Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Durham: A Cathedral and a Castle

Inside the castle walls. (I'm so tired of that Anorak, but it's been cool everywhere!)

Durham holds a unique place in English history. Because the English king could not effectively govern that far north, in 1075, he made the Bishop of Durham a Prince Bishop, with powers to levy taxes and raise armies—effectively making the Bishop of Durham the ruler of the region as long as he swore loyalty to the crown. That status lasted for centuries.

Durham Cathedral makes a stately presence over the green it shares with the castle.

Durham Cathedral is considered the finest Norman cathedral in Europe.  It dates from 1093, and it has been extended and remodeled over the centuries. (We saw a line in the floor—very near the door—that marked the small area where women were permitted to enter in medieval days. It would have been unthinkable to let them get any closer to the altar!) 

Additions are still being made to the cathedral.  I wouldn't expect to like seeing a new window in such an old, historic structure. But one of my favorite stained-glass windows at Durham was the Transfiguration Window which was installed in 2011. It all blends together well. (Click on the highlight to see the window and its details.)

What impressed me more than the shrine of St. Cuthbert was the tomb of the "Venerable Bede" (St. Bede), which is also in Durham Cathedral. He lived sometime between 673-735. I remember studying him in my European medieval history course, so it was interesting to find his resting place. I found him fascinating not for his religious associations, but because he was known as a great scholar who wrote and translated about 40 books, including some on nature, astronomy, and poetry. He is celebrated as the first English historian.

Not the tomb of the "Venerable Bede," but an effigy on an old tomb. I wonder who lies there?

We poked around the town and savored a picnic lunch along the river during our stay here—a green walk along the banks, interrupted with intermittent drizzle. Even so, we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

Note: I have never figured out why sometimes I can add captions in Blogger without a problem, but other times adding a caption makes the photos shift.  If someone knows how to fix that, short of using HTML,  please let me know!  (By the way, The photo with the boat was taken from our picnic spot.

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