OBSCURE saints and famous women feature in an exhibition about religious females in the North-East.

Saintly Sisters is on show as part of Durham Cathedral’s Open Treasure exhibition until February 3.

The Rev Rosalind Brown, nave canon and canon librarian, said: “Women have been 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.”

Well-known figures include St Hilda and St Margaret of Scotland, who each have an altar in the cathedral's Chapel of the Nine Altars. Lesser known individuals include St Elfleda and Elizabeth Clarkson, who both have strong links to Durham’s religious community.

The lives and enduring legacies of female religious figures are examined through stories, artefacts, manuscripts and documents.

Worship at the cathedral was segregated until after the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century.

A line of Frosterley marble on the floor of the nave marks the point women were not permitted to cross when the church was a monastery. The cathedral's 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.

Beautiful manuscripts and early-printed books include 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 female saints.