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.
- Book of Saints, by the Monks of Ramsgate
- Katherine Rabenstein
- Lives of the Saints, by Father Alban Butler
- Our Sunday Visitor’s Encyclopedia of Saints
- “Saint Godric of Finchale“. Saints.SQPN.com. 16 July 2013. Web. 6 December 2013. <>