From afar, Auckland Castle, may not look like a traditional castle. Yet it has housed some the most powerful religious figures in England.
Originally built as a Hunting Lodge over 900 years ago by the Prince Bishops of Durham, Auckland Castle highlights the standing of the Prince Bishops who were given special powers by the Kings in the hope that they could act as a northern front against the Scottish. They thus became quasi-royal, with the result that Auckland Castle was used for grand celebrations, sometimes entertaining royalty, from the likes of King John (early 13th century) to Queen Victoria (early 20th century).
One of the focal points of Auckland Castle is the collection of paintings by Francisco de Zurbaran. Thirteen life-size paintings of Jacob and his twelve sons adorn the dining room and have done so for 250 years. Twelve were bought by Bishop Richard Trevor and having been outbid for the 13th painting he commissioned to create a full set. This was a crucial religious act. At a time when the Jewish community were facing persecution, one of the key figures in the Church of England purchasing these paintings and celebrating artwork inspired by the Old Testament, can be seen as a great symbol of tolerance. This is also the root of the recent support and renovation of Auckland Castle, as Jonathan Ruffer donated an enormous amount to buy the paintings and in turn the castle from private owners in 2012. Ruffer is determined to present the religious side of England and the key role religion played in shaping the country's history.
When visiting Auckland Castle, explore the grand state rooms, admire 18th Century James Wyatt's Georgian Gothic Revival architecture and then venture beyond towards the gardens and discover the ice house and stone pyramid. The deer house created by Bishop Trevor, offered the deer food and shelter, whilst within provided guests with a dining room and a stunning view. Auckland Castle depicts the key role of Christianity and through the vision of The Auckland Trust, aims to share the importance of this castle and the Prince Bishops who lived there.
Auckland Castle is now closed to daily visits for major conservation and representation work.
The park will remain open as usual from 6am to 9pm.
After 9pm the main gates will be locked.