The cloisters at Durham Cathedral
Saint Barthélemy de Farne
Ermite bénédictin (+ 1193)
Né en Angleterre dans le Northumbria sous le nom de Tostig. Il prit le nom de William et quitta son pays pour parcourir l'Europe. Appelé à se convertir, il émigra un temps en Norvège puis, de retour en Angleterre, il prit le nom de Barthélemy (Bartholomew) et entra au monastère de Durham. Il avait une grande dévotion pour saint Cuthbert qui lui apparut et alla s'installer dans l'ancienne cellule de cet ermite sur l'île de Farne et y resta 41 ans.
A découvrir aussi:
- Little-known Saints of the North (en anglais) site internet 'la sainte île de Lindisfarne'
Tostig-Bartholomew de Farne
Tostig naquit à Whitby (Yorkshire, Angleterre N) au début du 12e siècle, de parents scandinaves.
A l’école, ses petits camarades eurent vite fait d’ironiser sur son nom (Tostig évoquant immanquablement le toast anglais), de sorte que le garçon assuma un prénom bien anglais (et plus chrétien) : William.
Il eut bientôt des visions du Christ, de Marie et des Apôtres Pierre, Paul et Jean. Il gagna alors la Norvège, où il fut ordonné diacre et prêtre. Comme certains prêtres vivaient en concubinage, il arriva qu’on lui fit une proposition de mariage : William quitta la Norvège et retourna en Angleterre.
Il fut trois ans curé, puis il demanda à entrer au monastère de Durham, où il prit le nom de Bartholomew.
Une nouvelle vision, de saint Cuthbert cette fois-ci, (v. 20 mars) l’appela à l’île de Farne. Avec la permission de son Supérieur, il s’y installa donc, non loin d’un certain Aelwin, qui ne le supportait guère… et qui partit.
A venir le rejoindre, ce fut le tour du prieur de Durham, Thomas, qui avait dû quitter le monastère à la suite d’un différend avec l’évêque. Là encore, l’entente ne fut pas immédiate, mais la sainteté de Bartholomew l’emporta et les deux ermites vécurent pendant cinq années, dans la louange et l’ascèse quotidiennes.
Bartholomew assista fraternellement Thomas à sa mort. Il continua sa vie solitaire, vivant du lait de sa vache et du blé de son champ. On vint le voir et, tel Jean-Baptiste, il conseillait aux puissants d’adoucir leurs exigences (cf. Lc 3:10-14).
L’ermite demeura, dit-on, plus de quarante ans sur cette île. Devenu très âgé, il fut assisté par les moines proches de Lindisfarne.
Bartholomew mourut le 25 juin 1193 (même si l’on a proposé bien d’autres dates) ; les miracles accomplis sur sa tombe le firent vénérer comme Saint, mais il ne se trouve pas mentionné au Martyrologe.
Bartholomew of Farne, OSB Hermit (AC)
(also known as Bartholomew of Durham)
Born at Whitby, England; died c. 1193. Of the many pious men who were led by the example of Saint Cuthbert to become solitaries on the island of Farne, off the Northumbrian coast, not the least remarkable was this Bartholomew, for he spent no less than 42 years upon that desolate haunt of birds. His parents, who may have been of Scandinavian origin, called him Tostig, but because the name made him a laughing-stock it was changed to William. He determined to go abroad, and his wanderings led him to Norway, where he remained long enough to receive ordination as a priest. He returned home, and went to Durham, where he took the monastic habit and took the name Bartholomew. A vision he had of Saint Cuthbert inspired him to dedicate the rest of his life to God in the cell which Cuthbert had once occupied at Farne.
Upon his arrival he found another hermit already installed--a certain Brother Ebwin, who strongly resented his intrusion and who strove by petty persecution to drive him away. Bartholomew attempted no reprisals, but made it quite clear that he had come to stay. Ebwin eventually retired, leaving him in solitary possession.
The mode of life he embraced was one of extreme austerity, modelled upon that of the desert fathers. Later he was joined by a former prior of Durham called Thomas; but they could not agree. Their chief cause of dissension--sad to relate--was the amount of food ration. Thomas could not manage with as little as Bartholomew, and he went so far as to question the authenticity of what appeared to be his brother's extraordinary abstemiousness. Bartholomew, who seems to have been sensitive to criticism, was so offended at being charged with hypocrisy that he left the island and returned to Durham. There he remained in spite of the apologies of Thomas, until the bishop, a year later, ordered him back to Farne, when a reconciliation took place. Forewarned of his approaching death, Bartholomew announced it to some monks, who were with him when he died, and buried him on the island. He left a reputation for holiness and miracles, but there is no evidence of a liturgical cultus (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Walsh).
