Durham's most famous structure is the cathedral, which was built in 1093. The cathedral has many famous historic English Catholics buried there and has many wonderful things to see.
The first (chronologically) is St. Cuthbert, a monk from the 7th century. His holiness and leadership at his monasteries led him to become a bishop in northern England. He preached and taught throughout the north and had the gift of healing. He died and was buried in Lindisfarne, an island off northeast England.
His casket was opened eleven years after his death and he was found incorrupt. His remains were eventually moved to Durham Cathedral. Many Britons made pilgrimage to Durham because of his popularity. Today, visitors can see panels from his coffin, his pectoral cross, and the silk vestment he was buried in.
The other famous person buried there is the Venerable Bede, the first major English historian (clocking in during the 8th century). He also wrote theology and other works and is one of the Doctors of the Church. I was particularly excited to discover his tomb since I have translated little bits of his works back in during my Latin minor in college.
The church also has an impressive tower. I climbed to the top, which was a little challenging. The guide at the bottom of the stairs asked if we wanted to leave any bags or things with him so we wouldn't have to carry them. A sign informed us that children were not allowed to go up, especially if they would be carried. Another sign warned us about the climb:
|Holding a cigarette means you can't hold the handrail!|
After going up, I could see why. The first spiral stairs were not so difficult to climb, but then we went down a hall and found the second half of the stairs. They were a tight spiral that wound around and around and around. I wondered why they didn't warn people about claustrophobia. It reminded me of the stairs inside the Statue of Liberty and also the stairs in the Dome of St. Peter's. Getting to the top was definitely worth it for the amazing view:
|The main part of the church, clearly cruciform|
|The other lesser towers of the cathedral|
Later in the day, the wife and kids made it to the cathedral. L's favorite part was the little decoration in the corners of the cloisters:
|Touched by an angel, in reverse|
Off of the cloisters was the Monk's Dormitory. Sounds like a great place for a nap, right? Well, I guess certain people would sleep in a library, because this "dormitory" houses part of the library for the cathedral. The volumes are mostly theology and history. The Dormitory also had several tombstones and other stone works from Durham and the surrounding area, showing the Viking and the Anglo-Saxon influence. My favorite part here was the copies of various illuminated manuscripts that could be examined in their glass cases. Alas, no pictures or borrowing of books was allowed at the dormitory.
Photography was also disallowed in the Cathedral proper, so I can't show you the massive and ornately carved pillars inside or the great examples of stained glass. Visiting the cathedral was definitely a highlight of our trip up to Durham. I highly recommend it.