Oswald was born about 602 and became king of Northumbria after his father’s death in 616. He was forced to flee to Scotland when Edwin seized the kingdom. For 17 years Oswald lived in exile on Iona Island and was converted to the Christian faith and baptised by the monks of St Columba.
Edwin died in 633, and Oswald determined to return and free his country. On the eve of the decisive battle near Hexham, Oswald set up a large wooden cross, and he and his soldiers prayed for victory. He had a vision of Columba, who assured him of victory. Oswald defeated the Welsh king, Cadwalla of Gwynedd, and after a few years Oswald was undisputed king of Northumbria. He married Cyneburga, daughter of Cynegils, the first Christian king of Wessex.
Oswald began to establish Christianity in his country and appealed to Iona for missionaries. The first bishop who was sent was rather harsh and had little success. Aidan (31 August) was eventually sent, and he and Oswald worked unceasingly to build up the church in Northumbria. Oswald often acted as an interpreter for Aidan, and together they achieved the conversion of a large part of the area. On more than one occasion Oswald had to translate Aidan’s Irish for the benefit of his thanes. Oswald gave the island of Lindisfarne to Aidan for a monastery and episcopal seat.
In 642, Penda, king of Mercia, sought revenge for the death of Cadwalla. During the Battle of Maserfield, Oswald was killed, praying for the souls of his people as he died. His body was dismembered, but his head was carried to Aidan at Lindisfarne, who placed it in the royal chapel at Bamburgh. The dispersion of other parts of his body led to various places, on the continent as well as in Britain, claiming to have his relics. The English honoured Oswald as a martyr. He was a popular hero and was declared a Saint soon after his death.
BORN: 604 AD,
DIED: 5 August 642 AD, Oswestry, United Kingdom.