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What's On

Annual celebration of St Cuthbert

08 March 2018

Every year the Cathedral celebrates St Cuthbert’s Day with a festival of services and events around his Saint’s Day – 20 March.  Durham Cathedral was built specifically to house the shrine of this much loved saint, often referred to as the Patron Saint of Northern England.  St Cuthbert, who died on 20 March 687, was brought to Durham by the monks of Lindisfarne as they fled Viking invasions, arriving in Durham in 995.  The existing Cathedral, which was built following the Norman invasion, replaced an Anglo-Saxon Cathedral, known as the White Church.
 
This year’s St Cuthbert Festival runs from Friday 16 March to Tuesday 20 March, culminating in a Festal Evensong and Procession for St Cuthbert’s Day at 7.00pm. This service concludes with a procession to the Shrine of St Cuthbert where the Cathedral Choir sing the late John Tavener’s work Ikon of St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne which was composed especially for Durham Cathedral Choir.  
 
One of the events on the first day of the Festival, Friday 16 March, is a lecture by renowned author and historian Max Adams called The trouble with Vikings: Saint Cuthbert's treasures and the long road from Lindisfarne to Durham.  Max Adams’ books include the bestselling The King of the North – an acclaimed account of the life and times of Oswald of Northumbria described by Tom Holland in the Times as ‘the most gripping portrait of seventh-century Britain I have read.’
 
Max Adams says, “Durham Cathedral curates nearly 1400 years of the story of the community of Lindisfarne, so it's a great privilege to be able to bring something of that remarkable and enduring story back to Durham for this Festival.  In my days as the Director of Durham University's archaeological services I had an office overlooking Palace Green, so the Cathedral is a special place for me.  The particular story that I want to tell for the St Cuthbert Festival is the almost miraculous survival of the church of St Cuthbert through the turbulence of the first Viking Age from 793 to 950. Despite their misfortunes, with tenacious enterprise and canny political instincts the community not only survived, but thrived, to emerge into the medieval period as one of the most powerful forces in Britain.
  I will reveal some of the secrets of their success and paint a picture of near disaster, risky compromise and strange episodes of intrigue too improbable even for fiction.”
 
The Festival includes special services, talks, children's activities including storytelling with Adam Bushnell, the annual St Cuthbert Walk and Procession organised by the Northumbrian Association and the Durham Friends of the Camino, behind-the-scenes tours of the Cathedral’s Works Yard, free tours of the Cathedral, a special offer of 2 for 1 for Open Treasure the Cathedral’s world-class exhibition experience, a local producers' market and much more.  Newcastle Cathedral Choir joins with Durham Cathedral Choir for a Sung Eucharist in honour of St Cuthbert on Saturday 17 March at 5.15pm.

This year the occasion is being used to launch Foundation 2020, a campaign to build an endowment of £10 million by 2020 to support the annual cycle of planned maintenance and repair of the Cathedral’s buildings.
 
There are number of events taking place as part of the St Cuthbert Festival highlighting Foundation 2020 and how the Cathedral’s team of stonemasons care for the fabric of Durham Cathedral. To kick start the campaign, the Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded a grant of £1 million to the fund which is available to match donations on a 1:1 basis, so every £1 donated is doubled. A special launch event is being held in Prior’s Hall at Durham Cathedral on Friday 16 March where some of the Cathedral’s stonemasons and members of the Property Team will talk about caring for a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
 
The Very Reverend Andrew Tremlett, Dean of Durham says, “St Cuthbert is fundamental to Durham Cathedral, with his shrine being the very reason why the Cathedral is here. This wonderful Norman building and its well-known saint are much loved across the North East and beyond. Caring for the Cathedral buildings is essential through planned maintenance. Creating an endowment fund specifically for this purpose will ensure they are safeguarded for future generations to enjoy. We thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for its support of the fund.”
 
Full details of the St Cuthbert Festival are on the Cathedral’s what's on pages.