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Gumbo's Pic of the Day, Nov 8, 2013 : The Sanctuary Knocker, Durham Cathedral, a World Heritage site

2 - The Sanctuary Knocker at Durham-4998Set high in England's Durham Cathedral’s North door and known as the "Sanctuary Knocker", dating back to 1093 AD, this magnificent door knocker played an important spiritual and social role in the history of Durham Cathedral, now a beautiful World Heritage site.


Those who ‘had committed a great offence,’ such as murder in self-defence or breaking out of prison, could rap the knocker on this massive door, and would be given 37 days of sanctuary from their pursuers during which they could try to reconcile with their enemies or plan their escape from them. Monks were seated above the doorway to watch out for seekers of sanctuary and quickly let them in. The sanctuary seeker would be given a black robe to wear, bearing St. Cuthbert’s cross to distinguish those who had been given sanctuary by God and his saint. The person who was given sanctuary was given food, drink and bedding at the cathedral’s expense until their safe departure could be arranged.


I love this photo of the massive, daunting, knocker as it conjours for me a vision of a shadowy person in hurried flight from his pursuers, running hard to reach the great North door, lifting the mighty knocker and hearing it's echoing booms reverberating within the Cathedral. The door opens and a monk's hand quickly pulls the seeker of sanctuary in through the portal just as the pursuers on horse back clatter into the cobbled yard.... 




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  • The Sanctuary Knocker at Durham Cathedral: A temporary refuge from a troubled world

One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things."  Henry Miller

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It's an impressive image, Mac, made all the more interesting by the story behind it.  One sometimes forgets the role the church played in "forgiveness" acts through the centuries.


I'm always astounded at the quality of craftsmanship behind these thousand year old items.  In many ways, we've lost ground, not improved on their skills.


Thanks for the education, and sharing this photo!

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