Re: Re: reorganisation and destruction of irish catholic churches

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A note on the Galilee Chapel in Durham:
The Galilee Chapel

On entering the Galilee Chapel one is struck by its great width – nearly 15 metres – compared with its length. This was determined by the narrowness of the site between the west end of the Cathedral and the river. The problem of having to cope with the terrain has, however, resulted in a delightfully airy, almost Moorish feel – a striking contrast to the more ponderous Nave. The architectural style of the Chapel is late Romanesque.

The Galilee Chapel probably received its name from the fact that it was the final stage in the great procession from the high altar, which signified Christ’s return to Galilee. It is also called the Lady Chapel. The reason for this has an interesting history. Bishop Pudsey (1153-1195) originally began to erect a Lady Chapel at the east end of the Cathedral. However, shortly after commencement, cracks began to appear in the walls. This was taken as a sign that St Cuthbert did not want to have a Lady Chapel so close to his tomb. The bishop then ordered the craftsmen to cease work at the east end and move to the west end of the Cathedral where they began work on the Galilee Chapel.

By the time of Cardinal Langley – bishop from 1406 to 1437 – the Galilee Chapel had become almost ruinous. Langley re-roofed it, added stone shafts to each of the Purbeck marble pillars, and prevented it slipping into the river Wear far below by strengthening the foundations with huge buttresses on the outside. As originally built, The Chapel was entered through the Great West Door. This entrance was blocked up by Langley who made a chantry for himself in front of it, and constructed two new doors into the Nave, one to the north and one to the south. In the chantry itself there is a fine triptych portraying scenes from the crucifixion of Christ. This altar-piece – which was given to the Cathedral in 1935 – is thought to be Westphalian in origin and to date from about 1500.

The paintings over the altar in the second bay on the north side are thought to be of St Cuthbert and St Oswald. The painting of St Cuthbert is shown in the second photograph. These paintings are amongst the few surviving examples of twelfth century wall painting in Britain. The centre space, now occupied by a modern wooden cross, originally held a Pieta – a painting of Mary holding the dead Christ in her lap. The spandrels of the arches in this bay are decorated with crucifixion scenes.

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