Becoming Holy Island (An Interlude)

One of my favorite descriptions of Lindisfarne comes from the 17th-century Legend of St. Cuthbert, with the Antiquities of the Church of Durham, by Robert Hegge (1599-1629). Given its limited access, governed by the rise and fall of the tide and the consequent filling and emptying of the estuary separating it from the mainland, Hegge wrote: “In ancient description it was an island but twice a day, and embraced by Neptune only at full tide, and at Ebbe shaked hands with the Continent.”

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The tidal estuary at sunset (which, in December, is around 3:30 in the afternoon). Today, a paved road connects island to mainland; in the days of Aidan and Cuthbert, the crossing was marked by a series of poles (still present) set into the sand of the estuary. This original route is still used by pilgrims following St. Cuthbert’s Way, a long-distance walking trail tracing the saint’s journey from his previous community at Melrose to his new home on the island.
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