Cloisters of Saint John Lateran, Rome. Source:

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Durham Cathedral.

Text and Illustrations taken from Wikipedia - the free encyclopaedia,
unless otherwise stated.

Durham Cathedral.
Author: Domstu
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Cathedral Church of Christ, Blessed Mary The Virgin, and Saint Cuthbert of Durham (usually known as Durham Cathedral) is a Cathedral in the City of Durham, England, the Seat of the Anglican Bishop of Durham. The Bishopric dates from 995 A.D., with the present Cathedral being founded in 1093. The Cathedral is regarded as one of the finest examples of Norman architecture and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with nearby Durham Castle, which faces it across Palace Green.

The present Cathedral replaced the 10th-Century "White Church", built as part of a Monastic Foundation to house the Shrine of Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne. The treasures of Durham Cathedral include relics of Saint Cuthbert, the head of Saint Oswald of Northumbria and the remains of The Venerable Bede. In addition, its Durham Dean and Chapter Library contains one of the most complete sets of early-printed books in England, the pre-Dissolution Monastic accounts, and three copies of The Magna Carta.

Durham Cathedral.
Available on YouTube at

Durham Cathedral occupies a strategic position on a promontory high above The River Wear. From 1080 until the 19th-Century, the Bishopric enjoyed the powers of a Bishop Palatine, having Military as well as Religious leadership and power. Durham Castle was built as the residence for The Bishop of Durham. The Seat of The Bishop of Durham is the fourth-most-significant in The Church of England hierarchy, and he stands at the Right-Hand of The Monarch at Coronations. [Editor: The four most significant Bishoprics in The Church of England are: Canterbury; York; London; Durham, followed by Winchester, Chester, Norwich, Bristol, Derby, Birmingham, Worcester, Coventry, Oxford]. Signposts for the modern-day County Durham are subtitled "Land of The Prince Bishops."

There are daily Church of England Services at The Cathedral, with The Durham Cathedral Choir singing daily, except Mondays, and when The Choir is on holiday. The Cathedral is a major tourist attraction within the region, the Central Tower of 217 feet (66 metres) giving views of Durham and the surrounding area.

The Nave, Durham Cathedral.
Note the massive Norman Columns.
Photo: August 2010.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The See of Durham takes its origins from The Diocese of Lindisfarne, Founded by Saint Aidan, at the behest of Oswald of Northumbria, around 635 A.D. The See lasted until 664 A.D., at which point it was Translated to York. The See was then re-instated at Lindisfarne in 678 A.D., by The Archbishop of Canterbury. Among the many Saints produced in The Community at Lindisfarne Priory, Saint Cuthbert, who was Bishop of Lindisfarne from 685 A.D., until his death on Farne Island in 687 A.D., is central to the development of Durham Cathedral.

After repeated Viking raids, the Monks fled Lindisfarne in 875 A.D., carrying Saint Cuthbert's relics with them. The Diocese of Lindisfarne remained itinerant until 882 A.D., when a Community was then re-established in Chester-le-Street, County Durham. The See had its Seat here until 995 A.D., when further incursions once again caused the Monks to move with the relics.

According to local legend, the Monks followed two milk maids who were searching for a dun (i.e. Brown) cow and were led into a Peninsula formed by a loop in The River Wear. At this point, Saint Cuthbert's coffin became immovable. This trope of hagiography was offered for a sign that the new Shrine should be built here. A more prosaic set of reasons for the selection of the Peninsula is its highly-defensible position, and that a Community established here would enjoy the protection of The Earl of Northumberland, as The Bishop at this time, Aldhun, had strong family links with The Earls of Northumberland. Nevertheless, the street leading from The Bailey, past The Cathedral's Eastern Towers, up to Palace Green, is named Dun Cow Lane.

Durham Cathedral.

Initially, a very simple temporary structure was built from local timber to house the relics of Saint Cuthbert. The Shrine was then Transferred to a sturdier, probably wooden, building known as The White Church. This Church was replaced three years later, in 998 A.D., by a stone building, also known as The White Church, which was complete, apart from its Tower, by 1018.

Durham soon became a site of Pilgrimage, encouraged by the growing cult of Saint Cuthbert. King Canute was one early Pilgrim, granting many privileges and much land to The Durham Community. The defendable position, flow of money from Pilgrims, and power embodied in The Church at Durham, ensured that a Town formed around The Cathedral, establishing the early core of the modern City.

The present Cathedral was designed and built under William of Saint Carilef (or William of Calais), who was appointed as the first Prince-Bishop by William the Conqueror in 1080. Since that time, there have been major additions and reconstructions of some parts of the building, but the greater part of the structure remains true to the Norman design.

