In the city of York, the district known as the Shambles, is well known as one of Europe’s best-preserved 14th-century shopping neighborhoods. The closely packed wooden buildings line meandering cobblestone lanes, where shops, cafes, and taverns appeal to the tastes of the modern traveler. But if you’re looking for an authentic medieval interior, you may want to wander over to number 35 Shambles.
Here you’ll find a sanctuary dedicated to one of the city’s most revered former citizens. Though the exact location is up for debate, what is certain is that a woman named Margaret Clitherow lived in the area during the middle of the 16th century with her husband, a butcher. They happened to be living during the English Reformation, when England broke away from the authority of the Catholic Church.
Margaret converted to Catholicism towards the end of the 1500s and dedicated her life to worshiping and protecting those who shared her beliefs. She was known to hold masses in her household, as well as hide priests behind her fireplace. But the law eventually caught up to Margaret, and she was sentenced to a brutal death in 1586.
She was forced to undergo peine forte et dure, a strong and harsh punishment. She was placed under her detached front door, while stones were added until she renounced her transgressions. She never did and perished.
In October 1970 Pope Paul VI canonized her, along with 39 other martyrs. It was he who gave her the nickname, “the Pearl of York.” She would go on to join the ranks of nearly 300 saints in Britain, only a handful of whom are women. The shrine was established in the 20th century and is dedicated to her memory and to all those who suffered persecution.
Know Before You Go
The shrine is free to enter and open every day from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Services are given on Saturday at 10 a.m.
The south-east end of the Ouse Bridge has a plaque marking the spot where the punishment took place. There is also a artistic depiction of the act on the timeline of York at York Castle Museum.
If one wishes to see and learn more about Margaret Clitherow, they can visit the Bar Convent, which is also located in York, and holds a reliquary with the saint's preserved hand.