Thursday, October 3, 2013

Nicholas Windsor, Lord Alton, and Stonyhurst

From Crisis magazine comes this great story about the Catholic convert who lost his place in the royal succession of England (Lord Nicholas Windsor) and a plan for a "Museum of Christian Heritage to be located at the Jesuit estate Stonyhurst, the home of Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, England."

The Jesuits at Stonyhurst have collected some marvelous artefacts, according to author Austin Ruse:

The story of this project begins in 1593 when English Catholics established a boy’s school at a place called St. Omers not far from Calais then subject to the Spanish crown. Catholic education was not legal at the time in England and so English boys were sent there for education and protection. Besides protecting English boys, the school became a protector of precious Catholic items like vestments, manuscripts, and relics that were endangered on English soil. Thus began what is now called the “oldest surviving museum collection in the English-speaking world.”

The first acquisition in the collection came in 1609 when they took possession of Henry VII’s cope and chasuble. The Jesuits have religiously added to this collection as they have traveled the world from that time. Some of the other remarkable items include a thorn from the Crown of Thorns, the rope that bound St. Edmund Campion at the time of his execution, and personal items belonging to St. Thomas More, Elizabeth of York, Mary Tudor, Mary Queen of Scots, James II and the Stuart Family including items belong to Bonnie Prince Charlie.

The Jesuits left France and set up shop at Stonyhurst where the first museum was begun in 1796. The Arundell Library was opened there in 1855 and housed such amazing artifacts as the Book of Hours that is said to have been handed by Mary, Queen of Scotts, to her chaplain on the scaffold just before her execution.

The foundation of this Christian Heritage Centre was inspired by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's visit to Scotland and England in 2010. Lord David Alton's website has more about the proposed display of these artefacts (from September 2011):

One year ago, at Westminster, Pope Benedict told English Catholics not to lose their identity; not to forget their Christian roots; to remember who they are; to pass on their beliefs to their children and to share their love of their Faith with their countrymen.Some flavour of that identity has memorably been revealed in the remarkable “Treasures From Heaven” (sic)* exhibition recently staged at the British Museum and sponsored by two significant Catholics, John Studzinski CBE and Michael Hintze. Both men have been honoured with Papal Knighthoods by the Holy See for their services to arts and culture.

*Treasures of Heaven is the correct title.

The queues which have formed at the British Museum underline the public appetite for sacred culture. I saw the same phenomenon during 2008, when Liverpool was European Capital of Culture and, at St.Francis Xavier’s church, and an exhibition was staged entitled “Held in Trust”. Around 30,000 people poured in to the magnificent setting of SFX to see some of the wonderful artefacts loaned by Stonyhurst College and by the Society of Jesus. Arising out of the “Held In Trust” exhibition, Stonyhurst College published a beautiful book, by the same name, detailing some of the Collections which they hold and which they want to house in a permanent Christian Heritage Centre.

As a lasting legacy of Pope Benedict’s historic State Visit, the College Governors and the Society of Jesus have made available a Grade Two listed site, close to the College, the Corn Mill Buildings, which would be developed into an exhibition and interpretive centre. John Cowdall, the Chairman of Governors, Andrew Johnson, Stonyhurst headmaster, and the outgoing Provincial, Fr.Michael Holman SJ are all to be warmly applauded for this initiative.

Open to visitors The Christian Heritage Centre will have a mission to tell the Catholic story to future generations. Much more than a museum, it will be an interactive and inspirational educational centre; a study and retreat centre; a major visitors’ attraction; and a place where the rising generation will be inspired by the sacrifices of the past. The Christian Heritage Centre will be administered by a free standing charitable Trust. Knowledge of those who went before – and the price which they paid for the religious liberties and freedoms which we enjoy today – will help and guide our young people as they face today’s challenges and aggressive militant secularism.

Lord Alton and Lord Nicholas Windsor visited the Catholic Information Center in Washington, DC last night for a reception--unfortunately, I cannot find a website established for the Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst.

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