Oswald, son of the Northumbrian King Ethelfrith, fled to Scotland in 616 when Edwin seized his father’s kingdom. He became a Christian on the island of Iona.
When Edwin died in 633, Oswald and his family returned to Northumbria. Osric and Eanfrid, his brothers, were soon killed by the tyrant King Cadwalla who ruled Northumbria. Determined to regain his kingdom and rid it of the tyrant, Oswald assembled an army at Hevenfelt (Heavenfield), near Hexham, where he erected a wooden cross, gathered his army around it, and prayed for victory. Despite being heavily outnumbered, Oswald won the day and regained his kingdom.
His next task was to convert his subjects to Christianity. To do this he sent for a Bishop from Iona, who turned out to be very severe and had no success. He was replaced by Bishop Aidan and, although Oswald had to translate his sermons, he had great success and was given the island of Lindisfarne and an episcopal seat near Bamburgh.
Unfortunately, Oswald did not reign for long. After only eight years, aged 38 years, he was killed in battle at Maserfield by the pagan King Penda of Mercia. Oswald’s body was dismembered and his head was buried at Lindisfarne. Under the threat of invasion in 875, the monks removed Oswald’s head and Cuthbert’s body. They were carried by the monks to many locations and eventually buried together at Durham. Soon after his death, Oswald was made a saint and his fame spread throughout Europe.
Sixty-two churches in England are dedicated to St Oswald.