Durham Cathedral: Part of a World Heritage Site
Inscription as a World Heritage Site
Durham World Heritage Site, then comprising Durham Cathedral and Castle, was inscribed by UNESCO in 1986. As such, it was one of the first places in the UK to be recognised as being of Outstanding Universal Value, in this case, for its architectural, political, and spiritual importance.
Durham Cathedral as a Pivotal Work of Architecture
Durham Cathedral, the greatest Norman building in Britain, is also one of the most important surviving examples of Romanesque architecture. It demonstrates daring architectural innovation in the first use of pointed arches to support a vaulted ceiling of monumental scale — a solution that was to be replicated for centuries, becoming a trademark of many of the great later Christian buildings of Europe. Nine hundred years after its construction, it maintains its place as an architectural turning point.
Durham's political importance as a buffer state between England and Scotland cannot be overstated, and, together, the Cathedral and Castle are an unforgettable symbol of the unusual combination of secular and religious power held by the so-called Durham “Prince-Bishops”.
Extension of the Durham Site
In 2008, the Durham World Heritage Site was extended to include Palace Green, the large open space connecting the Cathedral and Castle, as well as the buildings around it. Many of these were formerly the civic buildings of the Durham Palatinate and include a former court, almshouses, and a school.
Among the most important collections of the Durham World Heritage Site are its libraries, which include an important collection of medieval manuscripts, documents, and records, and a wealth of more recent information. The infamous Lindisfarne Gospels, now one of the treasures of the British Library, produced in honour of St Cuthbert, was brought to Durham by his community of monks when they settled here in 995 and remained in the Cathedral until the sixteenth century.
Durham as a Spiritual Hub
Durham Cathedral's most important claim to fame is its spiritual value. The final resting place of the remains of St Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede, it flourished as a place of pilgrimage, spiritual centre and place of learning.
Along with the twin monasteries of Wearmouth-Jarrow, Durham is a cradle of English Christianity.
The Christian Heritage of the North East
In fact, the North-East is unique in England for its Christian heritage. The history of its places and people testifies to the power of Christianity in the Saxon era to shape the character and destiny of an entire people. Sites such as Lindisfarne, Hexham, Escomb, Jarrow, Wearmouth and Durham; the lives of Aidan, Hild, Cuthbert, Benedict Biscop and Bede; artefacts such as the Lindisfarne Gospels, Cuthbert's cross and coffin and the Codex Amiatinus are potent reminders of the spiritual, cultural and artistic achievements of an age of magnificence.