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Image: Embroidered

14 March 2012



Embroidered: a medieval religious banner, which symbol­ised the independence of north-eastern England, has been recreated, and will be unfurled this month for the first time, writes Paul Wilkinson.

For centuries, Northumbrians fought under the banner of their patron saint, St Cuthbert, which hung in Durham Cathedral. But it was burned after the Reformation.

Now, a new version has been produced for the Northumbrian Association, to coincide with the temp­or­ary return of the Lindisfarne Gospels to Durham next year. It will lead the annual St Cuthbert’s Day proces­sion on 20 March, which replicates the last journey, in AD 995, of the saint’s body, from a chapel in Chester-le-Street to his present resting-place in Durham Cathedral.

It was the idea of the Association’s historian, Chris Kilkenny. “I just decided one day that it was about time we had this banner back. . . The one thing that showed the identity of the north-east was St Cuthbert.”

Although no image of the banner survives, its mod­ern replacement is based on a detailed description in the medieval Durham Book of Rites. Its embroid­erer, Ruth O’Leary, worked on it for more than 800 hours.

The £35,000 cost was met by the Association’s president, John Cuthbert, a former managing director of Northumbrian Water, and his wife Lyn. The couple were married in the chapel in Chester-le-Street where St Cuthbert’s remains lay until their translation to Durham Cathedral.

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