A cultural attraction will become the permanent home of the precious St Cuthbert's Ring this year.
Ushaw, on the outskirts of Durham, has enjoyed a record-breaking year as new figures show that 43,000 people visited the attraction during 2018.
Ushaw last year celebrated the 450th anniversary of its founder college at Douai, in France.
Up to seven years ago, the buildings and grounds had been used for the training of priests.
Father John Marsland, President of Ushaw, said: “We are delighted by the latest figures which show that more and more people are discovering how visually spectacular and historically fascinating Ushaw is. Given that there was a chance of Ushaw closing not very long ago, it is wonderful to see this rebirth.”
Ushaw had a particularly successful festive period, with 3,500 people visiting its first Christmas Tree Festival, and 1,000 attending popular annual carol services.
Classic films, such as It’s A Wonderful Life, Joyeaux Noel, Holiday Inn, and The Holly and The Ivy also increased visitor numbers.
“What has been so lovely is the way families came to enjoy Ushaw – it really did recapture the true spirit of Christmas and acted as an antidote to all the commercialism elsewhere,” added Father Marsland.
A varied programme of events, including Jazz and Brass festivals, and art exhibitions are set to take place in 2019.
Plans for St Cuthbert’s Ring to go on permanent display could see the ring move to Ushaw from St Cuthbert’s Day on March 20.
The 13th Century gold ring, with a large uncut sapphire, was left by a wealthy pilgrim at St Cuthbert’s tomb in Durham Cathedral.
At the time of the Reformation under Henry VIII, the ring was spirited away for safe-keeping, with some suggestions that it was taken from St Cuthbert’s finger in his tomb.
It ended up in a Catholic convent in Paris and, in the 1850s – with Ushaw established – it was felt appropriate that the relic should return to County Durham.