I know its been awhile since my last blog post but I have been busy with University work and this is the latest trip. Today we traveled down to Durham to visit the Castle and Cathedral which are part of the World Heritage site.
I found the castle to be amazing. The site has been in continued use since 1072 and became part of Durham University in 1837 as student accommodation. It is still student accommodation till this day with all the mod cons, the hall is still used at meals and the 15th century kitchen is still used as a kitchen today.
Construction of the Castle began in 1072 under the orders of William the Conquer, six years after the Norman conquest of England, and soon after the Normans first came to the North. The construction took place under the supervision of the Earl of Northumberland, Waltheof, until he rebelled against William and was executed in 1076. The castle then came under the control of the Bishop of Durham, Walcher, who purchased the earldom and thus became the first of the Prince-Bishops of Durham. It was under Walcher that many of the Castle’s first buildings were constructed. As was typical of Norman castles, it consisted of a motte (mound) and an inner and outer bailey (fenced or walled area). Whether the motte and inner bailey were built first is unknown. The kitchen and buttery date from the end of the fifteenth century, from the time of Bishop Fox (Bishop of Durham, 1494-1501). A Norman window under one of the fireplaces is an indication that Fox did not actually build an entirely new structure, but remodelled an older Norman construction, perhaps a defensive tower. The term “buttery”, the area before the kitchen, comes from the French word “boterie”, which was originally a place where wine was stored. This became a common term for a larder, but has no direct connection with the making or storage of butter.
There are two chapels in the castle, the Norman chapel and the Tunstall Chapel. The Norman Chapel is among Durham Castle’s most important spaces and, constructed around 1080, the city’s oldest building. Although it has been sometimes taken for the under-croft, (the space under a church or chapel) rather than the chapel itself, close reading of the sources suggests that this was probably the main chapel and not a crypt or utilitarian space associated with it. The chapel features an unusual array of carvings, some thought to depict religious scenes and values, others being simply decorative. The chapel has survived remarkably well for a building of its age. Perhaps the most surprising thing about it is that it has survived practically intact – religious spaces such as this, being very important, were often remodeled to reflect changes in fashion. The Chapel probably owes its survival to the fact that it was rendered inaccessible in the 14th century when Bishop Hatfield enlarged the Castle keep, saving this Norman structure from substantial medieval and post-medieval alterations. For more information on the carvings and a 3D panorama visit here to find the links https://www.durhamworldheritagesite.com/architecture/castle/intro/north-range/norman-chapel
The Tunstall chapel was constructed by Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall in 1540. The Tunstall Chapel was completed during the first days of the Reformation – the break-away from the Roman Catholic Church and a turning point in English history. This religious transformation, which was to prove permanent and extremely significant, is best represented in the portrait of Cuthbert Tunstall himself that still hangs in the chapel today. Tunstall’s fists are clenched, but he is holding nothing in them – originally, he was depicted holding a rosary, which was painted over after the Reformation because it was a symbol of Catholicism. Through out the years there has been additions to the chapel and during one of these additions the fonte was covered as it was no longer needed.
When the new chapel was added a long gallery was added at the same time with a large staircase at one end. The stone arch is from the first hall that was constructed in the Norman building phase.
Across from the castle is the Cathedral Which houses the shrine to St Cuthbert, the cathedral was started in 1093. 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 St Cuthbert, the head of St Oswald of Northumbria and the remains of the Venerable Bede. In addition, its 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 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. 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 m) giving views of Durham and the surrounding area.
The building 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 in the Feretory and was once an elaborate monument of cream marble and gold. It remains a place of pilgrimage. Just outside the shop area, in one of the buildings off the courtyard, there is a Lego model of the Cathedral. You are not allowed to take any pictures inside the cathedral so i’m glad they had a Lego model so you can see at least a part of it as the model is very accurate.
We also wandered around the town that leads up to the World Heritage site, We were not told anything about the town but it is very picturesque. I also found one of the cafes window to be very strange and interesting.
Overall I enjoyed the trip to Durham, it was very cold but at least the sun was out to perfectly show off this interesting and very much still in use Heritage site.