Aidan was a monk of Iona who became the first bishop and abbot of Lindisfarne, which from the 11th century was also called Holy Island.
Aidan was Irish by birth, though we know nothing of his early life. He went from Iona to Northumbria at the request of King Oswald in 634. Oswald (see 5 August) had become a Christian while in exile on Iona. Upon regaining his throne he sent to ask if one of the monks of Iona would come and help with the conversion of his kingdom. The first monk sent was too severe and was ignored. He soon retreated back to Iona. It was then that Aidan was ordained bishop and sent - a gentle, ascetic, humble man, whose unassuming holiness readily won the respect of others. He brought some fellow Celts with him and established a monastery on the island of Lindisfarne. This island, lying close to the royal palace of Bamburgh, was a gift from Oswald.
The monastery consisted of a group of small beehive shaped huts, made from wood and thatch. From this base, Aidan travelled to the mainland. Oswald would sometimes accompany Aidan, acting as his interpreter. They had a strong personal friendship and formed a marvellous missionary team, achieving great success wherever they went. Soon churches were being built and monasteries founded, including communities for women. Oswald was killed in battle in 642 and was succeeded by Oswin, with whom Aidan also forged a close and valued friendship.
Aidan had a great love of learning and soon established a school. Of the first dozen boys educated, several became leaders of the church (Chad, Cedd, Wilfrid, Eata). Aidan was full of energy and enthusiasm, constantly on the move, always travelling on foot regardless of the distance. Riding on horseback he realised would separate the monks from any people they might meet. On one occasion Oswin gave Aidan a fine horse, which almost immediately he gave away to a beggar. As abbot and bishop, Aidan continued to live a simple life.
Bede’s Ecclesiastical History is the main source of information about Aidan, and clearly the holiness of this apostle to Northumbria captured Bede’s heart, despite the fact that he followed the Irish calculations of Easter that were disapproved of by Bede. Aidan was buried on Lindisfarne.
DIED:31 August 651, Bamburgh, U.K.