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Below the central archway on the east wall of the Galilee chapel is Bishop Thomas Langley’s tomb chest. The medieval tomb is large but has a simple design, with steps on either side leading to an altar.

Bishop Langley chose the exact position of his tomb, but building it blocked the Great West door.

In the 19th century, two new doors were added to the chapel to correct the problem. The west wall of the chapel was also strengthened outside with four massive buttresses, preventing the cathedral from sinking into the river.

Did you know?

Power politics

Thomas Langley (1363-1437) was not a simple clergyman. As a supporter of Henry Bolingbroke, later King Henry IV, Langley helped overthrow and imprison King Richard II.

For this reason, Pope Boniface IX opposed attempts to promote him as Bishop of London and later as Archbishop of York. At one point the Pope punished Langley and King Henry by banishing them from the Catholic church (excommunication). During the reign of Henry IV, Thomas Langley served as Lord Chancellor of England.

Upon being elected Bishop of Durham in 1406, the excommunication was lifted, and he resigned as Chancellor a year later.

During Henry V's reign, Bishop Langley served mostly as a diplomat and as Chancellor again in 1417. After Henry V died in 1422 Langley continued as Chancellor for the infant Henry VI until 1424.

Interesting facts

Learning lessons

Bishop Langley had a strong interest in education. In 1412, he founded a grammar school in his first parish of Middleton, Lancashire.

The Galilee Chapel was home to the chantry, which he opened in 1414 to provide free grammar and music lessons to children who could not afford them. He founded Durham School in 1414.

Before his death Bishop Langley focused his energies on his diocese of Durham, admitting that he had neglected it while on government business.

Follow the guided tour

You’re in: The Galilee Chapel You’re at: The Langley Tomb Next stop: Bede's Tomb

  • Turn to your right and you will see another chest tomb
  • This is the tomb of the Venerable Bede, one of the most important places in the cathedral