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Cases of Spirit and Distant Healing Part 9 St. Cuthbert (conclusion)

By:Richard Rowley
Date: Wed,01 Dec 2010
Submitter:Richard Rowley

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Although aware that the time of his death was
approaching, Bishop Cuthbert continued to travel
round the rural districts of his parish. One day he
came to the mansion of a certain earl, whose wife lay
sick and near death. At the earl’s request he
consecrated some water and gave it to the local priest
to sprinkle on her. “He entered the bedroom in which
she lay, as if dead, and sprinkled her and the bed,
and poured some of the healing draught down her
throat…… The holy water had scarcely touched the
patient, who was wholly ignorant what was brought her,
than she was so restored to health , both of mind and
body, that being come to her senses she blessed the
Lord and returned thanks to Him, that He thought her
worthy to be visited and healed by such exalted
guests. She got up without delay, and being now well,
ministered to those who had been instrumental in
curing her.”
“The venerable Bishop Cuthbert effected a cure
similar to this, of which there were many
eye-witnesses, one of whom is the religious priest,
Ethelwald, at that time attendant on the man of God,
but now abbot of the monastery of Melrose. Whilst,
according to his custom, he was traveling and teaching
all, he arrived at a certain village, in which were a
few holy women, who had fled from their monastery
through fear of the barbarian army, and had there
obtained a habitation from the man of God a short time
before one of whom, a sister of the above-mentioned
priest, Ethelwald, was confined with a most grievous
sickness, for during a whole year she had been
troubled with an intolerable pain in the head and
side, which the physicians utterly despaired of
curing. But when they told the man of God about her,
and entreated him to cure her, he in pity anointed the
wretched woman with holy oil. From that time she
began to get better, and was well in a few days.
“I must not here pass over a miracle which was
told to me as having been worked by his holiness,
though he himself was absent. We mentioned a prefect
of the name of Hildemer, whose wife the man of God
freed from an unclean spirit. The same prefect
afterwards fell seriously ill, so that his malady
daily increased, and he was confined to his bed,
apparently near death. Many of his friends were
present who had come to console him in his sickness.
Whilst they were sitting by the bedside, one of them
mentioned that he had with him some consecrated bread
which Cuthbert had given him. ‘And I think,’ said he,
‘that if we were in faith to give him this to eat,
nothing doubting, he would be well.’ All present were
laymen, but at the same time very pious men, and
turning to one another, they professed their faith,
without doubting, that by partaking of that same
consecrated bread he might be well. They therefore
filled a cup with water, and putting a little of the
bread into it, gave it him to drink: the water thus
hallowed by the bread no sooner touched his stomach
than all his inward pain left him, and the wasting of
his outward limbs ceased. A perfect recovery speedily
ensued, and both himself and the others who saw or
heard the rapidity of this wonderful cure were thereby
stirred up to praise the holiness of Christ’s servant,
and to admire the virtues of his true faith.”
One day Bishop Cuthbert came to a wild
mountainous region, and encamped there for two days as
he preached and laid hands on worshippers. “On a
sudden there appeared some women bearing on a bed a
young man, wasted by severe illness, and having placed
him down at the outlet of the wood, sent to the
bishop, requesting permission to bring him, that he
might receive a blessing from the holy man. When he
was brought near, the bishop perceived that his
sufferings were great, and ordered all to retire to a
distance. He then betook himself to his usual weapon,
prayer, and bestowing his blessing, expelled the
fever, which all the care and medicines of the
physicians had not been able to cure. In short, he
rose up the same hour, and having refreshed himself
with food, and given thanks to God, walked back to the
women who had brought him. So it came to pass, that
whereas they had in sorrow brought the sick man
thither, he now returned home with them, safe and
well, and all rejoicing both he and they alike.”
“At the same time the plague made great ravages
in those parts, so that there were scarcely any
inhabitants left in villages and places which had been
thickly populated, and some towns were wholly
deserted. The holy father Cuthbert therefore went
round his parish, most assiduously ministering the
word of God, and comforting those few who were left.”
At one village he asked his attendant priest if they
had seen everybody. There was one woman standing in
the distance, one of whose sons had died, and whose
other son was with her and clearly on the point of
death. Cuthbert immediately went to her, blessed the
boy, kissed him, and said to his mother, ‘Do not fear
nor be sorrowful, for you child shall be healed and
live, and no one else of your household shall die of
this pestilence.’ To the truth of which prophecy the
mother and son, who lived a long time after that, bore
While visiting again with the Abbess Elfled and
dining with her, his knife fell to the table as he had
a vision of a shepherd belonging to the monastery
falling accidentally but fatally from a tree. The
Abbess asked him what he had seen, and he joked at
first, but then told her the truth: ‘I saw the soul of
a holy man carried up to heaven in the arms of
angels.’ A messenger brought news of the accident,
which had occurred exactly at the time of the Bishop’s
vision. Writes the Venerable Bede: “It was then plain
