Beloved Monk and Bishop of Lindisfarne
Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (c 634-87) has long been northern England’s favourite saint. It is easy to see why: Cuthbert was holy, humble, peaceable, prayerful, faithful in friendship, winsome, and really kind.
Cuthbert was born into a fairly wealthy Anglo-Saxon family, and he became a monk at Melrose in 651. He and another monk, Eata, were sent to start a monastery at Ripon, but Alcfrith, who owned the land, insisted that they adopt the Roman customs, which Cuthbert’s Celtic Church did not allow. So, Cuthbert and Eata quietly returned to Melrose, where Cuthbert became Prior in about 661. Then came the Synod of Whitby in 663/4, and the Celtic Church formally decided to adopt the Roman customs. After this, Cuthbert was sent on to Lindisfarne as Prior, where he sensitively introduced the new ways, and won over the monks there.
Cuthbert was very much loved at Lindisfarne. His zeal was evident in his constant preaching, teaching, and visiting of the people. He was also said to have gifts of prophecy and healing.
Occasionally, Cuthbert reached ‘people overload’, at which point, he would retreat to a tiny islet called Inner Farne, where he could pray in total seclusion. When, to his horror, he was told he had been made Bishop of Hexham, he immediately ‘swapped’ Sees with Eata, and stayed on at Lindisfarne as Bishop. Sadly, Cuthbert died on little Inner Farne, only two years later, on 20th March, 687.
Cuthbert was buried at Lindisfarne, but that is not the end of his story; it was only now that his travels began. After the Vikings destroyed Lindisfarne in 875, several monks dug him up and set out to find Cuthbert a final and safe resting place. For the next 120 years Cuthbert was deposited in various monasteries around the North of England and Southwest Scotland. Finally, in 999, Cuthbert was allowed to rest in Durham, where a Saxon church was built over his shrine.
All that travel must have done him good; when his body was exhumed to be put into the ‘new’ Norman Cathedral in Durham in 1104, it was said to be still in perfect tact, and ‘incorrupt’.
For more information about Inner Farne, we found this website.