The Rites of Durham

The Rites of Durham is written on six scrolls. Seen here is one of them.

What is it?

The Rites of Durham is an anonymous account written the mid-sixteenth century about Durham Cathedral and its traditions and rites prior to the Reformation. It provides a detailed picture of Durham as a Catholic monastic cathedral, before its conversion to an Anglican institution.  

The full title of the account is Rites of Durham being a description or brief declaration of all the ancient monuments, rites, and customs belonging or being within the monastical Church of Durham before the suppression

Who Wrote it? 

It seems to have been written by a member of the community who was not particularly happy with the post-Reformation practices of the Cathedral, and was nostalgic for centuries of monastic life. 

What is its importance? 

It provides an extremely detailed account, which is valuable because it captures Durham Cathedral in the first half of the sixteenth century.   

Modern scholarship has shown that the Rites of Durham includes some inaccuracies – ultimately it is the account of one individual. Nevertheless it is extremely informative and detailed – effectively bringing the period in question to life.