For some 750 years Durham Castle was the ceremonial palace of the Prince Bishops of Durham. Since the 1980s it has been the home of the University College, the foundation College of the University of Durham.
Within the castle are many interesting features including the Great Hall and the Black Staircase, but the part of the castle that interested me the most was The Norman Chapel:
The chapel features an unusual array of carvings, some thought to show religious scenes and values, others simply decorative. One of its capitals depicts a man with two dogs hunting a stag which may be a representation of St Eustace, who converted to Christianity when he saw an apparition of Jesus appear between the horns of the stag he was hunting. Others include the earliest known representation of a mermaid in England, as well as leopards, a snake and a green man.*
In particular I was intrigued by the thought of the mermaid representation being the first in England.
Grey towers of Durham
yet will I love thy mixed and massive piles
Half Church of God, half castle ‘gainst the Scot
And long to roam these venerable aisles
With records stored of deeds long since forgot.’
Sir Walter Scott (From Harold the Dauntless)
*Durham World Heritage Site, A Guide to the Castle and Cathedral – Published in 2013 by Durham World Heritage Site.