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From The Biographical Writings and Letters of Venerable Bede, translated from the Latin, by J. A. Giles; James Bohn, London, 1845; pp. 181-218.
THE BODY OF ST. CUTHBERT
FROM LINDISFARNE TO DURHAM.
EXTRACTED OUT OF THE: ACTA SANCTORUM, JO. BOLLANDI; iii. MENS. MARTII.
THE BODY OF ST. CUTHBERT
FROM LINDISFARNE TO DURHAM.
Arrival of the
A.D. 875. § 1. ALMIGHTY GOD, who is justly merciful and mercifully just, being willing to punish the English nation for their manifold sins, permitted the Fresons and Danes, pagan nations, to exercise their inhumanity over them. These nations, under Ubba, Duke of the Fresons, and Halfdene, King of the Danes, arrived in Britain, which is now called England, and having divided themselves into three bodies, ravaged the country in three directions. One body rebuilt the walls of York, and occupying the neighbouring country on all sides, took up their abode there; the other two, much more ferocious than the first, occupied Mercia and the country of the South Saxons, destroying everything they came near, both sacred and profane, with fire, rapine, and slaughter. Then might be seen noble and excellent priests slain around the altars on which they had solemnized the holy mysteries of the body and blood of Christ, virgins ravished, the respect due to matrons trodden under foot, infants torn from their mothers’ breasts and dashed against the ground, or suspended by the feet, or torn in pieces by the hands of the barbarians; in short, no mercy was shown by the cruel wretches, to sex, age, or dignity. Nor yet even thus could their brutal ferocity glut itself, but they must needs destroy every member of the royal family from whom they apprehended danger to their 184 dominion. Alfred, the father of King Edward the First, alone escaped destruction; and in order to avoid the fate of the others, he remained concealed in the marshes of Glestingia during the three years that the ravage of the Danes was allowed to last.
A.D. 878. § 2. BUT when God, with his wonted mercy, had now decreed to put an end to their barbarous cruelties, it came to pass that Alfred was sitting at home with the wife of the house and one servant, for all the others had been sent out to fish. Meanwhile a person in a foreign habit approached him, and earnestly besought alms. Alfred forthwith, with ready looks, ordered food to be given him; and learning from the servant that no food remained for their daily use, except one loaf and a measure of wine, said to him, with joyful countenance, “Thanks be to God, who hath thought worthy to visit me, his poor servant, in this place so far removed from the haunts of men, by another of his servants who is as poor as I.” As he said these words with a cheerful look, he ordered half of each to be given to the man, thereby fulfilling the apostolical precept, “God loveth a cheerful giver.” The stranger, apparently a poor man, took it and said, “Do not delay to offer repeated thanks to your Lord for his compassion toward me; for I hope that this, his benevolence, will be abundantly compensated by heavenly mercies.” He said this to the servant, who told it to his master; and when the servant returned to the place, he no where could see the stranger, but he found the bread and wine whole, and bearing no marks of having been divided. Astonished at this occurrence, he hastened to inform his master of it. The king recognized the miracle, and both himself and his wife were not less lost in astonishment than their servant. And although they minutely examined, they could not find out which way he had come or which way he had gone; and this was the more remarkable, because the place, surrounded by water, could be approached by no one without a boat.
fishes. § 3. Meanwhile, the ninth hour of the day (3 o’clock) was approaching, and those who had gone out to fish, brought home three boats full, and said that they had never caught such an abundance during the three years which they had passed in those marshes. Delighted at such an instance of God’s mercy, they spent the day in greater glee than usual, and at the approach of night went each to rest himself after the labours of the day. All the others were soon buried in sleep, but Alfred alone lay awake in his bed, thinking with a sad heart of his sufferings and exile, and wondering much about the stranger and the unexpected draught of fishes. On a sudden a light from heaven, brighter than the beams of the sun, shone upon his bed. Struck with terror, he forgot all his former anxieties, and looked in amazement on the brightness of the light. In the midst of which there appeared an elderly man, bearing the pontifical fillet on his black locks, but having a most benignant look, and bearing in his right hand a copy of the Holy Gospels, adorned most marvellously with gold and jewels. He advanced and calmed the fears of the astonished king with these words, “Let not the brilliancy of my coming disturb you, beloved King Alfred, nor the fear of barbarian cruelty any longer harass you: for God, who does not despise the groans of his poor servants, will soon put an end to your troubles, and I, from henceforth, will be your constant helper.” The king was comforted by these words, and asked him earnestly who he was, and why he had come. Then the elderly man, smiling, said, “I am he to whom you this day ordered bread to be given; but I took not so much pleasure in the bread and wine, as in the devotion of your soul. But, whereas you ask me my name, know that I am Cuthbert, the servant of God, and am sent to explain to you, in familiar terms, how you may be relieved from the persecution, which has so long afflicted you. In particular, therefore, I advise you to cherish 186 mercy and justice, and to teach them to your sons above every thing else, seeing that at your prayer God has vouchsafed to grant to you the disposal of the whole of Britain. If you are faithful to God and me, you shall find me, from this time, your invincible buckler, whereon shall be broken all the strength of your enemies. Wherefore, now, put off your fears and inactivity, and, as soon as to-morrow’s light shall dawn, cross over to the nearest shore, and blow loudly with your horn three times. And as wax melts before the heat of the fire, so by your blasts shall the pride of your enemies, with God’s will, be dissolved, and the courage of your friends be aroused. About the ninth hour of the day, five hundred of your dearest friends shall come to you fully armed; and by this sign shall you believe me, that at the end of seven days, an army shall assemble together from the whole of this land at Mount Assandune, prepared to follow you as their king in adversity as well as in prosperity: there shall you join battle with the enemy, and, without doubt, gain the victory.” Having said these words, the saint disappeared from the eyes of the king, and the light faded away. Alfred, feeling certain that all he had heard would come to pass, yielded himself wholly to the saint’s protection and guidance.
§ 4. At the dawn of day he hastened with unusual activity to the shore, and did as he had been directed. His horn was heard both by his enemies and friends, and five hundred of his best adherents joined him, well prepared with arms. He revealed to them the vision, and said, — “We have now seen what punishment our fathers, who are dead, have, by God’s just ordinance, been suffered to receive from the barbarians for our crimes as well as theirs. We ourselves, also, are sought out, day and night, for similar treatment; nor have we any place of refuge to which we can trust. I beg you, therefore, let us obey the admonitions of our patron, St. Cuthbert. Let us be faithful to God, eschew evil,
love the practice of virtue, and so shall we everywhere experience the benefit of his protection.”
Wilts. In short, an army from the whole country came with Alfred on the appointed day, to the mountain aforesaid; and on the other side there came that ill-omened host of fierce barbarians, trusting to their superior numbers, and to their success in former battles. They instantly engaged, but the event of the contest was not the same to both. On the one side the Christians proved, by their slaughter of the enemy, how wholesome a thing it is to trust in heavenly aid. On the other hand, the pagans experienced by their defeat, how detestable it is to presume on human pride. Thus this battle was gained without much loss to his army; and Alfred received dominion over the whole of Britain: and, as at his court he always retained in his thoughts the precepts of the saint which he had learnt when in adversity, he at all times, and in all places, prevailed over all the machinations of his adversaries.
