Bishop of Lindisfarne, Missionary


St Cuthbert
Bishop of Lindisfarne

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Cuthbert is one of the most lovable figures in the history of the English church. Little is known of his childhood except that he was strong and athletic and enjoyed games. Cuthbert became a shepherd, but he felt called by the Lord and entered the monastery at Melrose. This was an offshoot of Lindisfarne, then in the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria, but now in the Scottish borders, which means Melrose Abbey is possibly much older than it has been dated. He was taught by Boisil the prior. After Boisil’s death, Cuthbert became the prior. In 664 he went to Lindisfarne itself as prior. There was much opposition from the monks as he set out to improve discipline and restore morale, but his gentle sincerity and graciousness gained their trust.

Early biographies concentrate on the many miracles that accompanied Cuthbert's life as God greatly used Cuthbert to spread his gospel. Cuthbert travelled extensively through Northumbria, strengthening the Christian communities, even venturing into the wilder hilly areas, healing the sick, baptising and teaching. There was strong resistance from many who felt they had been “robbed of the old religion”.

In 676 Cuthbert sought a more solitary life of prayer. He moved to the remote Inner Farne, a small barren rocky island, where not even a tree or bush could survive. There Cuthbert lived in a partly under-ground cell, but people would cross from the mainland to seek his counsel. As the years passed, Cuthbert withdrew more and more, enjoying only the company of the birds and animals. In 684 Cuthbert was elected Bishop of Hexham. He could not be persuaded to leave Lindisfarne, however; but when his friend Eata was made Bishop of Hexham, Cuthbert reluctantly agreed to be Bishop of Lindisfarne and was consecrated at York in March 685. He kept wearing the same simple clothing and kept to his same simple way of life, but took his role seriously and In 2 years Cuthbert wore himself out, preaching, teaching, visiting all his diocese on horseback or more often on foot. Always friendly and cheerful and full of loving concern for all those with troubles, he was an outstanding pastor and gained the love of the people.

Cuthbert fell ill, and, realising he was dying, resigned his position as Bishop at the end of 686 and returned to the Inner Farne. He was buried on Lindisfarne. The Viking invasions led to the removal of his remains from Lindisfarne. Only much later (999) were they finally placed in a tomb in Durham cathedral. The “Lindisfarne Gospels” were printed by hand and decorated in his honour.

BORN: 634 AD, Dunbar, United Kingdom

DIED: 20 March 687 AD, Inner Farne Islands, United Kingdom