Tag Archives: Durham Cathedral

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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Baldwins blog: Central tower reopens after three-year restoration project

Brian Logan, consultant at Baldwins, a CogitalGroup company, recalls the cathedral’s central tower reopening event.

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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 www.durhamcathedral.co.uk/whats-on/st-john-passion


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.

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

Feasting and Fasting: The Great Kitchen at Durham Cathedral

A new exhibition in Open Treasure, Durham Cathedral’s multi award-winning museum experience, examines the role that food and drink played in the life of the cathedral and its inhabitants through the centuries. Focused on the famous Great Kitchen, the exhibition explores everything from medieval monastic rules on fasting to the kitchen’s present day role as home of the treasures of St Cuthbert as part of Open Treasure.

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Last look at Armistice: Living with the Peace

As Open Treasure’s exhibition Armistice: Living with the Peace approaches the end of its run, we take one last look at the highlights of this fascinating exhibition, which explores the local impact of the end of the First World War. Documents, newspapers and diaries from the Cathedral’s archive capture the moment of Armistice and its aftermath from the Cathedral’s perspective, but the exhibition also contains several fascinating personal items, loaned from the Cathedral community to show how the region celebrated peace and commemorated those lost.

Here are four highlights to give you a taste of the exhibition, which closes at 5pm on Saturday 2 February.

Continue reading Last look at Armistice: Living with the Peace

10 Fantastic Facts about BEASTS!

Did you think beasts only existed on film or in fairy tales? Think again! The new BEASTS! exhibition in our Open Treasure Collections Gallery showcases some of the the weird and wonderful beasts and monsters which have fascinated people from earliest times through the Cathedral’s Collections and objects on loan from other institutions.

Here are some fantastic facts about some of the objects you can see on display…

  1. Conrad Gesner’s Historiae Animalium (History of the Animals) is said to mark the beginning of the modern science of zoology. Swiss naturalist Conrad Gesner’s published Historiae Annimalium between 1551 and 1558 in a five volume compendium, and tried to collect everything that had ever been written about animals including everything from crocodiles to unicorns! On display are two copies of the Historiae Animalium from 1617-1621.
  2. Johannes Jonstonus’s Historiae Naturalis (1657) became one of the most successful and influential natural history books of the 17th and 18th centuries. Perhaps the last great zoological encyclopedia of the Renaissance, one of the reasons for its popularity was the quality and range of its illustrations. Myth and reality are still combined, however: the pages displayed in Open Treasure feature a phoenix, pelican, harpy and griffin.
  3. Thomas Bewick published A General History of Quadrupeds in 1790. Bewick was unhappy with previously existing illustrated books and wanted to create a more accurate book by using illustrations drawn from life. Visitors to BEASTS! can see Bewick’s exquisite illustrations on display in the Collections Gallery.
  4. Also on display are several pieces of ‘evidence’ for the existence of various beasts, including a unicorn’s horn on loan from Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens. Nowadays we know this horn is a narwhal’s tooth, but in medieval western Europe people really believed in unicorns. The spiral horn of these graceful creatures was believed to have powers of healing and neutralising any poison.
  5. People today know that elephants are real, but in medieval England elephants were creatures of legend. On display in the exhibition is an elephant’s tooth from Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens. It was said that elephants would stamp on the head of a serpent or crocodile as they were believed to be mortal enemies.
  6. Griffins were a fierce mythical creature with the body, tail and back legs of a lion, the head and wings of an eagle and eagle’s talons on its front of feet. Like many other beasts they were believed to have special powers. Only a very holy person could obtain the claw of a griffin, and it is believed that the griffin claw currently on display in BEASTS! may have been gifted to St Cuthbert’s Shrine.
  7. Along with the griffin’s claw on loan from The British Museum, visitors can see griffin’s eggs on loan from Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens. The Griffin’s Claw is really the horn of an Ibex (Alpine wild goat), whilst the griffin’s eggs are probably ostrich eggs.
  8. Many manuscripts from the Cathedral’s Collection are richly decorated with beasts and other decorations of various kinds. One of the manuscripts on display is Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica (Theological Summary) part 1, a great work of instruction for theology students in the 13th and 14th centuries. The students set to study this volume were perhaps easily and frequently distracted, as many of its pages feature sketches and doodles, including some highly imaginative beasts. The page displayed features a dragon with an arrow-shaped tongue, and a bird eating a snake or eel.
  9. Beasts and fantastic creatures were seen also in the night sky among the stars. On display are pages from the Medicine, the Calendar, and Astronomy, a 12th-century a compendium of scientific procedures which covers everything from medicinal procedures to tables on astronomy.
  10. Visitors to BEASTS! can also see the inkwell used by Professor McGonagall in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone. Durham Cathedral was used one of the sites used to bring Hogwarts to life in the Harry Potter movies. This inkwell from the Cathedral’s Collections once belonged to Bishop Lightfoot, Bishop of Durham during the nineteenth-century.

