Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle
The first morning we visited the Durham Cathedral, we agreed that it was by far the best cathedral we’ve seen so far. We spent almost two hours viewing the cathedral and talking with two of the stewards, who act as guides for visitors. On one of the walls, I saw the name Thomas Neville. I knew the Neville’s were owners of Raby Castle, but I wasn’t aware of their connection to the Cathedral. I purchased a guide book and later, back in our room, I learned that my 22nd and 23rd great grandparents lie in tomb chests in the Cathedral.
According to the guidebook, burials were discouraged in the building overshadowed by St. Cuthbert’s burial place, so there are few burials in the nave. In the south arcade is the impressive tomb-chest of 1388, belonging to my 22nd great grandfather, John, Lord Neville, a wealthy benefactor of the Cathedral priory. Nearby, is the mutilated monument of his father, Ralph, the first layman to be given the honor of a Cathedral burial for his victorious part in the Battle of Neville’s Cross in 1346.
The great stone reredos behind the altar in the sanctuary is the Neville Screen, one of the treasures of the Cathedral. It was largely a gift of John, Lord Neville and was completed in 1380. Made of stone thought to have come from Caen in northern France, it would originally have been brightly painted, and statues of angels and saints would have stood in each of the 107 niches. All of this was swept away in the years that followed the Reformation. However, the screen is still impressive for it purity and simple Gothic lines.
We returned to the Cathedral the next morning to view the tomb chests and further investigate the Neville connection to the Cathedral. The feeling of touching the tomb chests of my great grandfathers is impossible to describe. I will be forever moved by the experience.
Durham Castle wasn’t open for tours during our visit, so I had to be content with taking a few photos of the exterior and the courtyard.