Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Durham Cathedral

The Cathedral Church of Christ, Blessed Mary the Virgin and St Cuthbert of Durham — known as Durham Cathedral — in the city of Durham, England, is the seat of the Anglican Bishop of Durham. The Bishopric dates from 995, with the present cathedral being founded in AD 1093. The cathedral is regarded as one of the finest examples of Norman architecture
The present cathedral was designed and built under William of St. Carilef (or William of Calais) who was appointed as the first prince-bishop by William the Conqueror in 1080.  Since that time, there have been major additions and reconstructions of some parts of the building, but the greater part of the structure remains true to the Norman design. Construction of the cathedral began in 1093 at the eastern end. The choir was completed by 1096 and work proceeded on the nave of which the walls were finished by 1128, and the high vault complete by 1135.
Unfortunately, my experience of the cathedral was not particularly satisfying or spiritual.  I really struggled with the less than idyllic distractions in and around the site.  When I was inside, the place was mobbed with like 30 young grade school students, all of whom were taking photographs, against the cathedral policy.  When I observed them, I felt like I deserved a photo as much as they did, but right after I shot this photo, I got busted.  I told the guy that I understood the policy, but noted that the school kids were all taking photos with flashes (at least I didn't use a flash).  He responded with "technically, you are not allowed to take photos".  So, I conceded to the wishes of the cathedral out of respect, though it annoyed me.  The annoyances continued outside as I struggled to find a good vantage point for the exterior shots.  I walked around the cathedral for hours trying to get a clear view, and I just couldn't find it.  It was just a frustrating day.  The weather didn't cooperate either, as clouds and rain rolled in by mid-afternoon. 
I guess that being a pilgrim can't always be a good trip.  A lot of bad things went on at this place, so maybe it has some bad juju.  Henry VIII actually destroyed Cuthberts tomb in 1538.  And, apparently 1700 Scottish soldiers captured by Oliver Cromwell died inhumanly inside the cathedral after the battle of Dunbar in 1650.  The town of Durham was also extremely hectic.  It has a university and the students had just come back from break.  The traffic was the worst of the trip so far. I actually got stuck in a roundabout grid lock... the only situation where the roundabout falls short of the traffic light.  Nonetheless, the cathedral is an outstanding building, and maybe I will go back someday when the time is right.  Timing is everything of course, and for me, I just hit Durham on an off day. 

1 comment:

dominics said...

Te Vergers were probably scared to confront the school kids, whilst you're a valid target, who's unlikely to hit back!

I did manage to get special permission from the Dean and Chapter a couple of years back, but only to take photos of the late 17th century misericords which were carved to replace those destroyed by the Scottish prisoners (lets face it, they needed something to cook on, and as they didn't believe in bishops, they weren't to bothered about the fabric of the cathedral). Cromwell had a nasty habit of billeting men, prisoners or even horses in churches and cathedrals, so for a pious man, he didn't have much respect for the church either.