Michael and I returned to the early Middle Ages and the ancient Roman Empire last weekend. Well, almost…
We travelled first to the city of Durham, about a 3 hour train ride north of London. A UNESCO World Heritage site, its magnificent cathedral holds the shrine of St. Cuthbert, an early English saint, as well as the tomb of the Venerable Bede, an historian of the early English church. Durham Cathedral is very interesting and important architecturally, as it is the finest example of Romanesque (Norman) architecture in England, but also includes early Gothic elements. It is believed to have the first pointed arches that define Gothic architecture. Construction began in 1093 and was completed in only 40 years. Extra bonus: it was also used in some Harry Potter scenes!
The next day, Michael and I drove up to see Hadrian’s Wall, the northernmost boundary of the Roman Empire. Several forts and other Roman ruins have been partially excavated. There are so many Roman sites across northern England, but we only had the time to stop and explore two of them – Corbridge, a storage depot, and Housesteads, a Roman fort located right on the wall.
At Corbridge, a small museum houses some of the finds made during the excavation of the site, including this statue of a lion over a dead stag. You can see Michael in the background translating all of that Latin – I tried to get ahead of him so I wouldn’t be forced to attempt to translate!
After exploring the museum, we went out into the Roman ruins. An audio guide was helpful in interpreting the buildings and providing a history of the area. This site was used as a supply depot for area forts and did not lie directly on Hadrian’s Wall.
We also visited Housesteads, a Roman fort that was one of the 12 permanent forts along Hadrian’s Wall. The site was open, but the museum was closed and new walkways and signage were being put in. We explored the site for a while, then decided to follow the trail along the wall. Much of the wall has also been partially reconstructed here, and the surrounding countryside feels expansive and isolated. We enjoyed some of the great views across the area.