In this mosaic an elderly monk is coming to the end of his life. Here St Aidan is held in the arms of the brethren with whom he lives. On either side a brother holds one of his hands, he is helped to hold the cross of Christ before him as he dies. The saint is frail, but around him a strong and resilient community has grown. They speak words of encouragement to him, and they pray. These things they have learnt from him, this holy and courageous man.
Aidan was most likely born in Ireland. He himself was formed in the monastery at Iona, and sent as a missionary to Northumbria. As monk, missionary and then bishop, he is usually named with the monastery he established. He is Aidan of Lindisfarne, the place where he died on 31 August 651.
The 20thC mosaic is by Frank Brangwyn, made for St Aidan’s Church, Leeds. The image below, from the same church, depicts Aidan receiving boys and young men, to be formed by his teaching in the monastery.
“I have written thus much concerning the person and works of the aforesaid Aidan…….commending such things as are praiseworthy in his actions, and preserving the memory thereof for the benefit of the readers; his love of peace and charity; his continence and humility; his mind superior to anger and avarice, and despising pride and vainglory; his industry in keeping and teaching the heavenly commandments; his diligence in reading and watching; his authority becoming a priest in reproving the haughty and powerful, and at the same time his tenderness in comforting the afflicted, and relieving or defending the poor.”
Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation
Leave me alone with God
as much as may be.
As the tide draws the waters
close in upon the shore.
Make me an island, set apart,
alone with you, God,
holy to you.
Then with the turning of the tide
prepare me to carry your presence
to the busy world that rushes in on me
till the waters come again
and fold me back to you.
Nancy Wallace, 2015