On what is the feast day today of St Cuthbert, it has emerged that a piece of the northern saint’s coffin is to be sold at auction.
The fragments of coffin and robe from St Cuthbert’s shrine are mounted in a display box thought to date from the 19th Century.
They will be sold on March 27 by auctioneers Anderson & Garland in Newcastle, with an estimate of £200-£300.
The item has come from the collection of the late Ian Curry, who was Durham Cathedral architect from 1976-1997, and who died in 2012.
He served as president of Sunderland Antiquarian Society and was a member of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne .
The shrine of St Cuthbert at Durham Cathedral was opened in 1827 by Canon James Raine, and several pieces of the coffin and cloth were removed.
James Raine was an antiquarian and clergyman who held a variety of positions, including librarian to the dean and chapter of Durham and rector of Meldon in Northumberland .
In 1899, the shrine was opened again by antiquarian and canon William Greenwell, who was born in Lanchester in County Durham and was an early graduate of the new Durham University.
The pieces of the coffin were removed and the casket was partially restored in 1946 and again in 1978.
Yesterday, cathedral head of marketing and events Ruth Robson said: “Canon Raine gave several pieces as gifts to friends and they do sometimes turn up.
“Perhaps Mr Curry bought this item in an antique shop.”
He was a leading national figure in the field of architectural conservation and the care of churches and cathedrals.
He served on the Newcastle and Durham diocesan advisory committee for the care of churches.
The item has come from his estate.
The coffin will be among items which, it is planned, will be displayed next year as part of the cathedral’s major Open Treasure project.
The first three-year phase of the project will tell the story of the previously “hidden” cathedral spaces, revealing their historical and architectural significance through the creation of a new exhibition route which will begin at the Monks’ Dormitory and end in the Great Kitchen.
These new exhibition spaces will allow the cathedral to display more of the treasures in its internationally important collection, which it currently lacks both the space and specialist facilities to do.
Today will see the annual festal evensong and Procession of St Cuthbert at the cathedral.
On Saturday there will be family events at the cathedral and free tours.
The Northumbrian Association will hold its annual walk on Saturday in honour of St Cuthbert, symbolising the arrival of the body of the saint and relics at Durham in 995AD.