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The Chapel of the Holy Cross is a hidden gem in a 13th century vaulted undercroft

Has it always been a chapel?

It was probably not used as a chapel in medieval times. This is because it lies underneath the Prior’s House, where there was already a chapel.

The remains of the beautiful 15th century wall paintings from this lost chapel of St Nicholas are visible in the present Deanery entrance hall.

From chapel to air raid shelter

The space has been used for many purposes over the centuries. Records show it was used as a Chapel in the 1920s.

During World War II the Cathedral Choristers used it as a semi-underground dormitory for protection against air raids.


A name close to Durham’s heart

In the 11th century, Queen Margaret brought a fragment of the Holy Cross, later known as the Black Rood, to Scotland. This relic was captured at the Battle of Neville’s Cross, which took place a few miles west of the Cathedral, in 1346.

It was presented to Durham Cathedral and honoured until the Reformation, when it was lost.

Dedicating the space to the Holy Cross recalls the church built by Constantine in Jerusalem on the site identified as the place of the crucifixion.

Who designed the fittings?

Fittings were designed by sculptor Colin Wilbourn, who also created The Last Supper sculpture on display in the Galilee Chapel.

Opening times

Open from Easter to the end of the October half–term holiday.

The Chapel is also available for use by groups or individuals for acts of worship or quiet prayer and reflection.

Where to find it

Leave the Cloister, past Prior's Hall and head towards our Cathedral green. You'll see signs to your left directing you to the Chapel.