Sunday, 17 April 2016

Knaresborough Priory and St Robert's cave

I took a walk along the course of the River Nidd in Knaresborough today and happened upon Abbey Road. Along this road the long destroyed Knaresborough Priory was located.

The Trinitarian Priory of the Holy Trinity and St Robert, was founded pre-1252. It was destroyed by the Scots in 1318, and suffered at the Black Death. It was dissolved in 1538. Excavations in 1862 and 1949 have recovered the plan of the North transept of the church with towers or turrets at the angles, a South-East buttress, and stone coffins. This was North-West of the later building called `The Priory'. A possible malthouse was exposed South-East of `The Priory'. To the South of this, a possible dovecote was found by remote survey in 1971.

Part of the South precinct wall survives in the garden of Abbey House, and the `Priory' stands on earlier, possible monastic foundations. Parts of the priory buildings are also preserved in the wall and buildings of “The Priory” on Abbey Road.

Further along the road is the cave of “Saint” Robert of Knaresborough, a hermit who lived in a cave by the River Nidd. His feast day is 24th September. Although never officially canonised Robert is considered as one of the outstanding saints of the early thirteenth century.

St Robert lived in various places in the vicinity of Knaresborough before taking up residence in a cave by the river Nidd (then known as St. Giles' Priory). It is said that King John visited him and Trinitarian friars also venerated him. Towards the end of his life, pilgrims flocked to see Robert to seek spiritual guidance and to be healed of physical ailments. His brother Walter, then Mayor of York, came and paid for some new buildings, including a chapel dedicated to the Holy Cross.