Tuesday 28 August 2018

Durham cathedral, castle and church

The priest yesterday in Durham had a Northern accent and moved swiftly from the words in the Gospel about the Real Presence to the problem of rich people eating the poor. He said St Paul's instruction to wives to submit to husbands was 'awful' and he had been tempted to omit these words from the Gospel reading altogether. He explained that St Paul had expected the imminent second coming and not bothered to preach in favour of sexual equality.

I was at St Cuthbert's Church, a pretty church which is one of the oldest Catholic churches in England, built in 1827. It has a beautiful altarpiece but it saddened me that Catholics celebrate Mass here and not in Durham Cathedral, a contender with Wells and Salisbury for being the most beautiful cathedral in the country. 

Durham Catholics form a community that has survived the Reformation. In 1569 Durham was the centre of the Rising of the North by the Catholic Percys and Nevilles, Earls of
Northumberland and Westmoreland, an attempt to restore Catholicism to England. The Catholic Mass was celebrated at Durham Cathedral. The priest who said that Mass, Father Thomas Plumtree, was later hanged, drawn (alive from the gallows) and quartered (chopped up alive) in Durham Market Square. He was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1886 and St Cuthbert's maintains relics of his arm and hand.

Image may contain: sky, cloud, outdoor, nature and water

Before 1536 the Cathedral was a blaze of colour, pungent with incense. Now not only is the Mass banished but the Latin Mass is a distant memory for Catholics too.

Image may contain: sky, cloud and outdoor

I recommend Durham, which feels like it is on the edge of the world, and in the summer recommend staying in Durham Castle, which is also known as University College, Durham. Rooms, including breakfast in the Great Hall - much older than any college hall in Oxford or Cambridge - and a guided tour of the castle, cost £50. I particularly recommend the room above the gatehouse, up a mediaeval spiral staircase. The tour of the castle is absolutely fascinating.

Image result for durham gatehouse college


  1. The rich "eating the poor" - clearly the gentleman is from the Pope Francis School of Economics (although the Anglican Church is also filled with the same idiocy). I do not mind clergymen talking about politics and economics (although they should not pretend they are talking about religion when they do so), what I object to is a person (clergyman or not) talking absolute rot - and pretending they are being learned.

  2. Islam & Corbyn's popularity in the UK is down to people's deep desire to be lead by men.