Built in 1093 to house the Shrine of St Cuthbert, Durham Cathedral is renowned for its magnificent Romanesque architecture and spectacular location at the heart of the Durham World Heritage Site. It has been a place of pilgrimage for over a thousand years and is the resting place of the Venerable Bede.
We’ve pulled together five fascinating facts that you may not know about one of the most famous Cathedrals in the world…
Durham Cathedral famously appeared as a filming location for the blockbuster Harry Potter film series. The cloister became the snow-covered quadrangle, where Harry sets his owl flying in the Philosopher’s Stone. The Chapter House is the setting for Professor McGonagall’s classroom when she teaches the young wizards to turn animals into water goblets.
The medieval tomb of Ralph Neville, who was a great benefactor of the Cathedral, is surrounded by figures said to represent Ralph’s 19 children. All of the figures face outwards, apart from one. It is rumoured that the figure represents the one son that Ralph did not like.
Worship at the Cathedral was suspended during the English Civil War. Between 1650 and 1651, Durham Cathedral was used as a prison for 2,500 Scottish prisoners of war. They burned anything wooden to keep warm, but left the medieval Prior’s Clock untouched. According to legend, this was because there is a thistle engraved on the clock – the emblem of Scotland, which the prisoners respected too much to destroy.
Standing at one inch higher than the Pope’s, Durham Cathedral’s Cathedra (Bishop’s throne) is the highest throne in Christendom. Bishop Hatfield allegedly ordered his representatives to go to the Vatican to measure the height of the Pope’s throne, as he wanted his to be the tallest.
Designed by the 14th century’s finest mason and architect, the Neville Screen stands imposingly between the Cathedral’s high altar and the Sanctuary. However, the screen is missing 107 alabaster figures. One story behind their disappearance is that the monks of Durham Priory hid the statues to protect them from destruction during the Reformation. They have never been found.
To learn more about Durham Cathedral and the many fascinating events and activities visitors to the World Heritage Site can enjoy click here.