The second icon for the miniature triptych of Celtic Christianity that I’m working on. Like the St. Brendan icon, this is only 2.5″ x 4″ in size. This is St. Aidan, Bishop of Lindisfarne (d. 651 AD). In 635, King Oswald of Northumbira sent for a missionary monk from Iona to serve as Bishop for his people. The first monk sent was Corman, who failed to endear himself to the people. He claimed that the Anglo-Saxons of the area would never take to the disciplines of Christianity. It was Aidan who spoke up in council and said that he was too hard on them. He suggested that they first offer the sweet milk of Chirst and then lead them gradually into the rigors of discipline. With that suggestion, Aidan was appointed the new missionary and was sent to be Bishop. He chose the rocky island of Lindisfarne, similar to Iona, as the location for his new monastery. Aidan’s approach to conversion was to talk one on one to pepople, whether poor or noble. He was often seen walking around on foot. At one point, King Oswin (Oswlad’s successor) gave Aidan one of the best horses from his stable so he could ride from town to town. While riding along the road, Aidan came across a poor beggar and promptly gave him the horse. When he later confronted the outraged Oswin, Aidan chastized him with a prayer: “Dear Lord, please forgive our king who shows more concern for his animals than he does for his own poor subjects.” Oswin then knelt before the Bishop and sought forgiveness.
In this icon, St. Aidan is show with the purple chausible and crosier symbolizing his office of bishop. The crosier is based on the crosier of Clonmacnoise (a typical Cletic design). The Gospel that he is holding is the actual cover of the Lindisfarne Gospel. Along with the Book of Kells, the Lindisfarne Gospel is one of the greatest example of Celtic calligraphy extant. Following the theme with the icon of St. Brendan, the name plate is a scroll with celtic knotwork. A horse is depicted symbolizing the gift he received and gave away to the poor begar. His name is written in Irish Gaelic as he was an Ionian monk which drew it’s tradition from Ireland.
St. Aidan, pray for us as we seek to spread the news of Christ, offering the sweet milk of Love rather condemnation and judgement, and pray that we recognize the image of Christ in every person we meet. Amen.
Medium: Acrylic and 23K gold leaf over white pine.