§ 5. ABOUT the time of the above-named persecution, an intolerable affliction arose of a sudden in Northumberland, and grievously shook the churches of God therein. At that time, a certain man of great talents,
A.D. 854. named Eardulf, was ruling, in a praiseworthy manner before God and man, the bishopric of the church of Lindisfarne, in which rested the body of God’s most holy confessor, St. Cuthbert. This man, remembering the last admonitions which that holy father had given his brethren, as he was at the point of death, chose to vacate his place rather than be in subjection to the wicked. For, among other precepts of love and peace 188 St. Cuth-
nition. which his paternal affection had dictated, Cuthbert had thus warned them: — “If you are ever obliged by necessity to choose between the two, I would much rather that you should remove my bones from the tomb, and taking them with you leave this place, and stop where God shall determine, than that you in any way be consenting to iniquity, and submit your necks to the yoke of schismatics.” There was at that time, also, a certain abbot, Eared by name, of wonderful sanctity before God, and of no little nobility among men, who had always as much devotion towards God’s holy confessor as the bishop himself. When, therefore, this tribulation was afflicting them, these two men, taking with them some others of a religious character, carried away the incorruptible body of the venerable father from the monastery of Lindisfarne. When his own people heard of this, they left their houses and household goods, and immediately followed him, with their wives and children. For they who are properly called his own people, inasmuch as they are kept by him in especial protection, and cannot live anywhere else save under him, as some nations, which can live as well in foreign lands as their own; these, I say, have so much security from his safeguard, that they fear hardly any injury from adversity. Now his having so often piously saved from their adversaries those who took refuge with him, whereof we shall speak further hereafter, must by no means be referred to their own merits, since all, save a very few, have done evil; but yet the question, how much firmness of faith may be of avail, is a question for the consideration of every one.
§ 6. Now it happened by God’s providence they traversed nearly the whole land, carrying with them the precious body of the holy confessor. But the bishop and the abbot, being at length overcome by the fatigue of this constant toil, deliberated for a long time between themselves, whether they should seek a termination to
disfarne. their labours, and a rest for the saint’s corpse in Ireland, particularly as they saw no hope of remaining in any part of their own country. Wherefore they called together the others who were wiser and older than themselves, and the plan obtained the approbation of all of them. “It is evident,” said they, “that we are advised to seek a place of repose in a foreign land; for, if such had not been the will of God, and of the saint himself, we should long ago have had a proper place provided for his own sanctity, and for ourselves.” Such were their words; but the incomprehensible wisdom of God disposed it otherwise. For when they had come together at the mouth of the river Dyrwent, because the passage to Ireland was easiest and shortest from thence, a vessel was got ready, the holy body was placed on board, the bishop and abbot embarked, together with a few who had been made acquainted with the undertaking, whilst all the others were ignorant of the reason of the voyage. But why do I multiply words? They bade farewell to their friends who were on the shore looking on, and spreading their sails before a favourable wind, turned the ship’s head direct for Ireland. What was at that moment, do you suppose, the sorrow of those who remained behind? and what was the lamentation which this sorrow gave birth to? They threw themselves prostrate on the ground, sprinkled their heads with dust, tore their garments, and beat their breasts with stones, and with their fists; and at length broke out altogether into an exclamation of this kind: — “O thou father and patron of ours, how are we abandoned, wretches that we are, as captives to the rage of our enemies, like sheep to be devoured by wolves!” This was all they uttered.
§ 7. On a sudden the wind changed, the waves rose high, and the sea, which was before tranquil, became dark and stormy; the vessel was tossed this way and that way without guidance, and those who were on
loss of the
Holy Book. board were struck aghast like dead men. Three immense waves, coming one after the other with dreadful sound, almost half filled the vessel; and, by a miracle unheard of since those of Egypt, were immediately changed to blood. This storm forced the ship on its beam-ends; and a copy of the Evangelists, adorned with gold and jewels, fell overboard into the sea. When they had a little recovered their senses, and recollected themselves, who and where they were, they bent their knees, and falling at full length before the feet of the saint, asked pardon for their foolish attempt. They then seized the helm, turned the vessel round to the shore where they had left their friends, and as they then had the wind favourable, they very soon arrived there. Then those who had before wept for sorrow, now wept for joy; but the bishop with his companions, shedding tears for shame and sorrow, prostrated himself on the ground, and earnestly prayed forgiveness of his sins.
§ 8. Meanwhile the people, compelled by want and hunger, after a long toil of many years, left attendance on the holy corpse, and dispersed themselves through the parts that were inhabited, to support their lives in the best manner they were able. For, except the bishop and the abbot, with a few of their men, all departed, save those seven who, as has been said, were accustomed to attend on the saint’s body. These were they who had been brought up and educated by the monks, and when these were found wanting, had undertaken to follow the holy body of the venerable saint from Lindisfarne, and never whilst they lived to leave it. Four of these who seemed to be older than the others, were Hunred, Stithard, Edmund, and Franco, from whose race many of the province of Northumberland, both priests and laymen, are the more proud of being descended, because these their ancestors are said to have attended with such fidelity on the body of the holy Cuthbert. When, therefore, the others were gone, and these were left alone with 191 their treasure, they suffered the greatest anguish from the difficulties of their position, and were unable to determine how to get out of them, or how to console themselves under them. “What shall we do?” said they. “Whither shall we carry the holy father’s reliques? We have been travelling seven years through the land, fleeing from the barbarians; and we have now no place of refuge in our own country; and God has deterred us from seeking rest elsewhere, by laying his scourge visibly upon us. Add to this, that hunger is driving us to seek sustenance wherever we are able; but the swords of the Danes will not permit us to pass with this treasure in our possession. Lastly, if we abandon it, and provide for ourselves, the people will hereafter ask us for their father and patron — and what shall we answer them? Shall we say that he was taken from us by theft, or violence? That he was carried into exile, or abandoned in the deserts? Without a doubt we shall die, and with justice, too, by their hands, and shall leave our infamy to future ages, attended with the maledictions of all mankind.”
