A hospitium is the name of a building, attached to a monastery or similar religious building, where visitors who were usually pilgrims, could find accommodation. The word is linked to the word hospitality, ie, looking after guests, as opposed to a hospital, where the sick are treated.
York’s hospitium was built in around the fourteenth century, and was attached to St. Mary’s Abbey, which was dissolved in the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1500s, but some of the ruins remain.
In the 1860s the building was run by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society after the Crown gave a range of buildings to the trust. It was given to the Society later than some other properties, and at first it was thought to be the grange of the Abbey, but after renovation to the building, its true purpose was discovered. The Society also turned the building into a small museum.
In the 1890s the building was described as; “It was conjectured that the building had been erected for the entertainment of those strangers who were not admitted to the principal apartments of the monastery; the lower room having the refectory, and the upper, originally of the same extent, the dormitory. The position of this building, near one of the entrances to the abbey, and the correspondence of the plan of the lower room with that of the refectory for the monks, tend to confirm that conjecture. The portion of the lower apartment on the left of the doorway, lighted by five narrow windows, was originally separated by a cross wall from the other portion, forming perhaps a store room or buttery”.
The building was renovated in 2008, and is now under the care of York Museum Trust, who use the building for marriages or other functions.