A Show of Saintly Courage in Shambles

The Shambles in not an adjective; it is a well preserved street in York, England. Although not as popular as London, York is just as historical. The city of York has been in existence for at least 2,000 years. The core of the city of York is walled, just like in medieval times, and its historical landmarks are well preserved.

The word Shambles refers to open-air slaughterhouses and meat shops. There are streets named Shambles in other parts of England as long as there are animals to kill, dress and sell. The pavements of the streets are elevated on both sides, creating channels or open canals. In those days all the innards are thrown out; the wastes from the slaughtered animals like blood pass through those canals.

The Shambles of York is unique or special; it is the most well preserved street of its kind and thus one of the most visited in the whole of Europe. The Shambles was also home to Saint Margaret Clitherow.

Clitherow married a butcher at the age of 15 and lived along York’s Shambles. She became a Roman Catholic at the age of 18. During those day Roman Catholics were being persecuted and as a Catholic herself, she sympathized with those regarded as fugitives. Her home became a safe house for priests hunted by the authorities. She was a mother of 2 and a school teacher to her children and neighbors’ children.

Although repeatedly arrested, it was not until 1586 that Margaret Clitherow was brought before the criminal courts. One of her students was pressured into providing evidence against the teacher. The authorities were able to find mass related paraphernalia in her home, leading to her arrest.

She refused to enter a plea so the trial could not commence. Margaret Clitherow wanted to prevent a trial to protect her children from being forced to testify against her. As punishment, she had to lay naked beneath a heavy stone. She did not last 15 minutes and met her saintly death. A shrine for her as St. Margaret was erected on the spot thought to be where her old home was. It was later discovered that her old residence was a few houses away from the shrine.

Today the Shambles is clean and lined not with meat shops but with specialty stores. The cobble stones, quaint shops, the shrine of St. Margaret and the old stories handed down from generation to generation keep visitors coming back for more.