrace religion – but then I saw the light.
Religion and spirituality are not necessarily the same thing. It’s true that you can be religious and spiritual, but it’s also true that you can be spiritual and not religious.
So now that you’ve realised I’m a non-believer, why do I find Lindisfarne such a spiritual place?
Well firstly, there’s no point in denying that the religious connection with Lindisfarne brings an air of peace and tranquility to the place, but there’s more to it than that.
There are big skies and wide, sandy beaches where seals bask in their hundreds: Then there is the historical Priory, harbour and castle perched on its volcanic crag, not to mention the views down to Bamburgh Castle and the Farne Islands – but most important of all is the fact that Lindisfarne is an island and cut off from the mainland twice a day.
Holy Island, as it’s also called, can be accessed by road across a causeway from about 3 hours after high tide until about 2 hours before the next high tide.
This means of course that you need to be aware of the tide times, which are posted locally and elsewhere, but it’s amazing how often people get caught out.
Long before this causeway was constructed pilgrims made their way across the sand flats to the island, and a line of poles were erected for navigation. For those who didn’t get their tide times right, refuge posts were also added but it goes without saying that if you intend to use this precarious route it’s better to go across with an expert.
It was to this fabulous seascape that St. Aidan brought Christianity to Northumberland in 635 AD. His work was carried on by St. Cuthbert who has gone down in Northumbrian folklore. Regarded as the patron saint of the North of England, this Bishop of Lindisfarne chose the simplest life possible by living as a hermit on a small nearby isle. Even back then he was revered and it was in his honour that Eadfrith produced the famous Lindisfarne Gospels.
Hopefully, this brief introduction to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne explains in some small way why it’s so special and why it deserves further exploration to get to know it better, and so in my next post I’ll try to get into an ecclesiastical mindset, put my cassock on, and endeavour to explain the background to the island’s religious connections.