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On the Eve of St Bede’s feast day, what could be more fitting to share than the life story of our beloved St Bede, whose tomb is housed in the Galilee Chapel inside Durham Cathedral. Head of Collections, Alison Cullingford, takes us through Bede’s early years, his time as a monk, his scholarly legacy and his eventual passing.


Reflections from the Liturgy Office – Rebecca Dodd

I’m Rebecca Dodd and my role at the Cathedral is split between working as the Music Administrator and Cannon Kennedy’s secretary. I am responsible for Canon Kennedy’s diary and schedule, and I also do the admin for any musical performances at the Cathedral – of which there are many – and convene with visiting choirs and musicians, generally ensuring that the musical life of the Cathedral runs smoothly.

Easter time at the Cathedral is our busiest time of year, with plenty of additional and special services throughout Lent and particularly in Holy Week, in the run up to Easter and Good Friday. It differs from Christmas when the services are spread out over Advent and we have several external carol concerts, for example, from the Women’s Institute, the Durham University colleges and the Christian Union. At Easter our services are mostly internal and really bring the Cathedral community together at this special time of year.

For me personally, Lent is a time for reflection. In the past I’ve given up the chocolate, biscuits, sweets, and cake as many people do. It’s a tricky one for me as I have a really sweet tooth! But there is a deeper meaning to giving up these treats, as it gives us the chance to do without the things that you might particularly like but don’t need. It makes us much more aware of what we have. I’ve also tried the 40 Acts of generosity challenge from Stewardship, which is something a bit different. They send you an email every day at 6am with a Bible reading and a reflection, with a suggestion of what you can do that day. It’s a really positive spin on the idea of Lent and is a lovely daily reminder to do something good.

I find that my personal faith and my work at the cathedral are different sides of the same coin. In the past year, I’ve started working here as a server, occasionally doing readings, candle bearing, and helping with the incense during services. It’s my way of getting more involved in the worshipping life of the Cathedral as well as being a member of the congregation or attending services in my own church. It’s nice to be part of the services themselves and not just in the background.

The thing that surprised me most when I first started was finding out we had a dawn service at 5.15am on Easter Day. I was convinced there had been a typo, and they had meant in the afternoon. It’s a really nice service, with a fire in the cloisters and people getting baptised and confirmed. Given the significance of Easter it becomes a real celebration of new life. I am hoping to get to that service this year but getting out of bed at 4.30am is quite a task, and I’m not really a morning person. Perhaps that will have to be my task during Lent next year!DSC_0158 A Breeze at the LIGHT

5 unmissable objects in Open Treasure’s new exhibition Tudors: The Family and Faith in Durham

The new exhibition Tudors: the Family and Faith in Durham in the Open Treasure Collections Gallery tells the story of the notorious Tudor dynasty, who ruled between 1485 and 1603. Laying the foundations for Britain’s transformation from medieval kingdom to major world power, monarchs from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I also had a remarkable impact on Durham Cathedral. The Tudor Age marked a time of social, political and religious upheaval.

Durham Cathedral was scarred by the infamous Dissolution of the Monasteries, the Reformation, and the founding of the Church of England, by also found plentiful new opportunities for those willing to embrace change. Exploring the lives of remarkable historical figures such as Henry VIII, Mary I and Elizabeth I, the Tudors exhibition demonstrates the influence of these monarchs on Durham Cathedral, and the monumental impact upon British history that is still felt today.

Discover what the Cathedral’s historic collections reveal about the history of this turbulent time…

Continue reading 5 unmissable objects in Open Treasure’s new exhibition Tudors: The Family and Faith in Durham

Cuthbertide: Life in Education at Durham Cathedral

In 995, the community of Saint Cuthbert arrived in Durham looking for that elusive safe place for Cuthbert to be laid to rest. After the journey of just over 200 years, they finally came and settled in Durham and that is the point Durham started to grow.

With the arrival of the Normans came the build of the Cathedral in 1093 and the show of power and strength of a new King.

The story of Cuthbert, as well as the build of the Cathedral, is important to us here in the Education Team; its influence is far reaching and its stories are plentiful. And we love a good story. It’s one of the best ways to connect with our younger visitors and it’s such a privilege to share it with the next generation. We feel it’s important to share this story with as many school groups as we can as these children are the next generation of people who might fall in love with the building, find a ‘wow’ moment as we tell the stories or look at the architecture, and these will live on with them and inspire them to continue to look after this building and its heritage for the years to come.

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Lent sermon: ‘I Am Because We Are’

In a Holy Communion service produced some years ago in Kenya, at the Breaking of the Bread, the text draws on the words of the African theologian John M-biti.  The text ran:

I am because we are.
We are because he (Christ) is.

For M-biti this idea of ‘I am because we are’ reflects a strong African sense of corporate identity and solidarity – in stark contrast to much European and North American thinking since the Enlightenment, which often stresses the individual. Margaret Thatcher’s infamous statement, ‘There is no such thing as society’, perhaps typifies this tendency towards individualism.

