I can't recall whether recollections of "sanctuary" come from reading, or watching movies depicting darker times when religion ruled.
"Many ancient people recognized a religious "right of asylum", protecting criminals (or those accused of crime) from legal action and from exile to some extent. This principle was adopted by the early Christian church, and various rules developed for what the person had to do to qualify for protection and just how much protection it was.
In England, King Ethelbert made the first laws regulating sanctuary in about AD 600. By Norman times, there had come to be two kinds of sanctuary: All churches had the lower-level kind, but only the churches the king licensed had the broader version. The medieval system of asylum was finally abolished entirely in England by James I in 1623."
I can't seem to find historical accounts of people actually getting "sanctuary." Certainly, there are modern day examples, even in Canada, of refugee claimants being given sancuary in churches. But, for the historical period, when children were hanged for stealing bread, I can't find examples of the kind loving church hiding the wanted from prosecution. I have to wonder if church doors were locked in those days - they certainly would now, in these times of "homeland security"!
I also wonder if someone facing blasphemy charges would have been welcomed by his nearest church into "sanctuary"?