Durham Day (Saint Cuthbert’s Day) Date in the current year: March 20, 2024

Durham Day (Saint Cuthbert’s Day) In some English ceremonial counties, county day coincides with the observance of the their patron saint’s feast day. For example, Durham Day is celebrated on March 20 because it is Saint Cuthbert’s Day.

Saint Cuthbert was a monk and bishop in the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria that encompassed what is now Northern England and South East Scotland. One of the most revered Anglo-Saxon saints, he is regarded as the patron saint of Northumbria.

Cuthbert was born circa 634 in Dunbar, shortly after King Edwin’s conversion to Christianity. Little is known about his early life; he was probably born to a noble family and underwent some military service before joining the Melrose Abbey. According to legend, Cuthbert decided to become a monk due to a vision of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne the night the saint died.

When Boisil, the prior of the Melrose Abbey, died in 661, Cuthbert succeeded him as the prior. Several years later, he went as prior to the island of Lindisfarne. Soon Cuthbert became famous for his piety, diligence, obedience, asceticism, charm, and generosity to the poor. People from all over Northumbria came to consult the “Wonder Worker of Britain”.

For a number of years, Cuthbert traveled the country as a missionary. He is credited with founding an oratory in the Scottish village of Dull and a church in Edinburgh. In 676, Cuthbert retired to pursue a contemplative life. He isolated himself on the Island of Inner Farm and at some point even stopped receiving visitors, opening the window of his cell to give his blessing. He only made an exception for Ælfflæd, the daughter of King Oswiu and the newly appointed abbess of Whitby Abbey.

In 684, Cuthbert was elected Bishop of Hexham. However, he was reluctant to end his retirement and take up the duties of bishop; it took a visit from a large group of people, which included King Ecgfrith, to convince him to change his mind. Instead of Hexham, he went to Lindisfarne, swapping with Eata of Lindisfarne. Cuthbert was consecrated on March 26, 685.

He spent less than two years on Lindisfarne before returning to Inner Farne after the Christmas of 686 due to his ailing health. Cuthbert died in his cell on March 20, 687 and was buried at Lindisfarne the same day.

Cuthbert’s relics were kept at the monastery of Lindisfarne for two centuries. After the Danes took the monastery in 875, the monks fled and took the relics with them. For more than a century, they moved from place to place until Saint Cuthbert’s bier miraculously came to a halt at where is now the city of Durham. The construction of Durham Cathedral, where Saint Cuthbert’s relics are currently housed, began in 1093.

On the occasion of Saint Cuthbert’s Day, Durham Cathedral organizes a variety of special events: a procession from the market square to the cathedral, symbolizing the arrival of the relics of Saint Cuthbert in Durham, a special prayer at the saint’s resting place, various performances, etc. If Saint Cuthbert’s Day falls on a weekday, the celebration may be moved to the next weekend.

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Saint Cuthbert’s Day in Durham, Durham Day, religious observances, ceremonial county day, holidays in Durham