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The famous Sanctuary door knocker on the north door of Durham Cathedral. The north door dates from 1140. Photographed by Eric de Mare between 1945 and 1980.

So what was going on in England during the latter part of the 12th century?

AD 1166

King Henry II is creating reform, which would place religious clerics in the civil court to face charges of criminal acts.  Prior to this reform, only the church could try clergy which typically resulted in dismissal of charges.  Archbishop Thomas was opposing Henry, a bold move in lieu of the rising power of the Dominion of Kings which was heavily managed by the church previously. 

AD 1170

By this time, Henry grows tired of the taunts of the church and attempts to force the people to side with the church.  He calls for the death of Thomas.  Knights by his side were more than happy to murder him, and did at Cantebury Cathedral.  Aside that,  they had their own complaints to air and especially against Becket.  

AD 1173

Meanwhile, trouble in the Kingdom.  Queen Eleanor encourages her older sons to create a rebellion against Henry.   Epic fail.  She's placed under house arrest and banished to a castle on the Welsh border only allowed out for Christmas.  Archbishop Thomas is made a Saint.  

Meanwhile, in the Middle East Saladin becomes Sultan in Egypt a prelude of things to come.


By AD 1182

Jews are under-fire, banished from the Kingdom of France, Henry however protects them in England and around the continent.  By 1185 he's feeling a bit more sympathetic towards Eleanor and frees her from house arrest but she sides with her son Richard, and is still against him. 


AD 1189

Tough times for Henry, his youngest son John joins Richard and wages war against him.  It's told that he died of a broken heart.  King Richard is all gung-ho for the crusades and couldn't care less about the state of the kingdom.  Once he's coronated as King he launches the first real serious attack against English Jews. Had it not been for the reform in government by his father, it could have been much worse.  England is bound by Common Law, and jury system.  Far more advanced than the previous system before Henry.  


Some academic opinions of the mask believe it to be a reflection of the times, and the great evil coming from the Crusades, Church Corruption and Hysterics of the people that served Richard, while Henry was favored for reform.  The Church was renowned at this time for its use of masks to protect against Evil Spirits. 

 

The artist is unknown, and it continues to be studied for its mystery.

 

12th Century - Wiki Page

Anarchy in 12th century England

English Society

King Henry II

King Richard I, Lionheart

Queen Eleanor - Bible Perspective

Diane de Poitiers - Henry's Mistress

Biographies of Eleanor

Encyclopedia of Superstitions

History of Durham Cathedral

Local History Durham - Tim Lambert

Tags: Church, Eleanor, England, Henry, I, King, Kingdoms, Kings, Mask, Queen, More…Religion, Richard, Spirits, Superstitions

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Interesting post.  Just a few addendums:

 

So what was going on in England during the latter part of the 12th century?

AD 1166

King Henry II is creating reform, which would place religious clerics in the civil court to face charges of criminal acts.  Prior to this reform, only the church could try clergy which typically resulted in dismissal of charges.  Archbishop Thomas was opposing Henry, a bold move in lieu of the rising power of the Dominion of Kings which was heavily managed by the church previously. 

Bold move also seeing as Thomas Becket was appointed his position by Henry to help him turn the church to his reforms.  Henry thought there was a tacit understanding between them.  Becket didn't see it that way.  Needless to say, this made them instant frenemies.  

AD 1170

By this time, Henry grows tired of the taunts of the church and attempts to force the people to side with the church.  He calls for the death of Thomas.

 

Debatable.  Henry's exact words are in dispute.  Chances are, Henry - with his volatile temper - just had another serious blowup at Becket's actions and some of his knights, who had their own reasons to want Becket dead, took the king's words and ran with them.  

 

 Knights by his side were more than happy to murder him, and did at Cantebury Cathedral.  Aside that,  they had their own complaints to air and especially against Becket.  

AD 1173

Meanwhile, trouble in the Kingdom.  Queen Eleanor encourages her older sons to create a rebellion against Henry.   Epic fail.  She's placed under house arrest and banished to a castle on the Welsh border only allowed out for Christmas.  Archbishop Thomas is made a Saint.  

Trouble in the kingdom as Henry starts to flaunt his mistresses in Eleanor's face.  Since they actually had a bit of a love match before being married, this was quite hurtful to Eleanor.  And her machinations were not quite an epic fail.  As you note later in your timeline, his sons did succeed in rebelling against their father and taking the kingdom from him.  All thanks to their mother's earlier encouragement.

Meanwhile, in the Middle East Saladin becomes Sultan in Egypt a prelude of things to come.


By AD 1182

Jews are under-fire, banished from the Kingdom of France, Henry however protects them in England and around the continent.  By 1185 he's feeling a bit more sympathetic towards Eleanor and frees her from house arrest but she sides with her son Richard, and is still against him. 


AD 1189

Tough times for Henry, his youngest son John joins Richard and wages war against him.  It's told that he died of a broken heart.

 

But his final words to Richard were apparently, "God grant me life long enough to take vengeance on you."

King Richard is all gung-ho for the crusades and couldn't care less about the state of the kingdom.

