Durham Cathedral is the most prominent of the buildings in the old centre of Durham – a peninsula of high ground surrounded on three sides by the looping River Wear. Also here are Durham Castle, various buildings associated with the cathedral, and streets lined with old stone buildings.
The Cathedral impresses on several counts – its size – one of the biggest medieval buildings in England – its age – most of the construction is Norman – and the scale of its interior. Pillars and round arches are carved with distinctive Norman sawtooth patterns. There are three towers, two at the East end and one in the middle. (If you are ever confused about which end of a church is East, North, etc, remember that that most are laid out so that when you look towards the altar you are facing towards Jerusalem.)
When built (to house the relics and shrine of St Cuthbert), the cathedral was part of a monastery, and many of the typical monastic components either survive (like the cloisters) or their remains are incorporated in buildings serving later functions.