England’s Northeastern Cathedrals

We’re slowly working our way through the list of the Church of England’s cathedrals, and with our June return to Northern England, we checked three more off our list. In case you’re wondering, there are just shy of 4 dozen cathedrals in England proper. This is a pretty impressive concentration of true cathedrals (home churches of bishops) rivaling countries like Spain and Italy. We’re up to fifteen, so we have a couple dozen more, enough to keep us busy for another decade or so.

Our first full day in England, we made a beeline to Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England’s extreme north east. We went here first only to apply the logic of working our way in from the most distant reaches. Newcastle Cathedral, formerly “The Cathedral Church of Saint Nicholas”, is indeed dedicated to Saint Nicholas of Santa Clause fame. The current cathedral church was completed in the mid 14th century, replacing an earlier Norman church that was destroyed by fire. The church was built as a parish church, but with the city of Newcastle’s growth in the 19th century, the Diocese of Newcastle was formed, and the church elevated to cathedral status, in 1882.

Chuck and Lori's Travel Blog - Nave of Newcastle Cathedral
Newcastle Cathedral’s Nave

The Newcastle Cathedral is a “medium” sized cathedral, with pointed arches and a wooden roof. It boasts some unique art, both classical and modern, including a stained glass window depicting the Madonna and Child and a modern sculpture of the eucharist. But likely the most interesting architectural feature of Newcastle Cathedral is its tower, which for centuries doubled as a lantern to aid in naval navigation for ships arriving in Newcastle on the River Tyne.

The Diocese of Newcastle was a spinoff from the Diocese of Durham, and we also got to see the “Cathedral Church of Christ, Blessed Mary the Virgin, and Saint Cuthbert” during our June visit. This is one of the largest cathedrals in Europe (almost as big as its name), and we had high expectations for our visit. While the cathedral is indeed grand, we were a bit disappointed with Durham Cathedral (which is an inherent problem with having high expectations).

Chuck and Lori's Travel Blog - Durham Cathedral
Durham Cathedral

The Diocese of Durham has been a diocese since the tenth century, with the current cathedral dating from the eleventh century. It was purposefully built to house the remains of, and act as a shrine for, Saint Cuthbert, one of England’s most-loved saint-bishops. With an impressive size and a soaring all-stone nave, undeniably Durham Cathedral is inspiring. Go for the neck-craning architecture, but don’t expect grand religious art, and don’t plan to take photos (as one of the more popular cathedrals, photography–even by purchased permit–is not allowed).


Chuck and Lori's Travel Blog - Durham Cathedral
Durham Cathedral



If you visit the summer of 2015 and you’re a history buff, you’re in for a treat. Due to the storied history of the diocese, the cathedral has permanent possession of several original copies of the Magna Carta. This year, for the 800th anniversary of this historical document’s signing, you’ll find two of those copies on display in a well-organized special exhibit. You’ll also find the surrounding town of Durham, with it’s curve of the River Wear nestling the old town and university atmosphere, worthy of a day or two’s visit. So go to Durham for the Magna Carta and the college town, have modest expectations to see a massive cathedral, and enjoy a tea and scone in the undercroft.
Durham Cathedral in Legos
(Our Only Interior Photo of Durham Cathedral)

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