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Essay on Norman Politics and the Study of Durham Cathedral

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For many the Cathedral is seen to indicate the grandeur and control of the Normans, who were able to build such monuments to their power despite having only recently conquered England. The precarious situation of being an recently instated alien power was even more pronounced in the north, where even the Anglo Saxon Kings had only had a superficial hold, arguably making the construction of Durham “one of the greatest Anglo-Norman achievements”. This so-called achievement is not restricted to architecture but also refers to the political developments which enabled the Normans to apparently gain enough control to do this within 30 years. However the study of Durham Cathedral alone cannot suffice to give a satisfactory outline of Norman politics and the achievements in Durham and must be put into the context of the region. Hence Durham Cathedral and all its powerful connotations can be argued to only be an anomaly to the reality of Norman England and its politics.

Ostensibly Durham Cathedral can be seen as the product of stability and prosperity brought by the Normans to the area that had previously been dominated by barbarity. At first glance this does appear to be the case as were the region impoverished and unimportant such a grand scale project would not have been possible. Certainly the first Norman Bishop of Durham, St Calais, was frequently involved in official Royal business and is described as “perhaps the most eminent Norman ecclesiastic in England” giving the impression that the north was important to the Normans as such an eminent figure would not have been placed there were Durham marginal to their interests. Thus the focus in this time period appears to move from warfare and regional separatism to a more civili...


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...iography
Barber, Malcolm, ‘The Two Cities, Medieval Europe 1050-1320’ (Routlidge 1992) pp305-340

Bartlett, Robert, ‘The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonization and Cultural change 950-1350’ (Penguin Books 1994)

Chibnall, Marjorie ‘Anglo-Norman England 1066-1166’ (Blackwell 1986)

Dalton, Paul ‘Scottish influence on Durham 1066-1214’ in Rollason David, Harvey Margaret and Prestwich Michael, ‘Anglo-Norman Durham’ (Boydell 1994) pp339-353

Kapelle, W.E. ‘The Norman conquest of the North:The region and its transformation 1000-1135’ (Croom Helm 1979)

Matthew, Donald , ‘Durham and the Anglo-Norman world’ Rollason David, Harvey Margaret and Prestwich Michael ‘Anglo-Norman Durham 1093-1193’, (Boydell 1994) pp1-25

Offler, H.S. ‘North of the Tees’ (Variorum 1996)

Pevsner, Niclaus ‘The Buildings of England: County Durham’ (Penguin Books 1953) pp77-137




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