Saturday, 5 October 2013

Welcome to New Students: Matriculation Address

I’m delighted to welcome you as freshers, beginning your time in the University.  If you are from overseas, welcome to our country.  If you’ve come from other parts of the UK, welcome to North East England.  I’m sure you will soon feel at home here as you get to know this beautiful region and its people. 

And welcome to this Cathedral. It may be the first time you have set foot in this great place, voted more than once Britain’s best-loved building. The Normans began to build it a generation after the Conquest and in another 40 years they had finished it. The Cathedral and Castle are at the heart of the Durham World Heritage Site. They both make a great statement about Norman power; but at heart, this Cathedral was built as a shrine to the north’s great saint, Cuthbert, who lived in the seventh century and who is buried behind the high altar.

As well as Cuthbert’s body, the Cathedral was also once home to the Lindisfarne Gospels, written in honour of him. The Gospels have been back in Durham all summer as the centrepiece of a marvellous exhibition to celebrate the Christian heritage of the North East.  It’s a pity that you’ve arrived too late to see it. But I must also mention the other great saint who is buried here. The Venerable Bede, who lived just after Cuthbert, was reckoned to be the greatest European scholar of his day. I wonder if he has an equally renowned successor for the twenty-first century sitting right here at this ceremony.  Who can say?

This cathedral is a working church: services are held here three times every day.  There is a lively programme of music, arts events, lectures and debates, some of them organised by students. But it’s also a place to walk around or sit quietly in, whether to enjoy its heritage, to explore its spirituality, say your prayers or to ponder the big questions of life.  Whatever your religious beliefs, I hope you come here often, that you think of it as your place and feel at home here.

You’ll be glad to know that we have the best-supported cathedral Facebook page in the world. You can also follow us, and me personally if you like, on Twitter: @durhamcathedral, @sadgrovem. I know our use of social media pleases the President of the Student Union who will be saying a few words after me.  

As students you bring great liveliness to Durham and our region. I hope your time here is happy and rewarding. I wish you the very best for all that lies ahead. 

Durham, 2 October 2013

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