The Screen, Durham Cathedral.
Photo: February 2009.
Source: From
Author: Paul Robson
(Wikimedia Commons)

Construction of the Cathedral began in 1093 at the Eastern End. The Choir was completed by 1096 and work proceeded on The Nave, of which the walls were finished by 1128, and The High Vault completed by 1135. The Chapter House, demolished in the 18th-Century, was built between 1133 and 1140. William of Calais died in 1099 before the building's completion, passing responsibility to his successor, Ranulf Flambard, who also built Flamwell Bridge, the first crossing of The River Wear in the Town. Three Bishops, William of Saint Carilef, Ranulf Flambard, and Hugh de Puiset, are all buried in the rebuilt Chapter House.

In the 1170s, Bishop Hugh de Puiset, after a false start at The Eastern End, where the subsidence and cracking prevented work from continuing, added The Galilee Chapel at The West End of The Cathedral. The five-Aisled building occupies the position of a Porch, it functioned as a Lady Chapel and The Great West Door was blocked during The Mediaeval Period by an Altar to The Virgin Mary. The Great West Door is now blocked by the tomb of Bishop Langley. The Galilee Chapel also holds the remains of The Venerable Bede. The main entrance to The Cathedral is on The Northern Side, facing towards the Castle.

The Cloisters, Durham Cathedral.
Photograph by Robin Widdison.
Date: 2006-08-04 (original upload date).
Originally from en.wikipedia; description page is/was here.
Transfer was stated to be made by User:Jalo.
Author: Original uploader was Robin Widdison at en.wikipedia
Released into the public domain (by the author).
(Wikimedia Commons)

In 1228, Richard Le Poore came from Salisbury, where a new Cathedral was being built in The Gothic Style. At this time, The Eastern End of The Cathedral was in urgent need of repair and the proposed Eastern extension had failed.

Richard Le Poore employed the architect Richard Farnham to design an Eastern Terminal for the building, in which many Monks could say The Daily Office simultaneously. The resulting building was The Chapel of The Nine Altars. The Towers date from the Early-13th Century, but The Central Tower was damaged by lightning and replaced in two stages in the 15th Century, the Master Masons being Thomas Barton and John Bell.

The Shrine of Saint Cuthbert was located in the Eastern Apsidal End of The Cathedral. The location of the inner wall of The Apse is marked on the Pavement, and Saint Cuthbert's tomb is covered by a simple slab. However, an unknown Monk wrote in 1593: [The Shrine] "was estimated to be one of the most sumptuous in all England, so great were the offerings and jewels bestowed upon it, and endless the Miracles that were wrought at it, even in these last days." — Rites of Durham.

Durham Cathedral.
Photo: July 2007.
Source: Own Work.
Author: --Immanuel Giel 13:01, 21 August 2007 (UTC)
(Wikimedia Commons)

Saint Cuthbert's tomb was destroyed on the orders of King Henry VIII in 1538, and the Monastery's wealth handed over to the King. The body of the Saint was exhumed, and, according to The Rites of Durham, was discovered to be uncorrupted. It was re-buried under a plain stone slab, but the ancient paving around it remains intact, worn by the knees of Pilgrims. Two years later, on 31 December 1540, The Benedictine Monastery at Durham was Dissolved, and the last Prior of Durham (Hugh Whitehead) became the first Dean of The Cathedral's secular Chapter.

After The Battle of Dunbar, on 3 September 1650, Durham Cathedral was used by Oliver Cromwell as a makeshift prison to hold Scottish prisoners-of-war. It is estimated that as many as 3,000 were imprisoned, of whom 1,700 died in the Cathedral, where they were kept in inhumane conditions, largely without food, water or heat. The prisoners destroyed much of the Cathedral woodwork for firewood, but Prior Castell's clock, which featured The Scottish Thistle, was spared. It is reputed that the prisoners' bodies were buried in unmarked graves. The survivors were shipped as slave labour to North America.

In 1946, during work to install a new central heating system for the University, a mass grave of the Scottish soldiers was allegedly uncovered. Towards the end of 2007, a campaign was launched to commemorate The Dunbar Martyrs. Further to this, and with the agreement of Durham University, Historic Scotland funded a geophysical survey of Palace Green. It was hoped that this might provide clarity on the final resting place of the dead, but results were inconclusive. During 2010, The Cathedral Chapter agreed to the installation of a Memorial Plaque within Saint Margaret of Scotland's Chapel at The Cathedral. The "Dunbar Martyr" campaigners are raising funds to assist with the cost of creation and installation of the Plaque, which will bear a Scottish Thistle.

Bishop John Cosin, who had previously been a Canon of The Cathedral, set about restoring the damage and refurnishing the building with new Stalls, the Litany Desk and the towering Canopy over the Font. An Oak Screen, to carry the Organ, was added at this time to replace a Stone Screen which was pulled down in the 16th-Century. On the remains of the old Refectory, The Dean, John Sudbury, founded a Library of early-printed books.

The Rose Window,
Durham Cathedral.
Photo: April 2011.
Source: Own work.
Author: Zephyrinus.

During the 18th-Century, The Deans of Durham often held another position in the South of England, and, after spending the statutory time in residence, would depart to manage their affairs. Consequently, after Cosin's refurbishment, there was little by way of restoration or rebuilding. When work commenced again on the building, it was of a most unsympathetic nature.

