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The Durham Castle was built by the Norman king William the Conqueror as a medieval motte and bailey. It was the seat of the Bishops of Durham, until the early 19th century, when the building was donated to the University.
Bishop Welcher modified the Great Hall and added the Undercroft and Norman Chapel. The undercroft houses the students' common room and bar, under a colossal canopy of stone, a rib vaulting. The Norman Chapel is remarkably Saxon in style, but the round and thick pilasters, close to one another and displaying the austerity of carved and unfinished stone, resemble Egyptian columns.
The mid-16th century Tunstal Chapel, built by Bishop Tunstal, features elegant woodwork, 16th century misericords or'mercy seats' and decorative organ pipes on a modern organ.
The present Great Hall is vast and dates since the 14th century. Bishop Hugh de Puiset added the spaces now accommodating the State Rooms and Norman Gallery.
The castle's Norman design blends Romanesque and Gothic architecture to a gorgeous fortress and residence, with dark crenels on the upper wall-walks, polygonal pilasters semi-engaged into the facade, superb windows with Gothic tracery and profiles, a tall and imposing Keep on the green mound.
The entrance to the precinct is granted by a solid gatehouse with crenels and Gothic windows. Above the entrance, carved cross and clover symbols flank a rose window.
A baroque entryway was added to the Great Hall, on a socle of stairs, with a round arch flanked by scroll capitel columns and statues blending harmoniously into the medieval wall. The interior is no less opulent, with a grandiose dark wooden stairway decorated with stuccoes.
Open to the public and featuring guided tours, Durham Castle has started out as a rough Norman fortress, but bears prestigious legacy and vision of many bishops. No other college in the British Isles has more impressive or ancient home.