Day #2 Update on the morning of Day #3. Of course, the reason this is a later entry will be explained at our conclusion this morning!
We began the day heading down to Durham Cathedral to experience an early morning prayer service in the Anglican Tradition. The Cathedral is considered one of the finest examples of Norman / Romanesque Architecture (the circular windows as opposed to Gothic points), and its stunning arches are highlighted by the fact that the cathedral itself sits on a prominent high point in an otherwise low-lying area making it more difficult to attack. This will be important as we read on! The service was led by a minister, and we engaged our students afterwards in a conversation helping to differentiate the Catholic tradition and Anglican one as we tried to better understand the Reformation. Durham Cathedral is actually the final resting place for St. Cuthbert (the patron Saint of England until he was usurped by Saint George). The cathedral is also the resting place for the Venerable Bede, a seventh century author who wrote The Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation. Two Catholic Saints in one cathedral meant that Durham was a great hub for pilgrims all over England and western Europe. Bede’s tomb greets visitors as they enter the cathedral in the Galilee Chapel, while Cuthbert’s has the honor of sitting behind the altar at the rear of the Cathedral.
According to local legend, the founding of Durham Cathedral is based on a site we are visiting today (Day #3)- named Lindisfarne or Holy Island. Monks fleeing the Vikings at Lindisfarne carried Cuthbert’s body (we saw his original coffin!) and asked a local set of milk maids for directions as they wandered further from Viking intrusion. According to legend, one of the monks had an incomprehensible dream tied to a phrase “Dun Holm”, and one of the milk maids pointed to Dun Holm as a place appropriate for the monks. Seeing this as divine providence, the monks decided to bury Cuthbert and honor him in what would become Durham Cathedral. While everyone enjoyed the history and dressing up as Monks, the highlight may have been visiting the Durham Chapter House on the west side of the Church. The house is unadorned, but has the fabulous distinction of being Professor McGonagall classroom from the Harry Potter Films! The Durham courtyard also was one of the famous filming locations involving Ron, Malfoy and slugs!
After leaving Durham Cathedral, we headed down the road to Bells for “proper Fish n” Chips.” The kids were real troopers and went for the classic English Cod, many even trying it with malt vinegar. While we were waiting for our table, we had the opportunity to watch a local group of Morris dancers. This was a traditional English dance that neither Ms. South or myself had an experience in- so we spent some time researching this really fun and colorful performative art.
After leaving Bells, we jumped in the cabs and headed for Beamish. Beamish is a living history museum that gave our students a taste of the lifestyle and living conditions for those who experienced the early Industrial Revolution in the seat of coal country. Beginning there, we headed for the colliery, and actually had the opportunity to descend into a non-active coal miner to get a taste of early experiences in the mines. Our guide showed us the terror involved in being so far underground, in nearly total darkness, trying to fill twelve carts of coal to make the equivalent of 80cents over the course of your ten hour day. Other highlights included visiting the Masonic Temple for a band performance, a visit to the pharmacist (the kids were terrified by the tounsel removal devices), the garage (including a car with a chauffeur button for the “Club”- a necessary amenities for the early 20th century ultra-wealthy), and finishing at the Confectioner’s shop! We then were back on the bus, and headed back to Newcastle. The day was hardly finished though!
We went home for a few minutes only to head out to Prima for an Italian feast (at Miranda’s request). We were so fortunate to see so many beautiful outfits, as we were out in Newcastle on “Ladies Day.” A day when thousands of women all over Newcastle got dressed in their finest and hit the town after a day at the horse racing track. It reminded me of the pomp and circumstance related to the Kentucky Derby (including the hats!).
That evening we met a friend of Ms. Souths named Ian Hobson. Ian showed a group of our students all about “light painting.” An incredible creative and fascinating way of playing with aperture, darkness, and bright lights. Ella’s turned out the scariest, but all of us had a great job working with a tremendous artist and making a new friend. We are eating breakfast now and preparing for Day #3. Here we go!!