Attitudes to St Cuthbert’s Body during the Nineteenth Century
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O'Brien, C. (2016). Attitudes to St Cuthbert’s Body during the Nineteenth Century. Northern History https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/253957
St Cuthbert’s tomb in Durham Cathedral was opened in 1827, occasioning the start of a cycle of polemic and counter-polemic between Protestant and Roman Catholic writers throughout the rest of the century. The excavation of 1827 aimed to disprove the medieval legends about the incorruption of Cuthbert’s body but it (and the many texts which debated its findings throughout the course of the nineteenth century) must be understood in the light of local religious controversy as much as of Victorian antiquarianism. The texts which addressed the issue of Cuthbert’s body in the years which followed were concerned with religious, as well as historical, truth and reveal shifting attitudes in both the Anglican and Catholic communities to the role of saints, miracles and relics within their own forms of Christianity. While this paper mainly concerns a comparatively small element of Victorian religious debate, one focused upon issues of local interest and identity, it problematizes some of the traditional paradigms used to understand nineteenth-century scholarship. Not the increasing secularisation of historical practice and antiquarianism, but the continuing, albeit changing, importance of Durham’s patron saint, is the most striking feature of the dispute.
Durham, St Cuthbert, antiquarianism, sectarianism, miracles, sanctity
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/253957