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St Aidan Returns King Penda’s Fire : When Penda tried to burn down Bamburgh Castle, St Aidan turned the pagan King’s own weapons against him.
St Aidan Returns King Penda’s Fire

Based on A History of the English Church and People, by St Bede of Jarrow (672-735).

St Aidan (?590-651) came from the island of Iona to Northumbria during the reign of King Oswald, and remained there under Oswald’s successors until his death in 651. He settled himself on the island of Lindisfarne.

A FORTRESS was raised at Bamburgh by Ida, the first King of the coastal Kingdom of Bernicia, in 548. At that time, it was called Dinguoaroy; it was later named Bebbanburgh after Bebba, wife of Ida’s grandson Æthelfrith.*

It stood (as Bamburgh Castle does today) high on a rocky eminence overlooking the North Sea. From its walls, the island and monastery of Lindisfarne were clearly visible across Budle Water.

Early in 651 Aidan was in his private room in the monastery when he noticed black smoke and flames rising from Bamburgh: King Penda of Mercia had stripped every plank of wood and handful of thatch from the town, and was setting fire to the castle’s wooden gates, assisted by a lively breeze.

Aghast, Aidan cried out “Behold, Lord, how great mischief Penda does!” The words were barely out of his mouth, when the wind switched round, and fanned the flames towards Penda’s men as they ran for their lives.

They did not attack again.

* There are several spellings of this name. ‘Dinguoaroy’ is the form it receives in the 9th century ‘Historia Brittonum’ by Nennius.

Based on A History of the English Church and People, by St Bede of Jarrow (672-735).

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Picture: © David White, Wikimedia Commons. Licence: CC-BY-SA 2.0. View original
Bamburgh Castle at dawn, photographed across Budle Water from Lindisfarne - the very same view which St Aidan had all those centuries ago.

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