Grant Naylor encourages us to make a pilgrimage to Durham Cathedral
‘In those days whenever a clerk or priest visited a town, English folk always used to gather at his call to hear the Word, eager to hear his message’ (Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, ch. 27). So said the Venerable Bede about the faithful in St Cuthbert’s day, and so it is in our own day, as against the machinations of a tempestuous Durham autumn evening 450 Anglo-Catholics gathered to pray, hear the word, offer mass and make procession to the final resting place of St Cuthbert.
St Cuthbert, the shepherd boy from Melrose, who rose to become Bishop of Lindisfarne, is still a towering figure on the Northern Catholic’s horizon. The presence of so many devout Anglo-Catholics in Durham Cathedral on Friday 6 September serves only to highlight the affection in which he is still held to this day.
The local feast of St Cuthbert falls on 20 March and records his death-day whereas the Universal Calendar (England and Wales) keeps the date of the final translation of St Cuthbert’s relics to their present location in AD 999. The celebrations in Durham for the feast of the Translation have been hosted by Anglo-Catholics since the late Eighties and it is proving be an ever more popular festival. This year the celebrant and preacher, the Bishop of Beverley, was joined by 450 fellow pilgrims, chief among whom was the Rt Revd Dom Cuthbert Brogan, the Roman Catholic Abbot of Farnborough.
It is fair to say that St Cuthbert travelled just as much in death as he did in life. This was largely because of the Dane’s invasion and capture of Lindisfarne. After his death in the year AD 687 St Cuthbert’s relics were moved at one time and another from Lindisfarne to Melrose, to Chester-le-
Street and to Ripon to Durham. On 4 September AD 999 the body took its final journey from the cloister to a position at the East End of the ‘White Church’ specially constructed for it on the Durham peninsula. Since then the great Norman Cathedral superstructure has been erected on the site but still at the east end lies the body of Holy Cuthbert with the severed head of St Oswald, King and Martyr.
The holy hill
In this year of the great exhibition of the Lindisfarne Gospels in Durham, when so many are thronging the city as tourists, it has been an immense privilege to make pilgrimage to that place and to use the building for its original purpose. I invite you too, to make pilgrimage to the holy hill which houses the sacred relics of three of the greatest saints of our land: Bede, Cuthbert and Oswald. Through their prayers and continued pastoral care many people been cured of illnesses, many graces have been received and countless petitions answered. Surely then these great evangelists prayers’ will also aid us in our mission to reconvert our land?
Next year’s festival of the Translation of the Relics of St Cuthbert will take place on Friday 5 September when, with the permission of the new Bishop of Durham, the Dean and chapter, we hope to welcome the Bishop of Richborough as celebrant and preacher. All are welcome. More information at