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Durham Cathedral, Galilee Chapel

The Galilee Chapel was built by Bishop Hugh le Puiset between 1170 and 1175. Puiset originally began building at the east end of the cathedral but when huge cracks appeared in the stonework, they were taken as a sign of disapproval from St Cuthbert himself and the work moved to the west end, overlooking the precipitous drop to the river. The chapel was intended for use by women, whose presence Cuthbert, enshrined at the east end, was said to dislike – perhaps the reason for his inferred displeasure.

The name of the Galilee Chapel alludes to Christ’s journey from Galilee to Jerusalem for the events leading up to his crucifixion, a journey symbolised by the monks gathering there before re-entering the cathedral for the mass. Its walls were painted with images of St Cuthbert and Oswald, King of Northumbria in the early 7th century. From 1370 the chapel was the busy home of Bede’s shrine and, later, the consistory court and the beginnings of Durham School

This atmospheric watercolour was painted by Blore in the 1820s. He was fortunate to have the opportunity: in 1795, the ‘improving’ architect, James Wyatt started the demolition of the Galilee and was only stopped by a pioneering preservation lobby.

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