Durham is a lovely old city that I have never visited. That changed this year when Mum and I went on a weekend away in March.
We were only actually in Durham itself for a few hours so I can’t give a full description but my first impression was, if I had to live in a city, this is one I could happily live in!
It reminded me of a smaller, less busy York. The castle was closed the day we were there but no matter, we did not have enough time to explore everything. We did visit the cathedral though. I had heard great things about this medieval venue. There were links with Harry Potter (it’s been featured as a film location for Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone), and is the final resting place of both The Venerable Bede and St Cuthbert.
It’s a UNESCO world heritage site and American writer Bill Bryson has even called it ‘the best cathedral on planet earth’.
So it has rather a lot going for it!
Building the cathedral was started in 1093 to house St Cuthbert’s relics, which were brought from Lindisfarne (Holy Island). Cuthbert, who was born about 634, lived first at the monastery at Melrose, then Lindisfarne, where he became Bishop. When he died, a shrine was set up to honour him (he was renowned for his holiness during his lifetime) but Viking raids drove the community – and the relics – away to seek a safe haven.
Eventually they reached Durham, where they built a church – then a cathedral. Today the shrine lies in the cathedral, the saint being buried beneath a stone slab. When we were there, there was a procession taking part to the shrine.
Curiously, when St Cuthbert’s body was disinterred 11 years after his death, it was found to be undecayed.
The tomb of ‘the father of English History’, the Venerable Bede, is also at Durham, in the Norman-style Galilee Chapel (which also hosts medieval wall paintings). A tomb-chest contains the bones of the Venerable Bede.
He was a monk and a scholar, born in about 673, who wrote about the church in that era. I actually have a book of some of his writings (A History of the English Church and its People) hoping, one day, I might get to read them!
In the city, was this sculpture, pictured below, of monks taking the remains of St Cuthbert on its long journey, before reaching Durham.
Whatever your faith, or lack of, the cathedral is a truly beautiful building and Durham is a city worth visiting.