§ 9. In this strait they were at length relieved, both in mind and body, by the aid of their pious patron himself; for the Lord is the refuge of the poor, a very present help in trouble. One of them, Hunred, saw the saint in a vision, and was told by him, that, when the tide was out, they should search for the book, which as we have already stated, had fallen into the sea, and, perhaps, if God took compassion on them, they might find it, though they could not presume to hope so. For the loss of this book had caused them the greatest anguish of mind. Moreover, he spake these words to him: “As soon as you rise, take a bridle, which you will see hanging on a tree, and hold it up before a horse which you will see not far off, and he will come to you immediately: put on the bridle, and he will draw for you the carriage in which my body is placed, and so
you will be relieved from your present labour, and be able to follow it.” As soon as Hunred was awake, he related the vision which he had seen, and immediately sent some of his companions to the shore, which was not far off, to search for the book which they had lost. Now, at this time, they had reached the placed called the White House, or more commonly, Huvitern. They went, accordingly, down to the sea, which they found had ebbed much farther than usual; and when they had gone three miles or more,
Book. they found the holy Volume of the Gospels, with its gold gems and all its outward splendour, as well as its letters, and leaves, and all its inward beauty, so sound and perfect, that it looked as if it had not been touched by the water. At this event, their minds, hitherto anxious, were filled by no slight joy; and Hunred, whom I mentioned before, felt no doubt that all the rest would come true also. Wherefore he went and saw the bridle, as he had been told, hanging on a tree; and then looking on all sides round him, he saw a horse, of a chestnut colour, a little farther off, though it was impossible to say how or whence he could have come into such a desert place. As soon as the man held up the bridle, the horse ran up to him and offered himself to be bridled. Hunred led him off to his companions, who now were the more encouraged to toil in the cause of the holy saint’s body, inasmuch as they saw that his aid would never fail them. Therefore they harnessed the horse to the cart, on which was placed the corpse in a chest, and followed it fearlessly everywhere, as they knew that they now had a horse provided for them by God. Moreover, the book aforesaid is still kept to this day in the church, which has been thought worthy to contain the body of the holy saint; and, as I said before, it bears no mark of having been injured by the sea-water. This was no doubt brought about by the merits of St. Cuthbert himself, and of the authors of the book, namely, Bishop 19 Eadfrid of blessed memory, who wrote it with his own hand in honour of the blessed Cuthbert, and his successor, the venerable Æthilwald, who had caused it to be adorned with gold and jewels; also of the hermit Bilfrid, whose skill in workmanship equalling the intentions of the designer, had executed the splendid work, for he was one of the first artists of his day. These three, burning with zeal towards God’s beloved confessor and bishop, left this as a memorial of their devotion towards him to all posterity.
§ 10. BUT it now became the wish of the saint to provide a resting place for his body, and to release his servants from their seven years’ labour: wherefore the impious King Halfdene was by God’s justice made to pay the penalty for the cruelty which he had shown towards the church of the saint himself, and the possessions of the other saints. For his mind was struck with madness,
Halfdene. and at the same time his body was attacked by dreadful torments, whence also an intolerable stench was occasioned, which made him offensive to all his army. All, therefore, spurned him and cast him off; whereupon he fled from Tyne with only three ships, and not long afterwards perished with all his men. Upon this, the attendants of St. Cuthbert carried his body to a monastery which was formerly in their village, called Creca, and were there very hospitably received by the abbot, whose name was Geve, and resided there four months, quite as if they had been at home. Meanwhile the army, and those who remained of the natives, were in much commotion for want of a king; whereupon the blessed St. Cuthbert appeared in a dream to the pious 194 Abbot Eadred, whom we have so often mentioned, and, to provide rest at length for his people, told him to act as follows. “Go, said he, “to the Danish camp, and say that it was I who sent you to them, and ask them where you may find a boy named Guthred, Guthred
the throne. son of Hardecnut, whom they sold to a widow. When you have found him and paid the widow his price for him, bring him before the whole army, and say that it is my wish and my command that he shall have the bracelet placed upon his right arm in Oswiesdune, (that is, in Oswy’s Mount,) and be elected their king.” The abbot, when he awoke, told all this to his companions, and immediately went and did as he had been commanded. He produced the young man in public, and all, both natives and barbarians, listened obediently to the words of St. Cuthbert, and unanimously raised the youth from slavery to a throne; which honour had no sooner been thus obtained by the favour and good-will of all, than the disturbances were ended, tranquillity restored, and the episcopal see, which was before at Lindisfarne, was revived at Cuncacester. Chester-le-
Street. Thither, therefore, they also brought the incorruptible body of the saint, at the end of the four months, from Creca; and at the same time there were instituted men to perform God’s holy service there; and the excellent Prelate Eardulphus,<--has Eardulph earlier--> a man who through good and evil had adhered to St. Cuthbert, was the first who ascended the episcopal throne in that place. King Guthred, too, conferred no few honours and donations on that church, and with devout humility submitted himself to him, who from a slave had made him a king. Wherefore whatever he ordained for the privileges and liberties of his church, and for the sustenance of those who served him, this faithful minister hastened to fulfil. Lastly, the saint appeared in a vision to the aforesaid abbot, and said to him, “Tell the king to grant the perpetual possession of all the land between the Were and the Tyne to me and those who 195 serve in my church, that they may receive subsistence from it, and not suffer from want. Sanctuary
for 30 days. Bid him furthermore make my church a place of asylum for those who flee to it, so that whoever shall, for any cause, take refuge with my corpse, shall have peace for thirty days, on no account to be infringed.”
§ 11. His faithful messenger, the abbot, having told this to the king, both Guthred himself, and the powerful King Alfred, of whom we have made mention above, proclaimed it to their subjects, and established it as a law for ever, with the consent and approbation not only of the English, but also of the Danish army. They ordained that those who in any manner whatever broke the saint’s peace, should pay, as a fine, a sum of money equal to that which they paid for breaking the peace of the king, namely, ninety-six pounds at least. Moreover, the land, lying between the two rivers above-mentioned, was afterwards given to him as he commanded, and a decree was passed, with the concurrence both of the kings above-named and of the whole people, that if any one should give land to St. Cuthbert, or if land should have been bought with the saint’s money, no one, from that time, should claim from it any service or custom whatever, but the church alone should possess it for ever in peace, with all its liberties and customs, and, as the saying is, with sac and socn, and infangentheof.
Right of suits
and thefts. It was determined by all, that, if any one should in any way infringe these laws and statutes, they should be consigned for ever, unless they behaved better for the future, to fire in hell and the malediction of the church. A short time after, the Scots assembled a large army, and, among other deeds of cruelty, attacked and plundered the monastery of Lindisfarne; and whilst King Guthred, strengthened by the help of St. Cuthbert, was fighting against them, on a sudden the earth yawned and swallowed up all the enemy alive. Thus was re-enacted a miracle of ancient times, whereby 196 the earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, and overwhelmed the congregation of Abiron. But how this was done has been described elsewhere.
A.D. 894. § 12. In the year of our Lord’s incarnation eight hundred and ninety-four, King Guthred, having reigned many years in prosperity, departed this life, and bequeathed the privileges of the church of St. Cuthbert, concerning its repose and liberties, and the safety of those who should seek refuge therein from all aggressors, with other statutes in its behalf, to be preserved inviolate by all the kings and bishops, and all people who should come after him, and they are so preserved unto this very day. Indeed, no one has ever ventured, with impunity, to infringe them. Of such as have ventured, the Scots, as I have said, having violated its peace, were suddenly swallowed up alive. Others, also, who committed the same crime, were terribly punished for the same, as we shall hereafter describe. King Alfred. When Guthred was dead, King Alfred received the crown of the Northumbrians: for after St. Cuthbert had appeared to him, he added to his paternal kingdom of the East Saxons, the province of the East Angles; and now, after Guthred’s death, that of Northumberland also.
by his son
Edward. § 13. In the year of our Lord’s incarnation eight hundred and ninety-nine, the same pious Alfred, King of the Angles, died after a reign of twenty-eight years and a half, and was succeeded by his son King Edward, who had been diligently warned by his father by all means to love and honour St. Cuthbert and his church, in memory of the difficulties and misfortunes out of which he had rescued his father, and had restored him to his kingdom, which, by the defeat of his enemies, he had enlarged beyond the limits of any of his predecessors.
