The Community of Saint Cuthbert
Those who protected Saint Cuthbert’s coffin and shrine were known as The Community of Saint Cuthbert.
They have been described as both monks but really were or canons.
They were married priests, and the position was handed down through generations.
They were highly regarded in Northumbria.
Of those who attended the coffin four were more highly regarded, Hundred, Stitheard, Edmund and Franco.
Writing 200 years later Simeon recorded that many Northumbrians took pride in being descended from these men.
Hundred found the Lindisfarne Gospels when they had been washed overboard at Whithorn.
When the Community moved from Chester-le-Street to Ripon they were described as "a great multitude" and they travelled with their cattle and other beasts and chattels.
Franco’s son Reingwald founded the village of Reinington (Rainton) near Chester-le-Street and Durham
Kings and landowners had given landed estates to them over the years.
They owned a large part of Northumberland and most of Durham.
They also owned land north of the river Tweed, in what was to become Scotland.
The community were identified with Northumbrian autonomy.
They resented attempts by anyone to appoint their bishop.
After the conquest some monks from the south, led by Prior Aldwin of Winchcombe, came to re-establish monasticism in the old Northumbrian monasteries which had been destroyed by the Vikings.
To keep them under control the French bishop of Durham, brought them to Durham and expelled the Community.
One of those expelled, Eilaf ,set up a church at Hexham that was passed to his son, They ensured that Hexham was governed directly from York rather than Durham.
Another descendant of the community was Ailred the famous Abbot of Rievaulx. He collected stories about Cuthbert when he travelled through Kirkcudbrightshire and Dumfries.
Although the Bishop was French, the Prior and the monks were mainly native English.
The Prior and the monks owned a great deal of land. They did not always see eye to eye with the Bishop.
Their tenants were the Haliwerkfolk. They could be, and were, called upon to fight to protect St Cuthbert’s body if it was attacked by enemies.