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Video transcript

[Music] we're in Durham Cathedral at the top of the hill in northeastern England this is one of the great early cathedrals and it's built less than three decades after the Norman Conquest that is after William the Conqueror crossed the channel with his army and invaded and took over England in a rather brutal invasion and replaced the old order of anglo-saxon England for this new Norman Order and built many churches among the first of which is Durham Cathedral this location is at a bend in a river that is naturally fortified by a steep slope and Cathedral is built as is the castle next to it at this high point and it was built to contain the relics of an extremely important English saint Saint Cuthbert cusper lived for a time on an island just off the east coast of England in an area that was then called Northumbria that island is called Lindisfarne and you may have heard of it because one of the most beautiful of all early medieval illuminated manuscripts the Lindisfarne Gospels was produced at the monastery at Lindisfarne and was made to honor Saint Cuthbert and was transported with the remains of the saint from the island to this more protected area at a time when Vikings were threatening the coast it might seem odd to be carrying around the body of a saint but the body the relics of Saint Cuthbert were incredibly important they performed miracles and in fact shrine was built for Saint Cuthbert he was a gilded it was covered in jewels Cuthbert developed a following that extended across the nation and even in the continent England had been taken by the Normans and was politically associated with that northern part of what we now call friends Normandy and that's where the Duke of Normandy you invaded England in 1066 came from and he brought with him not only his own bishops not only his own nobility but also building techniques from the [ __ ] and so there is a continuity between Norman churches such as this one and the Norman churches that we see in northern France which is why we call this style anglo-norman English history is complicated we have native peoples here that were conquered by the Romans who then left in the early fifth century the political vacuum was then filled by invaders from what is now southern Denmark and northern Germany peoples that we call the angles and the Saxons or the Anglo Saxons and then anglo-saxon England is supplanted by Norman England and this is one of the first anglo-norman churches and we feel the ancient myths of this building it is heavy it feels fortified and in that way we know that we're standing in a Romanesque Church this was some of the earliest large-scale architecture to take place since the Romans had left and we call it Romanesque because this architecture was dependent on the technology that the Romans had originally used that is the round arch one of the things that one notices immediately was how decorative the surfaces are that is a key feature of anglo-norman Romanesque that differentiates it from what was going on on the French continent we're standing in the nave and were surrounded by these massive piers that hold up the heavy vaulting above us and there are basically two types of piers that alternate one is a simple cylindrical pier and the other is a more complex and larger compound pier that has attached columns and the cylindrical piers are the ones that carry this amazing linear decoration when we walk in from the West End we see fluted columns as we make our way east toward the holiest end of the church we see cylindrical piers decorated with Chevron's zig-zag shapes and then we come upon laws in shapes and in each case really deeply cut creating dark shadows that were likely originally painted and if you look closely you'll notice that ingeniously the stonemasons created a kind of master action each stone is identical to another and yet when they fit together they create these continuous patterns and this is a testament to the increasing skill of stonemasons during the Romanesque period as we move eastward we see massive spiral columns which reflect the spiral columns at st. Peter's in Rome surrounding the tomb of Saint Peter here the columns are closer to the tomb of Saint Cuthbert creating a correspondence between Cuthbert and Peter also the dimensions of this church are very close to the dimensions of old st. Peters and that was a very common thing in medieval architecture to emulate important precedents like Saint Peters or important churches in Jerusalem the interior elevation is three part above the nave arcade is this broad heavy gallery I'm struck by the depth of the archway and the rolls of molding that lead our eye up to that gallery and we can see that in some cases that molding is decorated with that chevron zig-zag pattern in this wonderfully complex wave and we see that Chevron zigzag everywhere in this church it creates the most lively pattern that activates the surfaces of stone now the church is relatively dark as most Romanesque churches are we can see a clear story which is rather small and interestingly those windows are slightly inset so again we have a sense of the depth of the wall there is in fact a narrow walkway that moves just in front of those windows this idea of emphasizing the depth of the wall this interest in decorative carving these are all things that art historian see is carrying through after the Romanesque into the English Gothic and one of my favorite decorative aspects of the church can be seen in the aisles we see these doubles attached Collins with these interlacing arches just above it's almost musical we have to imagine these painted in reds and greens and yellows so they would have really stood out purchase torian's believed that these might be influenced by the art of Islamic Spain for example in the Great Mosque of Cordoba we see interlacing similar to this an aspect of this church that fascinates our historians is defaulting because here we see the precocious early use of ribbed vaulting ribbed falling does in some form go back to the ancient Romans but its use here is very important because we know what's going to follow in the Gothic before stone vaulting churches had been covered with wood sometimes even flat wood ceilings and so not only was in stone vaulting more fireproof it allowed for a shaping of space that was far more decorative if we follow the lines of their vault we noticed that it leads our eye down a shaft which is attached to the compound pier and so you have this unifying of the nave from the ground all the way up through and across the transverse arch that takes us to the other side of the nave this unification of space is something that will become very important in the Gothic era we've entered the Galilee this was built after the main Church was completed and architectural II it's a completely different space here instead of those very massive heavy cylindrical columns or those massive compound piers we have sets of four columns joined together that feel very light and the space feels very open and that was possible because this part of the church does not have heavy stone vaulting instead we have a wooden roof and so the architect could afford to use these delicate slender columns and they carry arches that are decorated again with these incredibly deep and complex Chevron patterns but here because the ceiling is lower they're closer to us and they really activate the space the entire space almost feels electrified and there is significant wall space above the art and much of that was it seems covered with painting some of them just barely survived along one of the aisles we think this is the first Galilee attached to a church in England and we know that these spaces were used as gathering places perhaps at the start of a liturgical procession and the word Galilee is a reference to Christ's entry in Jerusalem because when he entered Jerusalem he came first from Galilee so we've left Durham Cathedral and heading back to the train station taking a view of both the cathedral and the castle and the river that surrounds them and we're reminded of Saint Cuthbert himself who chose this very strategic location at least according to legend as his remains were being carried on a cart the cart stopped not far from here as though this was directed by the saint himself and then thanks to a vision that had to do with that brown cow this sacred spot was found I'm so glad this Norman castle and Cathedral have stood the test of time you