A WRITER and a photographer are to step into the shoes of medieval monks to retrace the long and tortuous journey of St Cuthbert’s remains.

To celebrate the return of the Lindisfarne Gospels to Durham this summer, Richard W Hardwick and Paul Alexander Knox will travel the whole wandering route taken by monks carrying the revered saint’s body after they had fled Viking raids on Holy Island in the ninth century.

From mid-April, the pair will visit 47 towns and villages where the monastic community is said to have taken refuge: meeting people, seeing places and imagining how life would have been for those monks more than 1,100 years ago.

They will blog about their pilgrimage and later produce a photography show, book and touring exhibition.

It is also hoped their work will transform the monks’ route into a national tourist trail.

Mr Hardwick, of Hartlepool, said: “The North of England has a great history – from ancient Northumbria and early Christianity, from the Anglo-Scottish Wars and the Border Reivers, to industry and resource that helped fuel an empire.

“This project will link villages and towns to a vital moment in the country’s history and help celebrate their people and history from the ninth century right up to 2013.”

Mr Hardwick, who teaches creative writing at the notorious Frankland Prison, near Durham, and is writer-in-residence at Durham University’s School of Applied Sciences, and Mr Knox, an award-winning documentary photographer from Gateshead, are hoping to recruit 47 Durham students to aid their research.

After abandoning Lindisfarne, the monks are said to have wandered modern day Northumberland, the Scottish Borders, Cumbria and Yorkshire before settling in Chester-le-Street seven years later. They reached Durham in 995, leading to the founding of Durham Cathedral.

The St Cuthbert’s Final Journey project, funded by The Leverhulme Trust, is part of a regionwide cultural celebration marking the Lindisfarne Gospels loan from the British Library, in London, to Palace Green Library, Durham, from July 1 to September 30.

To find out more, visit stcuthbertsfinaljourney.com or lindisfarnegospels.com