A History of Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral, viewed from Elvet Hill. © Durham Uni Students.
Durham Cathedral, a magnificent building with roots in Saxon times, is home to the fourth most powerful position in the Church of England, the Bishop of Durham. The tower of the cathedral, at a height of just under 200ft (about 65 metres), looms over the city of Durham and the castle, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Whilst it is possible for visitors to climb the 325 or so stairs to the top of the tower for excellent views across Durham, it is said to be unlucky for students at the university to do so before they graduate.

More formally known as The Cathedral Church of Christ, Blessed Mary the Virgin and St Cuthbert of Durham, the cathedral can be spotted from almost everywhere in Durham – the building itself is incredibly impressive, built in a Romanesque style – as Bill Bryson, Chancellor of Durham University said, ‘I unhesitatingly gave Durham my vote for best cathedral on planet Earth’.

St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne

The cathedral houses the shrine of St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (after which St Cuthbert’s Society is named). A medieval monk (he lived 634AD to 687), St Cuthbert was also a bishop of the Kingdom of Northumbria (modern day North East England and South East Scotland), and the patron saint of Northumbria, for which St Cuthbert’s College celebrate with the Feast of Saint Cuthbert annually, on the 20th March.

Prince Bishops

Durham and the surrounding area was once ruled by Prince Bishops (County Durham is often referred to as the ‘Land of the Prince Bishops’, and there’s even a shopping centre in Durham named after them). It was William of St. Carilef, the first Prince Bishop of Durham, who began most of what can be seen of the cathedral today in 1093AD.

Useful Resources & Reference