King Oswald of Northumbria - The healing cross
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
The Lives of the Saints - Rev. Alban Butler - Volume VIII: August. 1866.
St. Oswald, King and Martyr
Oswald gave him battle at a place called by Bede Denis-burn, that is, the brook Denis, adjoining to the Picts’ wall on the north side. Being come near the enemy’s camp, the evening before the engagement, the pious king caused a great wooden cross to be made in haste, and he held it up himself with both his hands whilst the hole dug in the earth to plant it in was filled up round the foot. ……. The place where this cross was set up was called in the English tongue Hevenfelth, that is, Heaven’s field, by a happy omen, says Bede, because there was to be erected the first heavenly trophy of faith; for, before that time, no church or altar was known to have been raised in the whole kingdom of the Bernisians.
This cross of St. Oswald remained afterwards very famous. Bede tells us, that to his time, many cut little chips of it, which they steeped in water, which being drank by sick persons, or sprinkled upon them, many recovered their health. He adds, that after the death of King Oswald, the monks of Hexham used to come to the place on the day before the anniversary of his death, there to watch the night in prayer, reciting the office with many psalms for his soul., ……..
A church was built on the spot some time before Bede wrote, who mentions that one of the monks of Hexham, named Bothelm, then living, having broken his arm by falling on the ice as he was walking in the night, and having suffered a long time much anguish from the hurt, was perfectly cured in one night by applying a little of the moss which was taken off from this cross, and brought him.
The learned Alcuin, in his poem on the bishops and saints of York, published by Mr. Thomas Gale, at Oxford, relates how the pious king, no ways daunted at the multitude and ferocity of his enemies, encouraged his soldiers to a confidence in Christ, and exhorted them to implore his protection prostrate with him on their faces before the cross which he had set up.
This author likewise adds an account of several miracles wrought down to his time in 780, at the relics of St. Oswald, and at this cross; or by chips cut from it infused in water, by drinking which, many sick were cured, even in Ireland, and other distant countries.
So great was the veneration of the people for this cross, that the abbey of Durham used for its seal, during several ages, this cross on one side, and on the reverse the figure of St. Oswald’s head, as Mr. Smith exhibits it from several ancient records.