(Martyred king of Northumbria)
The story of Oswald is related by the Venerable Bede. He was the son of King Aethelfrith, who took the throne in 592 and was murdered in 617. Oswald was forced by his enemies to flee to Scotland, where he converted to Christianity and was baptized. In 633 he returned to Northumbria and took the throne after his uncle, King St. Edwin, was killed in battle. Oswald engaged the British king Caedwalla in battle in 635, defeating him.
According to Bede, Oswald saw a vision of St. Columba prior to battle, and also carried with him a wooden cross. Oswald strove to convert people, and enlisted the help of St. Aidan to do so, giving him the island of Lindisfarne. During his reign, he helped the poor and was popular with his subjects. He built churches and monasteries. On August 5, 642, Oswald was killed in battle at Maserfield as he fought the forces of the pagan king Penda of Mercia. His niece, Queen Osthrida of the Mercians, had his bones taken by wagon to the monastery in Lindsey, where she wished them to be buried.
But the monks there were reluctant to take them, since the king had been from another province. The bones were left out at night with a tent over them while the issue was discussed. During the night, a pillar of light was seen reaching from the wagon to the heavens. It was taken as a sign that the monks were meant to accept the relics, which they did. Oswald’s skull is preserved in St. Cuthbert’s coffin in Durham. During the Middle Ages, he was widely revered as a martyr. In art Oswald is shown with a raven holding a ring in its beak.