Durham Cathedral’s medieval paintings have come to the fore after the completion of a major refurbishment project which has also breathed new life into parts of the cathedral.
With grants worth £20,000 from the Banks Group Banks Community Fund, the cathedral has replaced the Galileo Chapel’s old lighting with a state-of-the-art LED lighting system.
As well as costing less to operate than its predecessors and supporting the cathedral’s drive to achieve carbon-neutral status, the increased power of the new lights revealed a range of new details in the paintings and surrounding architecture. which were previously difficult to see.
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This includes the Galilean Chapel murals from medieval times which are believed to date back to around 1300.
Whitewashed in the Reformation, they were re-revealed during the 1800s, and although many have been lost, they give an insightful glimpse of how the chapel originally looked.
Images include a crucifixion, scenes from the lives of the apostles, and full-length figures of Saint Cuthbert and King Oswald of Northumbria.
While revealing previously hidden details, the new LED lights will also help preserve paintings for the future, as they dramatically reduce levels of harmful ultraviolet (UV) light falling on surfaces.
Not only that, but the funding also paid for a range of other essential work to be carried out, including the installation of new cast iron handrails along the steps that lead up to the chapel from the cathedral’s main entrance.
Extensive conservation work was carried out on one of the medieval stained glass windows in the Chapel whose glass had detached from the frame, while a new fire detection system was also installed.
Further security work has been undertaken to ensure that the masonry above one of the building’s emergency exits remains firmly in place.
The work program was identified after a review of the cathedral’s structure following devastating fires at other historic buildings including Notre-Dame de Paris and the Glasgow School Of Art.
Reverend Andrew Tremlett, Dean of Durham, said: “At nearly 890 years old, Durham Cathedral requires constant management to preserve this magnificent historic building and ensure it remains safe and accessible for all of our community to enjoy. .
“The new LED lighting has completely transformed the space, revealing the intricate architectural and pictorial details in the upper part of the chapel in a way that was not possible before. Combined with work to improve security and accessibility, the Chapel of Galilee is ready to welcome all our visitors for decades to come.
The Banks Group have long supported Durham Cathedral, with a previous grant of £10,000 supporting the installation of fully automated doors between the Undercroft Foyer and the Cathedral Restaurant.
Mark Dowdall, Director of Environment and Community at Banks Group, added: “Durham Cathedral is a world-renowned architectural marvel and perhaps the most significant piece of North East England’s cultural heritage. ‘England.
“We are very pleased to be able to contribute to the preservation and well-being of this iconic structure in County Durham, and to have helped reveal even more of its treasures to its many visitors.”
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