The Quire is the heart of the cathedral, where daily worship takes place.
Daily worship has taken place here for centuries.
Where is this space?
The Quire is located just behind the crossing of the Nave, and can be accessed from the North and South Quire aisles, as well as from the crossing.
How is it used today?
The Quire is the heart of the Cathedral, where worship has been offered to God every day for more than 900 years.
Home to the Cathedra, the choir stalls, the organ, and the high altar, the Quire is where daily worship takes place.
The Quire in the medieval monastery
This space was once entirely enclosed behind screens, and is where the monks of the monastery would gather seven times a day to sing the divine office. Their monastic life was organised around this daily prayer and praise.
The Quire was one of the earliest parts of the cathedral’s structure. It was important for the High Altar and the Shrine of St Cuthbert to be installed as soon as possible, so that worship and pilgrimage could begin.
Cathedrals are named as such after the Cathedra, also known as the Bishop’s Throne. The Cathedra at Durham was built by Bishop Thomas Hatfield (1345-1381), and to this day is the highest in Christendom. Hatfield’s tomb, which lies beneath the Cathedra, holds the only figure in the cathedral to have escaped destruction during the Reformation.
Changes over the past 500 years
The finely carved wooden stalls date from the 1660s and are carved in the style of Bishop Cosin, whose name is associated with a local Durham style of carving that uses designs based on fruit.
The organ was originally built by ‘Father’ Willis in 1876, replacing the famous ‘Father’ Smith organ of 1686 that had stood above the quire screen. In 1905, the Willis instrument was rebuilt by the Durham firm of organ builders, Harrison and Harrison, who continue to care for it today. The organ boasts a total of 5,746 pipes and its concept, design, placing, voicing and environment make it one of the most triumphantly successful organs of the English-speaking world.
Wheelchair users and visitors with limited mobility
The Quire can be accessed with a ramp via the North Quire Aisle.
Visitors with a hearing impairment
An induction loop is available on request. This is only in use when the tannoy is in use, usually during services and events.
The Quire can be a noisy space whilst the choir is singing and the organ is in use, but is usually quiet outside of services and peak visiting hours. . Contact our visitor desk to enquire about these times.
Blind and partially sighted visitors
Lighting in the Quire can be low depending on the time of day and year.There are lots of things to touch and feel in the Quire, including the wood carvings in the choir stalls and the frosterly marble.