Durham - From Bede to Bishop Puiset

Prices from £695


12 Sep 2020 - 14 Sep 2020
Duration: 2 nights
Ref: 20DURH
With: Dr Sally Dormer


Prices from £695
Single Supplement: £60
Deposit: £200

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Described by Sir Walter Scott as “half church of God, half castle ’against the Scot” Durham Cathedral is perched upon a rocky promontory surrounded by a meander of the River Wear. It is justly viewed by many as the finest, and most precocious, example of English Romanesque architecture. By 1093 when the present building was founded, the area already possessed an illustrious past. In the 7th and 8th centuries, Northumbria was one of the most powerful kingdoms in the British Isles, and home to a number of monasteries that were beacons of culture and learning. One of the kingdom’s most famous sons, the Venerable Bede, was a monk at the twin monasteries of Monkwearmouth and Jarrow. His most famous work, Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, earned him the title ‘The Father of English History’. Our visits to churches in the vicinity of Durham chart the development of religious architecture from the Anglo-Saxon church at Escomb to the serene simplicity of the Romanesque at Pittington, as well as offering the chance to look at wall paintings, sculpture and coloured glass windows. Finchale Priory was built on the site of the hermitage of St Godric, a retired sailor and merchant, who settled here after a life of adventure and travel, was an outpost of Durham Cathedral and functioned as a holiday retreat for the monks until its suppression in 1538. The final day of our tour is devoted to a thorough exploration of Durham Cathedral, where St Cuthbert’s shrine space survives as well as Bede’s tomb in Bishop Hugh de Puiset’s Galilee Chapel; and the excellent Treasury Museum.


"Durham cathedral, arguably the finest Romanesque church in England, together with equally intriguing, but less well-known, medieval monuments at Escomb, Monkwearmouth, Finchale and Pittington, transport us back to the age of St Cuthbert, Bede and the all-powerful Prince Bishops."

As the director of the Early Mediaeval year course at the V&A, Sally is an expert in mediaeval art and history. She is Dean of US study abroad undergraduate programmes for the University of the South and Rhodes College. Sally also lectures for the Art Fund and Arts Society.

DAY 1:

Arrive in Durham in the afternoon and settle in to your room at the four-star Marriott Royal County Hotel. Our introductory walk through the historic city centre will include a guided tour of Durham Castle, which was begun in the late 11th-century by William the Conqueror and functioned as the home of the mediaeval Prince Bishops of Durham.

DAY 2:

By coach to St Paul’s Monastery, Jarrow. Founded by the Northumbrian nobleman Benedict Biscop (c.628-690) after he was inspired by the Christian life he saw in Rome. St Paul’s was one of the most influential centres of learning and culture in Europe. The monastery’s reputation spread throughout the continent chiefly because of the scholarly writings of the Venerable Bede, who entered St Paul’s as a child oblate in about 680. We continue to nearby Finchale Priory, founded in 1196. After lunch we visit Pittington Church, with its fine Romanesque architecture and wall paintings, before continuing to one of England’s oldest surviving Anglo-Saxon churches in the pretty village of Escomb. Return to Durham for dinner.

DAY 3:

Today we undertake a thorough study of Durham cathedral – the finest example of English Romanesque architecture. We continue to the newly opened Cathedral Treasury Museum to marvel at the stunning metalwork and stone objects on display in the magnificent Claustral buildings. After a private lunch in the Prior’s Hall, we return to the hotel where the tour concludes at around 3pm.


Twin/double share: £695 per person
Double room for sole use supplement: £60
Deposit: £200 per person


  • Private coach transfers and excursions
  • Two nights’ bed and breakfast in the 4* Durham Marriott Royal County Hotel
  • One dinner and one lunch
  • Guided visits to sites listed in the programme
  • Services of the Lecturer and Tour Manager
  • Detailed programme and study notes
  • All entrance fees, taxes and gratuities for coach drivers and waiters


Located in the historic centre of Durham, the Marriot Royal County hotel is situated in a building dating back to the 17th century. This comfortable hotel has a lounge bar, a restaurant with terrace, a fitness centre, indoor pool and sauna. The rooms include tea and coffee making facilities, a safe, TV, hairdryer, bathrobe and iron.