Durham Castle and Cathedral (1986)
Great Britain

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Great Britain 1969. World Cultural Heritage. Durham Cathedral.

Built in the late 11th and early 12th centuries to house the relics of St. Cuthbert, the evangelist of Northumbria, and the Venerable Bede, the Cathedral attests to the importance of the early Benedictine monastic community and is the largest and best example of Norman-style architecture in England. 

The innovative audacity of its vaulting foreshadowed Gothic architecture. Behind the Cathedral is the Castle, an ancient Norman fortress which was the residence of the prince- bishops of Durham. 

The city of Durham is the site of both Durham Cathedral (completed 1133) and Durham Castle (begun 1072). Durham Castle now houses University College, one of several colleges of the University of Durham (1832). The area that is now Durham County was a northern outpost of the Romans. Later it became part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria. From the time of the Norman Conquest (1066) until 1836 the bishops of the see at Durham had considerable secular jurisdiction. 

When William the Conqueror finally took control of Durham he appointed a Norman called Willam Walcher as Durham’s first Prince Bishop by combining the powers of the Bishop with those of the Earl of Northumbria. The term `Prince Bishop’ did not actually come into use until many centuries later but it is a good description of the political and ecclesiastical powers of Walcher and succeeding Bishops of Durham. Walcher’s time as a Prince Bishop was characterised by weak leadership which ultimately resulted in him being murdered at Gateshead in 1081. He was replaced by a new bishop called William St. Carileph who was the man responsible for building the present cathedral. Carileph designed the greater part of the Cathedral of Durham as it stands today and began its construction in the year 1093. Occupying the site of the old stone minster built by Uchted, the new building was completed to the bishop’s designs in more or less forty years. Unfortunately Carileph did not live to see the completion of his cathedral in 1135.

Sources and Links:

Other World Heritage Sites in Great Britain (on this site). Inactive links are not described on postage stamps. Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, United Kingdom Section, for further information about the individual properties. 

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Revised 19 jul 2006  
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