Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (634-687)

Cuthbert, Lindisfarne, Saints and Relics

St.Cuthbert died on the Inner Farne island and was buried on Lindisfarne. People came to pray at the grave and then miracles of healing were claimed. To the monks of Lindisfarne this was a clear sign that Cuthbert was now a saint and they, as the saint's community, should declare this to the world.

In those days people felt it important, when they prayed for help or healing, to be as close as possible to a saint's relics. And so, if a community made relics available that was equivalent to a declaration of sainthood. The monks of Lindisfarne determined to do this for Cuthbert.

They decided to allow 11 years for his body to become a skeleton and then 'elevate' his remains on the anniversary of this death (20th March 698). We believe that during these years the beautiful manuscript known as 'The Lindisfarne Gospels' was made, to be used for the first time at the great ceremony of the Elevation. The declaration of Cuthbert's sainthood was to be a day of joy and thanksgiving. It turned out to be also a day of surprise, even shock, for when they opened the coffin they found no skeleton but a complete and undecayed body. That was a sign of very great sainthood indeed.

Pilgrims began to flock to the shrine. The ordinary life of the monastery continued for almost another century until, on 8th June 793, the Vikings came. The monks were totally unprepared; some were killed; some younger ones and boys were taken away to be sold as slaves; gold and silver was taken and the monastery partly burned down. After that the monastery lived under threat and it seems that in the 9th century there was a gradual movement of goods and buildings to the near mainland.

The traditional date for the final abandonment of Lindisfarne is 875ad..

The body of St.Cuthbert, together with other relics and treasures which had survived the Viking attack were carried by the monks and villagers onto the mainland.

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