Around AD 990, when the monks bearing St Cuthbert’s coffin came to the area where Durham now stands, they rested on the hilltop of Warden Law, but when they attempted to resume their journey they mysteriously found themselves unable to move another step. For 3 days they were immobilised, until the image of Cuthbert appeared in a vision to one of the monks. The saintly vision instructed the monk to carry his coffin to ‘Dun Holm’.
The monks had no idea where or what this instruction signified until a day later a milkmaid appeared, searching for her ‘dun cow’, which an old woman informed her had last been seen at a place called Dun Holm. Dun in this case refers to a dull greyish-brown colour. The monks followed the milkmaid towards the nearby hilltop of Dunholm, or Durham, where they established the saint’s final resting place on the cliffs overlooking the River Wear.
Constructed between 1093 and 1133. It was founded as a monastic cathedral built to house the shrine of St Cuthbert, replacing an earlier church constructed in his honour.
A tragedy occurred in 1137 when a tightrope walker was employed by the Prior of Durham to entertain the monks. The man attempted to walk along a rope stretched between the Central Tower and one of the Western Towers, but he slipped and fell to his death. SPLAT!
Following the bombing of Historic German cities the Nazis launched their own offensive.
The raids were referred to on both sides as “Baedeker raids” derived from a comment by a German propagandist. Gustav Braun von Stumm a spokesman for the German Foreign Office, who was reported to have said on 24 April 1942, “We shall go out and bomb every building in Britain marked with three stars in the Baedeker Guide”, Stumm’s off-the-cuff remark “effectively admitted the Germans were targeting cultural and historic targets, just what the German leadership did not want to do, and Goebbels took steps to make sure it did not happen again”
On the night of 30th April 1942, a force of some 38 German bombers passed over the North East coast and carried out raids on Newcastle, Sunderland, South Shields and Jarrow. A number of bombs were dropped in the vicinity of Durham, which was much less heavily defended than the industrial towns and cities of the region. Four fell near Carville, on the outskirts of the city, others at Beamish village, and two bombs fell at Finchale Priory, which perhaps had been mistaken for the Cathedral.
Many believed that the Luftwaffe had been aiming for Durham that night, but for some reason had missed their target. However, it was a bright moonlit night, and the Cathedral is hard to miss – it towers above the peninsula in the River Wear and is visible from miles around. Some local residents, including the chief Air Raid Warden George Greenwell, had recounted that a mist had suddenly and miraculously descended upon the city, rendering the target all but invisible to the marauding German aircraft. Many local people attributed the fog to divine intervention, perhaps on the part of the Cathedral’s resident saint, Cuthbert, and it became known as “St Cuthbert’s Mist” This is now represented in a stain glass window in the west end of the Cathedral.