The royal family is French.  Famously known as the Plantagenets.  King Richard's - Coeur de Lion - home castle and base was in France.  England was basically a colony for him, to make money for their family.  They only went to war for England because of a claim to the English throne through their ancestor Empress Matilda or Maud of England - rightful heir to the throne who was ousted by her cousin Stephen.

 

 Once he's coronated as King he launches the first real serious attack against English Jews. Had it not been for the reform in government by his father, it could have been much worse.  England is bound by Common Law, and jury system.  Far more advanced than the previous system before Henry.  

Which is why Henry should be famous. By the death of Beckett, the church knew what they were up against and bowed to Henry's reforms.  The law, became the law of the land.  Not the church and bad for Henry's family, not the royal family either.


Some academic opinions of the mask believe it to be a reflection of the times, and the great evil coming from the Crusades, Church Corruption and Hysterics of the people that served Richard, while Henry was favored for reform.  The Church was renowned at this time for its use of masks to protect against Evil Spirits. 

 

No clue what the mask could be.  Maybe a tribute to Richard the Lion Heart and his family whose family coat of arms was three gold lions?  Kinda looks like early heraldry style.

Sure, the whole 'history' of events and the details therein are always debatable.

 Maybe a tribute to Richard the Lion Heart and his family whose family coat of arms was three gold lions?  Kinda looks like early heraldry style.

It's possible.  The favor at that time was to continue the crusades, when Henry was trying to comb it back some.  Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned eh?  It's no mystery why Eleanor sided with her son, vs. her husband. 

The mask does have a sort of 'lion' look to it.  It also has elements similar to the rays of the  sun, which is why some academics see a 'Mexican' look to the mask. 

At first I thought of the Gorgon Medusa and her snake like hair. However I might be mistaken but wasn't the statues of Apollo covered in golden masks as a singificance of his connection to the sun? Although many french nobles revered in their accountance and supply of gold to adorn and decorate their many castles. The mask being an early heraldry symbol is not impossible either.

Example:  Mask of Apollo (Sun King), “Toutes les Gloires de la France” at Versailles

Photo credit: Daily Mail

Blogger files:

The cathedral was built in five stages between 1093 and 1490, King William having ordered the construction in 1072. It was to replace the original Saxon church built to house the remains of St. Cuthbert and where the remains of St Bede eventually resided.

The architecture is stunning and there is a lofty sense of tranquility as you wander down the  

nave between the massive, decorated columns.

On the North door sits the lion-like twelfth century Sanctuary Knocker. ( Well – a reproduction as the original is in the Treasury )  A fugitive from the law wishing to claim protection used the knocker to attract the attention of two watchmen in a chamber over the North door. The fugitive was then admitted to the monastery and given sanctuary for a maximum of 37 days ( don’t ask me why 37! ) during which time he had to choose between trial and voluntary exile. If he chose the latter then he was escorted to the nearest port and made to embark on the next ship which was due to set sail, regardless of its destination.

The one thing which cannot be shown in photos is the atmosphere in this great building. Tourists flock to marvel at the finest Romanesque interior in Europe, worshippers pray and sing but the regular visitor can build up a close relationship with a place such as this. I miss it.

Official Website for Durham Cathedral: HERE

During the Civil War and the Commonwealth period in the seventeenth century things became even worse in Durham; in 1650 the Cathedral was closed and used by Cromwell to incarcerate 3,000 Scottish prisoners. With the Restoration in 1660, the new bishop of Durham - John Cosin, a former Canon - set about refurbishing the church and his work can be seen in the quire with its richly carved woodwork. The late eighteenth century was another sad period in the history of the Cathedral as there was much unfortunate work to the fabric of the Cathedral including the chiselling off of between 2 and 3 inches of stone from most of the exterior and the demolition of part of the Norman Chapter House. Luckily the idea of demolishing the Galilee Chapel was abandoned. The Chapter House was rebuilt to the original design in 1895. The nineteenth century also saw the introduction of much of the stained glass in the Cathedral and the Scott screen in the crossing. The Bishop of Durham and the Cathedral Chapter founded Durham University in 1832. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries the emphasis has been on sensitive conservation, along with the introduction of some contemporary art. The Cathedral is also responsible for the care and upkeep of the river banks which provide the stunning setting for the Cathedral when seen from the west.

Just to show how big the knocker is;

Is this you?

Durham was founded by monks. A man named Cuthbert was once Bishop of Lindisfarne. After he died in 687 people claimed that miracles took place by his grave (people believed that dead bodies could work miracles). In 698 his body was exhumed and they discovered that it had not decomposed. Afterwards many people came to visit the body.

However in the 10th century the Vikings raided the coast of England. So in 985 the monks who kept Cuthbert's body decided to move from Lindisfarne to a safer location. For 10 years they wandered from place to place but eventually they settled at Durham.

The name Durham means hill on an island. It's derived from the words dun meaning hill and holmr meaning island. The body of Cuthbert still attracted visitors and a town grew up around it. It was a good location for a town as it was easy to defend. It also had an important attraction for visitors. The Scots attacked Durham twice, in 1006 and 1038 but both times they were driven away.

Source:  Tim Lambert, A History of Durham Cathedral

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