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Artist’s tributes to beloved North East saints goes on display at Durham Cathedral


Artworks celebrating the stories of the Northern Saints by a local artist, Rita Readman, have gone on display in Durham Cathedral’s Undercroft.


The eight watercolours celebrate saints who are well-known and loved in the North East: St Cuthbert, The Venerable Bede, St Oswald, St Hilda, St Margaret, St Aidan and St Wilfrid.


These famous figures were vital to the early story of Christianity in Northern England, stretching back as far as the seventh century AD.

Rita, who is from Middlesbrough, has spent months creating these artworks, incorporating stories, places and objects associated with the saints. The painting which celebrates the Venerable Bede, whose relics were moved to Durham Cathedral 1000 years ago this year, shows Bede at a writing desk, next to a stack of books on the vast array of subjects he wrote about.

Rita says, “Painting and being creative is what I love most, and creating these artworks was a journey into the inspiring lives of these Christians from our history. My personal favourite is Bede, although it took me five weeks of research before I settled on a final design. I enjoyed narrating each piece with words in uncial script, which I first learned when I taught calligraphy classes. This handwriting is similar to what you see in the Lindisfarne Gospels, which brought me closer to the time in which these people lived.”

Ever since these saints died, pilgrims have been visiting the region to pay their respects and walk in their footsteps. Today the Northern Saints Trails help us to join this ancient tradition of pilgrimage journeys, with a modern twist of walking for leisure and sightseeing. Proceeds raised from the sale of prints from the exhibition will support the cathedral’s online Community of Prayer, of which Rita is a devoted member. Formed in 2020 to create a supportive worldwide community for those who regularly join Durham Cathedral’s live-streamed worship, the community continues to grow.

Several members have visited the UK recently to meet up in person and see Rita’s exhibition for themselves. In 2023, the community will host its first international pilgrimage to the cathedral and proceeds from the sale of Rita’s prints and other merchandise, which is currently being developed for the shop, will support this exciting new venture.

Matthew Mills, Head of Development at the cathedral who has been working with Rita on this exhibition says, “Rita is not only a wonderfully talented artist, she is also a great story-teller. This series of paintings makes the stories of the Northern saints accessible to everyone. The cathedral community is full of people who regularly place their gifts at the service of our mission, and working with Rita on this exhibition in aid of the Community of Prayer has been a tremendous privilege.”

See the exhibition in the Undercroft at Durham Cathedral, next to the shop and cafe, until December 2022. Prints of the artworks and other items are being developed and will shortly be available to buy in the shop.

For more information visit www.durhamcathedral.co.uk