A day with a lot of distractions, including two football cup finals and a certain wedding in Windsor, saw us heading to Durham Cathedral for Choral Evensong, sung by RSCM Scottish Voices.
Situated on promontory high above a loop of the River Wear, adjacent to Durham Castle, Durham Cathedral dates from the late 11th Century under the first Prince-Bishop, William of St. Carilef (or William of Calais), appointed by William the Conqueror. The cathedral is approached from the Durham Market Place, via Saddler Street and Owen Street to Palace Green. On the north side of the green is Durham Castle, and of the south side is the cathedral.
However, the See of Durham, takes its origins much earlier Diocese of Lindisfarne in the 7th century, although it was translated to York 664 and prior to going back to Lindisfarne in 678. Saint Cuthbert, who was Bishop of Lindisfarne fron 685 to 687, was instrumental in the foundation of Durham Cathedral. As a result of Viking raids, the monks of Lindisfarne left the island in 875, taking the relics (body) of St Cuthbert, initially settling in Chester-le-Street until 995, when further Viking incursions took place. Legend has it that they following two milk maids who were searching for a dun coloured cow to the peninsula of the River Wear. This is where they settled building the initial church on the site made of wood to house the relics, prior to being replace by a stone church, known as the white church, which was substantially complete (apart for he tower) in 1018. The following of the cow is commemorated by a carving in the north east side of the current building.
On the north west door of the cathedral is a knocker. In the middle ages anyone who had committed a serious offence could claim sanctuary by knocking on the door. They then had 37 days to put their affairs in order then stand trial or leave the country. The original 12th century knocker is now on display in the Open Treasure exhibition, whilst a replica is on the door.
Photography is not allowed in the cathedral, except to a limited number of photography evenings, however pictures can be taken in the Cloisters.
In the cloisters that are a large number of carving on the roof.
In some of the corners there are carvings of saints.
Walking to the east end of the building along the appropriately named Dun Cow Lane, the east end can be viewed from North Bailey.
To the south of the Cathedral, where North Bailey becomes South Bailey, there is a gateway that takes you into a small courtyard called The College, including a property with an Episcopal Crest above the door.
Walking through the College, takes us back into the Cloisters.
The day was for singing, so some of the back stage areas were seen including the Song School and the Chapter House. The music for Choral Evensong included:
- Responses: Herbert Sumsion
- Canticles: Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis in B flat (Sir John Stainer)
- Anthem: Evening Hymn (Henry Balfour-Gardiner)
A return visit to Durham Cathedral is in order to explore the building further (when not singing), possibly for one of the photographic evenings.