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Auckland Castle

Durham

Art, Religion

Auckland Castle in Bishop Auckland has been home to the Bishops of Durham for over 900 years. Originally established as a medieval hunting lodge for the Prince Bishops, the Castle became their primary residence in 1832.

In 1756 Bishop Trevor bought a set of paintings of Jacob and his Twelve Sons painted by Spanish master artist Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664).

He redesigned the dining room, changing the doors, windows, fireplace and ceiling to display the pictures to their best advantage. In doing so, he created what might be considered as one of Europe’s first purposely constructed art galleries to house a single set of paintings.

The Zurbaráns are one of the most significant treasures of European religious art and have important symbolic links with the Jewish faith. That an Anglican Bishop displayed such prominent symbols of Judaism on the walls of a room where many great leaders would dine is viewed by many as a plea for tolerance at a time when the Jewish people were repressed across Europe.

The paintings still hang in the Castle's Long Dining Room.

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