§ 14. During the same year in which King Alfred died, Bishop Eardulf, of whom we have frequently made mention, departed this life in a good old age, to receive in heaven the reward of his righteous labours. This
was the forty-sixth year of his episcopacy, which was the nineteenth year from that in which the body of St. Cuthbert had been translated to Cuncacester. The episcopal see was after him given by the suffrages of all to Cutheard, a man irreproachable before God and men, for the virtues of his life. His care in providing sustenance for those who served God in the presence of the incorruptible body of the saint, and the number of estates which he bought with the saint’s money, and added to the former donations of the kings, are fully described in the chartulary of the church, which contains the ancient munificence of the kings and other religious individuals towards the saint. Now, whilst Edward was ruling the kingdom of the East Saxons, East Angles and Northumberland, Cutheard also being Bishop of the Bernicians,
Reingwald. a certain pagan king, Reingwald by name, appeared with a large fleet on the coast of Northumberland. Immediately York was taken, and all the better part of the inhabitants slain or expelled their country. After this, he seized the whole domain of St. Cuthbert, and distributed his estates to two of his own soldiers, one of whom was called Scula, and the other Onlafbald. The former of these, Scula, Eden and
Billingham. having obtained dominion of all the country from the village of Iodene to Billingham, oppressed the wretched nation, by imposing on them a grievous and intolerable tribute. Wherefore, even to this day, the inhabitants of York, as often as they are compelled to pay the king’s tribute, endeavour to relieve themselves by imposing a fine of money on that portion of the land of St. Cuthbert which Scula had possessed. Scula. No doubt they make a law of that which a pagan had done from tyranny, and one too who served not a lawful king of England, but a barbarian, and a foreigner, and an enemy to the English king. But although they have taken great pains to introduce this custom, the resistance of St. Cuthbert has always prevented them from accomplishing their object. The other portion of the estates 198 Onlafbald. was occupied by Onlafbald, who was still more furious than the other towards his people, and thereby drew destruction on himself. For at length, when he was every way injuring and molesting the bishop, the congregation and the people of St. Cuthbert’s, and pertinaciously usurping to himself the farms which properly belonged to the bishopric, the bishop, wishing to gain him over to the Lord, said to him, “I beseech you, lay aside this obstinacy of mind, and refrain from this unlawful invasion of ecclesiastical property; for, if you despise my admonitions, do not doubt that the Holy Confessor will severely avenge the injuries which you have heaped upon him and his.” The other, at these words, was excited to most diabolical anger, and replied, “Do you talk to me of the threats of this dead man? Do you think he can help you against me? I call my Gods to witness that I will show myself a most bitter enemy to this dead fellow, as well as to you.” Upon this, the bishop and all the brethren fell upon their faces, and prayed to God and the Holy Confessor that his threats might be defeated. The wretch himself had come as far as the entrance, and already had placed one foot within, and one without the threshold, when of a sudden both his feet were held fast, as if by nails to the ground, and could neither come in nor go out, but remained immoveable where he was. Here he remained some time in anguish, until he confessed aloud the sanctity of the Holy Confessor, and yielded up his soul the next moment in the place where he was standing. The others were frightened at this warning, and never again presumed to invade the lands or anything else which belonged to the church.
§ 15. NOW Cutheard died in the fifteenth year of his episcopacy; and Tilred, a man of excellent character, was become bishop in his stead. In the seventh year of his bishopric, King Edward died, and his son,
Ethelstan, received the sceptre, which he wielded gloriously, and was the first of the English kings who governed all Britain. God granted him this by the aid and at the prayer of St. Cuthbert, who, when he formerly appeared to his grandfather, Alfred, promised him, saying, “The government of all Britain shall be bestowed upon your children at my request.” Lastly, the father of this Ethelstan, when he was about to die, began to recount to his son, what great acts of charity the blessed Cuthbert had done for his father; how he had bidden him leave the hiding-place where he had, from fear of his enemies, concealed himself, and again go to meet the foe; and how he afterwards gathered for him an army from all England, and, having without difficulty defeated his enemies, added the greatest part of Britain to his paternal kingdom, and ever from that time been his constant aider. “Wherefore, my son,” said he, “show yourself obedient and faithful to this our great patron and bountiful preserver, not forgetting the promise which he made to the sons of Alfred, if they should exercise piety and justice, and be faithful in his service.” These were the instructions which Ethelstan received from his pious father, and as he heard them gladly, now that he was king he gladly fulfilled them. No king before him was such a friend to the church of St. Cuthbert, or enriched it with so many different and princely donations. Wherefore he universally prevailed in all his numerous conflicts with the enemy; and when he had either slain them, or reduced them to submission, or driven them out of Britain, he
reigned with greater glory than any of the kings before him.
St. Dunstan. In the first year of his reign, which was the nine hundred and nineteenth year of our Lord’s incarnation, was born St. Dunstan, who afterwards departed to the Lord in the seventieth year of his age, in the reign of King Ethelred.
§ 16. In the year of our Lord’s incarnation nine hundred and twenty-two, Tilred died, after an episcopacy of thirteen years and four months, and Wigred was elected bishop, and consecrated in his stead. In the tenth year of the latter, King Ethelstan, on his way to Scotland, at the head of an army collected out of all Britain, came to St. Cuthbert’s tomb to ask his protection, and make many presents, such as beseemed a king, to ornament his church; and these gifts are preserved in this cathedral of Durham to this day, as a record of this pious king’s devotion towards the holy saint, and to keep alive his memory for ever. Their nature and quantity will be found described in order in the charter long before mentioned. Besides these ornaments, he added no less than twelve estates, for the support of those who served in the church. The names of these are given elsewhere; therefore I do not think it necessary to state them in this place. He also ratified the laws and customs of the saint, which his grandfather, King Alfred and King Guthred had established; and enacted that they should be preserved inviolate for ever. Moreover, he uttered a dreadful malediction against those who, when an offering had been made, should presume to abstract or diminish aught therefrom; to wit, that on the day of judgment they should take part with Judas, who betrayed our Lord. Besides which the army, by the king’s command, bestowed upwards of ninety-six pounds of silver on the tomb of the Holy Confessor. Thus, when they had all commended themselves to the saint’s protection, and arranged every thing for their journey, the king departed, having first adjured 201 his brother Edmund, that, if any reverse should happen to him in this expedition, he should bring back his body to be buried in St. Cuthbert’s church. After this he defeated Oswin, King of Cumberland, and Constantine, King of the Scots, and with a fleet and army ravaged and subdued the whole of Scotland.
burgh. § 17. In the fourth year after these events, which was the nine hundred and thirty-seventh of our Lord’s nativity he fought at Weondune, otherwise called Ettrunnanwerc, or Brunnanbyrig, against Onlaf, son of the former King Guthred, who had invaded the country in six hundred and fifteen ships, and had engaged against Ethelstan the help of the above-named kings of the Scots and Cumbrians. But the king, trusting to St. Cuthbert’s protection, defeated their countless hosts, expelled those kings from his dominions, and crowning his army with victory, showed himself terrible to his enemies, but peaceable to his friends, and finally departed this life in peace, leaving to Edmund, his brother, the sovereignty of his dominions. In the third year of this king, Wigred, having held his bishopric seventeen years, died, and was succeeded by Uthred. Meanwhile, King Edmund also, on his way to Scotland, visited the tomb of St. Cuthbert, in order to obtain his protection; and, like his brother Ethelstan of old, made royal presents of gold and mantles, and confirmed his laws as they were when they were the most favourable.
