Saint Godric of Finchale

detail of an Italian holy card of Saint Godric of Finchale, date and artist unknown; swiped from Santi e BeatiAlso known as

  • Godrick



Oldest of three children born to a freedman Anglo-Saxon farmer. An adventurous seafaring man, Godric spent his youth in travel, both on land and sea, as a peddler and merchant mariner first along the coast of the British Isles, then throughout Europe. Sometime sailor, sometime ship’s captain, he lived a seafarer’s life of the day, and it was hardly a religious one. He was known to drink, fight, chase women, con customers, and in a contemporary manuscript, was referred to as a “pirate”. Converted upon visiting Lindisfarne during a voyage, and being touched by the life of Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne.

Pilgrim to Jerusalem and the holy lands, Saintiago de Compostela, the shrine of Saint Gaul in Provence, and to Rome, Italy. As a self-imposed austerity, and a way to always remember Christ’s lowering himself to become human, Godric never wore shoes, regardless of the season. He lived as a hermit in the holy lands, and worked in a hospital near Jerusalem. Hermit for nearly sixty years at Finchale, County Durham, England, first in a cave, then later in a more formal hermitage; he was led to its site by a vision of Saint Cuthbert. It was a rough life, living barefoot in a mud and wattle hut, wearing a hair shirt under a metal breastplate, standing in icy waters to control his lust, living for a while off berries and roots, and being badly beaten by Scottish raiders who strangely thought he had a hidden treasure.

Noted for his close familiarity with wild animals, his supernatural visions, his gift of prophecy, and ability to know of events occurring hundreds or thousands of miles away. Counseled Saint Aelred, Saint Robert of Newminster, Saint Thomas Beckett, and Pope Alexander III. Wrote poetry in Medieval English. The brief song Sainte nicholaes by Godric is one of the oldest in the English language, and is believed to be the earliest surviving example of lyric poetry. He was said to have received his songs, lyrics and music, complete during his miraculous visions.




Additional Information


One day there was a grand hunt near Godric’s hermitage. A magnificent stag was chased by the relations of Bishop Ramulf. The poor creature came panting to Godric’s cell, as if asking for refuge. Godric, on emerging from his retreat, saw it trembling with fear, and seeming to implore his help. Godric, indeed, took it into his cell, and the noble animal lay down at his feet. The hunters, however, soon came up and demanded their prey. Godric went to meet them. They asked him where the stag was. He answered, “God knows.” The hunters, recognising beneath the rags of the poor hermit an angel and a Saint, went away with their hounds without disturbing Godric or the stag any more, and the latter, to get over its fright, passed the night in the hermitage. The next morning it returned joyfully into the forest, and it came back several times a year to express its gratitude by caresses. Godric became the natural protector of the beasts in the forest pursued by the hunters: hares, deer, etc., when in danger, fled to him for safety. During the cold of winter the little birds warmed themselves in his breast; one would have said that they recognised in him the son of their merciful Creator. The hermit-pilgrim, Saint Godric, is often painted surrounded by serpents, because dangerous animals came to him without hurting him. – from “The Little Bollandists” by Monsignor Paul Guérin, 1882

MLA Citation

  • “Saint Godric of Finchale“. CatholicSaints.Info. 14 June 2020. Web. 20 January 2021. <>