Durham, Durham cathedral and Durham Castle

I had a busy and somewhat frustrating day and now I’m really tired.

It was beautiful today with temperatures in the low 60’s, perfect fall weather in summer.  I walked down the hill from my guest house into the city center and then up the hill to Durham Cathedral   As I approached Durham Cathedral I was a little awe struck by the size and beauty of this Norman (Romanesque) style that was planned and developed by Bishop Carileph (William St Calais 1081-1096).  However, the Rose Window is a later addition and was remodeled in the late eighteenth century.  The Nave, Choir and the two transepts, north and south, were all built between 1093 and 1133.  The Galilee Chapel was added in 1175.  The two western towers were built between 1217 and 1226.  Finally, the Chapel of the Nine Altars was completed in the Gothic style between 1242 and 1280.

Until 1539 the Cathedral was also the church of the Benedictine Monastery where the monks worked and worshipped.  

As I write this using the Short Guide to Durham Cathedral as my reference material I am asking myself why I am putting any of this in my blog because I do not have any pictures of the interior of the Cathedral.  The reason there are no interior pictures is simple.  They do not allow photography of any kind in the Cathedral.  Their reason is that picture taking is a distraction for people who come to pray.  OK, I sort of get that.  However, here is what made me pretty angry.  They won’t allow picture taking in the Cathedral but it was OK for a crew of about 100 BBC television folks to be laying down cable, putting up lights and installing all sorts of equipment so the BBC version of Antiques Road Show can be broadcast from the Cathedral on Thursday evening September 4. I find it all quite hypocritical  and left me doing a slow burn for most of the day. Now I have this feeling that I will not be able to take interior pictures in York or Cambridge.  Of course you will be the first to know if my feelings are correct.

This cathedral is awesome and for me pictures always help me remember all the wonderful details of the places I visit.  Sure, I’ll remember it but the pictures would have reminded me just exactly what I was feeling when I took the picture.  That is important for me especially since I am seeing so much in a really short time frame.  So the pictures will be exterior shots.

There are a couple of interesting stories that helped still my anger.  While I was out in the Cloisters a worker came up to me and asked me if I was from Philadelphia (because I was wearing my Phillies cap).  He told me in his very British accent that he was born in Bristol, Pennsylvania and is has dual citizenship in both the US and the UK.  His mother still lives in Bristol while he and his family live in Durham.  Then he told me a Harry Potter story.  One of the buildings called The Chapter House that is off the Cloisters is the place where all of the classroom scenes were filmed in the Harry Potter series.  I took a picture of the room through the window which I’ll post in in the Durham picture album.  That is the only interior shot I was able to get, from the outside.

Still, I managed to spend a lot of time in the Cathedral and before lunch I climbed 337 steps to the tower and took a lot of pictures which I will also post.

After lunch, I went to see Durham Castle, which is now actual home of Durham University.  The only way to see the Castle is by guided tour so I paid my 5 pounds and waited till the tour guide came.  It was then that I learned that once again there would be no picture taking of the interior of the building even though most of the building is used as student housing and the tour would not even be going there.  However, The Great Hall, the Black Staircase, the 16th century chapel and the Norman chapel built in 1080 were off limits to photography.  The final rub was this, “Oh by the way we won’t be seeing the Great Hall because of a private function being held”.  So there will be no interior pictures of Durham Castle.

Durham Castle was begun in 1070 on the orders of William the Conqueror who faced strong resistance in the north of England and needed a permanent base in Durham.  The Bishop of Durham acquired secular power from the king in 1076, becoming the king’s representative in the north and the Castle became his base.  The Caste remained the Bishop’s official residence until 1836 when it was given by the Bishop as part of the foundation of the University of Durham.  By the way Durham University is the third most important university in England just behind Oxford and Cambridge University’s.

Over the many centuries the Castle has been altered as each successive prince bishop sought to put his particular imprint on the Castle.  However, a lot of restoration and reconstruction has been necessary anyway because the Castle is built of soft stone on soft ground.  You will be able to see what the wind and rain has done to the stone in the Durham picture album.

Once that the tour was over I had about two hours before Evensong began at Durham Cathedral.  I walked around this small city and took some pictures and at about 5:00 PM I arrived back at the Cathedral and sat myself in the Choir where Evensong usually takes place.  The normal choir is on holiday so a visiting choir from St. Clements Church in Minneapolis St. Paul are singing Evensong every evening this week.  It was a lovely service with lots of music and a very nice postlude played on the very nice organ in the Cathedral.

Tomorrow I leave Durham and take a 60 minute train ride to York.

1.Louis.skypala@verizon.net © Louis M. Skypala 2014