"From ancient time long past, this island has been inhabited by certain birds whose name and race miraculously persists. At the time of year for building nests, they gather here. And such gracious gentleness have they learned from the holiness of the place, or rather from those who made the place holy by their way of living there, that they have no shrinking from the handling or the gaze of men. They love quiet, and yet no clamor disturbs them. Their nests are built everywhere. Some brood above their eggs beside the altar. No man presumes to molest them or touch the eggs without leave. . . . And they in turn do harm to no man's store for food. They seek it with their mates upon the waves of the seas. The ducklings, once they are reared, follow behind their mothers who lead the way, and once they have entered their native waters, come no more back to the nest.
"The mothers too, their mild and gentle way of life forgotten, receive their ancient state and instinct with the sea. This is the high prerogative of the island, which, had it come to the knowledge of the scholars of old time, would have had its fair fame blazoned through the earth.
"But at one time it befell, whilst a mother was leading her brood, herself going on before that one of the youngsters fell down a cleft of a creviced rock. The mother stood by in distress, and let no one doubt but that she was then endowed with human reason. For she forthwith turned about, left her youngsters behind, came to Bartholomew, and began tugging at the hem of his cloak with her beak, as if to say plainly: 'Get up and follow me and give me back my son.'
"He rose at once for her, thinking that he must be sitting on her nest. But as she kept on tugging more and more, he perceived at last that she was asking something from him that she could not come at by voice. And indeed her action was eloquent, if not her discourse. On she went, she first and he after, till coming to the cliff she pointed to the place with her bill, and gazing at Bartholomew, intimated with what signs she could that he was to peer inside.
"Coming closer, he saw the duckling, with its small wings clinging to the rock, and climbing down he brought it back to its mother, who in high delight seemed by her joyous look to give him thanks. Whereupon she took to the water with her sons, and Bartholomew, dumb with astonishment, went back to his oratory" (Geoffrey).
Bartholomew of Durham
Descendant of Scandanavian immigrants to England. Because of the teasing he endured as a child, he changed his name from Tostig to William. A dissolute youth, he eventually left home to wander in Europe, possibly to avoid settling down in an arranged marriage. He experienced a conversion experience along with way, and emigrated for a while to his ancestral Norway where he worked as a missionary and ordained a priest.
William returned to England, and entered the Benedictine monastery at Durham, taking the name Bartholomew. He had a great devotion to Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, received a vision of him, and eventually moved into Cuthbert‘s old cell on the island of Farne, spending 41 of his remaining 42 years there. The only break came when a dispute with the only other hermit in the hermitage caused him to pack up and return to Durham; his bishop eventually ordered him to act like he had good sense, and return to his cell.
SAINT BARTHOLOMEW of FARNE
Feast Day 24th June
A rumbustious, rugged individual, Bartholomew was born at Whitby to Scandinavian parents and was given the name Tostig. This name seemed to cause such ridicule that as soon as he was able he changed it to William. By all accounts he was a most dissolute youth, but a change to his way of living came when he refused, what was probably an arranged, marriage. He fled to Norway and became a priest there. Returning to England he spent three years in parochial ministry. Sometime in the late 1140s he became a monk at Durham, as a novice he had a vision of Christ on the Rood inclining his head towards him and stretching out his arms to embrace him. He was greatly moved by his vision, the first of many, that soon after his profession he went to live, as a hermit on the island of Inner Fame, made famous by Cuthbert, here, except for a few short intervals, he spent the rest of his life.
Bartholomew relished the stormy weather and arduous conditions on this exposed site and practised with extraordinary vigour the privations and penances customary to the hermit life. Never easy to get on with, Bartholomew soon so annoyed another hermit, Aelwin that he left, never to return. Years later he shared the island with the ex-prior Thomas, but the two could not agree about the quantity and duration of their meals. This time Bartholomew returned to Durham for a short time; but they soon came to an agreement and lived afterwards in peace.
But Bartholomew had another side to his character, it is said he was continually cheerful, he loved fishing and had a great fondness of his pet bird, he showed great generosity to his many visitors. He was no respecter of persons, often rebuking the rich and powerful, who sometimes were so struck by his venerable presence that they abandoned oppression and took to alms giving. Once a Flemish woman, a friend of his early life, visited him and was so indignant at being refused entry to the chapel, saying she was treated like a dog, but when she tried to enter she was thrown on her back, "as if by a whirlwind". She recovered only at Bartholomew's intervention.
For most of his 42 years on Inner Fame Bartholomew spent his life praying and working, he was often heard striding over the island singing psalms, praising God in his splendid voice. Eventually he was stricken by a painful illness. Just before his death in 1193 he carved his own sarcophagus, possibly identical to the one that stands just outside the chapel to this day. After his death a local cult quickly sprang up and miracles were reported at his tomb. Bartholomew must have been both a headache and inspiration to the authorities and a delight to everyone else he came into contact with.