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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Cuthbert

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ST., an eminent monk, born in the north of England in the beginning of the 7th century. His life, written by Bede, is full of marvelous stories; but it is clear that he was an earnest and faithful minister. He was educated by the Scottish monks at Icolmkill. After being for some time a monk in the monastery of Mailros, he became prior of the monastery of Lindisfarne. In 676 he withdrew to the island of Fame, where he lived a life of most rigorous asceticism as a hermit, and enjoyed the reputation of working many miracles. In 685 he yielded to the entreaties of king Egbert, and accepted the episcopal see of Hexham. When he felt the approach of death he returned to his hermitage on Frnme, and there died, March 20, 687. He is commemorated in the Roman Church March 20. The fame of St. Cuthbert had been great during his life; it became far greater after his death. Churches were dedicated to him throughout all the country between the Trent and Mersey on the south, and the Forth and Clyde on the north. When his tomb was opened at the end of eleven years, it was believed that his body was found incorrupt, and so for more than 800 years it was believed still to continue. It remained at Lindisfarne till 875, when the monks, bearing it on their shoulders, fled inland from the fury of the Danes. After many wanderings through the south of Scotland and the north of England, it found a resting-place at Chester-le-Street in 882. It was transferred to Ripon in 995, and in the same year it was removed to Durham. Here, enclosed in a costly shrine, and believed to work daily miracles, it remained till the Reformation, when it was buried under the pavement of the cathedral. The grave was opened in 1827, when a coffin, ascertained to have been made in 1541 when the body was committed to the earth was found to enclose another, which there was reason to suppose had been made in 1104; and this again enclosed a third, which answered the description of one made in 698, when the saint was raised from his first grave. This innermost case contained, not, indeed, the incorruptible body of St. Cuthbert, but his skeleton, still entire, wrapped in live robes of embroidered silk. Fragments of these, and of the episcopal vestments, together with a comb and other relics, found beside the bones, are to be seen in the cathedral library.

The asceticism which distinguished St. Cuthbert in life long lingered round his tomb. Until the Reformation, no woman was suffered to approach his shrine; the cross of blue marble still remains in the cathedral floor which marked the limits beyond which female footsteps were forbidden to pass, under pain of instant and signal punishment from the offended saint. His wrath, it was believed, was equally prompt to avenge every injury to the honor or possessions of his church. It was told that William the Conqueror, anxious to see the incorrupt body of the saint, ordered the shrine to be broken up; but scarcely had a stroke been struck, when such sickness and terror fell upon the king that he rushed from the cathedral, and, mounting his horse, never drew bridle till he had crossed the Tees! A cloth, said to have been used by St. Cuthbert in celebrating mass, was fashioned into a standard, which was believed to insure victory to the army in whose ranks it was carried. Flodden was only one of many fields in which the defeat of the Scots was ascribed to the banner of St. Cuthbert. It hung beside his shrine until the Reformation, when it is said to have been burnt by Calvin's sister, the wife of the first Protestant dean of the cathedral. The life of St. Cuthbert was twice written by the Venerable Bede briefly in vigorous hexameters in his Liber de Miraculis Sancti Cuthbercti Episcopi; at greater length in prose, in his Liber de Vita et Miraculis Sancti Cuthbercti Lindisfarnensis Episcopi. In this latter work he made use of an earlier life by a monk of Lindisfarne, which is still preserved. Besides these lives all of which have been printed more than once and what is told of St. Cuthbert in Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Angloorum, the chief ancient authorities are the Historia Translationis S. Cuthberti, published by the Bollandists in the Acta Sanctorum, mens. Martii, vol. 3; the Libellus de Exordio Duunlelniensis Ecclesie, by Symeon of Durham; the Libellus de Nativitate S. Cuthberti de Historiis Hybernensium excerptus, and the Libellus de Admirandis B. Cuthberti Virtutibuss; by Reginald of Durham, both published by the Surtees Society. There are two modern Memoirs of St. Cuthbert the late Rev. James Raine's St. Cuthbert (Durham, 1828), and the Very Rev. Monsignor C. Eyre's History of St. Cuthbert (Lond. 1849)." Chambers, Encyclopedia, s.v.; Butler, Lives of Saints, March 20; Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 19:374.


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Cuthbert'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/c/cuthbert.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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