to all that the holy man possessed in his mind an
abundant spirit of prophecy; for that he saw before
his eyes at the moment the man’s soul carried to
heaven, and knew beforehand what was afterwards going
to be told him by others.”
One time Cuthbert went South and visited a
nunnery not far from the mouth of the river Tyne, near
what is the city of Newcastle today. Being thirsty,
he asked for drink. They inquired of him what he would
have, wine or beer. He asked for water, which they
brought from the fountain. He tasted it, and gave it
to his attendant priest, who returned it to the
servant. “The man, taking the cup, asked if he might
drink out of the same cup as the bishop. ‘Certainly,’
said the priest, ‘why not?’ Now that priest also
belonged to the same monastery. He therefore drank,
and the water seemed to him to taste like wine. Upon
which he gave the cup to the brother who was standing
near, that he might be a witness of so great a
miracle, and to him also the taste seemed, without a
doubt, to be that of wine. They looked at one another
in amazement, and when they found time to speak, they
acknowledged to one another that they had never tasted
better wine. I give this on the authority of one of
them, who stopped some time in our monastery at
After two years in office as bishop, Cuthbert
resigned and returned to Farne to spend his last days
in solitude in his cell. However he did go outside to
talk with the monks who came to visit him. One day,
after he had finished conversing with his visitors,
“he said to them: ‘I must go in again now, but do
you, as you are inclined to depart, first take food;
and when you have cooked and eaten that goose, which
is hanging on the wall, go on board your vessel in
God’s name, and return home.’ He then uttered a
prayer, and having blessed them, went in. But they,
as he had bidden them, took some food; but having
enough provisions of their own, which they had brought
with them, they did not touch the goose.
Now when they had refreshed themselves, they
tried to go on board their vessel, but a sudden storm
utterly prevented them from putting to sea. They were
thus detained seven days on the island by the
roughness of the waves, and yet they could not call to
mind what fault they had committed. Cuthbert advised
them to be patient, but when he entered the guest
house they were staying in and noticed the goose was
not eaten, he reproved their disobedience with mild
countenance and in gentle language. ‘Have you not left
the goose still hanging in its place? What wonder is
it that the storm has prevented your departure? Put
it immediately into the cauldron, and boil and eat it,
that the sea may become tranquil, and you may return
They did as he said, and the moment the cauldron
began to boil, “the wind began to cease, and the waves
to be still. Having finished their repast, and seeing
that the sea was calm, they went on board, and, to
their great delight, though with shame for their
neglect reached home with a fair wind.” Witnesses
to this event, including the priest Cynemund, were
still alive to tell the tale to Bede in 721.
Two months after attending the Christmas rites
and celebrations on Lindisfarne and returning to his
cell on Farne, he fell ill at the beginning of 687,
and knowing the end was near, requested at first to be
buried there on Farne, but finally agreed to have a
tomb in the monastery at Lindisfarne. His last words
to his friends and fellow monks were about peace and
humility and keeping the faith: ‘Have peace and Divine
love ever amongst you.’ He passed peacefully in
prayer after being given the sacraments, his hands
stretching up above him, his eyes uplifted to
Even after he was dead and buried, healings
continued to take place around him. “A certain boy,
in the territory of Lindisfarne, was vexed so terribly
by an evil spirit, that he altogether lost his reason,
and shouted and cried aloud, and tried to tear in
pieces with his teeth his own limbs, or whatever came
in his way. A priest from the monastery was sent to
the sufferer; but, though he had been accustomed to
exorcise and expel evil spirits, yet in this case he
could not prevail: he therefore advised the lad’s
father to put him into a cart and drive him to the
monastery, and to pray to God in his behalf before the
relics of the holy saint which were there. The father
did as he was advised, but the holy saints, to show
how high a place Cuthbert occupied amongst them,
refused to bestow on him the benefit desired. The mad
boy, therefore, by howling, groaning, and gnashing
his teeth, filled the eyes and ears of all who were
there with horror, and no one could think of any
remedy; when, behold, one of the priests, being
taught in spirit that by the aid of the holy father
Cuthbert he might be cured, went privately to the
place where he knew the water had been thrown, in
which his dead body had been washed, and taking from
thence a small portion of the dirt, he mixed it with
some water, and carrying it to the sufferer, poured it
into his open mouth, from which he was uttering the
most horrible and lamentable cries. He instantly held
his tongue, closed his mouth, and shutting his eyes
also, which before were bloodshot and staring
hideously, he fell back into a profound sleep. In
this state he passed the night, and in the morning,
rising up from his slumber, free from his madness, he
found himself also, by the merits and intercession of
the blessed Cuthbert, free from the evil spirit by
which he had been afflicted. It was a marvelous
sight, and delectable to all good men, to see the son
sound in mind accompany his father to the holy places,
and give thanks for the aid of the saints……. They
show to this day the pit into which that memorable
water [from the washing of Cuthbert’s body] was
thrown, of a square shape, surrounded with wood, and
filled with little stones. It is near the church in
which his body reposes, on the south side. From that
time God permitted many other cures to be wrought by
means of those same stones, and the dirt from the same
Nine years after his burial the monks wished to
place his bones in a small coffer as objects of
veneration to the people. “When they opened the tomb
they found his body entire, uncorrupted, as if he were
still undecayed, and seemed to retain his original
freshness and colour. Bishop Eadbert ordered the monks
to fold up the body in new cloth, although the state
of the clothes was also uncorrupted. The body was then
placed in the new chest, above ground in the
sanctuary. The clothes he had worn still possessed a
healing power. Later a visiting bishop fell gravely
ill and asked to be taken to Cuthbert’s tomb, beside
which he knelt in prayer. Suddenly he felt energy
surging through his body, and he was able to rise and
walk away without assistance. Within a few days he
had regained perfect health and was able to continue
on his travels.
A young man was brought in to the monastery at
Lindisfarne in a state of complete paralysis, apart
from opening his mouth. Physicians had given up on
him, so “the poor man begged of his attendant to
bring him something which had come from the
incorruptible body of the holy man, for he believed
that by means thereof he might, with the blessing of
God, return to health. The attendant, having first
consulted the abbot, brought the shoes which the man
of God had worn in the tomb, and having stripped the
poor man’s feet naked, put them upon him; for it was
in his feet that the palsy had first attacked him.
This he did at the beginning of the night, when
bedtime was drawing near. A deep sleep immediately
came over him, and as the stillness of night advanced,
the man felt a palpitation in his feet alternately, so
that the attendants, who were awake and looking on,
perceived that the virtue of the holy man’s relics was
beginning to exert its power, and that the desired
restoration of health would ascend upwards from the
feet. As soon as the monastery bell struck the hour
of midnight prayer, the invalid himself was awakened
by the sound and sat up. He found his nerves and the
joints of his limbs suddenly endowed with inward
strength: his pains were gone; and perceiving that he
was cured, he arose, and in a standing posture spent
the whole time of the midnight or matin song in
thanksgiving to God.”
The years passed, and as the condition of
the oratory on the island of Farne was deteriorating,
Cuthbert’s successor, Ethelwald, had its walls patched
up with clay and hay and nailed a calf’s skin in the
corner where he and Cuthbert before him used to kneel
or stand when they prayed. Twelve years later
Ethelwald passed on, and Felgeld became the third
inhabitant of the dwelling. Ealfrid, bishop of
Lindisfarne, had the oratory completely renovated.
Many devotees visiting the island begged Felgeld to
give them a small portion of the relics of Cuthbert or
Ethelwald. “He accordingly determined to cut up the
above-named calf’s skin to pieces, and give a portion
to each. But he first experienced its influence in
his own person: for his face was much deformed by a
swelling and a red patch. The symptoms of this
deformity had become manifest long before to the
monks, whilst he was dwelling among them. But now
that he was living alone, and bestowed less care on
his person, and rarely enjoyed the sun or air, the
malady increased, and his face became one large red
swelling. Fearing that he would have to abandon the
solitary life and return to the monastery, he trusted
to heal himself by the aid of those holy men whose
house he dwelt in, and whose holy life he sought to
imitate. He steeped a piece of the calf’s skin in
water, and washed his face therewith, whereupon the
swelling was immediately healed, and the scar
After the second Viking raid on Lindisfarne in
875, the relics of Cuthbert’s body were moved to
several sites until they rested in Durham in 995,
where the casket was enshrined in 999. There it was
visited by William the Conqueror in 1069. In 1104,
when Cuthbert had been dead 418 years, the casket was
opened, and the body was found to be still smelling
sweet, and uncorrupt. [now, the bodies of other
mystics have often been preserved naturally for an
unusual length of time. In living memory Paramahansa
Yogananda’s body remained in a similar uncorrupt state
for quite some time, after his death in 1952. Details
can be obtained from the SRF, (
) I just went downstairs, to check that website
reference, and the radio was playing George Gershwyn’s
“Someone to Watch Over Me!” I wonder who that is!]
In 1537 when Henry VIII’s commissioners were sent
out to destroy the monasteries, St. Cuthbert’s tomb
was desecrated. They found many valuable ornaments and
jewels, and on opening the chest, which was bound with
iron, they discovered his body still whole and
uncorrupt. They had expected to see nothing but dust
and ashes. His face was bare, and looked like having
two weeks’ growth of beard on it. He was still wearing
his religious vestments. The monks were allowed to
re-bury him in the ground under the shrine. This was
opened again almost 300 years later, in 1827, and this
time the body had become a skeleton, still clothed in
the by then decaying garments.
St. Cuthbert became associated with cooperative
stores in South-East Scotland in the late nineteenth
century, and his name still appears on countless

Précis reviewed by Richard R. from Bede: “The
Life and Miracles of St. Cuthbert, Bishop of
Lindisfarne”(second edition, published in 721 C.E.)
translated by J.A. Giles in “Ecclesiastical History of
the English Nation,” Everyman’s Library 479,
(London: J.M.Dent; 1910)

Passages in quotes ‘ – ’ “ – ” are direct
quotations from the translated text.
Historical facts obtained from the Internet Medieval
Source Book:

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