A.D. 947. § 18. On the death of Bishop Uthred, Sexhelm was ordained in his place. But he had hardly held the episcopal see a few months, when he was expelled from it by Cuthbert himself. For he turned aside from the path of his predecessors, and, instigated by avarice, afflicted the saint’s people, and those who served in his church; wherefore the saint appeared to him in a dream, and told him to depart as speedily as he could. But as he did not do so, the saint appeared to him again the second night, and threatened him with severe punishment 202 if he did not go away immediately. The bishop, however, still lingered; and on the third night the saint appeared again, with his countenance much more terrible than before, and enjoined him instantly to depart, and to take with him nothing belonging to the church, threatening him with instant death if he should linger any longer. Then, indeed, on his awaking from sleep, his courage was broken, and, in fear of death, he hastened to depart, though he was not well. In his flight he arrived at York, where he recovered his health. Aldred ascended the episcopal throne in his stead.
A.D. 948. § 19. In the year of our lord’s incarnation nine hundred and forty-eight, Edmund died, and was succeeded by his brother Edred, a pious and just man, who, like his brothers, made princely presents to the church of St. Cuthbert. On the death of Bishop Aldred, Elfsig became ruler of the church in Cuncacester. He was ordained at York by Archbishop Oscetil, in the time of King Edgar, who came after his brother, King Edwy.1 After Elfsig had held the bishopric twenty-two years, he died, and in his place Aldhun, a man of remarkable piety, was elected and consecrated bishop, in the nine hundred and ninetieth year of our Lord’s incarnation, and in the twelfth year of King Ethelred, who became king after the death of his brother Edward, who was miserably murdered by his step-mother. This prelate was of a noble lineage, but much more noble for his way of life, which was well pleasing to the Lord; and in his habits and acts he was a praiseworthy monk, like all his predecessors. Almost all the people of the country talk of his goodness, which they have heard of from their forefathers, as if he were still among them.
A.D. 995. § 20. In the nine hundred and ninety-fifth year of our Lord’s incarnation, and in the seventeenth year of King Ethelred’s reign, the same prelate, in the beginning of the sixth year of his prelacy, was admonished by an oracle from heaven, to flee as quickly as possible with 203 the incorruptible body of the saint, and avoid the fury of the pirates who were at hand. He took it, therefore, with him, in the hundred and thirteenth year after it had been placed in Cuncacester, Ripon. and carried it to Ripon, with all the people belonging to it. It is recorded as a singular fact in this flight, that out of so many, not a single one, great or small, was afflicted with any illness, but they accomplished their journey on foot, without any labour or inconvenience. And not only the men, but even tender animals just born, walked safe and sound the whole journey, without any difficulty. Three or four months after peace was restored, and they purposed to carry back the saint’s body to its former place; but when they came to Werdelan Durham. on the eastern side of Durham, they found it impossible to make the vehicle proceed any further. The bishop, upon this, commanded the people to fast three days, and by watching and prayer to ask from Heaven an explanation of the prodigy. In consequence of which, it was revealed to them, that they should carry the body to Durham, and prepare there a place for it to repose in. Thus they brought it into Durham, and having speedily erected a little church of boughs, placed it there for a season.
§ 21. Now the aforesaid bishop, arriving at Durham with the saint’s body, found there a place strong by nature, but not easy to be inhabited, for a thick wood covered nearly the whole of it, save that in the middle there was a small plain, which they used to plough and sow. This wood was, with the aid of all the people, and Ucthred, Count of Northumberland, entirely grubbed up, and the place in a short time rendered habitable. The bishop then began to build a large church of stone. Meanwhile the saint’s body was removed from the little wooden church into another called “the White Church,” and remained there three years, until the larger church was built; and now the venerable Prelate Aldun solemnly consecrated that church on the third of September,
Cathedral. in the third year after its foundations were laid, and transferred thither the body of St. Cuthbert, with all due honours, to a place which he had prepared for it. Thus the saint’s body, and the episcopal see, which was first founded by King Oswald and Bishop Aidan in the island of Lindisfarne, have remained in that place even to the present time; and from the year in which Aidan ascended the episcopal chair in the island of Lindisfarne, to the year in which Aldun ascended the same in Durham, is computed to be three hundred and sixty-one years, and three hundred and nine from the death of St. Cuthbert.
§ 22. On the death of Aldun, the church was almost three years without a ruler; A.D. 1042. after which Edmund, a man famous for religion and activity was elected; the priest at the altar, and the deacon who was attending on him, having said that they heard a voice which seemed to come from the holy father’s tomb beneath the altar and ordered that he should be made bishop. During his episcopacy there flourished in the church of Durham a priest, named Elfred, son of Weston, a man of grave piety, and good works, who also was familiar with the holy Cuthbert. He had showed himself entirely devoted to the saint, was a man of much sobriety, a frequent giver of alms, constant in prayer, an enemy to the wanton and licentious, respected by the good and by all who feared God, and one of the most zealous supporters of the church. He had in his possession a hair of St. Cuthbert, which he used to show those who visited him, and in consequence to increase the admiration of those who already admired him for his sanctity. For he would fill a censer with burning coals, and place the hair upon the top, but it would never be consumed, for it became white, and shone like gold in the fire, and after staying there a long time, when taken off it returned gradually to its former appearance. Not only many of his disciples affirmed that they saw this miracle, but also a 205 certain brother of this monastery, by name Gamelo, a simple and humble-minded man, who now sleeps in the Lord.
§ 23. Furthermore, this priest, thus celebrated for his good and religious life, in obedience to orders which he had received in a vision, went about to all the old monasteries and churches, in the province of Northumberland,
saints.and took up the bones of the saints which he knew were buried there, and left them above ground to be shown to the people, and venerated by them. Such were the bones of the hermits Balthen and Bilfrid, of Acca and Alcmund, Bishops of Hagulstad, of King Oswin, and the venerable Abbesses Ebba and Eteligitha. Some parts of the relics of these saints he carried to Durham, and placed with the body of St. Cuthbert. Moreover, he went to the monastery of Melrose, in obedience to a revelation, and transferred from thence the bones of St. Boisil, who had formerly been the preceptor of St. Cuthbert in that monastery, and brought them to the church of Boisil’s pupil. Moreover, he knew that in the monastery of Jarrow lay the bones of the learned Bede, who had lived and died there; wherefore he used to go there every year, on the anniversary of his death, and practise therein rigid prayer and fasting. On one occasion of his doing this, he remained several days alone in the church, praying and fasting; and early in the morning, Removal
of Bede. without the knowledge of his companions, he returned alone to Durham. This he had never done before, and it seemed as if he wished to have no participator in his secret. For though he lived many years after, yet he never again desired to visit that monastery; wherefore it seemed as if he had gained what he wanted. He was often asked by his brethren, where the bones of Venerable Bede lay; to which his reply was, “No one can tell that better than I. Do not doubt what I say, my beloved brethren, but believe it most firmly; the same coffin contains the body of St. Cuthbert, and the 206 bones of that great teacher Bede. A.D. 999. It is useless to search beyond the walls of this hospitable house for one single fragment of his relics.”
