Durham Cathedral – A Love Affair

The most beautiful city In England…

I have a secret love.

Not flesh and bone, but glass and stone;  my love is Durham Cathedral.

I have an evangelical passion for this place; wherever I go in the world I sing its praises, and those of this precious gem of a city. I am unable to visit Durham without stepping inside the Cathedral. It calls my name and I am drawn towards it, up the steep bank and past the medieval jumble of shops and cafes on Saddler Street , and along ancient cobbled Owengate. I catch my first glimpse as I approach the elegant open expanse of Palace Green, and it makes me smile.

The first glimpse – Owengate, Durham (my photo)

This is no cold, forbidding ancient space; this Cathedral has a beating heart, a warmth and a joy, its ancient stones embracing all who visit, those of all faiths and those who have none.

This place is both restful and busy, calming and vibrant. In the golden light ladies with armfuls of flowers and greenery bustle back and forth creating floral arrangements for the altar and side chapels; purple-gowned guides and beadles smile and chat to visitors and pilgrims; cassock-clad choristers march in procession on their way to  choir practice; a small army of volunteers and listeners attend to those seeking information and those seeking solace.

The footsteps of tourists fall upon marble memorials set amidst the flagstones, all of them too busy looking upwards at the magnificent vaulted ceiling to notice the names of long forgotten souls who rest for eternity beneath their feet.

I watch as candles are lit in memory of lost lives, or perhaps just lost love, and I light my own.

This Cathedral is full of souls, and full of soul.

It’s not a particular architectural feature that draws me back. It’s not the magnificent rose window, a huge kaleidoscope of jewel-coloured glass. It’s not the juxtaposition of the contemporary and the ancient in the Galilee Chapel. It’s not the exquisite tomb of St Cuthbert, for whom the Cathedral was built, with its glittering canopy of red and gold.

It’s not the Durham Light Infantry Chapel nor the Miners Memorial, commemorating those who gave their lives in the pursuit of empire or in defence of the realm, the winning of wars and the winning of coal. Nor is it the sunshine casting shadow-arches on the floor of the Cloister.

Sunshine in the cloister – my photo

It’s nothing that you can touch or see or smell that brings me here. It’s an atmosphere, a feeling which envelopes me as soon as I enter. It can bring me to tears and it makes me smile.

Some talk to God. I talk to the stones and the ghosts of countless others who have loved this place, and they whisper back.

The moment I walk through the ancient doors and step into the warm light, a peace descends. Whatever trouble disturbs my mind is but a speck of dust caught in a sunbeam through the prism of a stained glass window. This place has existed for a thousand years before I was born, and will exist for a thousand years after my ashes have been cast to the four winds. This place has witnessed the joys and sorrows of a million souls, as it has witnessed mine.

This place belongs to me, and I to it. All is well, because I am home.
My love is not flesh and blood, but glass and stone.

Fire Sculpture, Cathedral Cloister (my photo)


You can read more about Durham Cathedral here

For things to see and do in this beautiful city and the surrounding county, check out the This is Durham website.


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  1. Nik January 29, 2017

    Nice article and great writing 🙂

  2. Steve January 29, 2017

    It is a fabulous place, and your love is obvious from your writing. One of my most treasured memories is getting lost while wandering around it and bumping into a couple of volunteers in a private area, who came every evening to pick up the dehydrated bats that fell from their roosts, and gently syringe water into them to revive them. It was amazing to help them collect, hold and revive the tiny creatures in such an amazing architectural masterpiece.

    • Jane January 29, 2017 — Post author

      What a wonderful image Steve. There are all sorts of little things like that which the visitor never sees -one of the many reasons I love it so much. Thanks so much for reading. Hope you’re well!

  3. Catherine January 29, 2017

    Beautiful. Just beautiful evocative writing .

  4. Alison Rudzki January 30, 2017

    You’ve captured this beautifully Jane. Even living on the other side of the world now, it remains one of my favourite places on earth.

    • Jane January 30, 2017 — Post author

      Thank you lovely. I never tire of it . It’s my favourite building in the world x

  5. Allison Swainston January 30, 2017

    This beautiful description of this amazing place we have on our doorstep has me in tears.You have truly captured the beauty of this place in your writing.Can not wait for your next blog.

    • Jane January 30, 2017 — Post author

      Thank you so much Allison. I think it’s a place so many of us take for granted but I’ve really come to appreciate it as I’ve got older xx

  6. Daniel Groves February 16, 2017

    In 2005 we were living in Spain. Over a Christmas lunchtime with Spanish friends, we planned a long weekend in Càdiz for the seafood. As more Rioja flowed, I suggested Newcastle instead.
    The Spanish loved the idea. Late February it happened. Newcastle, Bamburgh, Edinburgh, BUT THEIR HIGHLIGHT WAS DURHAM CATHEDRAL. Given the magnificent churches and cathedrals in Spain, this was some achievement.
    The 2 guys, both Spanish lawyers, knew quite a bit of English history, which came flooding back to them as we toured the Cathedral.
    I’ve since had occasion to take a couple of young Andorran teenagers their, and even they had to, somewhat begrudgingly, admit to the magnificence of the church.
    Lovely article.

  7. Dave Eckhart March 14, 2017

    I love the cathedral & hav bin many times ..as a musician like 2 hear the harmonies in the choir & soak up the peace & calm ..well written homage to the old girl ..inspiring like the cathedral …

  8. Ian Mc Nee March 14, 2017

    Thanks Jane, you’ve put my feelings for the Cathedral in a nutshell. Although I was christened & confirmed in, and attended St John’s in Seaham, Durham Cathedral was, and always will be, my Church. I was there a couple of weeks ago with 3 German mates of mine and they were greatly impressed even though we’ve got Cologne Cathedral just down the road. Another piece of ‘home’ which keeps calling me back.

    • Jane March 14, 2017 — Post author

      Thank you Ian – the most beautiful building in the world as far as I’m concerned ! X

  9. John Simes January 26, 2019

    Thank you, Jane. Superlative and graceful piece, full of insight and emotion, for which you used some of your loveliest prose. I visited about ten years ago with my mother shortly before she passed away. It will always be a special place to me, and I agree with you about what really stirs one. Its say something universally important and urgent. Wonderful work, Jane.

    • Jane January 26, 2019 — Post author

      Thank you so much John. It’s a very special place, and not like any other cathedral I’ve visited.

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