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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, although not necessarily, are arranged in a sort of square around a courtyard, as in the close at Salisbury Cathedral. The German term is Domfreiheit.
Today there are often residences of non-clerics, which may include official or prominent persons, e.g. Judges` lodgings, the house once occupied by former Prime Minister Edward Heath at Salisbury. Until recent local government reforms many cathedral closes still functioned as separate administrative units, e. g. St. David's cathedral close (Pembs.) counted as a separate civil parish from that of the adjacent village-city for some fifty or so years after Disestablishment in Wales. Others still have the secularised former residences of canons, but no resident senior clergy. In other cities, for example Trier, property close to the cathedral is occupied by clergy.
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