In 1773, the architect, George Nicholson, having completed The Prebend's Bridge across The River Wear, persuaded The Dean and Chapter to let him smooth off much of the outer stonework of The Cathedral, thereby considerably altering its character.

Durham Cathedral at Sunrise.
Source: Own Work.
Photo: November 1998.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The architect, James Wyatt, greatly added to the destruction by demolishing half The Chapter House, altering the Stonework of The East End, and inserting a large Rose Window that was supposed to be faithful to one that had been there in the 13th Century. Wyatt also planned to demolish The Galilee Chapel, but The Dean, John Cornwallis, returned and prevented it, just as the Lead was being stripped from the Roof.

The restoration of The Cathedral's Tower, between 1854 and 1859, was by the architect, Sir George Gilbert Scott, working with Edward Robert Robson, who went on to serve as Architect-in-Charge of The Cathedral for six years. In 1858, Anthony Salvin restored The Cloisters.

The Norman Columns of Durham Cathedral

In 1986, The Cathedral, together with the nearby Castle, became a World Heritage Site. The UNESCO committee classified The Cathedral under criteria C (ii) (iv) (vi), reporting, "Durham Cathedral is the largest and most perfect monument of 'Norman'-style Architecture in England".

In 1996, The Great West Door was the setting for Bill Viola's large-scale video installation The Messenger. Interior views of The Cathedral were featured in the 1998 film, Elizabeth.

Durham Cathedral has been featured in the Harry Potter films as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where it had a Spire digitally added onto the top of the famous Towers.

Architectural historian, Dan Cruickshank, selected The Cathedral as one of his four choices for the 2002 BBC television documentary series, Britain's Best Buildings.

In November 2009, The Cathedral featured in a Son et Lumière Festival, whose highlight was the illumination of The North Front of The Cathedral, with a 15-minute Presentation, that told the story of Lindisfarne and the Foundation of The Cathedral, using Illustrations and Text from The Lindisfarne Gospels.

Durham Cathedral's Choir, looking West.
Adapted from Greenwell, p. 32.
Greenwell, William. Durham Cathedral.
Eighth Edition Durham: Andrews and Company, 1913. NA971 D96G8. 
Copyright MAS.
The copyright holder of this project is © Alison Stones. The pages and their images are used by the University of Pittsburgh with her express permission. Permission is granted for reproduction and use of these images for non-profit research and educational purposes only, provided Alison Stones or any of the other image copyright holders participating in the project is properly attributed as the copyright owner on each and every image reproduced and used. Any further use or reproduction of these images without the express written consent of Alison Stones is prohibited. 

Durham Cathedral is notable for The Ribbed Vault of The Nave Roof, with Pointed Transverse Arches supported on relatively slender composite Piers alternated with massive Drum Columns, and Flying Buttresses, or Lateral Abutments, concealed within The Triforium over The Aisles.

These features appear to be precursors of The Gothic Architecture of Northern France a few decades later, doubtless due to the Norman Stonemasons responsible, although the building is considered Romanesque, overall.

The skilled use of The Pointed Arch and Ribbed Vault made it possible to cover far more elaborate and complicated Ground Plans than before. Buttressing made it possible to build taller buildings and open up the intervening wall spaces to create larger windows.

Saint Cuthbert's tomb lies at The East End, in The Feretory, and was once an elaborate Monument of Cream Marble and Gold. It remains a place of Pilgrimage.

Durham Cathedral at Sundown.
Photograph by Robin Widdison.
2006-08-04 (original upload date).
Originally from en.wikipedia; description page is/was here.
Transfer was stated to be made by User:Jalo.
Original uploader was Robin Widdison at en.wikipedia
Released into the public domain (by the author).
(Wikimedia Commons)

"Durham is one of the great experiences of Europe to the eyes of those who appreciate Architecture, and to the minds of those who understand Architecture. The group of Cathedral, Castle, and Monastery on The Rock can only be compared to Avignon and Prague." (Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England).

"I paused upon the bridge, and admired and wondered at the beauty and glory of this scene . . . it was grand, venerable, and sweet, all at once; I never saw so lovely and magnificent a scene, nor, being content with this, do I care to see a better." (Nathaniel Hawthorne, on Durham Cathedral, The English Notebooks).

"With The Cathedral at Durham, we reach the incomparable masterpiece of Romanesque Architecture, not only in England, but anywhere. The moment of entering provides for an Architectural experience never to be forgotten, one of the greatest England has to offer." (Alec Clifton-Taylor, 'English Towns' Series on BBC Television).

"I unhesitatingly gave Durham my vote for Best Cathedral on Planet Earth." (Bill Bryson, Notes from a Small Island.").

"Grey Towers of Durham. Yet well I love thy mixed and massive Piles. Half Church of God, half Castle 'gainst The Scot. And long to roam those venerable Aisles. With records stored of deeds long since forgot.". (Sir Walter Scott, Harold the Dauntless, a poem of Saxons and Vikings, set in County Durham).

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