Durham Cathedral: a sacred site for multiple reasons



Durham cathedral is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites in the UK (https://www.durhamcathedral.co.uk). As one of the symbols of Durham city, along with its other world heritage site Durham Castle, the cathedral plays an essential role in tourism promotion in the city. From the perspective of sacred site pilgrimage (seichi junrei), the cathedral is an intriguing example of multiplicity.

The cathedral is a sacred place in at least two big contexts: religion and pop culture. As one of the cathedrals of the Church of England and the seat of the fourth-ranked bishop, the cathedral has long been a destination for Christian pilgrims. In more recent times, it has also become a ‘sacred site’ for fans of Harry Potter because the cathedral features in the Harry Potter films as part of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Reasons for visiting have diversified ‘from the museum to the tower, Harry Potter filming locations to stained glass’, as the cathedral’s ‘Things to see and do’ webpage states. We see here the two different contexts of sacred site pilgrimage at Durham Cathedral.

What is intriguing is this coexistence of a religious sacred place with a sacred site of contents tourism. I am interested in how Harry Potter pilgrimage is viewed by religious pilgrims, and vice versa. Durham Cathedral seems like a good case study for further discussion of complex (multifaceted) sacred site pilgrimage. Yet, the cathedral appears in many pop-culture works, hence there is also diversity within the pop-culture context. I personally visited there as a fan of Sherlock Holmes … specifically speaking, for Professor Moriarty.

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