The Life of St. Cuthbert, Minature Showing Discovery of His Incorrupt Body
Medium: Ink, pigments and gold on vellum
This illuminated manuscript of the Life of St Cuthbert was made in Durham during the 1180s as part of Bishop Puiset’s revitalisation of the saint’s cult. It remained a part of the cathedral’s rich furnishings until at least the early-15th century. The miniature shown here illustrates the moment when St Cuthbert’s coffin was opened and his body found to be undecayed eleven years after his death in 687 – a sure sign of saintliness. Not only was his body incorrupt but his clothes, the text tells us, “seemed to be perfectly new and wondrously bright”. Cuthbert is not shown as a monk of his own day but as a late-12th-century bishop, dressed in just the kind of rich vestments that Bishop Puiset himself would have worn.