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E06030: In the Anonymous Life of *Cuthbert (bishop and anchorite of Lindisfarne (north-east Britain), ob. 687, S01955), the author records the translation of the saint 11 years after death, and how his body, vestments, and shoes were found incorrupt; and later, how a paralysed boy was healed by wearing those shoes. Written in Latin by a monk of Lindisfarne, 699/705.

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posted on 2018-07-20, 00:00 authored by bsavill
The Anonymous Life of Cuthbert (BHL 2019)

For an overview of the Anonymous Life of Cuthbert, see E05871.

Book four, chapter 14
Nam etenim post annos xi spiritu sancto suadente et docente consilio a decanibus facto, et a sancto episcopo Eadberhto licentia data, reliquias ossium sancti Cudberhti episcopi totius familiae probatissimi uiri de sepulchro proposuerunt eleuare. Inuenerunt itaque in prima apertione sepulchri, quod dictu mirum est totum corpus tam integrum, quam ante annos xi deposuerunt. Non enim marcescente et senescente cute et arescentibus neruis strennue corpus erectum et rigidum est, sed membra plena uiuaciter in articulis motabilia requiescebant. Collum enim capitis et genua crurum sicut uiuentis hominis. Eleuantes eum de sepulchro, ut uoluerunt flectere potuerunt. Omnia autem uestimenta et calciamenta quae pelli corporis eius adherebant, attrita non erant. Nam sudarium reuoluentes quo capud eius cingebantur, pristine candiditatis pulchritudinem custodiens, et ficones noui quibus calciatus est, in basilica nostra contra reliquiis pro testimonio, usque hodie habentur.

'After eleven years, through the prompting and instruction of the Holy Spirit, after a council had been held by the elders and licence had been given by the holy Bishop Eadberht, the most faithful men of the whole congregation decided to raise the relics of the bones of the holy Bishop Cuthbert from his sepulchre. And, on first opening the sepulchre, they found a thing marvellous to relate, namely that the whole body was as undecayed as when they had buried it eleven years before. The skin had not decayed or grown old, nor the sinews become dry, making the body tautly stretched and stiff; but the limbs lay at rest with all the appearance of life and were still moveable at the joints. For his neck and knees were like those of a living man; and when they wished to lift him from the tomb, they could bend him as they wished. None of his vestments and footwear which touched the flesh of his body had worn away. They unwound the headcloth in which his head was wrapped and found that it kept all the beauty of its first whiteness; and the new shoes, with which he was shod, are preserved in our church over against the relics, for a testimony, up to this present day.'

Book four, chapter 17
Miraculum aliud simile huic silentio non praetereo, quod in praesenti anno factum est. Fuit namque quidam adolescens paraliticus de alio monasterio in plaustro deductus ad medicos edoctos cenobii nostri. Illi enim omni cura eum qui pene cunctis membris mortifactis dissolutus iacebat, medere ceperunt, nihilque proficientes, post longum laborem omnino deseruerunt, disperantes curare eum. Puer itaque desertum se a medicis carnalibus ut uidit, plorans et lacrimans ministro suo dixit, Primum utique mihi hoc malum desolutionis et mortificationis inchoans. Ideo namque deposco ab abbate calciamenta que circumdederunt pedes sancti martyris Dei incorruptibilis, et secundum consilium eius ficones detulit, pedibus suis nocte illa circumdedit, et requieuit. Surgens in matutinis quod dictu mirum est, Domino laudem stans cantauit, qui prius pene absque lingua nullum membrum mouere potuit. Crastina autem die circuibat loca sanctorum martyrum, gratias agens Domino, quod meritis sancti episcopi secundum fidem eius pristine sanitati redditus est.

'I will not pass over in silence a miracle similar to this which only happened this year. There was a certain youth, a paralytic, who was brought in a wagon from another monastery to the skilled physicians of our monastery. They began to try every cure on him as he lay with almost all his limbs mortified and powerless. After toiling long, they had no success and gave up altogether, despairing of curing him. When the boy saw himself deserted by human doctors, he said to his servant with lamentations and fears: "This powerlessness and mortification first began from my feet and so spread through all my members. So I ask the abbot for the shoes which were on the feet of the holy and incorruptible martyr of God." According to his counsel, the servant brought the shoes and he put them on his feet that night and rested. He arose in the morning and, marvellous to relate, he stood up and sang praise to the Lord, he who before could hardly move any of his members except his tongue. On the next day he went round the places of the sacred martyrs, giving thanks to the Lord because he had been restored to his former health, according to his faith, through the merits of the holy bishop.'

