St. Cuthbert’s Cave is located in the Kyloe Hills in Northumberland. Made of sandstone and equipped with a natural shelter-like overhang that’s supported by a singular rock pillar, the cave is thought to have been where the Lindisfarne monks chose to temporarily place the body of St. Cuthbert during 875 AD after the Vikings raided the Holy Island.
Who Was Saint Cuthbert?
Saint Cuthbert is recognized for the inspiration he had as a preacher and is credited for spreading the teachings of Christianity throughout the North of England. During Cuthbert’s younger years, he tended sheep and was often in close vicinity to the Melrose Abbey, which is now a part of Scotland. Historical accounts indicate that at the age of sixteen, he had a vision “of the soul of St. Aidan being carried to heaven by angels.” Most likely, this vision along with the influence he received from the monks of Melrose Abbey played an important role in his decision to eventually join the monastery.
His dedication to the monastery was highly praised and his strong desire for peace, as well as his unyielding patience, tact, and evangelism allowed his leadership to bring peace between Roman rule and Celtic Christianity.
Soon after, Cuthbert was granted leave by the abbot, at his own request, in 676 where he retreated into living as a hermit. However, in 685, he was convinced to return to the church where he became Bishop of Lindisfarne.
However, Cuthbert felt death at his door and in 687 he died. His body was laid to rest in a tomb at Lindisfarne Priory, but he would not easily be forgotten. Having been such an influential preacher, many people made pilgrimages to visit his tomb and even claimed that Cuthbert was performing miracles there. These reports became so numerous that he eventually earned the name “Wonder-worker of England.”
St. Cuthbert’s Arrival to the Renowned St. Cuthbert’s Cave
During 875 AD the Northumbrian coast was invaded by the Vikings, which led to the Lindisfarne monks leaving the monastery. Upon their departure, they rescued St. Cuthbert’s coffin and carried it with them as they trekked the northeastern parts of England for 7 years, until stopping at the sandstone cave where they placed his body.
The monks and Cuthbert’s coffin would eventually move to various other locations due to raids by the Danish, an apparent prayer response from Cuthbert to the monks, and a reformation. However, St. Cuthbert’s Cave still stands and can be reached via a long footpath so accurately dubbed St. Cuthbert’s Way.
Through the millennia, the cave has exchanged hands. During the 19th Century, the entrance was covered by stone and used as a ‘lambing shed.’ In the 1930s it was owned by a family and consecrated as a burial ground, and still displays memorials for various family members.
Today, St. Cuthbert’s Cave is managed and protected by the National Trust and attracts visitors from near and far. Although St. Cuthbert’s remains are no longer there, the place is nevertheless a rich part of history and an homage to Christianity.