Sacristy Press, based in Durham, is publishing the translation of a number one Danish bestselling novel about the life of St Hild of Whitby by prize-winning Danish author Vibeke Vasbo.

The Song of Hild is a powerful story about the prominent role that women played in the spread of Christianity in seventh-century Britain, and how Hild of Whitby shaped Christianity as we know it today. Readers are drawn into a world of dark dealings, powerful patriarchy and religious wrangling.

Based on the exceptional life of Abbess Hild of Whitby (AD 614–680), one of the most influential women of her time, the novel unfolds during the dangerous religious and political upheavals of the seventh-century British Isles. As well as focusing on the lives of women, the book also reveals tensions between Danish-German invaders and the native Celts as a mirror for power struggles that reverberate internationally today.

“When I settled in Hull, eager to discover my new world, I knew nothing about the ‘Dark Ages’. I saw a tiny picture of an abbess: 614-680, it said. I was stunned, for in Denmark we have no records from that time, only legends and archaeology. I simply had to find out who this woman was – and what a journey that turned out to be: seven years of research and writing,” said Vibeke Vasbo, author of The Song of Hild.

“Hild is said to have been wise. How did she come by that wisdom? The few records we have allowed me freedom to imagine. I sent her through tribulations and joy, hardships and quests. I built upon the sources, never went against them. The Song of Hild tells the story of what could actually have happened.”

The book is being published by Sacristy Press, a small, independent, publishing house based in Durham City. It publishes theology and history, including historical fiction. Founded in 2011, it is owned and run by Richard Hilton and Thomas Ball.

“We are delighted to be publishing this book, a translation of an already best-selling book, meaning that many more people will now be able to read it,” said Richard Hilton from Sacristy Press. “It is a meticulously researched novel about women’s lives and their prominent role in the Church during the Middle Ages, the political manoeuvres of conflicting religions, the building of a double monastery, and the power exercised by the Church of Rome. It is an exciting and enthralling novel, totally true to the historian Bede and archaeological sources.

“The history of Christianity and how it shaped our region is well documented and the book references many places from Lindisfarne and Bamburgh, through Binchester, Escomb and Hartlepool through to North Yorkshire, as well as our great rivers. It’s a fascinating read and we are thrilled to be publishing it today.”

Originally published in Danish as “Hildas sang by Gyldendal in 1991, it was translated into English by Gaye Kynoch following the award of grants by the Danish Arts Foundation and Konsul George Jorck og Hustru Emma Jorck’s Fond.

Hildas sang” was number 1 on the Danish bestseller list and remained in the top 10 for several months. It has received much critical acclaim over the years, and has also been published in Norway, where it was extremely well received.

It was reviewed as being “written with dynamism and grim humour … there can be no doubt it will reach many readers, internationally too … a bestseller of great literary quality” (Poul Borum, Ekstra Bladet).

The Song of Hild is published by Durham-based Sacristy Press, and is available in paperback and e-book formats.