Chapel of Our Lady of the Crag – Knaresborough, England - Atlas Obscura

Chapel of Our Lady of the Crag

A 600-year-old mini shrine guarded by a sword-wielding knight hides in a crumbling cliff face. 


According to legend, this miniature chapel was excavated by a stonemason to thank the Virgin Mary for saving his son. The boy had unbelievably survived a terrible rock-fall while the pair were quarrying stone, and the medieval mason attributed the miracle to the intervention of the Holy Mother.

How true this legend is remains uncertain, although it is documented that in 1408, King Henry IV granted permission for the excavation of this shrine to a certain John the Mason. John may have been the craftsman behind a remodeling of Knaresborough’s church and nearby castle, the stone for which was indeed hewn out of the cliff close to the site occupied by the diminutive chapel.

The imposing carving of an armored crusader guarding the shrine is thought to be a later addition to this godly grotto, dating to the last decade of the 17th, or early 18th century. This tiny troglodyte space also boasts medieval gargoyles, an ancient and intricate carved ceiling, and a stone altar complemented by a relatively recent granite statue of the Madonna and Child.

Following restoration in the 1990s, the medieval micro-chapel and its small but beautifully maintained garden remain a site of pilgrimage as a shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It is open to the general public on Sundays during the summer, and for pilgrims at pre-arranged times.

Know Before You Go

Opening times are limited to 2-4 p.m. on Sundays during the summer, but the Chapel can be viewed from Abbey Road at all other times.

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