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New book looks at “hidden gem” of the North

24/03/2015 4:00 pm

St Cuthbert's Ring

The treasures of one of the North of England’s hidden gems are revealed in a new book to be published today.

Treasures of Ushaw College presents more than 50 highlights from the collections of the former Catholic seminary on the outskirts of Durham City.

The book - beautifully illustrated and with texts by leading experts – also gives an account of the architectural development of the site and an outline of the College’s history penned by historian and academic Eamon Duffy.

A foreword is offered by Cardinal Vincent Nichols.

Ushaw College was founded over 200 years ago to educate students for the Catholic priesthood. It can trace its origins back to the English Reformation of the sixteenth century, when exiled Catholic university professors founded a college at Douai in northern France.

In addition to its splendid architecture, the College’s library and archival holdings contain a wealth of rare and unique items that have only recently started to come to light. These include St Cuthbert’s ring, Thomas Cranmer’s personal copy of two Lutheran works and a first edition of the Cabinet du Roi, a magnificent volume published to glorify the reign of King Louis XIV of France.

The book is edited by James E. Kelly, the St Cuthbert’s Society Fellow in the History of Early Modern English Catholicism at Durham University.

Dr Kelly, whose interests are in post-Reformation Catholic history in Europe and Britain, particularly the experience of the English Catholic community at home and in exile, said:

“It has been a huge privilege to have access to the treasures housed at Ushaw College, a number of which are of global significance being the only known surviving examples of their type. That such a wealth of material has been housed only a couple of miles from Durham’s famous cathedral, has largely remained a secret to all but the few who trained and worked at the college during its life as a Catholic seminary.

“With the closure of the seminary in 2011, the time was opportune to highlight just how important and surprising the site remains on a number of levels, from the architecture of the famous Pugin dynasty, to the number of unique books in the library and the royal links of several items.”

Monsignor John Marsland, the current president of Ushaw College, said:

“This beautiful publication is in perfect harmony with our current plans to open the doors of Ushaw College to visitors and make Ushaw’s collections more widely known.”

Treasures of Ushaw College is published by Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers and is priced £20 from Durham University’s Palace Green Library, Ushaw College, Amazon and Durham University’s official online shop