I spent the day exploring Durham, England. I caught the train from Newcastle, and walked into town, finding the central square and market. Strolling up the road, I took some photos of lovely storefronts and stopped into a few shops. (I should have titled this piece “Shopping Durham,” as my “shopping” blog posts are the most popular!)
I explored the beautiful Castle and Cathedral – more on those in the next few blog posts! One of the outdoor cafe tables at Cafe on the Green, between the Castle and the Cathedral called my name. My guidebook and journal kept me company during lunch. Then, I had the good instinct to cross the River Wear and walk along the far side, looking up at the town and the Cathedral in its summer greenery. Why? I realized that the Cathedral facade would be lit by the afternoon sun.
I was even able to position myself just right so the construction cloth over the tower that is under restoration was blocked by the leaves. It was a beautiful and peaceful afternoon, part of an unusually sunny summer of 2018.
In the Middle Ages, stained glass windows taught the Scriptures to the illiterate, but today the educated admire them for their beauty and artistry. Saint Giles Cathedral in the heart of Edinburgh features some stunning stained glass as well as a beautiful architecture.
In St. Giles Cathedral, the leader of the Scottish reformation John Knox preached and converted the church from a Catholic to a Presbyterian place of worship in the 16 century. Knox had the stained glass removed, as he opposed anything that separated one from God, according to travel writer Rick Steves. Nineteenth century Victorians installed the stained glass we admire today.
I photographed these windows by propping the camera on the pew, and setting my Sony a7rII camera on ISO 2000. The images were lightly processed in Adobe Lightroom. I found the Sony performed quite well in dimly lit church interiors.
The ruins of Saint Andrew’s Cathedral might tell stories better than a perfectly restored monument. Wandering through here on a quiet afternoon, one cannot hear the organ or the choir. One cannot see the stained windows that glimmer in other Cathedrals, or gaze up the columns to the arches in the high ceiling.
But you can walk up what was the center aisle, now overgrown with grass and feel the breeze off the North Sea. You can wonder what happened to the missing walls and ceiling.
The town’s people plundered this enormous 12th century Cathedral to build the town? Yes, they did. The 16-century Scottish reformation inspired zealots to dismantle and destroy Catholic churches and abbeys. Today 40% of Scots follow the Church of Scotland, while 20% of Scots are Catholics. Most Catholics are Irish immigrants who live in the Western Highlands.*
My observation is that religion plays a far smaller role in the life of most people today.
The relics of martyr Saint Andrew, who was crucified on a diagonal cross, made Saint Andrews an important pilgrimage site during the Middle Ages. Today, we mainly know of Saint Andrews for its fine university and its 19 century golf course.
If you want to see and hear more about Scotland and northern England, go ahead and subscribe to my blog. There is much more to come from my recent trip there.
I’ve been busy reading and preparing for my upcoming trip to Edinburgh, Scotland and Newcastle, England. Ideas were swirling ’round and ’round in my head as I was trying to fall asleep last night. How many castles, cathedrals and closes will I explore? Will I rely on the train, or will I be bumbling ’round Northumberland on the left side of the road? Will I have time to see the Firth of Forth, or will I be distracted by cashmere on Princes Street?
If you haven’t subscribed to this blog, now might be a good time. I’m feeling inspired!