1999-Feb seminar

16 February 1999

George Brown: Durham Cathedral - Salisbury's opposi

These are the notes George handed out at his talk.


The story starts not in Durham but at Lindisfarne and the Farne island of St. Cuthbert, just as Salisbury begins not at Salisbury but at Old Sarum and St. Osmond.

  • 635 -- Lindisfarne founded by St. Aidan, a monk of Iona.
  • ca. 635-687 -- Cuthbert: monk, hermit, bishop, saint (bishop 685-7)
  • ca. 699 -- Anonymous Life of Cuthbert written ca. 699. Bede wrote the Latin verse life ca. 705 and a second prose Life ca. 720, and final version in the Ecclesiastical History, IV. 27-32.
  • 793 -- Lindisfarne raided by Vikings; monks finally leave in 875, taking Cuthbert's coffin with them, arriving at Chester-le-Street in 883, and finally at Durham in 995.


  • 998 -- Bishop Aldhum and "monks" dedicate the "White Church"
  • ca. 1022 -- AElfrid Westoue takes Bede's bones from Jarrow and puts them with Cuthbert.
  • 1066 -- William the Conqueror sends Robert Cumin with 700 men to take possession of the NorthEast. The population of Durham rose en masse and slaughtered every Norman. William himself came north with a force and slaughtered every human being whom the soldiers could catch. The bishop and Congregation of St. Cuthbert fled to Lindisfarne, with the saint.
  • 1067 -- Walcher of Lorraine appointed bishop to take Anglo-Saxon bishop AEthelwin's place. Castle built ca. 1072. William makes Walcher Earl of Northumbria in 1076, establishing the Palatinate. Walcher killed by a riotous mob.
  • 1081 -- William of St. Carileph (St. Calais), abbot of St. Vincent, appointed bishop. Brought strict Benedictine rule to Durham community. He was exiled for participation in rebellion of Odo of Bayeux but returns in favor, bringing books and sacred objects.
  • 1093 -- Bishop William has the White Church pulled down and begins construction of new Cathedral: erects choir, transept, crossing. Rib vaulting in choir may be the first in European architecture. Quadrant arches in the nave gallery.
  • 1099 -- Bishop Ranulph Flambard finishes the nave.
  • ca. 1104 -- The central vault of the choir, which had to be replaced in the 13th C; but original work from 1096 survives in choir aisles.
  • 1104 -- Translation of St. Cuthbert's relics to shrine at east end.
  • 1175-89 -- Bishop Hugh du Puiset (Pudsey) has master masons Richard and William erect Galilee Chapel when Marian chapel at east end proves too difficult to construct.
  • 1220 -- Upper stages of west towers.
  • 1242-74 -- Five years after Bishop Poore's death forestalled his plans for the east end addition, Chapel of Nine Altars was erected in imitation of the east transept of Fountains abbey.
  • 1341 -- West window installed
  • 1366-71 -- The octagonal kitchen, designed by John Lewyn, is built in the cloisters.
  • 1370 -- The shrine of the Venerable Bede was moved into the Galilee
  • 1375-80 -- The Neville screen (reredos), donated by John, Lord Neville, is placed between the high altar and the shrine. Made of Caen stone, created in the workshop of Henry Yevele in London; it originally had 107 alabaster figures. Bishop Hatfield's memorial with the bishop's throne above it erected on the south side of the choir.
  • 1390-1418 -- Cloisters constructed
  • 1428-35 -- Langley (bishop 1406, cardinal 1411) remodels and braces Galilee, erected chantry tomb for himself outside west door.
  • 1465-75 -- Lower stages of central tower reconstructed; upper stages added 1483-90.
  • 1650 -- Destruction of furnishings by Scots Prisoners in the Civil War
  • 1777 -- Repairs to cracks in vaulting and walls by John Wooler; refinishing exterior stonework, carried out drastically by James Wyatt
  • 1831 -- Bishop Van Mildert and Dean and Chapter turn over property around Palace Green to form the third university of England.
  • 1840 -- Organ screen removed. Between 1870 and 1876 George Gilbert Scott devised a marble and alabaster screen at the entrance of the choir.

Material: Local carboniferous sandstone


  • Body: mostly Norman
  • Galilee chapel: late Norman
  • Chapel of the Nine Altars: Early English
  • Upper central tower: Perpendicular

Select bibliography

Lindisfarne and Cuthbert

  • Backhouse, Janet, ed., The Lindisfarne Gospels. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981.
  • Battiscombe, C. F., ed. The Relics of St. Cuthbert. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1956.
  • Bonner, Gerald, David Rollason, and Clare Stancliffe. St. Curthbert, His Cult and His Community. Woodbridge: Boydell, 1989.
  • Colgrave, Bertram and R.A.B Mynors, eds. Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969.
  • Colgrave, Bertram, trans. Two Lives of Saint Cuthbert. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1940, 1985.
  • O'Sullivan, Deirdre, and Robert Young. Book of Lindisfarne: Holy Island. London: English Heritage/B.T. Batsford, 1995.


  • British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions for 1977: Medieval Art and Architecture at Durham Cathedral. BAA, 1980.
  • Courtenay, Lynn T., Ed. The Engineering Of Medieval Cathedrals. Aldershot: Ashgate, 1997. Ch. 8 "The Stonework Planning of the first Durham Master," by Jean Bony. (Also note ch. 19 "Building the tower and spire of Salisbury Cathedral," by Tim Tatton-Brown.)
  • Jackson, Michael, ed. Engineering a Cathedral. Proceedings from Durham Conference, 9-11 September 1993. London: Thomas Telford, 1993.
  • Rollason, David, Margaret Harvey, and Michael Prestwich, eds. Anglo-Norman Durham, 1093-1193. Woodbridge: Boydell, 1994.
  • Shipley, Debra. Durham Cathedral. London: Tauris Parke Books, 1990. Stranks, E. J. This Sumptuous Church: The Story of Durham Cathedral. London:SPCK, 1973.
  • Thompson, Michael. Medieval Bishops' Houses in England and Wales. Aldershot: Ashgate, 1998.