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Bartholomew of Farne [St Bartholomew of Farne]locked

(d. 1193)
  • A. J. Piper

Bartholomew of Farne [St Bartholomew of Farne] (d. 1193), hermit, stands second in reputation only to Godric of Finchale among the hermits of northern England in the twelfth century. Just as Godric's fame depends on the life written by Reginald, a monk of Durham, so Bartholomew's rests very largely on the shorter life produced by another Durham monk, Geoffrey, who wrote within twenty years of his subject's death, and may well have been the author of the portion of the Durham chronicle attributed to Geoffrey of Coldingham.

This life provides all the concrete information that is available on Bartholomew. It recounts that he was born in the area (provincia) of Whitby and was given the Scandinavian name Tostius, changed in the face of juvenile mockery in favour of William. Prompted by a repeated vision of the Virgin Mary, in the company of Christ, St Peter, and St John, he abandoned youthful excesses. His travels took him to Norway for three years, where he accepted ordination as deacon and priest, but declined an offer of marriage. He returned to England, where he briefly had responsibility for a church in Northumberland, and then became a monk of Durham. In 1150, within a year of Bartholomew's admission, Prior Lawrence (r. 1149–54) acceded to his request, prompted by a vision of St Cuthbert, to embrace the life of a hermit on Farne, a small island just off the Northumberland coast, where Cuthbert himself had pursued the solitary life. Bartholomew apparently remained there for the rest of his life, apart from a brief return to Durham caused by dissension with Prior Thomas, who retired to Farne following his resignation, probably in 1162. Bartholomew's biographer records his care for the eider ducks for which Farne was famed, and which had been beloved of St Cuthbert.

Although Bartholomew was not the first Durham monk to reside on Farne, the long period that he spent there may well have contributed decisively to its taking on a permanent existence as one of the Durham monks' smallest dependent cells. During his last illness he was visited by monks from Durham's other cells in the vicinity, Holy Island and Coldingham. He died on 24 June 1193 on Farne and was buried in his oratory there, in the stone coffin that he himself had made for the purpose. He figures in a number of miracle stories, and, although not formally canonized, was taken into the canon of English saints through the work of the fourteenth-century northern hagiographer John of Tynemouth, which formed the basis for the Nova legenda Anglie printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1516.


  • Geoffrey, ‘Vita S. Bartholomei’, Symeon of Durham, Opera, 1.295–325
  • Reginaldi monachi Dunelmensis libellus de admirandis beati Cuthberti virtutibus, ed. [J. Raine], SurtS, 1 (1835)
  • E. Craster, ‘The miracles of St Cuthbert at Farne’, Analecta Bollandiana, 70 (1952), 9–19
  • J. Raine, The history and antiquities of north Durham (1852)
  • C. Horstman, ed., Nova legenda Anglie, as collected by John of Tynemouth, J. Capgrave, and others, 1 (1901), introduction, 101–6
T. Arnold, ed., , 2 vols., RS, 75 (1882–5); repr. (1965)
Surtees Society