Prebends' Bridge reflected in the River Wear with autumnal trees

Managing Durham World Heritage Site

Managing a World Heritage Site is a complicated process, especially when it is owned by three different institutions and used by thousands of people daily for learning, leisure and worship.

It is important to ensure that all these stakeholders have an opportunity to use the site, but at the same time protect it from damage. Buildings that are a thousand years old can pose many challenges!

Why Durham?

Durham was selected for World Heritage Status as it met three of UNESCO’s criteria for inclusion:

Criterion (iv): 

“To be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history”.

“Durham Cathedral is the largest and most perfect monument of ‘Norman’ style architecture in England. The small castral (castle) chapel for its part marks a turning point in the evolution of 11th century Romanesque sculpture.”

Criterion (ii):

“To exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design”.

“Though some wrongly considered Durham Cathedral to be the first ‘Gothic’ monument (the relationship between it and the churches built in the Île-de-France region in the 12th century is not obvious), this building, owing to the innovative audacity of its vaulting, constitutes, as do Spire [Speyer] and Cluny, a type of experimental model which was far ahead of its time.”

Criterion (vi):

“To be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria)”.

“Around the relics of Cuthbert and Bede, Durham crystallized the memory of the evangelising of Northumbria and of primitive Benedictine monastic life.”