was born in about 634 and became a monk in his teens at Melrose
then in the English Kingdom of Northumbria. It is alleged that having
observed angels descending and then ascending and taking a holy
soul to God and the next day discovering that St.Aidan has died
(31st August 651), he offered himself at the monastry at Melrose.
After a spell at Ripon with his abbot where they established the
monastry, they were expelled with their group for refusing to adopt
Roman monastic reforms and returned to Melrose.
He became prior at Lindisfarne in 664 and his first
task was to introduce the new Roman practices which he adopted,
perhaps reluctantly, after the Synod of Whitby in 663/4.
He ‘retired’ to the nearby Island of Inner Farne in
676 to live the life of a hermit but in 685 was ‘persuaded’
to return to the mainland and was consecrated Bishop of Lindisfarne
in that year. He resumed the journeys of preaching and ministering
to the people of a wide area which was of course characteristic
of his life as a Celtic monk.
He returned to Inner Farne after two years and died
there on 20 March 687. He was buried at Lindisfarne.
For more on the life of St.Cuthbert see ‘Fire
of the North’: The Life of St.Cuthbert (2003) by David Adam,
published by SPCK
Cuthbert’s links with Cumbria are intriguing.
Certainly he was no stranger to Carlisle, probably because it fell
within the diocese of Lindisfarne; a grant of land some fifteen
miles in circumference in Carlisle was made to him by Ecgfrith,
King of Northumbria in 685. Shortly after Ecgfrith was killed in
battle in May of that year Cuthbert was back in Carlisle to ordain
some priests. He was also visited there by his old friend and hermit,
Heribert who had his hermitage on an island on Derwentwater.
It is said that a second grant of land was made to Cuthbert in 685,
outside of Carlisle, in fact ‘the district of Cartmel’,
complete with its British population, and that of course includes
the Furness Peninsulas. It says much about the attitude of the Anglican
rulers towards the local Celtic inhabitants in that they were given
as part of the donation!
There is no evidence that Cuthbert actually visited
Low Furness or Cartmel in his life time but the story doesn’t
Within the Furness Deanery there are two Churches dedicated
to St.Cuthbert, St.Cuthbert’s in Kirkby in Furness who think
their church ‘might have been built by the monks from Lindisfarne
who were fleeing from the Danes around 875AD’.
St. Cuthbert’s Aldingham cannot trace any evidence
of an earlier building before the 12th Century but there is a fragment
of an Anglo Saxon cross in the East wall of the chancel which suggests
that the monks of Lindisfarne might also have rested the bones of
Cuthbert there about the same time during their seven years of wandering
around to escape the Vikings. They had intended to escape with them
to Ireland but again legend suggests that when the holy relic was
placed on board ship at ‘the mouth of the river which is called
Dyrwenta’ (modern day Workington on the west coast of Cumbria)
by Bishop Eardulf of Lindisfarne and abbot Eadred, former abbot
of Carlisle, a violent storm blew up, three huge waves fell on the
ship, the water they contained turning immediately to blood, suggesting
Cuthbert’s strong disapproval of their actions!
More on St. Cuthbert in Cumbria can be found in an
article by Dr.V.Tudor in Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland
Antiquarian and Archeological Society, Volume 84 (1984).