Etched in Stone

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Our highlights ✨

  • Osgyth's namestone

    Lindisfarne, AD 650-750

    Belonged to a woman

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  • Ythfrith's namestone

    Lindisfarne, AD 650-750

    Ambiguously named

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  • Beannah's namestone

    Lindisfarne, AD 650-750

    Painted in bright colours

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  • Edilwine's namestone

    Hartlepool, AD 650-750

    Friendly by name, friendly by nature

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  • 'Pray for us all' namestone

    Billingham, AD 700-750

    Decorated with words

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  • Aud's namestone

    Lindisfarne, AD 700-750

    Double sided with runes

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  • Ha-'s namestone

    Lindisfarne, AD 700-750

    Runes and Anglo-Saxon capitals

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  • Unknown's 'triquetra' namestone

    Lindisfarne, AD 700-800

    Decorative knotwork

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Osgyth's namestone Lindisfarne, AD 650-750

Belonged to a woman

This stone is carved with a cross with a circle in the centre, and a hollow right in the middle of the cross. These hollows may have been used to hold a stone, or jewel of some kind. This stone is among the best laid out from the collection of stones found on Lindisfarne; the cross is proportioned well in relation to the frame of the stones, and the runic and Latin inscription are carved confidently with good spacing. The upper quadrants are carved with runes, and the lower quadrants bear the same name in Anglo-Saxon capitals. The name inscribed is OSGYTH, an Old English feminine name. The layout of this stone is similar to others found on Lindisfarne and at Hartlepool.

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Ythfrith's namestone Lindisfarne, AD 650-750

Ambiguously named

This namestone belongs to the ambiguously named ‘Ythfrith’. yþ (pronounced ‘uth’), is very rare and the only known instances are associated with female names, while FRIÐ (prounounced ‘frith’) means peace, fealty or stately beautiful, is usually associated with masculine names, although it can – albeit rarely – also be used to form female names, of which one recorded example is Eadfrið.

Regardless of gender, and whoever Ythfrith was, the limited timeframe in which these namestones are used means we can be fairly confident that Ythfrith lived during the earliest phase of the monastery, and was someone important who may even have known its founders Oswald and Aidan, or some of its later historical figures like Eadfrith or Cuthbert.

The central cross is engraved with a sun-like disc at the end of each arm, and a central cavity that may once have held a relic or jewel. Above the name, you can also just about make out the letters ‘A’ and ‘W’, representing alpha and omega – a clear reference to the Bible, Revelations XXII, 13 which says ‘I am alpha and omega, the beginning and the end’

Beannah's namestone Lindisfarne, AD 650-750

Painted in bright colours

This stone is beautifully decorated with a will proportioned cross and semi-circular decoration in the outer corners of the two lower quadrants. The inscription in the top two quadrants is written in runes, although damage to the stone means that we can only make out some of the letters which spell OIN. In the lower two quadrants, the stone is inscribed with the latin alphabet in Anglo-Saxon capitals with BEANNAH, interestingly, the ‘E’ is carved inside the ‘B’. Beanna is an Old English masculine name. The runes may spell out Coina or Coena, which are forms of an Old English masculine name. It’s unclear whether this namestone has been carved for two people, or just one person who took a new name when entering into religious life on Lindisfarne. The centre of the stone is decorated with a petal-like design. Traces of pigment suggests it was probably painted in bright colours.

Edilwine's namestone Hartlepool, AD 650-750

Friendly by name, friendly by nature

This namestone was likely made to commemorate someone called Edilwine. Its rectangular shape is typical of those from Hartlepool, where many of the namestones found commemorate women. This one, however, was probably made for a man. Although the inscription is hard to read, it has been reconstructed by expert Elizabeth Okasha as probably being ‘Ediluini’, a form of the masculine name Edilwine. ‘-uini- or ‘wine’ is a fairly common ending, derived from the Old English for ‘friend’, and can also be seen on several examples from Lindisfarne.

The design is a very simple border and cross, but stands out from the rest (literally!) because the cross is in relief with unusually large roundels at the end of each arm.

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'Pray for us all' namestone Billingham, AD 700-750

Decorated with words

Some namestones have decorated borders, but this one is pretty unique; it is filled with text. Reading clockwise, you can make out part of a Latin phrase II ORAT EPRO II F.— —.]INIB’ I. Originally, it probably read ORATE PRO FRATRIBUS NOSTRIS ET PRO CUNCTIS CHRISTIANIS HOMINIB(US), which means something like “Pray for all of us, our Christian people”.

The triangular or pyramid-like symbol is an ‘Alpha’. Many of the namestones are inscribed with Alpha and Omega, shorthand for a phrase from the Bible, Revelations XX II 13, which says ‘I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end”. The Omega has broken off on this namestone, but these symbols are found on stones from Lindisfarne and Hartlepool, linking the three sites.

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Aud's namestone Lindisfarne, AD 700-750

Double sided with runes

This stone is another roundheaded namestone which is typical of the stones found on Lindisfarne. It is carved on both faces, with the design on each face being very similar. It has a border and a cross, and the round shapes at the end of the cross arms are deeply sunken into the stone. There is an inscription on each face, and the inscriptions on both sides of this stone are written in runes and read ‘AUD’ in the upper left quadrant of the first face, and ‘LAC’ in the upper right quadrant of the second face. ‘Lac’ is associated with Old English masculine names. Being carved on both sides suggests that the stone was set upright, perhaps being used for a double burial. Alternatively, it may have been reused.

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Ha-'s namestone Lindisfarne, AD 700-750

Runes and Anglo-Saxon capitals

This namestone has a runic inscription in the top quadrant, although the only clear letter that can be made out is an ‘H’. The lower quadrant is more deeply inscribed with Anglo-Saxon capitals, and may be either HA or BA. We can’t make out the rest of the lettering, so it’s impossible to tell if it’s a masculine or feminine name. The layout is slightly unusual, both in the proportions of the cross, and the plus-sized letters on the lower inscription. This stone was found during excavations in 1920 below the doorway in the south wall of the priory.

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Unknown's 'triquetra' namestone Lindisfarne, AD 700-800

Decorative knotwork

This namestone is beautifully decorated, with four ‘triquetras’ – the circular roundels filled with interlacing knotwork at the ends of each of the surviving cross arms, and in the centre of the cross. These triquetras show the close ties that Lindisfarne had with Dal Riada, the kingdom that included parts of Ireland and western Scotland. Many of Lindisfarne’s leading figures, including Aidan, came from the kingdom’s most famous monastery on Iona which was founded by Saint Columba. This kind of ‘Irish-influenced’ artwork is a reflection of that early history.

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