Hilda of Whitby 614 - 680 CE
Hilda of Whitby did not call herself by that name. She was Hild of Streaneschalch. Both terms, 'Hilda' and 'Whitby' were names created by dominators.
It seems unseemly to call her by the names assigned by conquerors. Still, it is the name that has come down through the centuries and the name by which she is honored in the calendar of the Church of England and so here is a page about this remarkable woman who loved wisdom and mentored others.
Hilda of Whitby is considered one of England's greatest women. She was born into a culture where the main business of men was warring. At the time of her birth her family was 'out of favor' - actually they had been banished.
Her great uncle, Edwin, had been banished in 588 CE by Aethelric, the king of neighboring Bernicia. Her mother, Breguswith and her father, Hereruc, their older daughter Hereswith and Edwin’s nephew, were all in exile when Hild was born.
In 616 CE, Edwin killed Aethefrith, who was the son of Aethelric, in battle. He created the kingdom of Northumbria and of course installed himself as king.
Hild, her mother and older sister moved to court after Hild's father died. In 627 Edwin and many of the court, includingHild, were baptized Christians in the river York.
If you are interested in more information about her life, I suggest that you read the other page - the one under the name she would have used: Hild of Stronshalh - Hilda of Whitby
A brief review her work as a 'lover of wisdom' or philosopher.
In 648 CE she was about to leave England in order to enter a monastery in France. Bishop Aidan (St. Aidan) of Lindisfarneasked her to remain in England. In 649 he appointed her Abbess of a double monastery ( a monastery of men and women) near Hartlepool [Heretu].
As Abbess, Hilda of Whitby restored the 'regular life' and monastic discipline. This wise woman wanted the nuns and monks to grow in wisdom and understanding and so she greatly emphasized education. The monastery soon attracted students. This monastery became known for both its spirituality and its education.
Hilda of Whitby was generous. She was known to encourage and mentor others. She recognized that talent of Caedmon, a herdsman on the monastic grounds and he became England's first poet. A number of priests studied at the monastery and several later became Bishops.
And all this was done in the context of Celtic Christianity. Hild was a Celt. St. Aidan practiced the Celtic, not the Roamn tradition. And so Hild of Streonshalh celebrated Easter in accord with the Celtic calendar - not the Roman calendar.
But there were larger forces at work. King Oswiu had married Eanfled, who was a Roman Christian. This made for some practicaldifficulties. One example: Eanfled followed the Roman Chrisitan calendar; Oswiu the Celtic Christian calendar. When he wanted tocelbrate the great Christian feast of Easter, she was still in the midst of Lenten fasts.
Oswiu saw that the differences arising between the two forms of Christianity posed a possible threat to his rein so he called for a Synod of Bishops so the question could be decided. And he asked the Abbess Hilda of Whitby to host the meeting at her monastery. She did.
There is a description of the Synod at Synod of Whitby
Although the side that Hida favored lost out and she, of course, obeyed the new direction but she never lost her appreciation for her Celtic roots and ways.
Do read Hild of Stronshalh
for a brief history of the monastery at Whitby go to:Driscoll Library Whitby History