DURHAM: A town of northern England (60 m. n.n.e. of York), the seat of an important bishopric of the Church of England. The ecclesiastical foundation there dates from the end of the tenth century, when the monks who were transporting the body of St. Cuthbert (q.v.) to protect it from Danish invaders chose this spot for a permanent abiding-place and built the first church. After the Norman Conquest Benedictine monks were placed in charge of the shrine, and William I. gave Walcher, the bishop, the temporal power of an Earl of Northumberland. Speaking of the palatine jurisdiction which the bishops of Durham enjoyed without limitation until the reign of Henry VIII., Freeman says that thus “the prelate of Durham became one, and the most important, of the only two English prelates whose worldly franchises invested them with some faint shadow of the sovereign powers enjoyed by the princely churchmen of the Empire.” The other prelate referred to is the bishop of Ely (see ELY), who owed his power and influence to the location of his see among the fens of East England, as the bishop of Durham owed his to the position of his castle and cathedral on the top of a lofty rock,--an almost impregnable natural fortress. Walcher’s successor, William of St. Calais, began the construction of the present stately cathedral, the interior of which is regarded as the noblest piece of Norman architecture extant. In 1827 the supposed tomb of St. Cuthbert was opened and the skeleton found there was identified as actually that of the saint. The remains of the Venerable Bede also repose within the cathedral. Among other names associated with Durham is that of Richard de Bury (q.v.), the most learned man of his generation north of the Alps. Cardinal Wolsey lived here during his tenure of the arch-bishopric of York, and it was his quarrel with Henry VIII. that resulted in the palatinate beginning to lose its power. Among later bishops, the most distinguished names are those of Joseph Butler, author of the Analogy, and the last two, J. B. Lightfoot and B. F. Westcott. The bishops no longer live in the castle, which is now the seat of Durham University, founded in 1833, corresponding to the “Northern University” projected in Cromwell’s time, but at Bishop’s Thorpe. The bishopric was long one of the richest in England, but on the death of Bishop Van Mildert in 1836 the revenue was reduced to £8,000 (now £7,000) a year, the surplus being devoted to the augmentation of a fund for increasing the revenues of the poorer bishops. Although the last vestiges of the palatine authority disappeared at this time, the bishop of Durham still takes precedence immediately after the bishop of London.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. L. Low, Durham, London, 1881 (in Diocesan History Series); idem, Historical Scenes in Durham Cathedral, ib. 1887; the works on the Cathedral of Durham by R. T. Talbot, London, 1893; J. T. Fowler. ib. 1898; and J. E. Bygate, ib. 1899. Consult also the publications of the Surtees Society, and Archælogia Æliana, Newcastle, 1856 sqq. (journal for the history of Durham).