Oswald Rides to Battle

Photo: David Dixon

Oswald with his small party of men rode to beat the news of their landing. Reaching a camp site in the shadow of the Wall, they took shelter there. According to the later accounts in Bede and Andoman’s account of the life of Columba, this eve-of-battle camp was crucial for the battle’s outcome.

Andoman tells of a dream, coming to Oswald in the night, in which Columba himself promised victory to Oswald on the morrow. Expanding the sense of mission in this war band, Bede tells how Oswald raised a cross in the field where they camped on the eve of battle and had all his men, Christian and pagan alike, swear to fight in its name.

Bede, an avid reader of Eusebius’s History of the Church, would have been aware of the parallels between this and Constantine’s vision and oath taking before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge.

Bede wrote an ecclesiastical history of the English people. As the title tells, he was not interested in recording all the many victories and defeats that peppered those battle-weary centuries. The ones he wrote about were those which were important for what happened to the Church, and few, in Bede’s estimation, were more important than the one between Oswald and Cadwallon.


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