Anglo-Saxon Britain (410-1066)
Taste and See : Wonder spread through a Tyneside monastery after Bishop Cuthbert asked for a drink of water.
Taste and See

Based on The Life of Cuthbert by St Bede of Jarrow (?672-735).

St Cuthbert was Bishop of Lindisfarne for just two years, but his overwhelming popularity did not come from high office. It came from his tireless journeys to forgotten villages in Northumbria’s bleak high country, taking the Christian message and a fatherly affection to every corner of the kingdom.

South Shields

A map of the British Isles (modern borders) showing the approximate extent of the Kingdom of Northumbria at its height, and the location of some of the places in this story.

A map showing places mentioned in this story (click to enlarge).

Thou hast kept the good wine until now.
John 2:10.

ONE day, a monk at the Monastery of St Peter in Monkwearmouth told Bede a remarkable tale about Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne.*

Following an arduous tour of Northumbria’s more remote villages, Cuthbert and one of his priests decided to stay the night at the monastery at South Shields, governed by Abbess Verca. They were kindly received by the community, and after an excellent meal Cuthbert was offered something to drink. ‘Wine, bishop? or beer?’ the nuns asked. But Cuthbert wanted only water.

Willing hands fetched water from the spring. The Bishop blessed it, took a few sips, and handed the cup back to one of Verca’s priests, who took a sip himself and started in surprise. He made two of his brethren try it, and amazement filled their faces.

It still looked like water, but it tasted like wine. Really good wine.

All this was absolutely true, Bede’s visitor assured him. For he was one of the monks who had tasted it.

* Cuthbert was appointed Bishop of Lindisfarne in 685, by King Ecgfrith of Northumbria; the events in this story appear to belong to the first year of his short episcopate – he died in 687. In 682 Bede (673-735) moved from the Monastery of St Peter at Monkwearmouth to St Paul’s in Jarrow, but the two monasteries, both founded by Bede’s Abbot, St Benedict Biscop, remained closely in touch.

Based on The Life of Cuthbert by St Bede of Jarrow (?672-735).

More like this

Lives of the Saints (98) History (419) Anglo-Saxon History (45) St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (13) Northumbrian Enlightenment (30) Northumberland (26) Bible and Saints (113)

Picture: © Bob Jones, Geograph. Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0. View original
The vineyard at Wyken Hall in Suffolk. Vines grow well in southern Britain, but the country’s northernmost commercial vineyard today is said to be the Ryedale Vineyards a few miles northeast of York, not far from Bishop Cuthbert’s monastery at Crayke (see our story Crayke Abbey). Cuthbert’s ‘wine’ came from a spring at a monastery probably located in modern-day South Shields, just south of the River Tyne on the east coast of England.

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