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Durham Cathedral, England – A Testament to Symmetry

We are scientifically wired to like symmetrical faces.

Now, apply this postulate to architecture and you will know why Durham Cathedral got my full attention.

Its imposing symmetrical body has been gracing Durham’s skyline since the end of the 11th century. Widely recognised as one of the most important religious buildings in the UK, Durham Cathedral is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pictures inside are not allowed, so today I will regale you with this shot of its cloisters.

We visited Durham Cathedral this summer.

Durham is a picture-perfect medieval city

in the North of England which, apart from its Cathedral, is also famous for its University. The latter is one of the Top 5 Universities in the UK alongside Cambridge, Oxford, St. Andrews and Imperial College London.

The city’s cobbled streets are a joy to explore with their cute little shops and whimsical eateries serving generous portions of imaginative fusion food.

There is also a castle – a proud Norman building – which nowadays is used by University College (the oldest college of Durham University) to house students and the college library among other things .

The main sight in the city though remains the Cathedral. With its

Norman and Gothic architecture

and with its centuries-long history, it attracts pilgrims and tourists eager to see it.

Its building is deceptively simple. The more you look at it though, the more details you start to see. Plus, the stunning stained glass windows add a jolt of colour to its darkened stone walls.

Yet, the beauty of Durham Cathedral, at least for me, is hidden in the harmonious repetition of the same few simple shapes:

  • arches following arches;
  • pillars supporting window frames;
  • vaulted ceilings;
  • crenelated edges at the top.

These structural elements have been

calculated with mathematical precision

in order to slot into one another so effortlessly. Their seemingly endless repetition creates a very pleasing for the eye effect.

It is all so simple, so streamlined and quite severe, if you like. Yet it achieves a look of lightness which guides your gaze up towards the sky.

So, this is the story behind today’s Photo of the Day.

I hope you enjoyed it! If you have been to Durham Cathedral, let me know the feelings and the impressions it left you with. Otherwise, I will be curious to read which other place you found irresistibly symmetrical and beautiful in spite of its apparent severity.


This post is part of my blog series ‘Photo of the Day’. I use it to share with you several times a week photos which reveal the beauty and the reality of living in Italy and travelling in Europe. These are usually short posts (sometimes more of a caption, really), so that you can enjoy them on the go and use them to bring a ray of colour into each of your days.

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