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Durham Cathedral - Tourist Guide to Durham Cathedral

Picture of Durham Cathedral from the River WearStanding magnificently on top of a wooded hill overlooking the river Wear is Durham Cathedral. The design has five main sections to it, in the shape of a cross. The West End, North Transept, East End and South Transept, with the crossing in the middle.

The cathedral's architect Chris Downs tell us; "It is built in the shape of a cross which is orientated East. It aligns with the rising sun on on March 20th each year, which is the feast of St Cuthbert (the patron Saint of Durham Cathedral). Its architecture is mainly Norman Romanesque, although the Nave combines this with some early Gothic."

We will start here with what each of these 5 sections contains. Also, Roger Farrington has produced a virtual tour of Durham Cathedral for you.

West End

The main entrance to the building, the North Door is near here. On the front of it is a replica of the sanctuary knocker. Just inside there is a simple font with an elaborately carved wooden surround. Near to this is the Cathedrals's information centre.

Galilee Chapel (The Lady Chapel)

Right of the entrance, (West) is the Galilee Chapel otherwise known as the Lady Chapel. A later addition to the Cathedral, the chapel is built of lighter stone than the rest. Lots of chevrons are carved in this design. It is said to be reminiscent of Moorish designs of the Corboda Mezquita. Also, inside here is where the Venerable Bede's tomb is located.


Back outside of the Galilee Chapel large round columns dominate the Knave. They are the same height as their circumference. They are carved with a mixture of diamonds and chevrons. The South West Nave is home to the Miners Memorial (1947) carved in black wood.


This is the middle of the Cathedral underneath the central tower. There is a marble pulpit built by Sir George Gilbert Scott. Also the choir screen and brass lectern from the the 19th century restoration of the building. Either side of the Crossing are the North and South Transepts.

South Transept

As you come up the Nave into the South Transept you will see the statue of Shute Barrington. He was the Bishop of Durham from 1791 to 1826 according to official documentation from the Cathedral. The Durham Light Infantry Chapel and Cathedral clock are also located here.

North Transept

There are more large columns here, this time with a spiral pattern. The Gregory Chapel also is here, a place of quiet.

East End / Quire

The Quire is considered the heart of the cathedral as this is where regular worship has taken place for centuries. The wooden Quire stalls were build in the 17th century. A little further to the East is the Bishop's Throne. This was produced in recognition of the status of the Durham Prince Bishop. The far East end of the Quire houses the High Alter. Behind this is the Neville Screen made of Caen Stone from Normandy. It honours the Neville family for their defeat of the Scots in 1346. There were also statues here, but they were removed after the reformation. Behind the alter is St Cuthbert's tomb. This is now a simpler tomb than the original elaborate Medieval shrine.

Chapel of the Nine Alters in the East End

This chapel was built to accommodate a massive influx of pilgrims visiting St Cuthbert Shrine in the 13th century. There were originally 9 separate alters, each dedicated to a Saint. There are now 3 left each dedicated to multiple Saints.

The Gothic architecture here is embodied in the 1280 build North Window that dominates your view. It is much larger than the other Norman windows of the Cathedral.

Picture of the Central Tower of Durham Cathedral

Acknowledgements: Roger Farrington did many painstaking hours of study for this article in many libraries. Kevin Ireson edited it for the web and did many painstaking hours of chasing the job up to completion after 1.5 years of waiting. The Durham Cathedral Chapter Office helped us many times. The official Cathedral architect Mr Chris Downs and his office were instrumental in there guidance.

References: Official literature from the Chapter Office (2008 - 2010)

Britain's Best Buildings (2002) by Dan Cruickshank. Published by BBC Books

The Buildings of England, County Durham (1983) by Nikolaus Pevsner. Published by Yale University Press.

The Architecture of Northern England (1986) by John Martin Robinson. Published by Macmillan London

Walking the Cathedral Cities of England (2003) by Rowland Mead. Published by New Holland.