Durham Cathedral in photographs

Durham Cathedral has never allowed photographs. The one time I snuck one I felt so guilty I erased it.

But now, suddenly, there are signs saying you are welcome to photograph. Just please don’t take pictures during a service or of other people’s children. This is only as of March 8. I was told the change in policy is because of the new canon.

So along with a revealed tower, and services where you join a procession, you may now take pictures. Quick, before they change the rules!

This, of course, is my favorite cathedral ever. I have seen York Minster, Salisbury, Ripon (recently), and many others, but to me this is the best. It has to do with the Norman style. It’s not huge and distant like Gothic. It doesn’t pull you upwards, but rather wraps around you like a hug.


It’s grand, and big, but not too grand and big. And those wonderful varied columns. People like them so much they’ve been put on a postcard, just the column designs. A Durham Castle guide today told us they would originally have been painted in bright colors.


He also told us that the now white gallery ceiling in the castle would have been painted bright red and blue, but that Victorian restorationists thought that didn’t look Tudor enough (it was in fact Tudor) and they painted it white. Now if all this is true (and he had the same qualifications as a historian as I do), then it really adds to the story of art history.

You see, like most people, when I look at Greek and Roman statues and buildings, I assume they were always plain and white. But I learned long ago that they were all brightly painted. So now it seems that medieval and Tudor surfaces were also brightly painted, which means that the modernist aesthetic has come to influence our view of the past. That’s rather intriguing.

But painted or not, I certainly appreciate being allowed to take my own photos of this wonderful space.

1 comment to Durham Cathedral in photographs

  • “It doesn’t pull you upwards, but rather wraps around you like a hug.” Lovely. I know exactly what you mean. I’m glad that the pillars and ceiling are not brightly painted, but assume that this personal preference must be an influence of culture. I’ve always been struck by how very brightly painted some Hindu temples are, and could never imagine our cathedrals painted similarly.