§ 24. AFTER Edmund’s death whilst the church of Durham was ruled by Egilric, a marvellous event happened as they were ministering at the altar, portending without doubt the wrath of God to such as presume unchastely to approach that holy mystery. There was a certain priest, Fleoccher by name, who lived an unchaste life with a wife. On a certain day many nobles and private individuals had assembled under him for the purpose of consultation, and asked him to celebrate the mass for them before their sitting. Now Fleoccher, who had but recently parted from his wife, refused, until at last, on their repeatedly asking him, the fear of men prevailed over the fear of God, and he consented. But at the moment of his being about to take the holy mystery, he saw the portion of our Lord’s body, which had been put into the cup, mingled with blood, and changed into so black a colour, that it seemed more like pitch than bread and wine. He immediately perceived his offence, and turned pale, as if he was about to be at once consigned to the avenging flames. Moreover, he was in great doubt what to do with the cup, for he feared to drink it as if it were his own death; and yet, as it had been consecrated, he feared to throw it on the ground; wherefore he at last drank it, with much fear and trembling, but it was so bitter that nothing could exceed its bitterness. When the mass was over, he hastened to the bishop, and falling at his knees, related the circumstance in order, performed the penance which was enjoined on him, and lived chastely and 207 piously for the future, A.D. 1042. according to the command of his bishop.
§ 25. After Egilric, Egelwin became bishop; and Judith, daughter of Baldwin, Count of Flanders, and wife of Tosti, Count of Northumberland, a good and religious woman, who greatly loved St. Cuthbert, made many presents to ornament his church, and promised to give still more, together with much land, if she might be allowed to enter the church and visit his tomb. But when she found herself unable to do so bold a deed herself, she sent one of her maids beforehand at night. The maid was just about to enter the burying-place, when she was thrown back, as if by the violence of the wind, and fainted. At length, having returned with much difficulty to the house, she fell on her bed, and never recovered, but died soon afterwards. The countess was terribly frightened at this occurrence; and for satisfaction, she and her husband ordered an image of the crucifix, another of the Mother of God, and a third of Saint John the Evangelist, to be made; and when they had adorned them with gold and silver, they gave them and many other presents to adorn the church.
§ 26. Nor must I omit to mention the miracles of the holy father which have been wrought in our own days. In the reign of our late religious King Edward, a miracle happened similar to those which I have mentioned, by which, through the punishment of one man’s presumption, many were deterred from the like. For whilst the well-known Count Tosti was ruling the county of Northumberland, a certain bad fellow, named Haldanhamal, was seized by him and placed in fetters. This man had committed many thefts, robberies, murders, and burnings; and though he had often offended the count, yet he never before could be taken. His parents and friends, in compassion for his case, offered large presents to the count if he would exempt him from punishment; and promised still more. But because 208 he had so often provoked the count by such heinous crimes, he vowed never to take any compensation for his life. The criminal, in despair, considered his only chance to lie in his being able to get rid of his fetters and flee to the sanctuary of St. Cuthbert; for his prison was in the same town where the saint rests, namely, in Durham. He therefore tried every means which his ingenuity or strength could devise, but without effect, for the fear of the count made the guards doubly solicitous to keep him securely. He groaned in agony, and as his conscience made him now fear more for his soul than for his body, he in humility of heart offered up a petition to God’s beloved confessor. Whilst he promised repentance and amendment of life, if he only might escape, he suddenly saw himself released from his fetters, and the road of safety open before him. Joyful at this event, but still solicitous how he might escape the guards, he trusted all his hope of safety to the protection of the holy father. Meanwhile the guards were occupied in other matters, and had no suspicion of what he was doing; wherefore, seeing a chance of escape, he shook off the chains, and ran with all speed to the monastery, which he entered alone, and made the doors fast with bars behind him. It happened, too, by accident, that when the brethren had left the church after Prime, he found no one therein but himself.
§ 27. When this was known to the soldiers of the count, who happened also to be in the town, one of them, named Barwic, who took precedence of all others at court, followed the prisoner to the gates of the monastery, which he found fastened, and seeing the man within, he called out in indignation, “Why do we lose time? Let us break open the gates. We must not mind the privilege of this dead man, or thieves and murderers will escape here, and insult us because they are out of our reach.” Scarcely had he spoken these words, when he exclaimed that he felt an arrow from above
pierce him through the head, even to his heart.
Without speaking more he fell to the ground, and groaning, howling, and gnashing his teeth, he was carried by his men into the house, and never spoke again, but died there in torments the third day after, at the same hour. When he was dead and buried, such a stench came from his tomb for the space of half a year, that no one could pass that way. This warning terrified the count, and all who heard of it, and he no longer attempted to seize his victim, but on the contrary began to bestow honours upon him. Moreover, all the others, who felt conscious that they had even consented to his being forced from the monastery, fearing the like punishment, offered no small store of gold, silver, and precious stones, on the tomb of the Saint, and with many tears implored his forgiveness, vowing that they would never again be guilty of such a crime.
The Rood and
jewels. With these offerings, a cross of beautiful workmanship, and a very valuable copy of the Gospels, were afterwards adorned with gold and jewels, and they are preserved in the monastery, in memory of the event, unto this day. Such is the account of this matter, which we have heard more than once from the brethren who witnessed it, and from him who thus escaped from punishment.
Oswulf. § 28. There was also another bad man, named Oswulf, who one day awaking from sleep in a field, and finding a serpent entwined round his neck, seized it, and dashed it against the ground; but it was of no use, for the serpent again and again returned and coiled itself round his neck, and so the wretched man, whether he threw the animal into water or fire, or cut it to pieces with a knife, yet was utterly unable to discover how it was that it immediately came back. A miracle. At first indeed the serpent was small, but by degrees it grew larger, and yet did not bite or poison the man. Whenever he entered the church, which was hallowed by the body of the Holy Cuthbert, the serpent left him, and did 210 not molest him whilst he continued therein: A.D. 1069. but when he went out, the serpent again fastened on his neck, and thus he endured this affliction for a long time, until by a happy device, he spent three whole days and nights at the church praying, and so freed himself entirely from the serpent.
of a thief. § 29. About the same time, a servant came with his master to celebrate the Holy Confessor’s festival, and seeing a large quantity of pennies lying on the tomb, from the offerings of the faithful, he instantly thought of stealing some of them. He therefore approached, and escaping the notice of the bystanders, took four or five pieces of money in his mouth, whilst he was kissing the tomb. Immediately his mouth began to burn, so that he seemed, as he said afterwards, as if he had iron hot from the fire in his mouth. He tried to spit the money out, but could not open his mouth. Being thus tormented most horribly with the pain, he ran up and down the church, and alarmed all present, so that they thought he was mad. At length he rushed out of the church, through the midst of the people, and running to and fro, gave sufficient evidence, by his gestures and nods, that he was suffering intense pain, for he was unable to speak a word. At last recovering himself, he returned in haste to the tomb, and prostrating himself before it, he asked pardon of the Saint, and offered to give him all that he possessed. As he kissed the sepulchre and placed his oblation thereon, the money fell out of his mouth upon it. Thus released from his pain, he mounted his horse and rode away, and never again returned to Durham; for, though his master offered him a large sum, if he would go there with him, he not only refused to go, but would not even approach so near to the town, as to be able to see the church.
