St Hilda
- Favourite Briton.

Northumberland
Born in 000

Saint Hilda, (614 -680), grand-niece of St Edwin of Northumbria, was the abbess of Whitby monastery where both monks and nuns lived and worked, and a key figure in the conversion of England to Christianity. Her feast day is November 17.

Almost all the information we have on St Hilda comes from the writings of the Venerable Bede. His book The Ecclesiastical History of the English written in 731 states that Hilda became a Christian in 627 when she was 13 years old after hearing the preaching of St Paulinus, who indeed baptized her into the Church. Hilda originally intended to pursue her vocation in France (at that time known still as Gaul) but was recalled by St Aiden to organise monastic orders based on the North Bank of the Wear and in Hartlepool. This she did with such great success that she was the natural choice to set up a new monastery at Streaneshalch (later Whitby), over which she presided for many years. The monastery of Whitby flourished under her rule as abbess and produced no fewer than five bishops, two of whom were subsequently canonised. Hilda encouraged the study of sacred scriptures and her learning and wisdom led to her veneration by monks and laypeople alike. Even royalty came to consult her on spiritual matters. The fame of her monastery at Whitby was recognised when the synod of 644 was held there and important decisions regarding religious observances were decided.

Hilda is also remembered for her patronage of Caedmon, the first English poet known to us by name. He was a herdsman attached to the monastery who learned to compose from a dream and became a devout monk producing inspirational religious verse.

St Hilda died in 680 after seven years of illness in spite of which she continued with her devotions. She passed away peacefully and legend has it that her soul was seen being taken to heaven by angels.

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