World Heritage Celebrations

Durham City

18.04.18 to 19.04.18

A weekend of events to celebrate the history and tradition of the beautiful Durham World Heritage Site is planned for 18 and 19 April.

Durham became a World Heritage Site in 1986, was one of the first sites in the UK to be registered and is one of only two sites in the UK to include a Cathedral. The Cathedral, Castle and the buildings between them were inscribed due to their architectural importance as monuments of the Norman Conquest of Britain, and because Durham Cathedral is one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in Europe, where what is believed to be the world’s first structural pointed arch can be found.

 The site’s political history also sets it aside, as an outstanding example of the heritage of the Prince-Bishops of Durham. These religious leaders, who also had secular powers, governed the buffer zone between England and Scotland from the late eleventh century until 1603 and lived in Durham Castle for many years.

To celebrate this important history and heritage, a series of events to suit a wide range of visitors is planned across the weekend. On the Saturday, four free guided tours of the Cathedral will be held between 10am and 11am, lasting half an hour each and a guided History Walk at 10am, led by a local expert, will offer a unique insight into the stories associated with the beautiful scenery surrounding the Cathedral. The walk starts at the North Door of the Cathedral, costs £1 and must be booked in advance - or 0191 374 4078 to reserve a place.

Also on the Saturday, the Cathedral will celebrate the Magna Carta, with a study day on the relationship of church and state in the Middle Ages and the part the church played in the creation of Magna Carta. 

At 9.45am a Big Read event will be held in the North Transept of the Cathedral, where English translations of the Magna Carta 1215 and Charter of the Forest 1217 will be read aloud.

This will be followed by the study day, in Priors Hall (11.15am – 3pm), where speakers will be: Dr Erik Niblaeus, speaking on Spiritual and Secular Power in 12th and 13th Century Europe; Professor Michael Prestwich, who will look at Edward I and Magna Carta and Dr Giles E.M. Gasper who will focus on Archbishop Stephen Langton whose appointment was a factor leading to the creation of the Magna Carta. The study day is a free event organised in collaboration with the History Department, Durham University, with donations of £10 welcome on the day.

On the evening of Saturday 18 April, Durham Cathedral hosts Darkness To Light: A Commemoration of the Liberation of Bergen Belsen.This stirring evening of music and words, features international opera soloists, a championship brass band and four choirs, with a rage of music including a special commission from Durham-composer Will Todd. Audience members are invited to bring a pair of shoes, in reasonable condition, to donate to charity. Booking for this event is via the Gala Theatre, 03000 266600 

Across the 18 and 19, there will be stonemasonry demonstrations in the Courtyard of the World Heritage Site Visitor Centre from 10am to 4pm and guided tours of the whole World Heritage Site will be held at 11am and 2pm. Booking for the tours is essential as places are limited, please call 0191 334 3805 to reserve a place. Palace Green Library will also be open for free on both days.

Durham Castle will also be open to the public for free tours as well as free tours on the History of the University College. These are held at 1.15pm on both days, booking is essential as places are limited, please call 0191 334 2932 to reserve a place.

Visitors with children will also enjoy the range of family activities being held in the conservatory of the World Heritage Site Visitor Centre, which include craft sessions to create a crown or sword and having a go at writing with a quill. These sessions are run on a drop-in basis from 10am to 4pm and children must be accompanied by an adult.

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