Objects | Art/Craft/Design


Sanctuary Ring, about 1170-80

Durham Cathedral, Durham

Decorative Art and Design

600 – 1200

The Sanctuary Ring is a rare and striking example of European bronze sculpture of the Middle Ages.

The ring has a lion-like head, with a sunburst of tongues of flame rather than a conventional lion’s mane. The hideousness of the monster’s features was designed to ward off evil from the place of sanctuary at Durham Cathedral.

It takes its name from the fact that in the Middle Ages people who had ‘committed a great offence’ could knock on the North Door of the cathedral and would be granted sanctuary for 37 days, during which time the person had to choose between trial and voluntary exile.

The design of the ring is a source of inspiration for other creative works, some of which you can see as you walk around Durham Cathedral.

By unknown maker

This replica ring dates from about 1979 and is on the front door of Durham Cathedral.
The original ring is currently in store until the Cathedral's Exhibition Gallery re-opens after major refurbishment.

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