A symbol of authority and wealth, once home to the powerful Prince Bishops of Durham.
Auckland Castle is one of the best-preserved bishops’ palaces in the whole of Europe and is at the centre of The Auckland Project. The Castle recently reopened after undergoing major conservation work, which has transformed its state rooms to their original Georgian Gothic splendour, as designed by the renowned English architect James Wyatt.
A visit here can help us understand, perhaps for the first time, the fascinating history of the men who helped shape the country we live in today.
Sin: The Art of Transgression Friday 14 July
Exhibition organised by the National Gallery, London with The Auckland Project.
Sin has permeated life since the earliest days, but until now the story of its relation to art has never been told.
Bringing together works of art that span centuries, this exhibition explores the concept of sin in art in a truly unique presentation.
The exhibition includes eight exceptional paintings from the National Gallery’s collection as well as works on loan by Tracey Emin and Ron Mueck.
Things to see and do
Discover a story spanning almost 1,000 years of history on your visit to Auckland Castle.
- Highlights include the splendour of the Castle interiors, from the magnificent Throne Room to the Bishop's former apartments, which give an insight into the private and family lives of the Bishops to the present day.
- An unexpected delight and where the Auckland Project all began are the thirteen life-size figures painted by Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664), a master of the Spanish Golden Age of art. The paintings were bought by Bishop Trevor in 1756 and have hung in the Long Dining Room at Auckland Castle ever since. It is one of the largest collections of Zurbaráns in the world.
- Find peace as you trace the footsteps of the Bishops, in St Peter’s Chapel; one of the largest private chapels in Europe. Everyone will be welcome to attend the regular services in the chapel, free of charge, and worship in a place where bishops have worshipped for centuries. Please do not enter the chapel after the service has begun to avoid disturbance.
Positioned high above the meandering River Wear, Auckland Castle was the seat of the Prince Bishops of Durham, a lineage of incredibly powerful men. They were given exceptional powers by the Norman kings of England, as well as the Church, and governed vast swathes of North East England.
The Prince Bishops of Durham were second only to the English monarch. Their authority and political influence was vital and tied to their location, between the warring lands of England and Scotland, further south than the more dangerous borderland of Northumberland. Auckland Castle was one of their primary homes.
These men were so powerful that they could raise their own armies and mint their own coins. It’s no surprise then that they enjoyed Auckland Castle and its lush surroundings as their countryside estate, when the pressures of London, York and Durham became too much. While their role has changed with the passage of time, the Bishop of Durham still has influence throughout the modern world.
As custodians of this fine establishment, we take great pride in maintaining its splendour for you to enjoy. After discovering the original wall colourings, furniture, and textiles that decorated this resplendent castle in the 18th century, we’ve restored them to their former luxury so you can bask in all their glory.
Thanks to the work of an incredible team of restorers and conservators, we can now appreciate the scope of the power, wealth, influence, and faith, held by the residents of this beautiful castle. It’s waiting for you to enjoy.
As a regeneration charity, The Auckland Project has a long term mission to create positive change for those living, working and visiting Bishop Auckland. Every visit to Auckland Castle and the other attractions, helps us to ensure that the town's future is as magnificent and vibrant as its past.
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‘Magnificent castle with rich neo-Gothic interior, and the unmissable Zurbarán paintings of Jacob and his sons. Very friendly and deeply knowledgeable guides in all the main rooms. A great idea to have different rooms focused on different bishops at key points in history. Definitely worth the trip.' – Mairi
‘A great place to visit, with many beautiful paintings and lots to see. Beautiful gardens and nice café. What made the experience was the wonderful welcome and knowledge of the staff. Thank you so much.' – Andy
‘Glorious castle in a beautiful setting. So much to see inside of this wonderful building. Staff are so knowledgeable and helpful. There is a great cafe for lunch too!' – Dave