Durham Cathedral, England: Deep-seated in Times, History and Music

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The character of the city, Durham, and the archaic is fascinating. The Durham Castle known to be a Norman Castle, deriving its name from Norman’s, the raiders and pirates from , Iceland, and Norway. They had a tradition of Roman Architecture and a musical tradition practiced till date. The Durham Castle, Cathedral, and  building are equally beautiful, built somewhere around the 11th Century. Though there are stories told of times even earlier than these. Their sense of record keeping and holding it close to hearts is immaculate. Durham Cathedral designated as UNESCO  Site stands beautiful and amidst lush greens. On , Archana revisits the enigmatic place. She recalls a few carols, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths (DT).

December is much awaited for the festivities that behold. Each twinkling of tiny star in the night sky is rejoiced, each spark of fire blazing in furnace and the dark nights are brightened. The joys of warming up and enjoying around the glowing fire is manifold. The jingle bells, chimes of time all run through, time to renew and time you just flew to land unknown, unseen.

One such place, I always wanted to go and live these thoughts, was Durham, situated on the hilly top, near River Wear, in England.

It has something to do with the ancient character of the city and the archaic architecture, which is fascinating. The Durham Castle known to be a Norman Castle, deriving its name from Norman’s, the raiders and pirates from Denmark, Iceland and Norway. They had a tradition of Roman Architecture and a musical tradition practiced till date. The Durham Castle, Cathedral and University building are equally beautiful, built somewhere around the 11th Century. Though there are stories told of times even earlier than these. Their sense of record keeping and holding it close to hearts is immaculate.

Durham Cathedral designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site stands beautiful and magical amidst lush greens. UNESCO reported it to be the largest and most perfect monument of Norman style architecture, in England. It enshrines Saint Cuthbert, the library houses the famed Magna Carta, some earliest printed books in England. This was originally built as a residence of Bishop of Durham.

In fact, Durham’s Bishop is very important and is referred to as Land of Prince Bishops. English love for their culture and strong nationalism makes them strong custodians of their heritage. The way they have preserved their history is commendable. They have chosen to weave mystical and magical stories around the seats of their .

My visit to Durham Cathedral was like a leaf straight out from an English Classic. The carol, which kept playing in my mind, in the wet, misty, cold weather was:

In the bleak midwinter

Frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron,

Water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow,

Snow and snow,

In the bleak midwinter,

Long ago

The impressive Cathedral building with a Central tower, which is 217 feet in height offers excellent views around the area. There is a magical feel about the entire surroundings. People walk unhurried, leisurely soaking in the beauty, admiring each and everything. This is really important that we permit ourselves to pause and view that mysteriously magical sense of life that is just waiting for us to notice. How ephemeral are such leisurely moments!

The interiors of Cathedral are so enchanting that they are every  shooting desire. The Cathedral has been filmed for the 1998 movie, Elizabeth. The famous Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, of Harry Potters’ movies, is actually the Durham Castle. It is Britain’s one of the best buildings. My kids were amazed to see it and were busy figuring out, which could have been the Harry Potter’s favourite hiding place. They mistook some bearded fellow to be the Professors of Hogwarts School.

The Choir of Durham is well known and I wanted to listen to them. Luckily the group was singing with all its splendour and decorations. The dark insides with candles burning was imparting the necessary magical spell. With Christmas, the choir and child Choristers all come together to sing in full glory, which otherwise offer separate services. The connection with divine can greatly be felt and could imagine how it must be on a Christmas night.

I could deeply feel that being at Durham is an architect’s delight. Naithaniel Hawthrone in the English Notebook quoted on Durham, “I paused upon the bridge, and admired and wonderedat the beauty and glory of this scene… it was grand, venerable, and sweet, all at once, norbeing content with this, do I care to see a better.”

See him in a manger laid,

Whom the choirs of angels praise;

Holy Spirit, lent Thine aid,

While our hearts in love we raise.

Merry Merrier Merriest Christmas!

©Archana Sharma

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Archana’s resume speaks of a career in HR, armed with a Management Degree, and a career which spanned for more than 15 years. Now, she is following her heart’s pursuit on a journey from being a writer in closet to a published writer. Publications include articles in leading national newspapers and online blogs. An avid traveller seeking refuge and solace amidst Himalayan magnificence and sublimity.