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Durham, diocese of

Durham, diocese of. The bishopric, conterminous with the old county of Durham, was created in 995, when Aldhelm moved the Northumbrian see there from Chester-le-Street. The consequent translation of St Cuthbert's bones to Durham benefited the new see spiritually and financially; no other northern bishopric could compete, so that even the principal see of Hexham fell into insignificance. Durham initially was not Benedictine, but William of St Carilef (1081–96), himself a scholarly monk and former abbot of St Vincent, introduced monks on the lines of Canterbury. The Norman kings raised Durham to a palatine earldom as a protection against the Scots and Vikings, with the bishop as earl. Ranulf Flambard (1099–1128) was William II's adviser. Flambard's notorious reputation amongst contemporaries for rapaciousness led to the see being taken under Henry I's protection for a time. Nevertheless Flambard built the greater part of the cathedral. The prince-bishops of the Middle Ages were people of influence in both church and state, a fact symbolized by the juxtaposition of the massive features of the cathedral and castle. Bishops retained their civil jurisdiction until abolished by the Established Church Act of 1836. Today the bishops of Durham still hold seniority, with London and Winchester, second only to the archbishops of Canterbury and York. In recent centuries bishops have often been scholars of note, including Joseph Butler (1750–2), the philosopher and theologian, Joseph Lightfoot (1879–89), a leading exponent of New Testament scholarship, and B. F. Westcott (1890–1901). In the 20th cent. H. C. G. Moule (1901–20), Hensley Henson (1920–39), Michael Ramsey (1952–6), Ian Ramsey (1966–73), John Habgood (1973–84), and David Jenkins (1984–94) maintained this remarkable tradition of scholarship. The original Anglo-Saxon cathedral of 995 was replaced by the present magnificent Norman cathedral, ‘the most impressively situated of the English cathedrals’, begun in the Benedictine tradition by Bishop William in 1093 and completed in 1133. High on its rock alongside the castle, it was begun under William I. The cathedral's ribbed cross-vaulting (1104), previously common in Persia and Armenia, was the first seen in the West, probably due to the influence of returning crusaders. The tombs of Cuthbert and Bede are in the galilee chapel. The bishops live at the historic Bishop Auckland castle.

Revd Dr William M. Marshall

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