§ 30. In the year of our Lord’s incarnation one thousand and sixty-nine, which was the seventy-fourth after the translation of the Saint’s body by Aldun to
Cumin. William, king of the English, in the third year of his reign, appointed one Rodbert Cumin to the county of Northumberland. This man came to Durham with seven hundred followers, and acted towards the people of every house with the violence of an enemy; wherefore, on the twenty-seventh of January, he and all his men were cut off, save one who escaped wounded. The king, in anger, sent one of his generals with an army to avenge his death. When they had come as far as Alverton, and were about to proceed to Durham in the morning, so dark a fog came on, that they could neither see one another nor find their way. In astonishment they consulted what was best to be done, when some one told them that the inhabitants of that city had a saint among them, who always protected them in misfortune, and suffered no one to hurt them. When they heard this, they turned back and departed to their homes.
body of St.
Lindisfarne. § 31. The same year, King William came to York, with an army, and devastated all the country round. Bishop Egelwin and the elders, having held a council, took the incorruptible body of the Saint, in the seventy-fifth year after it was first carried from Halduine to Durham, and commenced their flight to the church of Lindisfarne. The first night, they reached the church of St. Paul, at Jarrow; the second saw them at Beclinthum, the third they arrived at Tughala, and on the fourth night they came with all their people to the entrance of the island. But because they arrived in the evening, at the time when according to the season it was high tide, the Bishop and the elders were in alarm, lest the cold of winter, which was severer than usual, might hurt the children, for it was now about Christmas. But behold on a sudden the sea retired from the place where they were to pass over, and left the sands dry for them to cross, whilst all around it continued as high and boisterous as before. They all passed over, singing the praise of God and his Holy Confessor, and reached the 212 opposite shore, carrying his body, without wetting their feet. Now the wonderful part of the miracle was this, that the waves which were before them, turned about and followed them, so that they neither went too fast, if the men crossed slowly, nor lingered too long if they walked fast. This was stated by those who carried over the coffin. Quadragesima was now at hand, and peace was soon restored, so that they carried back the Saint’s body, and having composed the church, placed it as it was before on the twenty-second of March.
ished. § 32. IN the flight above mentioned, a certain man, who possessed much power beyond the river Tyne, named Gillo-Michael, or “Michael’s Boy,” though he deserved to have been called the “Devil’s Boy,” caused much injury to the fugitives, by impeding their journey, annoying and plundering them, and doing all the ill he could to them. But he did not do this with impunity, for when the Holy Body had been deposited in the island, one of the clerks, an aged man, was sent home by the Bishop, to see how things were going on in the church at Durham. He had already made some little way on his journey, when he stopped at the approach of night to rest himself in a field, and falling asleep, saw clearly a vision relating to the death of Gillo-Michael, which, as many persons have heard it from his own mouth, I shall so set down in order.
vision. § 33. “I arrived,” said he, “at Durham, as it seemed, and was standing in the church, when I saw two men of great authority standing at the altar, with their faces turned to the East. The one was a middle-aged man, clothed in episcopal robes, venerable in manner and 213 severe in countenance, and it was clear that he was a Bishop of great reverence. The other, standing at his right hand, with a red-coloured mantle, and of rather a long face, with a beard still tender, and tall in stature, presented the appearance of a handsome young man. After a short interval they turned their eyes towards the altar, and up and down the church: whereupon the Bishop, mourning its desolation, exclaimed, ‘Woe to thee, Cospatrick! woe to thee, Cospatrick! who hast stripped my church of its possessions, and hast turned it into a desert!’ Now it was this Cospatrick in particular who had given the advice that they should desert the church, and it was he who had taken with him the greatest part of its ornaments. During this time I wished to approach them, but was not able, whereupon the young man beckoning me with his finger, addressed me by my own name in a low voice, and asked me if I knew who that episcopal person was. When I replied, that I did not know, he answered, ‘That is your Master, St. Cuthbert.’ I immediately fell at his feet, and entreated him to aid his church and suffering followers. A short time after, they reverently bent their heads towards the altar, and walked away together with a slow and steady pace, until they came to the door, when the younger went out first and walked on a little, but the Bishop stopped at the door, and looking back on me, who was following at a distance, he called me, and said, ‘Do you know, Ernau, who that young man is?’ — ‘No, my Lord,’ said I, ‘I do not know.’ — ‘That,’ said he, ‘is St. Oswald.’ Then they went from thence a little further to the southern part of the city, where they stopped and called me. I accordingly went, and was told to look downwards. I did so, and beheld a valley of immense depth full of the souls of men, and among them was Gillo-Michael suffering most horrible torments. For he lay stretched out in a most horrid place, and a mower’s scythe was passing backwards and forwards through his body, which caused him dreadful pain. The wretched 214 man cried aloud, uttering lamentation and woe without any intermission, and he was not allowed to rest a single hour: the same also was the case with the others. St. Cuthbert asked me if I recognized any of them. I answered that I recognized Gillo. ‘Yes,” said he, ‘this is he; he is dead, and this pain and misery is his portion.’ — ‘My Lord,’ said I, ‘he is not dead; he was not long ago feasting safe and sound in his own house to a late hour, and a great banquet is awaiting him in such and such a place.’ — ‘I tell you he is dead,’ replied the Bishop, ‘for he and the others, whom you saw with him, are enduring these torments, because they broke my peace, and injured me in the person of my followers.’
