A Travellerspoint blog

February 2015


a day trip the the quaint town on a hill

The first class excursion the class went to was Durham, about an hour north of York. Once we got off the train, we were immediately greeted with a high view of the city, and it was unbelievable:

We walked through town to the cathedral and castle which can be seen in the picture from the train station. We turned the corner and saw the cathedral. Needless to say, we were pretty awestruck.


What makes this beautiful building even more beautiful is it's complicated history. (Can you believe that coming from me :P) It was originally built around the shrine to Saint Cuthburt. His remains are actually still in the church with a shrine for prayer and reflection. His bones were thrown into the yard during Henry VIII's sacking but eventually were put back into a more modest grave. Behind the grave is an intricate insert with lots of empty spaces- it looked like a huge multi-faceted picture frame. There were originally gold statues in there, but they were removed and buried before Henry VIII could get them....and never found. So somewhere there is lots of gold statues buried.

(We are entering the section where all pictures taken were taken illegaly because no photography was allowed in the cathedral or the castle. Therefore they are weird angles and poorly exposed.)


The other end held the tomb of the Venerable Bede, who was a monk, theologian, historian, and general academic in the medieval times. It also is what used to be the women's chapel because women were not allowed too close to a place so holy such as the grave of St. Cuthbert. There are so many other fascinating and great things in the Cathedral but I can't talk about everything :)

The next place we visited was Durham Castle. This castle is, once again, quite scenic


My favorite place in the castle was the old Norman Chapel. This chapel is uniquely preserved in the Norman style because it was closed off for a few hundred years. It has an Anglo-Saxon floor(pictured left), which is not normal for Norman chapel and quite possibly because the all the Norman masons were tied up with the Cathedral. It also has carvings of a mermaid and The Green Man, which is a pagan symbol. This is possibly because they were trying to incorporate aspects of the pagan religion to Christianity to make it more digestible to the pagans.
[Sorry for the poor angles. I was trying to sneak a picture without being caught]

Again there were lots of cool things in the castle. Unfortunately, I was less fortunate in sneaking pictures of these. One interesting feature is the second chapel built by Bishop Tunstall. It was built during the reign of Henry VIII and the religious turmoil. He built it to satisfy the Catholics but built it modestly to satisfy the Protestants. He spent his life converting between the two depending who was the ruler at the time, ultimately dying in the Tower of London because he wanted to die a Catholic even though Elizabeth I was Protestant.

I suppose the best way to end this post would be the pretty scenic views of Durham as a whole.


Posted by Kateogan 13:24 Archived in England Tagged sunset england cathedral castle scenic durham cuthbert Comments (0)

History of York

A weekend attending lots of Museums for Free


This weekend was the York Residents Festival and, as I am currently residing in York, admission to many of the museums and landmarks was free. I didn't hit everything on my list, but I saw quite a bit and explored many layers and periods of York's fascinating past. Here is a brief recounting of what I learned and saw (I really will try to be brief. You can decide if I succeeded.)

Finally made it up on the walls. It truely is amazing to be able to walk on such a landmark

This picture does well to show the sections of the wall. The red line shows the ending of the Roman wall and everything on top was built in the Medieval period. The stone caskets are Roman. They were moved here after their excavation. The picture on the bottom is an excavation site by the walls where lots of eras are also visible.

This is the remains of St. Mary's Abbey. It was a flourishing abbey for a few hundred years until Henry VIII went on his rampage to ransack Catholic churches and take their wealth to fund the new Church of England. They abbey was left to the elements. Today these few walls are all that remain. The gardens surrounding are full of stone from the Abbey. It is used as part of the landscaping (Picture on Bottom)The walls are used as a backdrop to events like weddings and theatre productions.

This is the King's House and a closer picture of the newly cleaned crest above the door. It was part of the Abbey, but Henry VIII liked it so much he not only saved it, he stayed in it for some time with Catherine Howard, Henry VIII's fifth wife. It was a school for blind children for a bit and now belongs to York College.

York has a Dutch House! It was built in Dutch style by a Dutch Architect. That's all I know about it, but it seemed fitting.

We went in a church built in Georgian Style with individual family blocks that families could rent for a year at a time. The church has no electricity and was probably colder than the outside.

This is the inside of Clifford's Tower. This tower has a long and complicated history. It was built by William the Conquorer, was the site of the Jewish Massacre of 1190 in which 150 Jews burned themselves alive in order to avoid being killed by the mob, and was used as a jail for a bit.

It is a weird circular fortress on top of a clearly man-made mound of dirt, but it offers a brilliant view of the city.

After the tower, we went into the Jorvick Center which included a ride through a rebuilt model town designed based on Archeological findings. It's interesting how I normally consider the Vikings to be unsophisticated and violent but the evidence shows Jorvick was a buzzing center of trade including materials from as far as China. They had musical instruments and hair pins. Well to clarify, they may have had a buzzing culture and lived in a trade center, but they were still violent.

The museum had several skeletons excavated and analyzed. They were able to determine the age, any physical defects, probable death, and diet from the bones; it's truly amazing. You could see the dents in the bone from battle wounds. They speculate they found a battle ground based on the number of skulls found with wounds that have not healed at all, indicating the person died before the bone had time to regenerate.

Morbid, but interesting.

Posted by Kateogan 03:17 Archived in England Tagged castles museums history york abbeys Comments (2)

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