durham cathedral england

The mass of Durham Cathedral. So much heavier than its lighter Gothic brothers. Yet still elegant, in its own way.

Sometimes it’s good to take a look at the older cathedrals and realize the amount of stone and effort that went into constructing the massive churches of the Romanesque era before the discovery of the architectural techniques which allowed the lightness of the Gothic churches. The pillars and walls here in Durham, built in the 11th Century, are so massive when compared to the delicacy of the Exeter Cathedral, built almost 400 years later. The bulk is relieved slightly by carved design visible on the left pillars, but the overall sense is one of pure weight.

tomb venerable bede durham cathedral

The tomb of the Venerable Bede, the first historian who chronicled the history of the Christian Church in Britain.

Bede was an English monk and scholar who lived in the 8th Century. He wrote or translated over 40 books, and his greatest work was The Ecclesiastical History of the English Peoplewhich I read in the original Latin long ago at the University of Minnesota. Bede is known as the Father of English History, which is quite a distinction since the English have more history than any other people I’m aware of. (Except perhaps the Irish.)

HIC SUNT IN FOSSA BEDAE VENERABILIS OSSA is the inscription on the stone which covers his tomb. A clever bit of Latin (that even rhymes) which translates simply as “In this grave are the bones of the Venerable Bede.” The clever bit, though, is using the word, “fossa” which literally means “something that’s been dug,” for grave. Caesar used the same word to mean ditch. The usual Latin for grave is sepulcrum. But, of course, that doesn’t rhyme.

Durham Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site of the United Kingdom. Click the link to see our other posts about UNESCO World Heritage sites in the UK.

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