BEASTS! will be on display in Open Treasure until Saturday 10 June.

Open Treasure is open Monday to Saturday from 10.00am – 5.00pm (last entry 4.00pm) and Sundays from 12.30pm – 5.00pm (last entry 4.00pm).

Tickets: £2.50 – £7.50 (under 5s free) available from www.durhamcathedral.co.uk/open-treasure and from the Visitor Desk in the Cathedral.

Open Treasure annual passes are also available so you’ll never have to miss an Open Treasure exhibition!

Ten things you didn’t know about ‘Textiles: Painting with the Needle’

So you think textiles are dull? Think again! The new textiles exhibition at the heart of Durham Cathedral’s world-class exhibition experience Open Treasure showcases some of the finest examples of church needlework from the last 1,100 years, and there are some intriguing stories hidden behind the glimmering threads and exquisite embroidery.

  1. The oldest textiles in the exhibition are the 8th-century Anglo-Saxon Dalmatic and the 12th-century Peacock Silk from the Shrine of St Cuthbert. When St Cuthbert’s tomb was first opened in 698, 11 years after his death, the monks of Lindisfarne found his body to be incorrupt or undecayed. The silks on display were added to St Cuthbert’s coffin following subsequent openings, and were removed in 1827.
  2. Also on display is a rare fragment of silk from the tomb of Bishop William of St Calais, nominated by King William I of England as Bishop of Durham in 1080. Bishop William of St Calais ordered the construction of Durham Cathedral in 1093 to replace the earlier Anglo-Saxon White Church, but he died in 1096 and did not live to see the finished result.
  3. The Arabella Stuart Bible is an exquisite embroidered bible, once owned by Lady Arabella Stuart, great great granddaughter of King Henry VII and potential heiress to the English throne. Imprisoned in the Tower of London by her cousin King James I in 1610, Arabella eventually died in the Tower on 25 September 1615 after refusing to eat.
  4. The first cope on display in the Collections Gallery dates from the fifteenth century. Probably made in Italy, this cope depicts an exquisite cycle of images. The hood, showing Christ seated on a rainbow, might have been added later, perhaps in the seventeenth century when the robe was sent to London for repairs and alterations.
  5. The Charles I Cope is a rare example of 17th-century needlework, commissioned for the visit of King Charles I in 1633. The embroidered image of David holding the head of Goliath on the hood of the cope is an eerily prophetic image of Charles I’s ultimate fate in 1649 following the English Civil War.
  6. The Bishop of Durham’s Coronation Cope has been worn at the coronations of the last four British monarchs, including the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Traditionally the Bishop of Durham stands on the monarch’s right hand side to show support for the new ruler. Occasionally this has meant more than just symbolic support; Queen Anne could barely stand during her coronation as she suffered from gout so the Bishops of Durham and Exeter had to physically hold her up!
  7. Modern textiles are explored through the work of Durham Cathedral’s Broderers, a team of volunteer embroiderers who work tirelessly to produce textiles for everyday use in the Cathedral from altar cloths to cushion covers. Samples from the Lenten Altar Set are on display, embroidered with silks and pure gold metal thread.
  8. ‘Death of a Working Hero’, a tapestry by world-renowned artist Grayson Perry, is on display in the Monks’ Dormitory to complement the exhibition. Created for his recent Channel 4 documentary, Grayson Perry: All Man, the piece explores the concept of masculinity and its place in the modern world.
  9. As well as hosting world-class temporary and permanent exhibitions, Open Treasure is located in the most intact surviving medieval monastic buildings in the UK. Visitors can admire the breath-taking architecture of these historic spaces, including the 14th-century Monks’ Dormitory and the spectacular monastic Great Kitchen.
  10. Textiles: Painting with the Needle is part of a rolling programme of exhibitions in the Collections Gallery. Look out for more exciting exhibitions in 2017 including Beasts! from 20 February – 10 June, and Magna Carta and the Forest Charters from 19 June – 9 September.

Open Treasure is open Monday to Saturday from 10.00am – 5.00pm (last entry 4.00pm) and Sundays from 12.30pm – 5.00pm (last entry 4.00pm).

Tickets: £2.50 – £7.50 (under 5s free) available from www.durhamcathedral.co.uk/open-treasure and from the Visitor Desk in the Cathedral.

Open Treasure annual passes are also available so you’ll never have to miss an Open Treasure exhibition!