Saint Ethelwald, Priest, Monk, Hermit

March 23 is the Feast of Saint Ethelwald (or Aethelwald or Oethelwald), Priest and Monk of Ripon who took Saint Cuthbert’s place as a hermit on the Island of Farne, where after twelve years of solitude he passed away A.D. 699. The Lindisfarne community buried him in the Church of Saint Peter, next to Saint Cuthbert and Saint Eadbert. When the Monks left the island in 875, his relics were put into Saint Cuthbert’s coffin, and so his bones found their final resting-place in Durham Cathedral.
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Little is known about this man, apart from what is recorded in the writings of the Venerable Bede. The most well-known story about Saint Ethilwald, relates how the future Abbot Guthrid visited him on his island with two Lindisfarne Monks and, on his journey home, was saved from shipwreck by the Saint’s prayers.

The earliest recorded inhabitants of the Farne Islands were various Culdees, some connected with Lindisfarne. This followed the old Celtic tradition of island hermitages, found in England, Ireland, and Scotland.
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The first visitor recorded by name was Saint Aidan followed by Saint Cuthbert. The latter was called to the Bishopric of Lindisfarne but after two years he returned to the solitude of the Inner Farne and died there in 687, when Saint Ethilwald took up residence instead. Among other acts, Saint Cuthbert introduced special laws in 676 protecting the Eider ducks, and other seabirds nesting on the islands; these are thought to be the earliest bird protection laws anywhere in the world.



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