Free online talk: Saint Oswald’s Many Heads

Johanna Dale is giving a free online talk on Thursday 28th January as part of the Churches Conservation Trust’s series of lunchtime lectures. You can sign up and get a reminder for the lecture here.

SAINT OSWALD’S MANY HEADS: The Life & Afterlife Of A Seventh-Century Northumbrian King

Oswald head reliquary: Dom- und Diözesanmuseum Hildesheim

Oswald was a Christian king of Northumbria who died in battle in 642, and was soon recognised as a saint.  He was slain by the Mercian king Penda, who cut off Oswald’s head and impaled it on a stake on the battlefield as a sign of his victory.  By the end of the Middle Ages 4 different religious foundations claimed possession of Saint Oswald’s head.  Durham, in Oswald’s native Northumbria, had the best claim to possess the authentic relic, but communities in the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland also claimed the king’s head. This talk explores the life and afterlife of a Northumbrian king, who became a cult figure not only in his native north-east of England, but also, and more surprisingly, across medieval Europe.

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