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Lilian Groves on Lent: a time for reading and reflection

The Maundy Thursday Eucharist Service is peculiar to Durham Cathedral. It’s the one in the year that’s a bit different from the others. But that’s perhaps why I have thoroughly enjoyed the two I have attended in Durham Cathedral, the most recent being just last year.

I typically split my Holy Week between Durham Cathedral and Holy Island, where my oldest friend is a priest. Lent is the one time a year she cannot really leave her congregation, so it makes sense for me to journey to the Island to see her, soaking up the atmosphere endemic to a village church – and especially one on Holy Island – as opposed to the much larger community of the Cathedral. Yet, last year, car trouble meant that I spent the week in Durham and attended the special Maundy Thursday Service.

Continue reading Lilian Groves on Lent: a time for reading and reflection

“It’s a real gift”: Margaret Devine on Lent

DSCN3696Margaret Devine, a volunteer Chaplain at Durham Cathedral, explains what Lent means to her this year:

Every year, Lent is different. For me personally, this is the first quiet, reflective Lent in many years. I made the decision last year to concentrate all my time here at the Cathedral, so I won’t be presiding at services in my parish. It’ll be nice for me to go to Cathedral service anonymously and sit amongst everyone, contributing as a participant rather than a leader.

Continue reading “It’s a real gift”: Margaret Devine on Lent

Opening up for Time To Talk Day with volunteer Cathedral chaplain David Grieve


1 February is Time to Talk Day, an opportunity to encourage those struggling with mental health issues to start a conversation with those they trust about what can often be an isolating state of mind. We talked with David Grieve, a volunteer chaplain at Durham Cathedral who has experienced the depths of depression himself.

David has recently published a book of poetry, ‘Hope in Dark Places’, about confronting mental health issues as a Christian. We spoke to him about his experiences of taking the first steps and opening up about mental health in his role as a volunteer chaplain at Durham Cathedral.

Continue reading Opening up for Time To Talk Day with volunteer Cathedral chaplain David Grieve

Ten Saintly Sisters Stories

Durham Cathedral’s new temporary exhibition Saintly Sisters has just launched in Open Treasure, bringing to light the fascinating stories of women in Durham Cathedral’s history. From Anglo-Saxon princesses and Abbesses who supported early Christianity in the North, to Victorian women who were some of the first to be ordained at Durham Cathedral, Saintly Sisters tells fascinating stories that enrich our understanding of women’s role in Durham Cathedral’s nearly one thousand year old story. Join us as we examine the stories of Durham’s Saintly Sisters…

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Lilian Groves – A National Treasure!

Here at Durham Cathedral we are blessed with the support of over 700 volunteers, who work tirelessly and selflessly to create the best possible experience for those visiting Durham Cathedral. With Open Treasure due to open in summer 2016, our need for volunteers continues to grow!

Every single volunteer at Durham Cathedral is a superstar in their own right but one of our volunteers, Lilian Groves, has recently stepped into the lime light as one of only 11 people short-listed for VisitEngland’s Tourism Superstar Award 2016!

Lilian epitomises the commitment and dedication of all our volunteers and last summer Lilian’s invaluable support was recognized when she was crowned the Durham Tourism Superstar 2015. Now Lilian has been short-listed for the national award and with your help could be crowned the nation’s superstar, an accolade which she thoroughly deserves.

We hope the following facts will convince you to vote for Lilian, an incredible lady who is an asset not only to Durham Cathedral, but to Durham, the North East, and the whole nation. She truly is a national treasure!

  1. Lilian has volunteered at Durham Cathedral for over 25 years, making her one of our longest-serving volunteers.
  2. Despite being 87 years-old, Lilian delivers over 100 tours each year.
  3. Lilian’s tours are in such high demand that they are often booked up to two years in advance!
  4. Lilian is well-loved by everyone she meets and regularly receives thank you letters from admiring visitors and fans from across the globe.
  5. Lilian has given tours to many well-known guests during her time at Durham Cathedral, including Princess Anne, P D James, Sheila Hancock, Jeremy Vine, Sting and Bill Bryson.
  6. When Bill Bryson heard that Lilian had been voted Durham’s Tourism Superstar he sent a card saying that he’d always known she was a superstar.
  7. Lilian was awarded an MBE for services to education amongst other accolades, and for 20 years was honorary Secretary of the Friends of Durham Cathedral.
  8. Lilian is a former Vice-Principal of Hild Bede College, Durham University, and the gym at Hild Bede College is even named after Lilian!
  9. Lilian is a former PE lecturer and a former President of the Physical Education Association of the Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
  10. Lilian holds a Durham MEd for research into PE for children with special needs.

Lilian is one of the most generous, selfless, and inspirational people you could ever meet. In the words of Lilian herself, winning the Tourism Superstar Award will be wonderful, not only for her, but ‘for the Cathedral, for Durham City, and for the North East’.

So what are you waiting for? Please #Vote4Lilian today at

If you are interested in volunteering for Open Treasure, the new visitor experience opening at Durham Cathedral in summer 2016, please contact our Volunteers Manager at

For other volunteering opportunities at Durham Cathedral, please visit