A place of sanctuary
In the past places of worship were accepted as places of sanctuary - refuges where people who were afraid of being seized (and perhaps killed) would be safe. Those pursuing them would respect the sacred space.
In the Middle Ages in England churches could provide asylum for criminals; they then had the choice of being brought to trial or admitting their guilt and promising to leave the country.
An Act of 1623 abolished the right of sanctuary although the practice did not die out until the 18 century.
It has been suggested that the practice prevented the excessive use of capital punlishment and that it safeguarded people from revenge and summary execution.
Occasionally today people still seek refuge in places of worship.
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