Durham Cathedral

If you’ve been a visitor to this blog for any length of time, you may have noticed that Durham Cathedral keeps making an appearance. During my time in Durham it has been so many things for me: a place of worship, a place of work, a place of study, a place of relaxation, a place of spiritual refreshment. Almost anywhere you go in Durham, the arresting landmark of the cathedral’s towers will be somewhere in view. The view from the central tower, unfortunately closed right now for restoration work, is also spectacular (here is one of my photos from it). There are 35 randomized header images on this blog, all taken within about a half hour’s walking distance of my house: 23 of them include Durham Cathedral. They are many more pictures of the cathedral among the photos that I have posted here at various points.

Some of you may be interested to find out more about the building. This video is a good introduction.

More recently, I have been a volunteer in the Open Treasure exhibition that was opened this summer. If you ever have the opportunity to visit the city of Durham, I highly recommend that you take the opportunity to visit it.

One of the best things about Durham Cathedral is that entry to the building is free to the public, something that the entry fee for Open Treasure makes possible (the cathedral is also looking for donations right now—if you donate £10, your donation will be doubled!). In the modern world, art and beauty are so often so closely associated with astronomical price tags, functioning chiefly as signs of status and affluence. ‘Pieces’ of art also often suffer a sort of alienation from the worlds to which they once belonged: they are fragments hinting at worlds now lost. They are often held behind closed doors, only accessible to those with the disposable income to pay for entry or the wealth and privilege to belong to particular classes and institutions.

However, in Durham Cathedral, beauty isn’t cut loose from its world, nor is access to it reserved for the privileged. Architecture, painting, song, woodwork, masonry, textile work, the creation of manuscripts, etc., etc.—within a place like Durham Cathedral they form an integrated world, a place still oriented by acts of worship and a place that still serves to give order to the small city around it. Through its historic social influence and power, one of the great things that the Church has been able to do is to create and maintain awe-inspiring beauty, beauty that belongs to and enriches everyone. Durham Cathedral preserves and continues this legacy.

Seriously, you should visit.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
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