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A World Heritage Site must be "An example of a type of building or
architectural ensemble." by the world heritage committee guidelines or
the international council on monuments and sites states it must be "A
building which is historically of the highest importance."
Durham fulfilled the criteria and was awarded the title world heritage
site in 1996. I believe Durham cathedral became a world heritage site
because it shows the earliest example of rib vaults and proto flying
buttresses outside of Italy. The cathedral is also of the highest
importance historically with both St.Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede
both buried there.
The cathedrals architecture is amongst the greatest in Europe if not
the world. It is essentially of the Romanesque an old Norman style
named due to its comparisons with the great building of the Roman
Empire. It has some gothic style, which was used by the 13th century.
It had wider more pointed arches and wider window.
The sheer size of the cathedral is amazing. When it was built the
builders didn't have any large machinery, cranes or metal scaffolding
and instead they were left with very basic rickety wooden scaffolding.
It took decades of hard work to build the cathedral.
The rib vaulting which is gothic in style was the first to be used
outside of Italy. It was used to create a great sense of height from
inside. The cathedral also has a great example of proto-flying
buttresses, which along with the transverse pointed arches are also
the earliest in England. Together they made the cathedral one of the
greatest in Europe.
I also believe the centre tower had a large part to play in the
cathedral becoming a world heritage site. It is a very tall building
to have been built with very basic tools and was used to point towards
God. It can be seen from almost everywhere in Durham.
The cathedral was built on top of a hill with a large meander of the
River Wear surrounding three sides of it and Durham castle protecting
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was very well positioned for defence and has a good view of the
The cathedral would have been an important part of town life many
years ago and still is today. In times of conflict the townspeople
would have gathered on the palace green for protection. Like most
cathedral and churches the cathedral is in the shape of a cross from a
birds eye view pointing towards the East. This show how strongly
people used to follow Christianity.
The cathedral is also historically important with three important
historic figures buried in the cathedral. St.Cuthbert who we already
know is important because he had been made a saint is buried at the
East end of the cathedral. He has a large shrine in his honour. Legend
says that he was visited by Aiden in a vision and was told to become a
monk. After dedicated work as a hermit he died as a saint in
Lindisfarne. When the Vikings came it was at risk so the monk decided
they needed to move the body and after a long journey they ended up at
the spot where Durham Cathedral now stands. It was originally a small
church called the white church. Durham cathedral was built to house
the body of St.Cuthbert. It was said that when the monks opened the
coffin of Cuthbert years after his death it was still perfectly
composed when it should have been rotted. People believe this was
because he was a special person in the eyes of God.
The second man was the Venerable Bede. Se is often wrongly called
Saint Bede but despite his huge religious contribution he wasn't ever
made into a saint but the next best thing a venerable. When he lived
in the 9th Century he collected the chronicles of many monks and he
dedicated a large amount of his life to writing the first ever history
of England. Bede helped us to understand the dark ages a lot more an
era we don't have a lot of information about. Bede had an extension to
the cathedral at the great west door to be buried in showing he was
regarded as very significant in history.
The third man buried in the cathedral is the Prince Bishop of Durham.
We can get an idea of how important he was by looking at the Bishops
Throne in the cathedral itself. It is the highest in England showing
how highly he rated himself. Many rated him higher than the Archbishop
of Canterbury. He was appointed by the king and controlled the North
of England in effect he was ruler of the North of England and second
only to the king. He had a large amount of power over many men and
protected England against invasion from Scotland.
In conclusion I believe that Durham Cathedral was made a world
heritage site because it is an outstanding example of a cathedral as
well as a religious building. The amount of work put into this giant
structure in astronomical. It is historically very important due to
its close links with St.Cuthbert, Bede and the Prince Bishop who are
all buried in the cathedral.