New Faith Museum puts Britain's spiritual heritage on display

A 16th century altar frontal, one of the many objects going on display.(Photo: The Faith Museum)

The culmination of 10 years of planning, Bishop Auckland in the United Kingdom will become the home of a new museum telling the story of faith in Britain over the past 6,000 years.

The Faith Museum will open to the public in October, and feature hundreds of objects from institutions and private collections throughout Britain that offer a glimpse into the role that faith has played in the nation's history.

Among the highlights on display will be the Binchester Ring, a silver ring with a carved carnelian stone featuring images of an anchor and fish that was excavated from the Roman fort at Vinovium, providing early evidence of Christianity in Britain.

Visitors will be able to see the Binchester Ring, which features an anchor and two fish, suggesting a link to early Christianity.(Photo: Jeff Veitch/Durham University)

Also on display will be one of the few surviving copies of William Tyndale's English translation of the New Testament from 1536.

"The objects and contemporary artworks on display tell the story of how people in Britain have expressed their faith throughout history, often in a very personal way," said Clare Baron, Head of Exhibitions at The Auckland Project.

"I'd like to thank all the lenders, artists, advisors and funders who have helped to create a space for us all to reflect on and discuss what faith means to us."

The museum will be housed in a 14th-century wing of the historic Auckland Castle and a brand new 21st-century building designed by Níall McLaughlin Architects.

Featuring dynamic displays and temporary exhibitions, the museum will lead visitors on a historical journey as they encounter rarely-seen objects, national treasures, personal testimonies and contemporary commissions.

The ground floor of the museum takes viewers on a path that begins in the Neolithic period with the Gainford Stone, a decorative slab of rock with origins in prehistory, and ends in AD 2,000, with myriad stops at the different places where faith has shaped lives and communities along the way.

The museum's upper level will be home to a changing roster of temporary exhibitions and installations that interweave contemporary issues and timeless ideas in a dynamic series of spaces. The opening of these galleries will be commemorated by a display of works by ten contemporary British artists, all offering their individual perspectives on faith today.

The Faith Museum will open to the public in October.(Photo: Niall McLaughlin Architects)

Once open, The Faith Museum will form the centrepiece of The Auckland Project, a group of heritage attractions, galleries, and gardens that celebrate the glittering history of the town of Bishop Auckland. Located at the confluence of the River Wear and the River Gaunless in County Durham, England, the market town boasts a long-held connection with the powerful Prince Bishops of Durham as well as links to the Golden Age of Spanish Art.

"The Faith Museum turned out to be the hardest piece of our jigsaw," Jonathan Ruffer, founder of The Auckland Project, said.

"We have tried to tell stories which put into context 6,000 years of human endeavour and the restlessness of the human spirit."

The Faith Museum is only part of a wider restoration and redevelopment project carried out by The Auckland Project, with their work made possible by a £12.4m grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said, "It is such uplifting news that the Faith Museum will be open to the public in October, allowing an exploration of the heritage of faith in the UK spanning 6,000 years. We are proud to have supported the creation of the museum, as part of our wider investment in The Auckland Project."

She added, "This museum will provide that inspiration from October when the public will uncover enthralling heritage stories in these beautiful spaces."