Courtesy barnyz
Photo via barnyz

Durham Cathedral is one of England’s great churches. Perched on a hill and surrounded by a river, the cathedral towers over the surrounding landscape. The result is that when the church bell ring they can be heard far and wide:

The cathedral was built in 1093, and is consequently Norman in design. In fact, the papers making it a UNESCO World Heritage Site list it as “the largest and most perfect monument of ‘Norman’ style architecture in England.”

“A series of additions, reconstructions, embellishments and restorations has not substantially altered the structure of Durham Cathedral,” the UNESCO documents continue.

Courtesy Chris Ward
Courtesy Chris Ward

The cathedral is particularly striking because Durham is a relatively small town, with a distinct college vibe.

Durham also is notable because until 1836 — so nearly 800 years — its bishops wielded secular as well as religious powers. This concept is known as a Bishop Palantine, and means that the bishops had the authority to raise an army and mint coins, among other things.

During my visit, I was struck not only by the history and the beautiful-sounding bells in the recording above, but also by the pattered designs on the heavy, circular columns:

Photo via barnyz
Photo via barnyz

I was fortunate enough to catch an evensong service at the cathedral, which I highly recommend. Beyond the cathedral, Durham itself has pleasant river walks and is a pleasant place to spend an afternoon wandering.

— Jim Dalrymple II


Written by Jim Dalrymple II

Urbanism and travel writer. Also a journalist covering the news.


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