Chapel of Our Lady of the Crag

Welcome to the page dedicated to the beautiful sandstone Chapel of Our Lady of the Crag.  We hope that you take the opportunity to enjoy the peace provided by this place, and gain some spiritual refreshment from it.  There is a booklet giving full details of the history fo the Chapel which is offered to anyone who gives a donation of £3 (all donations go to the upkeep of the Chapel, a Grade II listed building).


A Brief Summary


The Foundation of the Shrine

The Chapel was built by someone known as 'John the Mason' in 1408.  A Royal Charter attests to the date, but the rest of the founding story is either legend or conjecture!  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.  The story goes that his son was almost killed by a rock fall in the quarry.  John fervently prayed to the Virgin Mary to save him.  When he emerged, miraculously unscathed, from the rubble, John built this chapel in thanksgiving.




There are two other reasons that might have prompted him to have hewn the Chapel out of the rock.  Firstly, the Chapel is a wayside shrine, and in 1408 it was en route to Knaresborough's priory (destroyed at the Reformation).  Secondly, John would have loved to have displayed his skills to the people of his day; the Chapel is the work of a master craftsman, with a carved altar, vaulted ceiling, roof bosses and gargoyles, looking every bit like an erected building, but with a special quality, created from the crag itself.

(Picture courtesy of Mark Sunderland -


The Knight figure may date from 1408; we are not sure, but he certainly is old, and was commented on by Wordsworth in the poem Memorials of a Tour of Scotland 1814 (Wordsworth sat by the River Bran, but remembered Knaresborough and the Nidd).  Recent conservation work showed the head to be separate from the body and it is thought that it may have been remodelled int he Victorian era.


The Shrine Today

The Chapel is a 'Marian' shrine, i.e. a holy place especially dedicated to the Virgin Mary and her son, Jesus Christ.  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.  We had the modern statue of Madonna and Child sculpted for the shrine in 2000.  Over the past years the statue has lost some of its whiteness which helps it to fit well within the Chapel.


Marian and medicinal herb gardens are beginning to appear outside, but will not be fully completed until the pathways have been stabilised.


Unfortunately, in 2012 Health and Safety encroached even more on the Shrine and the Group need to raise funds to improve the pathways with more haste than originally thought.  Master Stonemason, Keith Ledger, has restored a retaining wall for us at a much reduced cost to help support our future ability to open the Shrine. 



If you are able to support and would like further information about what is required, please contact by telephoning 01423 866080 or 01423 861584, or emailing to arrange, giving at least a week's notice if possible.  One way of supporting is by contributing to the boundary line hedges - information here


Opening Times

The normal opening times are 2-4pm Sundays in the summer months (weather permitting).  We will open for pilgrimages or groups with a historic or local interest.  


The Newsletter from March 2015 can be found here