Tag Archives: Open Treasure

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 Reasons to Vote for Durham Cathedral as Heritage Site of the Year

Bill Bryson has nominated Durham Cathedral as Heritage Site of the Year in the BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards 2017 and we need your votes!

In nominating Durham Cathedral for this award, Bill Bryson described it as ‘one of the supreme achievements of the architectural world‘ and a wonder to behold from every possible vantage point, inside and out’. He also famously once described Durham Cathedral as ‘the best Cathedral on planet earth’!

But if you still need convincing, here are ten reasons why you should vote for Durham Cathedral as Heritage Site of the Year:

  1. #SpiritualHeritage – Durham Cathedral has been a place of worship for almost one thousand years. It is the resting place of two of the North’s best-loved saints, St Cuthbert and St Bede, and is still a living place of worship with at least three services daily.
  2. #MusicalHeritage – Durham Cathedral’s musical heritage dates back to the 11th century and since 1416 the Cathedral Choir has been accompanied by a team of choristers. You can hear them singing Evensong in the Cathedral most days and there’s nothing more uplifting than hearing this incredible building filled with the sound of music!
  3. #NaturalHeritage – Durham Cathedral is surrounded by woodlands and riverbanks. This beautiful space at the heart of Durham City was created as part of a planned 18th-century landscape but is now open for everyone to enjoy, a haven for wildlife offering spectacular views of the Durham UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  4. #LiteraryHeritage – Durham Cathedral Library dates back to the library of the monastery founded by St Aidan on Lindisfarne in 635AD. It is now the largest in-situ medieval library in the UK with manuscripts dating from the 6th century onwards and 30,000 early printed books!
  5. #ArchitecturalHeritage – Durham Cathedral is renowned as one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in Europe and boasts the world’s first known example of a structural pointed arch, which paved the way for the development of Gothic architecture in Europe.
  6. #MonasticHeritage – One of few places to survive the Reformation intact, Durham Cathedral now boasts the most intact surviving set of medieval monastic buildings in the UK. These incredible spaces are now part of Open Treasure, including the UK’S best-preserved monastic dormitory with its fourteenth-century oak-beamed ceiling and the stunning Great Kitchen, one of only two surviving monastic kitchens in the UK.
  7. #ArtisticHeritage – Durham Cathedral is home to many pieces of modern artwork by artists including Paula Rego, Fenwick Lawson, Colin Wilbourn and Kirill Sokolov. The Cathedral continues to exhibit the work of local artists including Judy Hurst and the late Norman Wade.
  8. #GlobalHeritage – Durham Cathedral is part of the Durham UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the first World Heritage Sites to be inscribed by UNESCO in 1986 and one of only two World Heritage Sites in the UK to include a Cathedral!
  9. #LivingHeritage – The heritage of Durham Cathedral is not confined to the past. Durham Cathedral is a place of living heritage that many of us call home, with annual events celebrating the vibrant culture of the region of Durham from the Miners’ Festival Service to Durham BRASS Festival.
  10. #YourHeritage – Most importantly, the heritage of Durham Cathedral is #yourheritage and we’d love to hear what makes Durham Cathedral special to you! Please share your stories with us on Facebook and Twitter before 28 February using the hashtag #yourcathedral to celebrate your heritage.

To vote for Durham Cathedral in the BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards, please visit www.countryfile.com/article/heritage-site-year before 28 February and cast your vote!

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!

10 things you should know before visiting Open Treasure

Planning a trip to Open Treasure when it opens next weekend? Here are 10 things you should know before you visit, from practical information about tickets to fascinating facts about the incredible spaces along the exhibition route!

