Online Animation: ‘King Oswald’s Raven’

Peterborough Cathedral is delighted to host, via its website, King Oswald’s Raven, an animation and a series of online activities that are part of the 2020 Being Human Festival.

King Oswald’s Raven is a new animation developed by researchers at University College London and King’s College London. The five minute video tells the comic German legend about Peterborough’s most important medieval saint: Oswald of Northumbria.

The animation King Oswald’s Raven uses imagery from the Peterborough Bestiary, a medieval book containing descriptions of animals, to tell the comic German legend of King Oswald of Northumbria’s sassy pet raven.

Oswald was a Christian king of Northumbria who died in battle in 642, slain by the Mercian king Penda, he was soon venerated as a saint.  By the time of the Norman Conquest the most famous relic associated with this saint-king, his incorrupt right arm, was in the possession of the monks of Peterborough.  The arm was kept in a shrine in the chapel dedicated to Oswald in the south transept of the abbey church and was of paramount importance to the religious life of the monastic community.

Soon after his death, Oswald’s fame had spread overseas and through the centuries links between England and German-speaking lands strengthened his cult on the Continent. He became a particularly popular saint in southern Germany where, at some point in the high Middle Ages, his legend underwent a surprising metamorphosis: Oswald was transformed from a pious and austere martyr king into a rather comic figure, overshadowed by his talking raven.

The development of King Oswald’s Raven has been supported by UCL Culture, UCL History, King’s College London German and The Parker Library at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, which is home to the Peterborough Bestiary. We are really proud to be launching the animation with Peterborough Cathedral as part of the Being Human Festival, the UK’s only national festival for the humanities, taking place 12-22 November. For further information please see

King Oswald’s Raven will be available to view on Peterborough Cathedral’s website from 11:30am on Thursday 12th November.

Find out more here and here.


Published by Roisin Astell

Roisin Astell received a First Class Honours in History of Art at the University of York (2014), under the supervision of Dr Emanuele Lugli. After spending a year learning French in Paris, Roisin then completed an MSt. in Medieval Studies at the University of Oxford (2016), where she was supervised by Professor Gervase Rosser and Professor Martin Kauffmann. In 2017, Roisin was awarded a CHASE AHRC studentship as a doctoral candidate at the University of Kent’s Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, under the supervision of Dr Emily Guerry.

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