‘Hark! the herald-angels sing, Glory to the new-born King’….Probably the best part of an English Christmas is the laborious, magical suite of carols that can be heard all over the country during Christmas period, from the paths of the most remote villages to the sleek venues in the cities.

Yesterday night, I had an opportunity to attend the festival of nine lessons and carols (a service usually held before Christmas) at Durham Cathedral.

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Spectacular view of Durham cathedral as you walk in

The cathedral is over 900 years old making it the greatest Norman building in England, perhaps even in Europe. It is built on a rocky promontory next to the Castle with the medieval city huddled below and the River Wear sweeping round.
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Victorian post box near the entrance of Durham cathedral

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The cathedral by the moonlight 🙂

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The knocker on the Cathedral’s northern door, known as the Sanctuary Knocker, played an important part in the Cathedral’s history.  Those who had committed a great offence such as murder in self-defence or breaking out of prison, could rap the knocker, and would be given 37 days of sanctuary within which they could try to reconcile with their enemies or plan their escape.

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Beautiful Christmas tree

Unfortunately, photography is not allowed during the service. The service starts in darkness with a solo chorister singing the first verse of ‘Once in Royal David’s City‘. Throughout the 2 hour session, the lessons are read and the Choir sings the carols. The congregation also sings in some sections.

My final thoughts…I highly recommend you take a trip to Durham cathedral for the next festival of nine lessons and carols, you won’t be disappointed. I personally would love to attend again.