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Behind the High Altar lies the shrine of St Cuthbert.

The best-loved saint of the North

St Cuthbert is the North of England's best-loved saint. He lived as a monk, bishop, and then hermit, on Holy Island - Lindisfarne. Revered during his own lifetime for his preaching and holiness, Cuthbert was acclaimed a saint in 698.

His community fled Lindisfarne following the Viking invasion in 793. They travelled around the North of England with his body and extraordinary relics for years. They finally settled in Durham in 995.

This Cathedral has grown from the Anglo-Saxon church built to house his shrine and the monks who cared for it.

 

From a bejewelled shrine...

In September 1104 St Cuthbert was moved into the newly-built Norman Cathedral. The new shrine was made of marble studded with jewels and semi-precious stones.

During the Middle Ages it became a centre of pilgrimage, which continues today. Large numbers of people flocked to the shrine to seek the saint’s blessing and healing powers.

... to today's simplicity

The elaborate shrine no longer exists as it was destroyed in the Reformation. Instead it was replaced in 1542 by the simple marble slab marked ‘Cuthbertus’. The stones around the slab are part of the original construction.

 

Still a place of pilgrimage

This part of the Cathedral continues to be a place of pilgrimage, prayer and quiet reflection.

Also known as the feretory

A 'feretory' is a receptacle that houses the relics of a saint, such as their remains or items they are thought to have owned. It can also mean the space behind the high altar where the relics are kept.

The Treasures of St Cuthbert

These relics, such as his Anglo-Saxon coffin, gold and garnet cross and ivory comb, are known as the Treasures of St Cuthbert.

Did you know?

A lead line in the floor of the feretory marks the original east end of the Cathedral.

 

 

See the Treasures of St Cuthbert for yourself

The treasures form part of our Open Treasure exhibition, along with the 12th century Sanctuary Knocker, temporary exhibitions and the story of Christianity in the North East of England in the Monks' Dormitory.

Find out more about Open Treasure