The island's original name is shrouded in mystery and is thought, by some authorities, to be from the Latin, Medicata Insula (The healing Island) probably due to the Island's early inhabitants of monks, whose reputation for medicinal herbal cures was known. However, another interpretation, which seems more plausible, derives from the word 'Farne' meaning retreat and 'Lindis' a small tidal river adjacent to the island.
By the sixth century Urien, Prince of Rheged from the 'Old North', which is to the north west of England, laid siege to the Island against the Angle warriors of Theodoric. The battle raged for three days and three nights.
By c. 635 a monastery was formed on Lindisfarne by the Irish monk Saint Aidan and at some time after, possibly in the 8th century, the island's famous illuminated manuscript was produced, known as the Lindisfarne Gospels.
But by 793 the Island was to be shaken to its foundation with the violent arrival of the Vikings, as one scholar recorded: “Never before has such terror appeared as we now suffer at the hands of a pagan race. The heathens poured out the blood of saints around the alter and trampled on the bodies of saints in the temple of God, like dung in the streets.”
Further raids in 875 forced the monks to temporarily flee the Island with the bones of St Cuthbert which are buried at the Cathedral in Durham.
In 1093 a Benedictine priory was formed, changing the island's name to Holy Island in memory of the monks who were slaughtered by the Viking invasions. The priory and its community continued to flourish until its suppression by King Henry VIII in 1536. The priory was then plundered for building materials for the construction of a Tudor castle on the highest part of the Island.
Not long after 1630 the castle became a ruin.
In 1903 the castle was redesigned by the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens as a home for Edward Hudson, the then owner of Country Life magazine.
It is now owned by the National Trust.
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