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upon its life. There is a climb, a sense of effort, a freshening breeze, strange prelude to the stale pedantry of archæology, and the mouldering presence of a long dead past; for here, almost on the edge of the dark laminated cliffs, rises the last but not least famous of our Yorkshire Abbeys. Two centuries of wasting and destruction divide the history of this Abbey as by a deluge; we must cast a glance on both sides of the flood.
About the middle of the seventh century, Penda, the pagan King of Mercia, having successively defeated and slain Edward the Converted, and Oswald the sainted King of Northumbria, met his match in Oswiu, the brother of the latter. It was on the banks of the Aire, probably not more than two or three miles from the modern Leeds, that the decisive battle of Winwidfield was fought and won, and the royal vow recorded which issued in the founding of Streoneschalch or Whitby Abbey. Oswiu had the guilt of Oswine's murder on his soul, and he knew that his own life had reached a crisis, so he swore to build a monastery, and consecrate to the service of religion his infant daughter, if the God of whom he had learnt in his exile among the Picts and Scots would give him victory over his heathen foe.
In that bloody fight King Penda fell, and the little princess was sealed an innocent and unconscious thankoffering. It was to Hilda, the royal saint, that Elfleda and the destinies of Whitby were committed. Hilda was then at Hartlepool, but she soon brought her new charge to Streoneschalch ; and in or about the year 656 was begun the monastery, described by William of Malmesbury as the largest of those founded by Oswiu's bounty. If we cannot believe all that we are told about Hilda, even on the authority of the Venerable Bede, it by no means follows that the story of her life and death is beneath our notice.
Hilda was thirty-three when she took the veil and exactly half her life was, in the technical sense, " religious.” Guided and advised by the good Aidan, she spent the first year at Cale with her sister Heresuit, after which she became Abbess of the recently founded convent of Heruteu or Hartlepool, where the baby princess was committed to her care. The foundation at Whitby was for monks as well as nuns, and over both presided as Superior “this servant of Christ, Abbess Hilda, whom all that knew her called 'Mother' for her singular piety and grace.” The story of her turning the snakes into stones is too well known through the reference in Marmion, to