History of the Durham Sanctuary Knocker

Many visitors to Durham Cathedral enter the building from Palace Green through the North Door which has an imposing bronze sanctuary knocker. It features the face of a hideous lion-like beast and represents the ancient privilege of sanctuary which was once in times of old granted to criminal offenders at Durham cathedral. Fugitives and criminals could seek refuge at the cathedral by loudly banging the knocker to alert the attentions of the watchers who resided in two small chambers overlooking the door.

The fugitive would then be invited inside the cathedral. Upon entering the cathedral the fugitive exchanged his clothes for a black robe with a yellow cross of St Cuthbert imprinted on the left shoulder. He would then confess the details of his crime before a coroner and was then allowed to remain inside the cathedral for a period of thirty seven days. Here he was provided with food and water. On the thirty seventh day the fugitives were escorted to a nearby port by the constables of each parish they passed through. On no account was the criminal allowed to stray from the king's highway during the journey as this was punishable by death. Offenders seeking sanctuary at Durham came from every part of the country and included burglars, cattle stealers and horse thieves. More usually the offence was Murder.
more info

Executions during the wide game are not permitted!