St Cuthbert

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Monk and bishop of Lindisfarne. Born in Northumberland in 634, Bede tells us that as a boy tending sheep on the hills above Leader Water, St Cuthbert had a vision in which he saw angels carrying the soul of Aidan to heaven. Later he became a monk under St Eata at Melrose. For many years he undertook long journeys on foot and on horseback preaching in the remotest parts of the country between Berwick and Galloway. In 664 he accompanied St Eata to Lindisfarne and travelled south to Durham.

By nature he was a solitary, and in 676 he retired to the desolate island of Farne where he lived until 684 when he was called to be Bishop of Hexham. He quickly exchanged his see with Eata for that of Lindisfarne, where he worked tirelessly preaching, giving alms and visiting every part of his diocese.

St Cuthbert was known for his great interest in birds and animals as well as for his gifts of healing. On one occasion he is said to have revived a dying baby with a kiss.

St Cuthbert attracted people by his simplicity and his holiness. Shortly before he died one night in 687, he withdrew to his retreat on Farne. The news was signalled to the community on Lindisfarne by the waving of torches from the clifftop. He was buried at Lindisfarne but after the Viking raids began, his remains were taken to Durham cathedral. In 1827 some ancient bones were discovered there under the site of an ancient mediaeval tomb.

About 135 churches are dedicated to Cuthbert in England and 17 in Scotland. His image is depicted in many churches and cathedrals. Place names such as Kirkcudbright in Galloway, Cotherstone in Yorkshire and Cubert in Cornwall were named after him. All the Farne Islands, said to be under his protection, are now a sanctuary for birds, seals and other wildlife.

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