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Tudors: the family and faith in Durham

Durham Cathedral’s Open Treasure exhibition will open a new temporary display: Tudors: the family and faith in Durham on February 16.

Highlighting the profound impact of the royal family on the Cathedral and changes in worship wrought by the Reformation, the exhibition will show the legacy left by this extraordinary dynasty of rulers.

This exhibition will take visitors on a journey through the Cathedral’s collections, connecting them to monumental changes that profoundly affected Durham and the nation over four hundred years ago. The Rites of Durham, an account of Durham Priory before and during the Reformation, contains a striking demonstration of this, in a description of how Edward VI’s Protestant commissioners destroyed relics held at the Cathedral in 1547.

As well as the powerful figures of Henry VIII, Mary and Elizabeth, Tudors: the family and faith in Durham will also take a local focus by examining some powerful members of Durham Cathedral during this time. Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall lived under the reigns of all five Tudor monarchs, and was one of Catherine of Aragon’s counsel during her divorce from Henry VIII. Bishop Tunstall negotiated the changes of the era with difficulty, and was imprisoned during the reign of Edward VI.

The exhibition will draw on the Cathedral’s impressive collections of archives and early-printed books, such as a 1557 first edition of the Geneva New Testament and Gerlach Flicke's sixteenth century portrait of Mary I.

Marie-Thérèse Mayne, Exhibitions Officer at Durham Cathedral, said, “The Tudors represent a fascinating period of history, and one that everyone is familiar with from school. However, we’re very excited to be able to bring this exhibition to Open Treasure, looking at some of the lesser-known stories and seeing the real impact of Tudor policies on life at Durham.

“I’m particularly excited to have a rare Royal Arms of Elizabeth I on display for this exhibition, which would have originally been set above the North Door of the Cathedral to remind visitors of royal supremacy over the Church of England. The exhibition is also enhanced by loans from other collections, in particular a striking portrait of the young king Edward VI from the Compton Verney Art Gallery & Park, Warwickshire. Believed to be by William Scrots, the king is shown in profile in a garden, surrounded by plants and flowers which are turning away from the sun and towards him. Below, verses in Latin and Italian describe his radiance and power. This is a particularly beautiful example of how royalty projected their power to subjects, and how owning a royal portrait was a symbol of political and religious loyalty.”


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