§ 34. “After this I awoke, and exhorted my companions to follow me quickly. When they wondered at my haste, I told them the above-named man was dead, as I had seen it in the vision. This they could not credit, and they ridiculed me for believing it. We travelled all the night, and in the morning turned aside a little from the way to hear mass at the nearest church. On being asked what news I brought with me, I told them of Gillo’s death. They said it was not true, for they had seen him in good health the day before; until at last some of his family came and said that their master had died in the night. Upon my diligently inquiring before all of them at what hour he died, I found he had died at the very time that St. Cuthbert pointed him out to me, suffering torture. When I told Cospatrick of his sufferings, and also what I had heard about himself, he trembled, and afterwards walked barefoot to the island, where the holy corpse had been, and asked pardon for his offences with prayers and oblations. But he never recovered his former credit, but was expelled from his attendance, and suffered, as long as he lived, much adversity and affliction.”
win. § 35. When the blessed Saint’s body had been carried back, as we have related, to Durham, Egilwin, in the 215 fifteenth year of his episcopacy, embarked on board a ship in order to leave England, having with him some of the treasures of the church. But the wind drove him back to Scotland, and he was afterwards taken at Elig by the king’s men and brought to Abendune, where he was kept by the king’s command in strict custody. Though he was frequently admonished to restore what he had taken from the church, he persisted with an oath that he had taken nothing. But one day, as he was washing his hands before he sat down to table, a bracelet fell from his arm down to his hand, in the sight of all, and thus convicted the Bishop of perjury. Wherefore, he was, by the king’s command, cast into prison, where his anguish of mind would not allow him to eat, and he died of vexation and want of food.
cher. § 36. In the time of Bishop Walcher, the first of the clerical order who was Bishop of the church of Durham, except one who acted simoniacally, and who died a few months after, King William aforesaid, returning with his army from Scotland, entered Durham, and inquired diligently whether St. Cuthbert’s body lay therein. Every body assured him with an oath that it was there, but he would not believe them. He therefore determined to examine with his own eyes, having with him bishops and abbots who would do as he bade them: for he had determined, if the body should not be found there, to put to death all the oldest and most noble among them. All were therefore in alarm, King William
punished. and implored God’s mercy through the merits of St. Cuthbert, and on the festival of All Saints, when the aforesaid bishop celebrated the mass, the king, wishing to accomplish what he had determined on, was on a sudden seized with such a violent heat, that it was hardly possible for him to endure it. He therefore left the church in haste, and mounting his horse, urged him to speed until he reached the Tees. By which sign he acknowledged that God’s Holy Confessor, St. Cuthbert, reposed in that place.
punished. § 37. After some time, the king sent one Ranulf to 216 collect the tribute from the people of the Saint, but they, unwilling to consent, implored as usual the aid of St. Cuthbert. Wherefore, as the night before he was going to exact payment was drawing to a close, the holy Saint stood by him in a dream, and striking him with his pastoral staff which he held in his hand, rebuked him with pontifical authority and with a threatening look, saying that his presumption should not go unpunished, and unless he departed it should be still worse for him. When he awoke from his sleep, he felt such weakness in all his limbs, that he could not rise from his bed. Afterwards, in presence of all, he related what he had seen and heard, and begged them to intercede with the Holy Father in his behalf; he sent also a mantle to his tomb, and promised to be his faithful and devoted servant if the Saint would forgive him his offence, and remit its punishment. But as his infirmity continued at its height, he caused himself to be carried about through all the diocese in a litter, and showed to all the crime which he had committed, and the vengeance it had drawn down. As long as he remained at any place belonging to the bishopric, he suffered from this malady, but, when he left it and returned home, he immediately recovered.
Bp. Walcher. § 38. After the horrible and well-known murder of Walcher, Bishop of Durham, the glorious King William sent an army to avenge such an atrocious deed; but all the ringleaders and murderers hid themselves in the woods and mountains. The common people, trusting in their innocence, (as it is written, “the just man hath the confidence of a lion,”) sought, as usual, the trusty patronage of the Holy Confessor, and carried their effects into the monastery. Meanwhile, one of those who was in the castle, by birth a Frenchman, seeing so many chests, with no one to guard them, (for the guards had other Punishment
of sacrilege. matters to attend to in the inner part of the monastery, and did not suppose that any one would steal in the temple of the Lord, whatever they might do 217 elsewhere,) prompted by the spirit of the Evil One, fancied that he had an opportunity of plundering. So having fixed on a certain night when he might do this favourably, he asked the guards of the monastery to allow him to watch there, according to the custom of his country. They, suspecting no harm, listened to his pretended devotion, and granted him his request, as was their custom to do to all the pious. Leave being thus obtained, the hypocrite no sooner saw the guards asleep, than he put in execution the theft which he had meditated. A few days after, there was still no suspicion of what he had done, because no one suspects theft in a church, when, on a sudden, he was seized with a severe illness, and a burning fever as hot as fire. By the pain of which he was driven to madness, and leaped from his bed, and rushing with only his shirt on, into a field, mounted his horse, which was grazing there, and galloped to the monastery, where he threw himself before the crucifix, and exclaimed aloud, “Pity me, O Holy Cuthbert, pity and spare me, though I know you will not, because I stole such and such things,” (naming what he had taken,) “Out of your monastery.” Thus he ran in a state of phrensy up and down the monastery, uttering these words, until he was brought back to the house, and bound with strong cords; for he tore in pieces, like a dog, every thing he could seize in his mouth, or in his hands. Three or four nights he spent in this state of madness and torment, until at last, by what means I know not, he escaped from his bonds, and rushed like mad into the monastery. He then fell down before the tomb of God’s beloved Confessor, and, whilst the choir was singing “Te Deum laudamus,” — for it was the hour of nightly thanksgiving, — he howled aloud, using, besides others, the expressions I have before mentioned, “Pity me, Holy Cuthbert!” to which he now added, “but I know you will not, because you smote me so heavily with your staff.” For he acknowledged that the Holy Confessor had come to him in a vision by night, and in anger inflicted 218 three severe blows on him, the smart of which had penetrated to his heart, and tormented him to death. This, and much more, he called aloud, accompanied with gesticulations and clamour, until at length he became convulsed in all his body, and his wretched soul left its covering only to plunge into a greater and eternal torment.
cured, &c. § 39. Now at the other place where the Saint’s body had been laid, miracles began to be performed, and those who were ill recovered their strength. For, when some time had elapsed, a Scottish woman, who had been weak in her body from her infancy, was brought to Durham, and every body sympathized with her under her affliction — for her feet and legs were twisted behind her back, and she dragged them along after her, and so crawling on her hands moved herself, in a most wretched manner, from one place to another. Now it happened that she dragged herself to the above-named place, where the Holy Saint’s body had rested for a few days. Here she suddenly, by the action of her nerves, began to jump up, and again to fall to the ground, and to alarm all by her cries. After a while she stood upright on her feet, and gave thanks to her Saviour Christ, by the intercession of St. Cuthbert. When this became known, the whole city hastened to the church, the signals were given, and, whilst the clergy chaunted “Te Deum laudamus,” the people raised up their voices aloud in praise of God, and the great St. Cuthbert, his beloved servant. But the woman who had been healed travelled through many countries and people, and performed the whole journey on foot. She went to Rome, also, to offer up her prayers; and on her return crossed over into Ireland, proclaiming everywhere the glory of God displayed in the miracle which had been wrought upon her, and the exceeding sanctity of his beloved Confessor. We have often heard this story, just as we have related it, from certain old priests of religious and simple habits, who themselves had seen it.
1 This is confusing. Alfred the Great’s son Edward the Elder (Æflweard) succeeded him, he was followed by his sons Aelfweard in Wessex and then Aethelstan in Mercia. Edmund I (son of Edward the Elder and half-brother of Aethelstan) was king of England after him. Then came his brother Edred (Eadred). After him, the sons of Edmund, nephews of Edred, ruled: first Edwy (Eadwig the Fair) and then Edgar (the Peaceful) ruled England. After him came Edward (St. Edward the Martyr), who was followed by his brother Ethelred II (the Unready), both sons of Edgar.