Archaeologists discover early church on UK Holy Island which may have links to medieval saints

Archaeologists came across an early Christian church on an island off North East England's coast which could be traced back to important figures in British Christianity's history such as medieval saints Aidan and Oswald.

(WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / Christopher Down)Lindisfarne Priory from above. 21 May 2017.

In an interview with Fox News, Northumberland County Council conservation manager Sara Rushton said the archaeological discovery could provide evidence of the earliest church on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. She added that the structure could have a connection to St. Aidan and St. Oswald, two key figures in British Christianity's history.

The church on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne may have been built around 650 A.D., Rushton explained, as she noted that St. Aidan set up a monastery there in 635 A.D. The latter was destroyed by Viking raiders in the late 8th century but was re-established three centuries later.

In addition, Rushton said a possible altar stone was discovered at the church's east end, something reminiscent of the structure of British churches in the area before 671 A.D. The location of the structure also provides a clue for the archaeologists.

"The other reason we think it might be earlier is because of the style of the stonework – it's very crude," said Rushton.

She added, "It's the type of location that appealed to the Celtic church."

Rushton believes that the discovery could establish the Holy Island of Lindisfarne as an important early medieval site in Britain. They believe that the church's location was picked deliberately so that it faced the Bamburgh Castle, the royal court of Saxon king St. Oswald, who is believed to have played a major role in spreading the Christian faith in the region.

Last year, archaeologists uncovered a massive foundation wall believed to be part of a watch tower along the western side of the ridge. The Archaeological Practice director Richard Carlton marveled at the discovery and said they could find out more about the structure after a more careful examination, the Northumberland Gazette relayed.

Many scholars believed that the alignment of the Parish Church of St. Mary's with the Priory church points to the original locations of the two early medieval churches on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. St. Bede even mentioned in his "Life of St. Cuthbert" a signal seen from Inner Farne coming from the watchtower on the island to announce the death of a saint.