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Durham Cathedral, Communion Service

The Durham prebend, Richard Kaye, was the chief patron of the Swiss-born artist, Samuel Hieronymus Grimm. Here Grimm shows a common scene from the life of the senior clergy at the cathedral in the 1770s, the celebration of the Communion. As elsewhere, Durham had suffered the insecurity of 250 years of conflicting religious attitudes: the Reformation, the return of Roman Catholicism followed by its rejection again, High Church, Puritanism and, by Grimm's time, a period of complacent materialism.

The prebends were beneficiaries of numerous estates donated to the priory and profited from the boom in Durham’s 18th-century industrial economy. Frequently absent, typically harvesting multiple appointments, their duties were slight and increasingly social rather than religious. Little wonder then that they were scorned as ’golden canons’ and widely disliked. Non-conformism would soon mine a rich seam of popular resentment to the cynicism of much of the Established Church in the land of the prince bishops.

Find out more about the history of Durham in our virtual exhibition, Durham: Echoes of Power

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