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The Chapel of Nine Altars was built 1242 – 1290 to help accommodate the crowds of medieval pilgrims visiting the Shrine of St Cuthbert

Cutting-edge design

The Chapel's architect Richard of Farnham employed the latest ideas in early English Gothic architecture used in Lincoln, Salisbury and Fountains Abbey.

He levelled the ground so the floor of the Chapel is lower than the main part of the Cathedral. This gives a sense of soaring height helped by the slender ribs of the vaulting and tall, narrow windows.

The large northern window with its double tracery, or stonework, was probably the last part of the building to be constructed.

Look up!

The carved bosses, or circular stones, in the roof are particularly fine examples. The massive weight of the roof is held up by buttresses on the outside of the east wall.

Why are there so many altars?

Nine were created so that all the priest members of Durham monastery could celebrate Mass daily at different altars.

Today there are three working altars in the Chapel dedicated St Margaret, St Hild and St Aidan. They continue to be regularly used in worship.

Two female saints

St Margaret of Scotland was probably present at the laying of the Cathedral's foundation stone in 1093. She is commemorated by an altar and a 2003 painting by Paula Rego.

St Hild, Abbess of Whitby and a contemporary of St Cuthbert, also has an altar. Her modern icon was written in 1999 by Edith Reytiens.

The last Prince Bishop

In the Chapel stands a statue of William Van Mildert, the last Prince Bishop (1826 – 1836). He was a co-founder of Durham University in 1832 along with the Dean and the Chapter.

Exceptional embroidery

The Friends of Durham Cathedral commissioned the Cathedral Broderers to create the central altar frontal and panels in 1994 dedicated to St Aidan.

Designed by Leo Childs, they celebrate the coming of Christianity to the Northumbrians through St Aidan, St Cuthbert and St Bede.