Celebrating St Cuthbert, even as coffin fragment goes to highest bidder

The segment of St Cuthbert's coffin

The segment of St Cuthbert's coffin

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter (Durham)

CELEBRATIONS have taken place marking St Cuthbert’s Day - as part of the revered northern saint’s coffin is about to be sold at auction.

The feast day of the 7th century Bishop of Lindisfarne was marked today (Thursday, March 20) with a special service and procession at Durham Cathedral, which was built in his honour.

But even as clergy said prayers his shrine, an auction house announced the planned sale of a fragment of his coffin and a robe found within.

The items, preserved in a 19th century display box, are from the collection of Ian Curry, the Durham Cathedral architect from 1976 to 1997, who died in 2012.

But they are believed to have been removed as souvenirs by Canon James Raine when he opened Cuthbert’s coffin in 1827.

The casket, however, was also opened in 1899, 1946 and 1978.

Julian Thomson, director of Newcastle-based auctioneers Anderson and Garland, said: “It’s very unusual.

“We haven’t sold any of the fragments before. They have been spread to the four corners of the world.

“This is a one-off and we’re hoping for interest from religious houses and museums.”

However, despite the attention, the estimated sale price is only £200 to £300.

St Cuthbert was born near Melrose Abbey and became a monk after seeing a vision of St Aidan, the founder of Lindisfarne, in 651AD.

He was made Bishop of Lindisfarne in 684 but by late 686 had resigned and lived in isolation on the tiny island of Inner Farne, off the Northumberland coast, where he died on March 20, 687.

His body is said to have survived intact and he is credited with numerous miracles.

A spokeswoman for Durham Cathedral, which is considering bidding for the treasure, said: “Canon Raine gave several pieces as gifts to friends and they do sometimes turn up.

“Perhaps Mr Curry bought this item in an antique shop.”

St Cuthbert’s Day celebrations continue on Saturday with the Northumbrian Association’s annual pilgrimage from Chester-le-Street to Durham and various family activities at the cathedral.

The auction will be held on Thursday (March 27). For further details, visit andersonandgarland.com

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