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  • Durham OnAir

New LED lighting brings Durham Cathedral paintings back into the spotlight

Medieval paintings in Durham Cathedral have been brought into the

spotlight after the completion of a major renovation project.

The cathedral has used a £20,000 grant from the Banks Group’s Banks

Community Fund to replace the old lighting in the Galilee Chapel, which

sits just inside the main entrance to the building, with a

state-of-the-art LED lighting system.

As well as both costing less to run than its predecessors and supporting

the cathedral’s drive towards carbon neutral status, the greater power

of the new lights has revealed a range of new details of the paintings

and the surrounding architecture which had previously been difficult to


The wall paintings in the Galilee Chapel are extraordinary survivals

from the medieval era, and are believed to date from around 1300.

Whitewashed over at the Reformation, they were revealed again during the

1800s, and while much has been lost, they provide a tantalizing glimpse

of how the Chapel would have originally looked.

The images include a Crucifixion, scenes from the lives of the Apostles,

and full-length figures of St Cuthbert and King Oswald of Northumbria.

While revealing details previously hidden, the new LED lights will also

help to preserve the paintings for the future, as they significantly

reduce the levels of harmful ultraviolet (UV) light falling on the


The funding has also paid for a range of other essential works to be

carried out, including the installation of new cast iron hand rails

alongside the steps that lead down into the Chapel from the cathedral’s

main entrance, which has been specially designed to fit in with its

historic surroundings and to still be suitable for use decades into the


Essential conservation work has been carried out on one of the Chapel’s

medieval stained-glass windows where the glass had come loose from the

frame, while a new fire detection system has also been installed.

Further safety work has been undertaken to ensure stonework above one of

the building’s emergency exits stays firmly in place, thus allowing the

door to continue to be used, while the lights outside the cathedral’s

main entrance have also been replaced, with a back-up system being

installed to help ensure visitors’ safety should the main lights fail.

The programme of works was identified after a review of the cathedral’s

structure was carried out in the wake of devastating fires at other

historic buildings, including Notre Dame in Paris and the Glasgow School

Of Art.

The Very Reverend Andrew Tremlett, Dean of Durham, says: “At almost 890

years old, Durham Cathedral requires constant management to preserve

this magnificent historic building and ensure it remains safe and

accessible for all our community to enjoy.

“The lighting in the Galilee Chapel has long been limited by concerns

that heat produced from the lamps might damage the wall paintings

within, and the need to address and upgrade this became more pressing as

the old lights began to fail.

“The new LED lighting has completely transformed the space, revealing

the intricate architectural and pictorial details in the Chapel’s upper

reaches in a way that was not possible before. Combined with work to

improve safety and accessibility, the Galilee Chapel is ready to welcome

all our visitors for decades to come.

“Our closure due to the pandemic had a very significant impact on the

cathedral’s finances, but the costs of maintaining the building have not

gone away.

“It can be difficult to secure funding for essential projects like this

which don’t necessarily catch the public eye, but The Banks Group have

been extremely responsive to our needs and it would have been

challenging to deliver these works without their generous support.”

The Banks Group is a long-term supporter of Durham Cathedral, with a

previous £10,000 Banks Community Fund grant supporting the installation

of fully-automated doors between the Undercroft Foyer and the

cathedral’s restaurant.

Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at the Banks Group,

adds: “Durham Cathedral is a world-renowned architectural wonder and

perhaps the most important single element of North East England’s

cultural heritage.

“We are very pleased to be able to contribute to the preservation and

well-being of this iconic County Durham structure, and to have helped to

reveal some more of its treasures to its many visitors.”

The Banks Community Fund is administered by the County Durham Community

Foundation and provides grants for community groups and voluntary

organisations and environmental projects in the vicinity of Banks Group


Margaret Vaughan, chief operating officer at the County Durham Community

Foundation, adds: “"It has been wonderful to be part of this project and

to help The Banks Group support an iconic piece of our North East


“Without funding like this, a real treasure would have been left at risk

and future generations could have missed out entirely.

“We are delighted that The Banks Group recognised the importance of this

work and responded so generously."

Anyone interested in applying for funding should contact the Banks

Community Fund on 0191 378 6342 or via to check if their group or project

is eligible.


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