The hidden treasures of Durham Cathedral will be revealed to a world audience thanks to a £3.9m funding boost.
The Heritage Lottery Fund grant will go towards Durham Cathedral’s £10m Open Treasure project, which will see the creation of new exhibition spaces in buildings around the cathedral’s medieval cloister.
Visitors will be taken on a journey through a sequence of spaces that tell the story of the cathedral and its rich Christian heritage.
Some of the treasures on display will include an original 1216 issue of the Magna Carta and some of the finest religious stonework created in the 1,000 years after Christ.
In addition to displaying its own collections, the cathedral will offer a rolling programme of exhibitions loaned from other prestigious museums and art galleries.
Work on the new exhibition space is due to start early next year and will be open to the public in 2015.
The Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove, Dean of Durham, says the Open Treasure project has been in the pipeline for the past five years.
“It’s vitally important that we reveal these treasures and display them,” he said. “We have the most complete surviving monastic library anywhere in England.
“We’ve priceless Saxon books and manuscripts and they need to be on display as they tell us so much about early Christianity in the North East.
The Lindisfarne Gospels taught us that there’s a real appetite to know more about the heritage of this region. We’re trying to go beyond that and create something greater.
“Open Treasure will transform how we welcome and offer hospitality to visitors to the Cathedral as well as contribute to the visitor economy of Durham and the wider region.”
Durham Cathedral is one of the country’s best-loved buildings and more than 600,000 people visit the cathedral each year.
Niall Hammond, from the Heritage Lottery Fund in the North East, says the cathedral is rich in historical artefacts but has lacked the facilities to show them off to their full potential.
“There’s some stonking pieces including a couple of beautiful Bibles that have been hidden away for hundreds of years,” he said. “Before the cathedral was built there was an Anglo Saxon church on site, which contained a lot of beautiful carved stonework. Country Durham is rich in this kind of stonework and we’ve got pieces dating back a thousand years.
“Once this project is complete Durham Cathedral will have two places where it can go out and ask any museum in the world to lend exhibitions to them.
“Durham Cathedral, one of the most spectacular buildings in the North East, is a local heritage treasure of national and international importance.”