The Power of Durham Cathedral


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The Power of Durham Cathedral

Durham was unique. Not only did its Bishop have all the powers of a
Bishop, also bestowed upon him where the powers of a king; therefore
he was called the prince bishop. Only four other palantines had this
right but none were open to a cleric. The Arms of the See of Durham
displays a Bishops miter within a Kings coronet; it was a great
privilege to have this right.

The palantine of the Prince Bishop was enormous, from the Scottish
borders to Hull. They purchased land from many manors, although some
of it was given as a gift to the Cathedral.

The monastery lived on the income of this land, which was created from
the produce, or the money which the produce made in market.

The monastery also had power over numerous churches and had the right
to gain their tithes.

Durham cathedral's daughter houses also provided a source of income.

The Prince Bishop had so much power he could mint his own coins.

Durham Cathedral was the largest importer of goods in the north east
and the extent o f what they imported ranged from coal from Durham to
wines from the Mediterranean.

Judging from the amount of food eaten at Durham cathedral, in one
week, they must have fed about 300 people.

Durham Cathedral had the right to grant sanctuary.

A criminal would bang loudly on the sanctuary knocker on the north
door to alert the watchers who resided in two small chambers
overlooking the door. The watcher would let him into the cathedral,
there he would have to change his clothes for a black robe with a
yellow cross of St Cuthbert imprinted on the left shoulder. He would
then confess the details of his crime before a coroner and was allowed
to stay within the cathedral for 37 days, and provided with food and
water paid for by the church. On or before the last day he was
expected to leave the country by an assigned port or face execution.

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Durham's usual assigned port was Hartlepool. The criminals were
escorted to the sea port by the constables of each parish they passed
through. If the criminal strayed once from the king's highway during
the journey the punishment was death.

The authority to save a man's life is a tremendous display of how
powerful Durham Cathedral actually was.

The cathedral was also very important for education. They ran three
schools; A Grammar school where they taught poor children; a song
school where the children learn to sing; and a novice school.

The monks were well educated and rewrote out books, they were stored
in the libraries in the Monastery. Books were very rare and precious
as so few were able to read; and the time and effort that the monks
put into making the books shows how much the written word was
treasured.

But most of all Durham Cathedral was a very important place of
pilgrimage. It housed the body of St Cuthbert, and many came to its
side to pray to God or to ask Cuthbert to heal them or friends and
family. These pilgrims came with offerings of immense value and the
church profited greatly from this. Mostly it showed in St Cuthbert's
shrine, which according to the "Rites of Durham" was "exhaulted
with…marble…limned and guilted with gold."


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