OBSCURE saints and famous female figures will feature in a new exhibition about women in the North-East religious community.

Saintly Sisters is the new temporary display at Durham Cathedral’s Open Treasure exhibition.

The Reverend Rosalind Brown, the Nave Canon and Canon Librarian, said: “As the first female Canon in Durham Cathedral’s 900 years, I am aware that we are still making history today.

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“Women have been very active in the church from the beginning, and some have been declared saints. However, their stories are often not widely told, so we are excited to bring the lives and legacies of female saints from the North East into the limelight.”

The exhibition will bring to light well-known historical figures such as St Hilda and St Margaret of Scotland, both of whom have altars in the Cathedral’s Chapel of the Nine Altars, but will also feature obscure figures such as St Elfleda and Elizabeth Clarkson, who have strong links to Durham’s religious community.

Saintly Sisters will reveal the lives and enduring legacies of female religious figures from North East England through stories, artefacts, manuscripts and documents.

Women have historically had a complicated relationship with Durham Cathedral. Despite stories of Saint Cuthbert’s friendship with female senior religious figures, worship in the Cathedral was segregated until the Reformation in the sixteenth century.

A line of Frosterley marble on the floor of the nave marks the point that women could not cross in the church when it was a monastery, and the Galilee Chapel was originally built as a place of worship for women.

Curator Marie-Thérèse Mayne said: “We are delighted to present Saintly Sisters as the latest in our series of Open Treasure temporary exhibitions. It is a fantastic chance for the cathedral to broaden access to some of our collections which are rarely on display.

"Visitors will also have a chance to see some of the beautiful manuscripts and early-printed books held at the cathedral, including a 12th century manuscript ‘Lives of the Saints’, Wynkyn de Worde’s ‘Vitas patrum’, printed in 1495 from a translation by England’s first printer William Caxton, and a 13th century psalter featuring the names of many female saints.

"Through them, we can explore the lives and stories of these remarkable women”.

The exhibition is open until February 3.