Sanctuary Knocker at Durham Cathedral

Until it was abolished in the 17th century by parliament, English Common Law foresaw the possibility of a sanctuary, that is a place of freedom from prosecution. To use the sanctuary, the person being sought after had to reach the door of the cathedral and request sanctuary using the sanctuary knocker. Once inside he has safe (for some time at least) from his prosecutors. Monks were tasked to watch out for sanctuary seekers and take them in, cloth and feed them. The sanctuary seeker received a special black gown indicating the seeker someone granted sanctuary. His crime with date and place and in the case of murder of manslaughter the instrument and circumstances, was recorded. He then had to possibility to negotiate with the prosecutors or to seek excile(1).

This picture is hosted on Flickr.

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