Durham is a historic city and the county town of County Durham in North East England. The city lies on the River Wear, to the south-west of Sunderland, south of Newcastle upon Tyne and to the north of Darlington. Founded over the final resting place of St Cuthbert, its Norman cathedral became a centre of pilgrimage in medieval England; the cathedral and adjacent 11th-century castle were designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986. The castle has been the home of Durham University since 1832. HM Prison Durham is located close to the city centre. City of Durham is the name of the civil parish; the name "Durham" comes from the Celtic element "dun", signifying a hill fort, the Old Norse "holme", which translates to island. The Lord Bishop of Durham takes a Latin variation of the city's name in his official signature, signed "N. Dunelm"; some attribute the city's name to the legend of the Dun Cow and the milkmaid who in legend guided the monks of Lindisfarne carrying the body of Saint Cuthbert to the site of the present city in 995 AD.
Dun Cow Lane is said to be one of the first streets in Durham, being directly to the east of Durham Cathedral and taking its name from a depiction of the city's founding etched in masonry on the south side of the cathedral. The city has been known by a number of names throughout history; the original Nordic Dun Holm was known in Latin as Dunelm. The modern form Durham came into use in the city's history; the north-eastern historian Robert Surtees chronicled the name changes in his History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham but states that it is an "impossibility" to tell when the city's modern name came into being. Durham is to be Gaer Weir in Armes Prydein, derived from Brittonic cajr meaning "an enclosed, defensible site" and the river-name Wear. Archeological evidence suggests a history of settlement in the area since 2000 BC; the present city can be traced back to AD 995, when a group of monks from Lindisfarne chose the strategic high peninsula as a place to settle with the body of Saint Cuthbert, that had lain in Chester-le-Street, founding a church there.
Local legend states that the city was founded in A. D. 995 by divine intervention. The 12th-century chronicler Symeon of Durham recounts that after wandering in the north, Saint Cuthbert's bier miraculously came to a halt at the hill of Warden Law and, despite the effort of the congregation, would not move. Aldhun, Bishop of Chester-le-Street and leader of the order, decreed a holy fast of three days, accompanied by prayers to the saint. During the fast, Saint Cuthbert appeared to a certain monk named Eadmer, with instructions that the coffin should be taken to Dun Holm. After Eadmer's revelation, Aldhun found that he was able to move the bier, but did not know where Dun Holm was; the legend of the Dun Cow, first documented in The Rites of Durham, an anonymous account about the Durham Cathedral, published in 1593, builds on Symeon's account. According to this legend, by chance that day, the monks came across a milkmaid at Mount Joy, she stated. The monks, followed her, they settled at a wooded "hill-island" – a high wooded rock surrounded on three sides by the River Wear.
There they erected a shelter for the relics, on the spot where the Durham Cathedral would stand. Symeon states that a modest wooden building erected there shortly was the first building in the city. Bishop Aldhun subsequently had a stone church built, dedicated in September 998, it no longer remains. The legend is interpreted by a Victorian relief stone carving on the south face of the cathedral and, more by the bronze sculpture'Durham Cow', which reclines by the River Wear in view of the cathedral. During the medieval period the city gained spiritual prominence as the final resting place of Saint Cuthbert and Saint Bede the Venerable; the shrine of Saint Cuthbert, situated behind the High Altar of Durham Cathedral, was the most important religious site in England until the martyrdom of St Thomas Becket at Canterbury in 1170. Saint Cuthbert became famous for two reasons. Firstly, the miraculous healing powers he had displayed in life continued after his death, with many stories of those visiting the saint's shrine being cured of all manner of diseases.
This led to him being known as the "wonder worker of England". Secondly, after the first translation of his relics in 698 AD, his body was found to be incorruptible. Apart from a brief translation back to Holy Island during the Norman Invasion the saint's relics have remained enshrined to the present day. Saint Bede's bones are entombed in the cathedral, these drew medieval pilgrims to the city. Durham's geographical position has always given it an important place in the defence of England against the Scots; the city played an important part in the defence of the north, Durham Castle is the only Norman castle keep never to have suffered a breach. The Battle of Neville's Cross, which took place near the city on 17 October 1346 between the English and Scots, is the most famous battle of the age; the city suffered from plague outbreaks in 1544, 1589 and 1598. Owing to the divine providence evidenced in the city's legendary founding, the Bishop of Durham has always enjoyed the title "Bishop by Divine Providence" as opposed to other bishops, who are "Bishop by Divine Permission".
However, as the north-east of England lay so far from Westminster, the bishops of Durham enjoyed extraordinary powers such as the ability to hold their own parlia
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