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Relics of St Cuthbert go on display at Durham Cathedral

The Treasures of St Cuthbert exhibition launch at Durham Cathedral (Picture: DAVID WOOD)

Relics of one of Britain’s earliest saints, St Cuthbert, have gone on display in Durham Cathedral.

The centrepiece of the permanent exhibition at the cathedral – which was built in his honour – is an oak coffin, made in Lindisfarne in AD 698, 11 years after Cuthbert’s death. Other exhibits include the saint’s pectoral cross – Cuthbert was called back from his hermit’s cell to become a bishop – and his ivory comb.

Cuthbert’s body and relics were carried by Lindisfarne’s monks when they fled inland to escape Viking raids. They eventually settled in Durham, which became a place of pilgrimage. Although his shrine was destroyed in the Reformation, his relics survived, and his remains were finally reburied in the cathedral in 1899.

The exhibition is housed in the cathedral’s 14th-century Great Kitchen, one of only two monastic kitchens to survive.

“The launch of the Treasures of St Cuthbert on permanent display in their new home marks a new phase in the life of Durham Cathedral and its exhibition experience Open Treasure,” said the Very Rev Andrew Tremlett, Dean of Durham.

“It is very fitting that the final jewel in the crown of Open Treasure is centred on St Cuthbert, in whose honour Durham Cathedral was built.”

TV historian Dr Janina Ramirez said: “It is the most intact glimpse of our medieval past focused on possibly one of the most important Englishmen of the period, St Cuthbert.

“These artefacts bring the time and character to life and to have them exhibited in one of the few remaining monastic kitchens in the country is extraordinary.”