12 June, 2013

Durham Cathedral Cloister

Durham Cathedral was founded in 995 by a group of English monks looking for a secure site to establish a monastery to house the relics of St Cuthbert, having been driven out of the island monastery of Lindisfarne by Viking raids.  After a providential encounter with a milkmaid, they settled on a spectacular steep-sided peninsula above the River Wear (see earlier post on Durham Cathedral).

The English monastery was replaced by a Benedictine foundation after the Norman conquest, and a monastery remained on the site until the Dissolution in the mid-sixteenth century.

The heart of the medieval monastery was the cloister, which adjoins the south side of the cathedral.  The present cloister dates from the fifteenth century, although the layout dates back to the building of the Norman cathedral.  


View of the cloister courtyard.




 

Looking along one of the cloister ranges.  Originally the windows would have been glazed. The cloister would have been used for study and probably also as a scriptorium for manuscript copying.





The ceiling of the cloister has a wealth of intricately carved wooden bosses at each of the junctions…




…including this rather splendid Green Man

10 comments:

Constance Brewer said...

I wish I had a cloister on my house. heck, a courtyard would be nice, too.
Is it still used as a monastery?

Beth said...

That Green Man is a cheery looking chap!

Carla said...

Constance - No, Henry VIII saw to that. The monastery was dissolved along with all the others. However the close association with the cathedral meant the buildings stayed in use and so survived.

Beth - Yes, isn't he? :-)

Gabriele C. said...

I actually saw Durham Cathedral from the train from Newcastle to York and even managed a decent shot out of the window.

I really need to put that one on my list should I ever manage to travel there again since I always use the Amsterdam-Newcastle ferry.

Rick said...

I agree that the Green Man is quite cheerful looking, and generally cool!

And I'd imagine that the cathedral staff ('Chapter'?) used the cloister pretty much the same way their monastic predecessors did.

Carla said...

Gabriele - Yes, Durham is well worth a visit. For some reason I thought you had already been there. If you haven't, I think you would like the cathedral.

Rick - probably not quite, as they probably wouldn't have used it as a scriptorium, but they certainly made use of some of the buildings. The last prior also became a dean of the cathedral after the Dissolution, so there was some continuity among the top brass.
The 'Green Man' is a popular motif in medieval decorative architecture in Britain, varying from the fearsome to the cheerful. This one seems to be the cheerful sort :-)

Rick said...

Wouldn't the scriptorium function, as such, already have been sidelined by the spread of printing?

Carla said...

Good point :-)

Just an accountant said...

Durham cathedral is so impressive and beautiful, and these are lovely pictures!

Carla said...

Thank you. It's a magnificent building and my pictures don't really do it justice!