Saturday, 10 August 2013



This curious stone chair to be seen near to the altar in Beverley Minster, is more that 1000 years old dating back to Saxon time.  The Frith stool or Sanctuary chair was used by the Sanctuary inquisitor and is one of very few remaining.
The delightful East Riding of Yorkshire market town of Beverley was granted the Right to Sanctuary in 938 by King Althelstan and lasted for more that 600 years before being abolished by Henry V111.   Penalties for most crimes were extremely severe in those times and miscreants could escape to places like Beverley to claim the Right of Sanctuary.   This meant that they could live in the town free from punishment for the rest of their lives, provided they gave up their property to the Crown and swore to become a servant of the church. There were sanctuary crosses at the various approaches to the town and once the claimant had reached one of the crosses he or she was entitled to claim sanctuary.


The church of St John the Baptist at Adel on the north western outskirts of Leeds, is one of the finest Norman churches in Yorkshire and is renowned for its carved doorway illustrating St John’s vision in the Book of Revelations.   The huge bronze ring on the door is a Sanctuary Ring some 700 years old.   It is made up of a circular plaque on which the head of a beast has a moveable ring through its mouth.   Once a miscreant had grasped this handle he had the right to demand sanctuary. A similar ring can be seen on the doorway at Durham Cathedral.

                                          DURHAM CATHEDRAL SANCTUARY RING
Durham Cathedral offered St Cuthbert's protection to fugitives and those claiming sanctuary held onto the ring until a monk admitted them into the Cathedral. They were given a black robe to wear and offered 37 days of sanctuary in the cathedral, after which they could choose to stand trial or be sent in to exile.

 The tiny City of Ripon in North Yorkshire was granted a charter in 886 by King Alfred the Great and became a sanctuary town known as The Liberty of Ripon.  In the 13th century there were five Sanctuary Crosses around the town, each one placed just 1 mile from the cathedral.  The last remaining of these crosses, Sharow Cross, can be seen at the junction of Sharow Lane and Dishforth Road in the village of Sharow just one mile from the cathedral, marking the southern limits of the sanctuary.  This cross is now in the care of the National Trust.


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