Fodor's Expert Review Durham Cathedral

Durham Religious Building/Site/Shrine Fodor's Choice

A Norman masterpiece in the heart of the city, Durham Cathedral is a vision of strength and fortitude, a far cry from the airy lightness of later Gothic cathedrals. Construction began about 1090, and the main body was finished about 1150. The round arches of the nave and the deep zigzag patterns carved into them typify the heavy, gaunt style of Norman, or Romanesque, building. The technology of Durham, however, was revolutionary; this was the first European cathedral to be given a stone, rather than a wooden, roof.

Note the enormous bronze Sanctuary Knocker, shaped like the head of a ferocious mythological beast, mounted on the massive northwestern door. By grasping the ring clenched in the animal's mouth, medieval felons could claim sanctuary; cathedral records show that 331 criminals sought this protection between 1464 and 1524. An unobtrusive tomb at the western end of the cathedral, in the Moorish-influenced Galilee Chapel, is the final resting place of the Venerable Bede,... READ MORE

A Norman masterpiece in the heart of the city, Durham Cathedral is a vision of strength and fortitude, a far cry from the airy lightness of later Gothic cathedrals. Construction began about 1090, and the main body was finished about 1150. The round arches of the nave and the deep zigzag patterns carved into them typify the heavy, gaunt style of Norman, or Romanesque, building. The technology of Durham, however, was revolutionary; this was the first European cathedral to be given a stone, rather than a wooden, roof.

Note the enormous bronze Sanctuary Knocker, shaped like the head of a ferocious mythological beast, mounted on the massive northwestern door. By grasping the ring clenched in the animal's mouth, medieval felons could claim sanctuary; cathedral records show that 331 criminals sought this protection between 1464 and 1524. An unobtrusive tomb at the western end of the cathedral, in the Moorish-influenced Galilee Chapel, is the final resting place of the Venerable Bede, an 8th-century Northumbrian monk whose contemporary account of the English people made him the country's first reliable historian. In good weather you can climb the tower, which has spectacular views of Durham. Guided tours of the cathedral are offered two or three times daily except Sunday.

The brand-new, £10 million Open Treasure exhibition displays priceless artifacts from the cathedral's own collection. The exhibition also allows visitors to see parts of the cathedral that were previously closed to the public, including the Monks Dormitory and the Great Kitchen, with its breathtaking octagonal roof. Treasures on display include Anglo-Saxon art, gold and garnet crosses, elaborate vestments, illuminated manuscripts, and the original coffin of St. Cuthbert. Together it represents one of the most significant single collections of Anglo-Saxon artifacts in the world.

Guided tours of the cathedral (75 minutes) are available Monday–Saturday; call ahead for times. A choral evensong service takes place Tuesday to Saturday at 5:15 and Sunday at 3:30.

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Religious Building/Site/Shrine Historical Fodor's Choice

Quick Facts

Palace Green
Durham, Durham  DH1 3EH, England

0191-386–4266

www.durhamcathedral.co.uk

Sight Details:
Rate Includes: Free (requested donation £5); tower £5; guided tours £5, Free (requested donation £5); Open Treasure £7.50; tower £5; guided tours £5; combined tour and Open Treasure £10, No tours Sun.

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