The Chapel of the Nine Altars
The Chapel of the Nine Altars features three altars still in use for worship today.
Created in 13th century to accommodate the rising number of pilgrims visiting the cathedral, the Chapel of the Nine Altars looks slightly different to the rest of the cathedral.
Where is this space?
The Chapel of the Nine Altars is located at the eastern end of the cathedral, behind the Shrine of St Cuthbert.
How is it used today?
Today, there are three working altars in the Chapel of the Nine Altars, which are dedicated to St Margaret, St Hild, and St Aidan. They are used regularly in worship.
The Chapel of the Nine Altars in the medieval monastery
The Chapel of the Nine Altars was built between 1242 and 1280, to accommodate the large numbers of pilgrims arriving to visit St Cuthbert’s shrine. If you look closely, you can see a line on the floor of the feretory, which marks where the east end of the cathedral originally ended before the construction of the Chapel of the Nine Altars.
You might notice a change in architecture as you enter the Chapel of the Nine Altars from the Nave. Whilst the Nave is Norman, the Chapel of the Nine Altars is entirely Early English Gothic architecture. The floor of this space is lower than the rest of the cathedral, which was done to give a sense of soaring height.
The nine altars originally stood along the eastern wall, and allowed priest members of the monastery to celebrate Mass daily at different altars.
Changes over the past 500 years
Today, only three of the nine altars are still in use, and they are dedicated to St Margaret, St Hild, and St Aidan.
St Margaret of Scotland was probably present at the laying of the Cathedral's foundation stone in 1093. On display beside the altar dedicated to her is a painting by Paula Rego, commissioned by the cathedral and dedicated in 2004.
The Chapel of the Nine Altars is also home to a piece of artwork by local sculptor Fenwick Lawson. His wooden Pieta depicts the grief of Mary upon the death of Jesus Christ.
Wheelchair users and visitors with limited mobility
The Chapel of the Nine Altars is only accessible via stairs.
Visitors with a hearing impairment
An induction loop is not available in this area.
This space is fairly quiet, but can become loud during peak visiting hours.
Blind and partially sighted visitors
The lighting in the Chapel of the Nine Altars can be low depending on the time of day and year.
Things to touch in this space include the wooden Pieta artwork and the embroideries of the kneelers.