  1. Open Treasure is a permanent new exhibition experience located at the heart of Durham Cathedral’s medieval monastic buildings. There is a modest charge to enter Open Treasure, but entry to the Cathedral Church remains free for all.
  2. Open Treasure tickets cost £7.50 for adults, £6 for concessions and £2.50 for children aged 5-18. Open Treasure is free for under 5s, and annual passes are also available to take advantage of the rolling programme of exhibitions in the Collections Gallery
  3. Tickets are available online and from the Visitor Desk in the Cathedral. Tickets are available in advance or on the day of your visit. Visitors will be able to choose an hourly time slot to make the most of their visit to Open Treasure. To book tickets online, please click here.
  4. Open Treasure will be open 7 days a week, from 10.00am – 5.00pm Monday to Saturday (last entry 4.00pm) and from 12.30pm – 5.00pm on Sundays (last entry 4.00pm).
  5. Open Treasure is an interactive visitor experience for visitors of all ages. Exhibits in the Monks’ Dormitory evoke the sights, sounds and smells of life in a medieval monastery, and there is even the chance for children to dress up as a monk!
  6. Durham Cathedral has made Open Treasure as accessible as possible, no easy feat in a medieval building! There is lift access throughout and an accessible toilet half-way through the exhibition route. Seating is also available in the Monks’ Dormitory and Great Kitchen so you can take time out to admire the incredible architecture.
  7. Open Treasure will transform public access to the Cathedral’s collections, which have been hidden away for many years. Don’t miss the stunning church plate and metalwork exhibition in the Great Kitchen, which will eventually house the Treasures of St Cuthbert following a period of environmental monitoring.
  8. Highlights of Open Treasure include the Monks’ Dormitory, the UK’s only intact surviving monastic dormitory with an original fourteenth-century oak ceiling, and the Great Kitchen, one of only two surviving monastic kitchens in the UK.
  9. Open Treasure staff and volunteers will be on hand throughout the exhibition route to answer any questions you might have and provide a friendly welcome to all visitors.
  10. And last but certainly not least, the spaces along the Open Treasure exhibition route, along with Durham Cathedral’s Cloister, represent the most intact surviving set of medieval monastic buildings in the UK! Nowhere else can you feel such a palpable sense of history and imagine the scale of the medieval monasteries which were once found all over the UK until the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Durham survived relatively unscathed, and the buildings that remain provide a unique insight into life in a medieval monastery, whilst revealing the story of Durham Cathedral and its incredible collections.

We look forward to welcoming you to Open Treasure at Durham Cathedral, open to the public from Saturday 23 July 2016. To book tickets online, please click here.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has supported Open Treasure with a grant of £3.9 million.

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Ten things you didn’t know about Open Treasure

The launch of Open Treasure, Durham Cathedral’s new world-class exhibition experience, is just around the corner!

Open to the public from Saturday 23 July 2016, this spectacular new visitor attraction will reveal the remarkable story of Durham Cathedral and its incredible collections, with interactive exhibits and activities for visitors of all ages.

To whet your appetite, here are ten things you might not know about Open Treasure and the spectacular spaces along the exhibition route:

  1. Open Treasure is located at the heart of Durham Cathedral’s claustral buildings, which together represent the most intact surviving set of medieval monastic buildings in the UK.
  2. The journey begins in the magnificent fourteenth-century Monks’ Dormitory, the only intact monastic dormitory in the UK with an original oak-beamed ceiling rivalled only by Westminster Hall in London.
  3. Over the last 700 years, the Monks’ Dormitory has been a dormitory, a library and even included a two-storey house at one point!
  4. The Monks’ Dormitory includes a timeline exploring the history of Durham Cathedral. Interactive exhibits and activities will evoke the atmosphere of life in the medieval monastery with sights, sounds and smells!
  5. 89 new doors have been hand-crafted for the book cases in the Monks’ Dormitory by the Cathedral’s joiners. Each door had to be individually hand-crafted and stained because the nineteenth-century book cases were all different sizes.
  6. The new state-of-the-art Collections Gallery includes specially designed cases created by two prestigious case manufacturing firms, Goppion and Bruns, who have also designed cases for The Louvre and The Rijksmuseum amongst others.
  7. The Cathedral’s collections include over 75,000 items, including 30,000 early printed books and manuscripts, some of which will be displayed as part of a rolling programme of exhibitions in the Collections Gallery.
  8. The visitor experience continues in the Great Kitchen, a stunning space which is one of only two surviving monastic kitchens in the UK.
  9. The Great Kitchen once catered for the monks of Durham Cathedral’s monastery and was used as a kitchen until the 1940s. You can still see evidence of the fireplaces, a bread oven and even a spit!
  10. The Great Kitchen will eventually house the Treasures of St Cuthbert, following a period of environmental monitoring. These extraordinary artefacts represent some of the most precious surviving examples of Anglo-Saxon and Medieval metalwork, textiles and woodwork and will go on display in late 2017. In the meantime, visitors can enjoy an awe-inspiring exhibition of church plate and metalwork.

To find out more about Open Treasure, and to register your interest in tickets on-line, please visit www.durhamcathedral.co.uk/open-treasure