Durham CathedralAlexander Iles
Travelling to Durham by train, one of the first things that you will see is Durham Cathedral majestically overlooking the city, standing on a prominent rocky outcrop above the town and River Wear. Its foundations date back to the establishment of an Anglo-Saxon cathedral in 995AD by the community of St. Cuthbert, who moved St. Cuthbert’s body from Chester-Le-Street to Durham to protect it from renewed Viking assaults on England. The Normans built their own cathedral on the site of the original Anglo-Saxon church from 1093 to 1133, and since then it has been upgraded and added to, finally coming to the form that you see today. At its core it is still a magnificent 12th century Romanesque cathedral – very much deserving of its UNESCO world heritage status.
The cathedral was the first in England to have a vaulted stone roof and upon entering the building you will see this amazing craftsmanship of generations of people who worked together to build this amazing edifice. The cathedral was constructed to hold the mortal remains of St. Cuthbert, who is famous as one of the most important saints in the North East of England. His shrine can still be seen today and it brings pilgrims to visit from all over the world. In the Galilee chapel is the tomb of the Venerable Bede – arguably England’s first historian, as well as being a scientist and brilliant educator. Alongside being a spectacular place of worship, Durham Cathedral may already be familiar to you through featuring in blockbuster films. From Harry Potter as a part of Hogwarts to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where it was used in both Avengers Endgame and Thor: Ragnarök as a part of Asgard.
There are other treasures inside the cathedral, with the Open Treasures being a special museum within the cathedral open to visitors. The Open Treasures are a collection of gifts and artefacts gathered by the bishops of Durham over the last thousand years, with a permanent display of the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon stonework in England. The treasures of St. Cuthbert are also on display, including his personal cross and comb, as well as a changing display within the Open Treasures that tells a story of the various artefacts. This display has already covered a wonderful range of topics from Fantastic Beasts, a display of magical creatures believed to inhabit our world in the middle ages (spoiler: sadly, there were no unicorns or gryphons, the horn on display was a narwhal horn and the claw a horn from an ibex) to the food eaten at Durham cathedral over the centuries and Vikings in the North East. When it comes to Durham Cathedral it is well worth a visit, be it for quiet spiritual reflection to architectural wonder, or a modern pilgrimage in the steps of Marvel’s Thor; there is something for every traveller.