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August 5

St Oswald of Northumbria - August 5

Saint Oswald of Northumbria

King, Martyr

(Around 604 – 642)

“Let us now kneel down, and jointly pray to the Omnipotent, and only true God, that he would mercifully defend us from our proud enemy; for he knows that we fight in a just war in defense of our lives and country.

Saint Oswald of Northumbria

Saint’s Life Story

His Unknown Early Life 

 Oswald was the son of the pagan King Aethelfrith the Ravager of Bernicia and Princess Aacha of Deira born around 604. He was the second of seven children. One of his brothers was Saint Ebbe the Elder and was the nephew of Saint Ethelreda. His father was killed in battle when Oswald was eleven years old. After his death, his mother fled with the family for the court of King Eochaid Buide at Dunadd in modern Scotland. There, Oswald converted to Christianity.  At the Iona Abbey, he was educated with his brother Oswiu. Oswald thus spent the remainder of his youth in the Scottish kingdom of Dál Riata in northern Britain.


Oswald was a soldier who was known to have fought at the Battle of Fid Eoin in 628. Contemporary writings describe him as having “arms of great length and power, eyes bright blue, hair yellow, face long and beard thin, and his small lips wearing a kindly smile”. Reported to have had a pet raven for years. After a previous battle, Cadwallon, the king of Gwynedd, in alliance with the pagan Penda of Mercia, killed Saint Edwin of Deira in battle at Hatfield Chase in 633. Northumbria was split into its two kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira. Oswald’s brother Eanfrith became king of Bernicia, but he was killed by Cadwallon around 634 after attempting to negotiate peace. 

Knelt before a Wooden Cross Before Battle

In 634, Oswald formed his own army and returned to Northumbria. Before the commencement of battle, inspired by a vision of Saint Columba the previous night (as recounted by Adomnán in his Life of St Columba), Oswald knelt before a large wooden Cross, commanding his army to join him in earnest prayer. Here, he defeated King Cadwallon of Gwynedd and took the throne of Northumbria. His council agreed that they would be baptised and accept Christianity after the battle, and, in spite of their greater numbers, the pagan British were heavily defeated by the soon-to-be-baptised Northumbrian. Oswald attributed his win to his faith and the intervention of the saint, and the victory is known as the Battle of Heavenfield.

King of a United Northumbria

As a result of his victory at Heavenfield, Oswald reigned over a united Northumbria.  He was established as the most powerful king in the British Isles.  Adomnán describes him as “ordained by God as Emperor of all Britain”), while Saint Bede states that he “brought under his dominion all the nations and provinces of Britain”.

Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne

Oswald invited the Irish of Dál Riata to send a bishop – Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne– to help convert his subject. Oswald furnished Aidan with the island of Lindisfarne that would be his center of operations and episcopal see. Oswald often acted as his interpreter when Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne was preaching, as Saint Aidan’s grasp of Anglo-Saxon was initially poor, whereas Oswald was a good Irish-speaker. One Easter he was about to dine with Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne. A crowd of poor came begging alms. Oswald gave them all the food and the wealth he carried on him, then had his silver table settings broken up and distributed. Saint Aidan was so moved by the king‘s generosity that he grasped Oswald’s right hand and exclaimed, “May this hand never perish!” For years after, the king was considered invincible. The hand has, indeed, survived, as it is enshrined as a relic in the Bamburgh church.

His Death

On August 5, 642, Oswald was killed in battle in Maserfield (probably at Oswestry), Shropshire, England, and thus often listed as a martyr. He was dismembered at the hands of the pagan King Penda of Mercia. According to Saint Bede, his final act in the face of imminent death was to pray for the souls of his own soldiers. Oswald was noted for his personal spirituality, piety, faith, his devotion to the kingdom, his charity to the poor, and his willingness to take arms to defend his throne.

The site of Oswald’s death soon came to be associated with miracles. Many regarded his death as a martyrdom, though Saint Bede sees his sanctity as consisting more in his great personal holiness, and, in particular, in his love and compassion towards the poor.

Born:                  Around 604 in Northumbria, England

Died:                   Augst 5, 642 in Maserfield, Shropshire, England

Beatified:           Pre-Congregation

Canonized:        Pre-Congregation

Feast Day:          August 5

Patron Saint:    Harvesters; Zug, Switzerland



Saint Oswald of Northumbria did not store his treasures for a rainy day. On Easter, when he was about to dine with Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne. A crowd of poor people came begging for alms. Oswald gave them all the food and the wealth he carried on him.  Then he had his silver table settings broken up and distributed. 

Has God has blessed you with more riches than others? Do not forget the churches, the hospitals, the poor. This will give you comfort in your dying hour. You will be better able to justify yourself before the judgment seat of the most High, when you are called to give an account of your stewardship.


Lord God almighty, who so kindled the faith of King Oswald with your Spirit that he set up the sign of the cross in his kingdom and turned his people to the light of Christ: grant that we, being fired by the same Spirit, may always bear our cross before the world and be found faithful servants of the gospel; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, now and for ever.

Saint Oswald of Northumbria, pray for us. Amen.

Multilple Sources for Collect Prayer from the memorial Mass of Saint Oswald of Northumbria

Saint Links 

AnaStpaul – Saint of the Day – 5 August – Saint Oswald of Northumbria (c 604-642) Martyr – Rev. Alban Butler Volume VIII: August. The Lives of the Saints. 1866. August 5 St. Oswald, King and Martyr

Catholic Ireland – Aug 5 – St Oswald, King and Martyr

Catholic Online – St. Oswald

CatholicSaints.Info – Saint Oswald of Northumbria

CatholicSaints.Info – Saint Oswald, King and Martyr, by Father Oswald Bennett, CP

Independent Catholic News – St Oswald of Northumbria

New Advent – Parker, A. (1911). St. Oswald. In The Catholic Encyclopedia

Wikipedia – Oswald of Northumbria

Video Link