Chapel of our Lady of the Crag, Knaresborough
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The sandstone Chapel of Our Lady of the Crag, near Low Bridge in the historic North Yorkshire town of Knaresborough, is a Grade II listed building dating to the medieval era.
The Chapel is cut into the rocky crags overlooking the river Nidd, and was constructed in 1408 by one John the Mason, probably as an oratory or prayer room. The date is attested by a Royal Charter from that time. John the Mason probably worked to obtain stone for Knaresborough Castle from the nearby quarry. He was, in all likelihood, a master mason with several workers in his employ.
Legend relates that his son was injured by a rock fall in the quarry. John fervently prayed to the Virgin Mary to save him. When he emerged, unscathed, from the rubble, John built the chapel in thanksgiving.
The Chapel is the third oldest wayside shrine in Britain, in 1408 it stood on the route to Knaresborough's priory, since destroyed during the Reformation. The Chapel is the work of a master craftsman, boasting a carved altar, vaulted ceiling, roof bosses and gargoyles.
The figure of a knight holding a sword which is carved into the exterior wall to the right of the door may date from 1408, but this is uncertain. However it is certainly is old, and was visited by the poet William Wordsworth, who commented on it in his 'Effusion'. Recent conservation work revealed the head to be separate from the body and it is thought that it may have been remodelled in Victorian times.
Almost 500 years ago the shrine was suppressed during the Reformation in the reign of Henry VIII, it became neglected and forgotten. In the early 1990's a local group formed to renovate the shrine and to create a garden around it, supported by the Sacred Land project.
The Chapel of our Lady of the Crag is now a 'Marian' shrine. A volunteer group under the auspices of St Mary's Parish, Knaresborough, look after it on behalf of the owners, Ampleforth Abbey. The group open the Chapel to visitors and pilgrims, and raise funds for the upkeep of the Chapel and minor site maintenance projects. The Knight has recently been restored, as have the windows. A modern granite statue of the Madonna and Child was sculpted for the chapel in 2000 by Yorkshire sculptor Ian Judd.
The chapel is located on Abbey Road. The normal opening times are 2-4pm Sundays in the summer months (weather permitting) but will open for pilgrimages or groups with a historic or local interest.