Text and translation: Colgrave 1940, 130-33.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Cuthbert, bishop and anchorite of Lindisfarne (north-east Britain), ob. 687 : S01955 Martyrs, unnamed or name lost : S00060

Saint Name in Source

Cudberhtus martyres

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Britain and Ireland

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Lindisfarne St Albans St Albans Verulamium

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - monastic

Cult activities - Activities Accompanying Cult

  • Meetings and gatherings of the clergy

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities Bodily incorruptibility

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Children Physicians

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Raising of relics Contact relic - saint’s possession and clothes


The Anonymous Life of Cuthbert survives in seven continental manuscripts, the earliest of which was written in a late 9th or early 10th century Insular hand, probably at Saint-Bertin (north-east Gaul). The author makes clear in his prologue (1. 1) that he is writing at Lindisfarne (a major monastic centre and episcopal see of Irish origin, in north-east Britain), under the instructions of Bishop Eadfrith (?698-?721). His remarks on Cuthbert’s translation (698) as having taken place at least one year ago (4. 17), and to Aldfrith (king of the Northumbrians, 686-705) as the current ruler (3. 6), narrow the date of its composition to 699/705. The probability, moreover, that the Life was commissioned with the express aim of celebrating the translation and promoting the new cult suggests that we can fairly confidently date it as early as 699/700 (Thacker 2016). The Anonymous Life appears to have become immediately well known within Northumbrian ecclesiastical circles. Stephen of Ripon drew upon its text several times in his Life of Wilfrid (c. 713), and Bede reworked it on three occasions, in his verse and prose Lives of the saint (c. 705 and c. 720), and in his Ecclesiastical History (731). Since Bede, who usually identifies his sources, never names the author of the earliest Life, we may safely assume that it circulated as an anonymous work from its earliest appearance. For an overview of the Anonymous Life of Cuthbert, see E05871.


Although the author's description of Cuthbert's translation is more or less conventional, his remarks on the incorruptibility of the saint's clothing, in particular his shoes (ficones), seem to have had special implications for the accessibility of the new cult via contact relics, as the episode with the paralysed boy in ch. 17 appears to confirm (see further Thacker 2017, on the physical setting and accessibility of Cuthbert's shrine). The author's comment that, on the day following his healing, the boy 'went round the places of the sacred martyrs, giving thanks to the Lord' (crastina autem die circuibat loca sanctorum martyrum, gratias agens Domino) is obscure: it is unclear whether this refers to relics or shrines of other 'martyrs' at Lindisfarne, or further afield in Northumbria; in either case, their identity is unclear. Since the author also describes Cuthbert as a 'martyr' earlier in this same passage, his use of the term may be somewhat liberal.


Edition and translation: Colgrave, B., Vita sancti Cuthberti auctore anonymo, in: Colgrave, Two Lives of Saint Cuthbert: A Life by an Anonymous Monk of Lindisfarne and Bede’s Prose Life (Cambridge, 1940), 59-139. Further Reading: Cubitt, C., "Memory and Narrative in the Cult of the Early Anglo-Saxon Saints," in: Y. Hen and M. Innes (eds.), The Uses of the Past in the Early Middle Ages (Cambridge, 2000), 29-66. Goffart, W., The Narrators of Barbarian History (AD 550-800): Jordanes, Gregory of Tours, Bede and Paul the Deacon (Princeton, 1988), 258-70. Rollason, D., and Dobson, R.B., "Cuthbert [St Cuthbert] (c. 635-687)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004), Stancliffe, C., "Cuthbert and the Polarity between Pastor and Solitary," in: G. Bonner, D. Rollason, and C. Stancliffe (eds.), St Cuthbert, His Cult and His Community to AD 1200 (Woodbridge, 1989), 21-44. Stancliffe, C., "Disputed Episcopacy: Bede, Acca, and the Relationship between Stephen’s Life of St Wilfrid and the Early Prose Lives of St Cuthbert," Anglo-Saxon England 41 (2012), 7-39. Thacker, A., "Shaping the Saint: Rewriting Tradition in the Early Lives of St Cuthbert," in: R. Flechner and M. Niì Mhaonaigh (eds.), The Introduction of Christianity into the Early Medieval Insular World: Converting the Isles I (Turnhout, 2016), 399-429. Thacker, A., "The Saint in his Setting: The Physical Environment of Shrines before 850," in: M. Coombe, A. Mouron, and C. Whitehead (eds.), Saints of North-East England, 600-1500 (Turnhout, 2017), 41-68.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity