Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding.

I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop...
It was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

St Cuthbert

Today is the traditional date for the principal feast of St Cuthbert - September 4th which the modern calendar assigns him is the feast of his Translation into the present cathedral at Durham in the early twelfth century.

John Dillon posted as follows on the Medieval Religion discussion group:

Cuthbert seems to have sprung from Anglo-Saxon nobility living in the more northerly parts of the kingdom of Northumbria; as he trained at Melrose Abbey, quite possibly his family was of Lothian.  After serving as guest master at Melrose's newly founded daughter house at Ripon he returned to Melrose as prior, then moved on to Lindisfarne where he was also prior, and then became an hermit on Inner Farne.  In 685 he was consecrated bishop of Lindisfarne (for which he exchanged Hexham, to which he had just been elected).  At the very end of 686 or early in 687 Cuthbert returned to Inner Farne and died there, probably in his early fifties.  His body was taken back to Lindisfarne and interred next to the altar of St. Peter's church.  Eleven years later, Cuthbert was accorded a formal elevation, at which time his body was declared to be incorrupt.

The focus of what became a more than regionally significant cult, Cuthbert has an anonymous early Vita (BHL 2019; finished c. 699-705) by a monk of Lindisfarne and two Vitae by St. Bede the Venerable, the first in verse and the second an expanded one in prose (BHL 2020, 2021).  When Northmen sacked Lindisfarne in 793 the monks began a lengthy peregrination with Cuthbert's body and other treasures (not least the head of St. Oswald), settling in 883 or 885 at Chester-le-Street in today's County Durham.  By this time Northumbrian missionaries had carried Cuthbert's veneration to the Continent and Cuthbert was entered in the major Carolingian martyrologies.  Grotefend lists feasts for him not only in continental dioceses either founded by Englishmen (e.g. Utrecht, Freising, Bremen) or influenced from England (e.g. Rouen, Trondheim) but in others as well (e.g. Kraków, Toledo).  In 995 Cuthbert's remains were brought from Chester-le-Street to Durham, where they repose in the cathedral.

Cuthbert's shrine in Durham cathedral's Galilee Chapel was profaned and then destroyed in 1539.  In 1542 the saint's body was re-interred beneath the pavement where the shrine had stood.  Herewith two views of the location in its current state:





 Some period-pertinent images of St. Cuthbert:

a) as depicted (at right; at left, a King often identified as Æthelstan) in a tenth-century copy of St. Bede the Venerable's Vitae of him (Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS. 183, fol. 4r):


b) as depicted (perhaps) in a twelfth-century wall painting in Durham cathedral's Galilee Chapel:


c) as depicted (full-length portrait) in a later twelfth-century copy of St. Bede the Venerable's prose Vita of him (c.1176-1200; London, BL, Yates Thomson MS 26, fol. 1v):


Expandable views of this manuscript's many other images of Cuthbert are accessible from thumbnails here:

A few of these are also reproduced here (with somewhat more discursive captions):

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