North York Moors

North York Moors logo
Browse section

Trace our saintly beginnings

St. Mary's churchSt. Mary's church

Discover more about our religious history and the three pivotal figures that shaped the faith in the North York Moors.

St Hilda

St Hilda (c.614-680) is a significant figure in the history of Christianity and was the founder of a Celtic monastery for men and women at Whitby Abbey. She was the hostess to the Synod of Whitby in AD664, where it was decided that the Northumbrian church should follow the teachings of the Roman Church rather than those of Celtic Irish Iona. King Oswiu of Northumbria ruled that his kingdom would calculate Easter according to the customs of Rome, rather than the customs practiced by Irish monks at Iona. Hilda was known for her widsom and gave advice to several kings. During her lifetime, Christianity had changed, centres for prayer, study and art had been developed and St Hilda had played an important part in this movement.

Abbess Hild was buried at Whitby Abbey and miracles were soon reported at her tomb. She was made into a saint (St Hilda) and her bones enshrined.

You can follow in the footsteps of St Hilda by visiting places linked and dedicated to her by walking St Hilda’s Way as an informal pilgrimage. In addition, take a trip to Hackness, the site of another monastery founded by St Hilda in 680AD. Although there are no remains, the place has a calming ambience.

St Caedmon

Caedmon was an illiterate cow-herder who worked at the monastery. The other monks teased and mocked him, but one night this was all set to change. He was visited by an angel, who told him to compose a hymn about Creation. The following morning he rushed to tell St Hilda and she encouraged him to write down what had been revealed. He composed the scripture ‘God the Creator’ and sang it an angelic voice in front of his fellow monks. It is now revered as the oldest recorded Old English poem within living memory of the Christianisation of Anglo-Saxon England.

Nicholas Postgate – A Catholic Martyr

Nicholas Postgate was a Catholic priest who was known as the ‘Good Samaritan of the Moors’ due to his generosity to all, regardless of their religion or status. He was executed in York in 1679 for continuing to practise his faith at a time when there was much anti-Catholic feeling. Practising Catholicism was deemed treasonous in the English Reformation between 1534 and 1680.

You will find Nicholas Postgate’s relics at St Hedda’s Church in Egton Bridge. The Church holds his tiny crystal cross, a lock of his hair and a worn wooden rosary. You can discover more about him at the Roman Catholic Church of St Anne in Ugthorpe. He lived at The Hermitage from 1660 until his execution. A permanent chapel was built and later replaced by the present church that you see today.