Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, St.

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Monk, hermit, bishop, one of the most popular of the English saints; d. Farne Island, Northumberland, England, 687. Of unknown parentage, he was brought up by a foster mother named Kenswith. Many incidents in his biographies illustrate his youthful piety. A vision, experienced reputedly as he was keeping sheep on the night of St. aidan's death in 651, led him to enter a monastery at melrose, where Eata, one of Aidan's disciples, was abbot. Boisil (Boswell), the prior, became Cuthbert's teacher. Cuthbert soon distinguished himself by his zeal and devotion. When Eata established a new monastery at ripon, Cuthbert went as guest master; however, the brethren were compelled to leave, and they returned to Melrose. Not long afterward Boisil died of the plague; Cuthbert was also a victim, but he survived and became prior, occupying himself with evangelizing journeys in the neighborhood, often performing miracles and winning many souls. After the Council of whitby, Cuthbert and Eata accepted the Roman discipline. But the Celtic Bp. Colman of Lindisfarne resigned, and Eata was given his monastery of lindisfarne. Cuthbert took charge as prior and instituted a stern rule that the monks sometimes found difficult to bear. After about 12 years (676) he became a hermit and built himself a little oratory and dwelling place on a tiny island, the largest of the farne group, about nine miles from Lindisfarne. There he lived a life of great austerity, making friends with the seabirds for which the island is still famous and growing some of his own food. People came from afar to seek his advice. He remained there until 685, when he was finally compelled to leave to become bishop of Lindisfarne, succeeding Eata. After less than two years of devoted activity, he retired to Farne Island to die. His body was buried in the church at Lindisfarne; after 11 years it was found incorrupt and placed in a new coffin, of which portions are still extant. Owing to Viking raids, the body was translated to Chester-le-Street in 875, after having been carried from place to place for seven years, and in 995 to dur ham, where his relics remain. The chief sources for the life of Cuthbert are the biography by an unknown monk of Lindisfarne, written c. 720, and the prose and verse lives by bede.

Feast: March 20.

Bibliography: Two Lives of St. Cuthbert, ed. and tr. b. colgrave (Cambridge, Eng. 1940, rep. 1985). c. eyre, The History of St. Cuthbert (3d ed. New York 1887). h. colgrave, St. Cuthbert of Durham (Gateshead on Tyne 1955). The Relics of St. Cuthbert, ed. c. f. battiscombe (Oxford 1956). The Age of Bede, tr. j. f. webb, ed. d. h. farmer (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England 1983). g. bonner, Church and Faith in the Patristic Tradition: Augustine, Pelagianism, and Early Christian Northumbria (Brookfield, Vt. 1996). w. m. aird, St. Cuthbert and the Normans (Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK 1998).

[b. colgrave]