Durham’s Open Treasure

By John Martin

The northeast of England is the cradle of Christianity and, as the home of saints such as Cuthbert, much revered. Now long-hidden parts of Durham Cathedral, including Cuthbert’s tomb, are open to the public.

Reopened sections include a vast 14th-century dormitory with an oak-beamed ceiling where monks lived and studied. Its artefacts date as far back as the third century.

They include burial stones, preaching crosses, and manuscripts, many of which have not been on display before. The centrepieces are the coffin and cross of Cuthbert, who in true Celtic tradition traveled on foot as he spread the gospel and baptized new Christians.

The cathedral’s Open Treasure exhibit required more than three years of planning. Climate-controlled air conditioning opens hidden spaces within the cathedral, which with the nearby Durham Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The dormitory, once housing dozens of sparse, narrow cells where monks slept and studied, became a library in the 19th century.

Visitors may study charts depicting the daily rhythm of life in the monastic community, which began its day at 6 a.m. and concluded it with silence from 7:30 p.m., other than hourly prayer until midnight. Monks ate mostly fish and bread.

The Normans began building a monastery in 1093 on the site of Cuthbert’s shrine. It was taken over during the Reformation but later restored. In 1650, worship at the cathedral was disrupted when Oliver Cromwell turned it into a prison for 3,000 Scottish soldiers after the Battle of Dunbar. Many were buried in mass graves discovered in 2013.

‘Glass Ceiling’ for Pro-Life Britons

A report by a group of Christian Parliamentarians says doctors who refuse to perform abortions are being denied promotions. It reports that medical professionals are under “widespread and increasing pressure” to participate in abortions.

The all-party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group heard testimony from members of the British Medical Association that those who object to being involved in abortions face a glass ceiling.

The group has called on the government to enforce the conscience clause within Abortion Act 1967, which ensures doctors that doctors may refuse to participate without any consequences.

“Unless [the clause is upheld], many of them will opt-out of being involved in the profession at all or will feel pressured into making career choices which mean they don’t go into the specialisms or advance in the specialisms of their choice,” said Fiona Bruce, MP.

Gareth Davies, director of CARE (Christian Action Research and Education), called the findings alarming. It is “completely wrong that people who work in the medical profession who hold pro-life views should face career discrimination,” he said. “This is hardly the mark of a truly diverse society.”

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