Cathedral close

A cathedral close is the area immediately around a cathedral, sometimes extending for a hundred metres or more from the main cathedral building. In Europe in the Middle Ages, and often later, it was usually all the property of the cathedral and under the bishop or cathedral's legal jurisdiction rather than that of the city. It normally had gates which were locked at night or when there were disturbances in the city, hence the name. It usually included buildings housing diocesan offices, schools, free-standing chapels associated with the cathedral, and the palace of the bishop and other clergy houses associated with the cathedral. They sometimes but not necessarily are arranged in a sort of square around a courtyard, as in the close at Salisbury Cathedral.[1] The German term is Domfreiheit.

Aerial view of Canterbury Cathedral
The close of Canterbury Cathedral extends to the circle of buildings surrounding its grounds

Today there are often residences of non-clerics, which may include official or prominent persons such as judges' houses. Until recent local government reforms many cathedral closes still functioned as separate administrative unit: St. David's cathedral close, in Pembrokeshire, counted as a separate civil parish from that of the adjacent village-city for some 50 years after the disestablishment in Wales. Others still have the secularised former residences of canons but no resident senior clergy. In other cities, such as Trier, property close to the cathedral is occupied by clergy.

In literatureEdit

The Barchester novels (Chronicles of Barsetshire) of Anthony Trollope are set largely in the cathedral close of the fictional town of Barchester.