Who was Saint Cuthbert ?
Cuthbert was a young Northumbrian who was inspired to become a monk at Melrose, which was then in Northumbria.
He was also for a time a monk at Ripon, also in Northumbria, now in Yorkshire.
He later became a monk at Lindisfarne or Holy Island amongst the community that had been set up by King Oswald and the Irish/Scottish Saint Aidan.
He led the life of a Hermit on Inner Farne Island, near Lindisfarne.
He was called upon by King Ecgfrith to become Bishop of Lindisfarne.
He was noted for his preaching and his humility.
He after two years he retired to Farne Island to live as a hermit for the rest of his days.
He died on Farne Island on March 20th 687 AD. He was buried at Lindisfarne.
When the monks moved his body to a new tomb eleven years later it was found to be incorrupt.
When the Vikings began to raid Northumbria they burned the monastery at Lindisfarne in 793 AD later Viking attacks led the monks in 875AD to take up the body of their saint and the relics of many others, and the book known as The Lindisfarne Gospels and begin a journey around most of Northumbria.
After many journeys they arrived at Chester-le-Street where they remained for 113 years. Another threat led them to move to Ripon and on the return they settled at Durham in 993 AD
St Cuthbert`s shrine attracted many visitors and the Community of monks or canons who looked after it received many gifts of land, and became a powerful force in the North.
After the Norman Conquest, a French bishop and regular Benedictine or black monks replaced the community. The Bishop became the virtual ruler of Durham, as well as Norham and Islandshire and Bedlingtonshire in Northumberland. The Bishop and Monks were major landowners.
An impressive Cathedral was built at Durham to hold the shrine of St Cuthbert. The coffin was placed in it on 1104 AD, the body was found still incorrupt at this stage. September 4th became another feast day, The Translation of Saint Cuthbert. The shrine became a major place of Pilgrimage. St Cuthbert’s banner was carried by English troops in their wars against the Scots.
At the time of the Reformation, the shrine, which contain many valuable jewels was robbed and St Cuthbert’s book now called the Lindisfarne Gospels stolen. Cuthbert’s coffin was once more opened and the corpse was found still uncorrupted.
Saint Cuthbert was used as a rallying cry for those who opposed the Reformation in the rebellions known as The Pilgrimage of Grace and the Rising of the Northern Earls.
The banner and statues of the saint were destroyed in the 16th century.
In 1827 The coffin was dug up and only bones were found. A more scientific excavation took place in 1899.
Some people believed that the monks had moved the body after the Reformation and the secret of where it is buried is known to only 3 monks today.
Many Churches and schools are still named after Cuthbert and as a Christian and surname it is still in use.