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Lindisfarne Priory - information and guide

Site Type:
Saturday 2nd July 2011
Latitude: 55.6693 Longitude: -1.8008
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Signposted from the A1 coastal road between Berwick-upon-Tweed and Alnwick. Access subject to tides.

Lindisfarne Priory was founded by the Irish monk St. Aidan in 635AD. It became a base from which Christian missionaries evangelised the north of England. The priory also became home to St. Cuthbert - famed for his miraculous acts of healing - and he was appointed fifth abbot of Lindisfane in 687AD.

Towards the end of the 8th Century, the vulnerable position of the priory led to a series of Viking raids. These eventually caused the monks to abandon the site in 875AD. They removed St. Cuthbert's remains, and travelled the north of England with a coffin containing his relics. This came to rest in various locations before finally being opened, and the bones interred at Durham Cathedral in 1104AD.

Lindisfarne was re-founded by the Normans in 1081AD, and a new monastery built in a Romanesque style. This building was extended in 1140AD, and continued to be developed during the 13th Century. These are the ruins that are visible today, and that church continued to stand until the dissolution in 1537AD.

Lindisfarne is also famous for the illuminated Lindisfarne Gospels, which are believed to have been completed here some time during the early 8th Century. The text survived to the current day, and is now housed in the British Library.

Today, the Holy Isle is approached across a narrow causeway - The Pilgrims' Way - just as in medieval times. Access is subject to the tide, and for much of the day the causeway is covered by the sea, cutting the community off from the outside world. This creates a sense of isolation, evoking some sense of what life must have been like for early Christian missionaries living on the edge of the civilised world.

Much of the priory remains standing, and the pleasant surroundings and unusual location make the site a unique and enjoyable place to visit. The small village is well served with accommodation and a pub, along with a scattering of small shops. The limited hours of access mean that the Holy Isle can be surprisingly quiet during the periods between low tides, which creates the unexpected bonus of a potentially tranquil visit even during the peak summer season - if the visitor is happy to spend a few hours waiting for the sea to recede.