Friday, October 23, 2009

Treasure In The River Wear Near Durham Cathedral

Michael Ramsey, 100th Archbishop of Canterbury

From the Guardian:

After almost 30 years, the riverbed below Durham Cathedral has given up a bewildering secret: a hoard of ecclesiastical gold and silver, including medals, goblets, and crucifixes once owned by the Queen, the pope and other state and church leaders.

A total of 32 objects given as gifts to the late Michael Ramsey – a former archbishop of Canterbury who was bishop of Durham for four years in the 1950s and spent some of his retirement in the city – have been recovered from deep in the bed of the river Wear by two amateur divers, brothers Gary and Trevor Bankhead.

Their finds include gold, silver and bronze medals struck to commemorate the second Vatican council, which must have been presented when Ramsey – archbishop of Canterbury from 1961 to 1974 – met Pope Paul VI at the Vatican in 1966.

Amazing! How did the objects come to be in the riverbed?

One theory at the cathedral is that there may have been a burglary at the retirement home Ramsey moved to in 1974 when he left Lambeth Palace. Ramsey and wife Joan lived in a tall, handsome Georgian house on the edge of the Durham cathedral precinct, just 150 yards uphill from Prebends bridge where most of the finds were made.

However others believe that Ramsey – a brilliant but eccentric and unworldly man – quietly dropped them into the river himself, at a loss to know what else to do with them. As his friend the Very Rev Victor Stock, dean of Guildford, who stayed with him every year in Durham, said: "That is so Michael Ramsey."

I wonder if we will ever know how the treasures ended up in the river. If Archbishop Ramsey dropped the objects in the river, one wonders why he didn't donate them to Canterbury Cathedral. For now, it's a mystery.

My one regret in my visit to England is that I never made it to Durham Cathedral, although I was quite near to it.

Durham Cathedral from across the River Wear

H/T to Bishop Pierre Whalon, Bishop of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, for the link to the story and the picture of Apb. Ramsey. Bishop Whalon's post includes interesting commentary on the Vatican's recent proclamation. H/T to The Lead for the link to Bishop Whalon's blog. Am I taking the hat tips too far? I like to give credit where credit is due.

Picture of Durham Cathedral from Wiki.


  1. Maybe he thought the were worthless in his way of looking at things.

  2. Yes, I can understand that he might think that.

  3. Durham has had some wonderful bishops. I miss Abp. Ramsey.

  4. Present bishop excepted from the "wonderful" description?

  5. Couldn't slip the tense of "had had" by you, could I, Mimi?

  6. Paul, "had" would have done nicely. The present bishop gets my dander up.

  7. I dont think the cathedral are being honest about this at all.Burglary what burglary.Ramsey threw them in himself.They are hiding something.

  8. Durhamlad, what do you think the cathedral is hiding? I'm curious. It's certainly a strange story. From what I know of Abp. Ramsey, I find a good bit to admire.


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