Food, glorious food! Divine Desserts at durham Cathedral

We asked Faye, a member of cathedral staff, for her thoughts on the last Divine Desserts dining event at the cathedral’s Undercroft Restaurant.

Divine Desserts was a spectacle in every way; everyone was gathered together for the same reason – to taste and appreciate the wonderful food on offer from the team of very talented chefs at the Undercroft Restaurant. The atmosphere was buzzing from the very beginning, which was followed by an excited and almost reverent hush as the food was brought out. For main course I had the ‘chargrilled pesto halloumi steak with autumn ratatouille and lemon beurre blanc’; every mouthful was absolutely delicious and was polished off in no time!

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The Illumination Window: The Making

In the last blog in the series, artist Mel Howse describes the process of making our newest cathedral addition.

Over a period of 25 years my skills as a designer and maker have evolved into taking on some large-scale projects. I was fortunate to have had commissions coming in on graduation as a student, and my experience of transposing drawn designs to full-scale glasswork has grown along with my portfolio. I am not daunted in this respect by scale, in fact, I relish it, and the development of commissions that take years to unfold is all part of the territory. My focus as an artist is in creating unique pieces of work, that explore the opportunities afforded by my medium, keeping it relevant to our era.

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The Illumination Window: The Cartoon

Artist Mel Howse discusses the process of cartooning for our newest piece of glass art

In the stained glass tradition, the working drawing that an artist uses to create the final glasswork is called a cartoon.  This cartoon is a full-size drawing at 1:1 scale and can be in either colour or black and white.

It conveys the essence of the glass work to come: the size and the shape of the glass pieces, details of applied techniques such as paintwork or etching. Quite simply, it is the glassmaker’s guide for the coming stage of creating the art in glass.

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The Illumination Window: The Design

Artist Mel Howse gives an insight into the design process and reading of our newest cathedral addition, The Illumination Window.


It has been a great privilege to be both designer and maker for the commission to create The Illumination window. It will stand as an important experience in my lifetime. As I write this in Spring 2019 this work is about to take on a new role. It will be leaving the intimacy of my studio, and travelling into the future as part of the Cathedral.

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mahalha’s journey as a priest in training

For the last four years two ordinands, that is trainee priests, have undertaken a week long work placement with the Marketing and Events Team at Durham Cathedral. Their vocational training is at Cranmer Hall, the Theology College at St John’s College, Durham University. 

The placement happens immediately after a communications conference organised by CODEC, the Research Centre for Digital Theology at St John’s College, led by the Rev Dr Pete Phillips. It explores the impact of digital culture, especially on faith and community communication in the life of the contemporary Church.

One of this year’s placements at the Cathedral is Mahalha Wachepa, originally from Malawi.  Mahalha moved to the UK in 2002.

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‘A very Durham passion’: St John Passion at Durham Cathedral, in conversation with Pavlo Beznosiuk 

Durham Cathedral Choir and the Avison Ensemble join forces for a performance of Bach’s St John Passion at Durham Cathedral this Sunday, 14 April. We spoke with Pavlo Beznosiuk, leader of the period instrument orchestra for this performance, about the piece and his excitement to perform at Durham Cathedral.

Tickets for this performance are £8-28, available at

What does the St John Passion Oratorio consist of and what is it about the piece that makes it so special?

The St John Passion, just like the more-performed and more-famous St Matthew Passion, were special commissions put together for Good Friday. These are large scale works centering around a narrator, the Evangelist, who sings in a form called ‘recitative’ a kind of sung speech. He tells the story of the passion of Christ quite simply, a narrative punctuated by a sequence of choruses, solo arias and chorales, what we might describe today as hymns. The arias are moments slightly outside the narrative where the events are meditated upon. For example the high tenor aria ‘Erwage’ is a sublime piece of music with silvery-toned muted violins and a viola da gamba, but the text describes how the body of Christ, having just been scourged, is literally a mess of blood and torn flesh. Such arias provide a moment for personal contemplation, against a backdrop of utterly sublime music.

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The Shrine of St Cuthbert; A living place of worship, welcome and hospitality at the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.