The Saintly King

Marker sign for the St Oswald's Way trail

This year’s long distance walk is the St Oswalds’s Way. This is a long distance walking route that runs from Lindisfarne to Heavenfield, but who was St Oswald?

Oswald was born around 604. After his father died in 616, his Uncle Edwin came to the throne. Consequently, Oswald and his brother, Oswiu, were expelled from Northumbria. They settled in Iona in the Hebrides and converted to Christianity.

In 633, Uncle Edwin was killed fighting King Cadwallon of Gwynedd and Penda of Mercia. The following year, Oswald killed Cadwallon at Heavenfield, near Hexham. The story goes that Oswald erected a wooden cross under which he prayed before defeating the Welsh in battle.

Oswald then became King and one of his first acts was to invite St Aidan from Iona to found a monastery at Lindisfarne.

Throughout his life, Oswald was said to have lived a ‘saintly’ life. Bede said that, after witnessing Oswald giving his food to the poor, St Aidan was greatly impressed. He seized Oswald's right hand, stating: "May this hand never perish." According to Bede, the hand and arm remained uncorrupted after Oswald's death.

Oswald was killed in 642 whilst in a conflict with the Mercians under Penda, during the Battle of Maserfelth. Bede says that he spent his last moments in prayer.

Oswald soon became to be venerated as a saint and miracles were supposed to happen at the spot where he died, which is believed to be in what is now known as Oswestry. The town sits close to the boundary between England and Wales and was named in his honour.