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Durham Cathedral

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

In the civil parish of Durham.
In the historic county of Durham.
Modern Authority of Durham.
1974 county of County Durham.
Medieval County of County Palatinate of Durham.

OS Map Grid Reference: NZ273421
Latitude 54.77346° Longitude -1.57619°

Durham Cathedral has been described as a Fortified Ecclesiastical site although is doubtful that it was such.

There are major building remains.

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


Cathedral church, originally of Benedictine Priory, refounded 1541 as secular cathedral. Main body 1093-1130, begun by Bishop William of St. Calais; Galilee 1189 for Bishop le Puiset. West tower tops, east bay and Chapel of 9 altars, 1242- c.1280. 1464-88 tower top stage. Restorations of late C18, early C19 and mid C19, notably by Bonomi and Jackson, Pickering and Robson and Fowler. Dressed sandstone; slate roofs. Cruciform with aisles, east transept aisles, transeptal eastern chapel, crossing tower, twin west towers and western Galilee. Galilee one storey with battlemented parapet and richly-moulded north entrance. Large, restored C14 and C15 windows. West towers have 4 lower stages aligned with those on nave: all have shafted round-arched openings (those on south side enriched), the ground stage a blank arcade, the clerestory set back under a corbel table. Elaborately-moulded opposed entrances in second nave bays have medieval doors, the north now with replica of sanctuary knocker. 2 upper stages to towers have pointed-arched openings under bands of blank arcading; corbel table below pierced battlemented parapet with crocketed pinnacles. Transepts have outer west stair turrets, blank arcading and large inserted Perpendicular windows north and south. Crossing tower of 2 stages with tall openings under crocketed ogee hoods, and high, pierced parapet. Chancel elevations similar to nave except for 2-light windows in triforium and C19 Decorated windows in aisles. Eastern transept 9 bays wide, divided into 3 and then into single bays by large buttresses. Angle towers with short spires, the southern with elaborate restored panelling. (Listed Building Report)

Despite being within the bailey of a strong castle, itself within further city defences Durham Cathedral was also said to be partly fortified. Walter Scott, in the poem Harold the Dauntless described it as 'Half church of God, half castle 'gainst the Scot'. The church is certainly massively built and the attached monastic buildings will have had walls designed to separate the monks from the towns people but it is questionably if these could be said to be fortifications. However, in 1143, 'men burst into the cathedral, smashing through the windows of the church and climbing in with ladders. Having roughed up the monks they then began fortifying the building like a castle' (Goodall, 2011). This shows the cathedral was not fortified but, as with any strong built stone building, was seen as being capable of being turned into a fortification (cf. Hereford Cathedral, Southwell Minister etc.)
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:08

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