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Built in 1093, Durham Cathedral has been a place of pilgrimage, worship and welcome for almost a millennium.

As the former monastic cathedral for Benedictine monks, we have some of the UK's most intact surviving monastic buildings. We also are guardians of unique objects, from the treasures of St Cuthbert to copies of the Magna Carta.

Durham Cathedral through the centuries

635 – St Aidan founds Lindisfarne’s monastic library, the origins of our Cathedral library


1093 – Building starts to house the shrine of St Cuthbert


1133 – Most building work is completed


1539 – The monastery is surrendered to the Crown, ending hundreds of years of monastic life


1541 – Durham Cathedral is re-founded with the last Prior becoming the first Dean, and twelve former monks becoming the first Canons


16th century – The Book of Common Prayer is introduced. Furnishings and artefacts are destroyed in the name of religious reformation
 

18th century – Part of the Norman Chapter House is demolished. Up to three inches of stone is chiselled off the Cathedral’s exterior


19th century – New stained glass windows and the Scott screen in the crossing are added


1832 – The Bishop of Durham and the Cathedral Chapter found Durham University


1895 – The Chapter House is rebuilt to the original design


Twentieth and twenty-first centuries – More effort is made to sensitively conserve the Cathedral and introduce contemporary art


1986 – UNESCO adds the Durham World Heritage Site to its list, recognising our architectural and historic importance

St Benedict, the founder of the Benedictine Order, delivering his rule to three monks.

Who are the Benedictine monks?

This order of monks, also known as the Black Monks because of their habits, are named after St Benedict of Nursia. Find out more about their daily life in medieval times in our Open Treasure exhibition.

Explore the Open Treasure Exhibition

Cromwell at Dunbar, Andrew Carrick Gow 1886

Prince Bishops

The Cathedral helped reinforce the authority of the Prince Bishops over England’s northern borders. They effectively ruled the Diocese of Durham from 1080 until 1836.

From a house of prayer to a prison

In the English Civil War, the Cathedral was closed for worship. In 1650 Oliver Cromwell used it to imprison 3,000 Scottish prisoners of war from the Battle of Dunbar. In 2013, two mass graves of soldiers were found during building work at Durham University’s Palace Green Library. Find out more in the Scottish Soldiers Project.

Guardians of the past, present and future

The Cathedral is very much a living building. We cherish its architecture, and the priceless objects in our Collections and Library. We also care for the woodlands and riverbanks that we own to the west.

How you can help

Entry is free, but please donate what you can to ensure access for future generations.