Durham Cathedral developed as a renowned centre for learning – this is hardly surprising as learning was fundamental to the Benedictine Order. In the 13th century, then still a Benedictine monastery, the Cathedral library was said to contain more books than the great Benedictine mother monastery in Cluny in France.
Durham is fortunate to have retained many of its medieval manuscripts – among its more famous ones are the Durham Gospels, a precursor to the more celebrated Lindisfarne Gospels that once lay in the nave of Durham Cathedral but is now in the British Library in London.
How did Durham Retain So Many of its Medieval Manuscripts?
Although done forcedly, During Henry VIII’s Reformation, Durham Cathedral switched from a Benedictine monastery to an Anglican Cathedral quite quickly. (The prior at the time of the Reformation, Whitehead, became the first dean of the new establishment in 1539). This relatively smooth transition gave the Cathedral institutional continuity, leading to much of its library surviving intact.
Visit the Durham Cathedral Library webpage.