Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Katherine of Aragon and Our Lady of Caversham

Today is the Feast of the Triumph or the Exaltation of the Cross and tomorrow is the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, but in 1538, it was a sad day. The Tudor Society reports the event briefly in its almanac for this week:

The Destruction of the Shrine of Our Lady of Caversham, near Reading, by Dr John London, on the orders of Henry VIII. The shrine had been established in 1106.

On the website of the Catholic Parish of Our Lady and Saint Anne in Caversham, part of the Archdiocese of  Birmingham provides more detail:

Throughout the Middle Ages the fame of Our Lady of Caversham spread throughout the country and pilgrims came not only to pray, but also to present votive offerings to the Shrine, so that by the 15th century the statue was plated in silver. In 1439 Isabella Beauchamp, Countess of Warwick, left 20lbs of gold to be made into a crown for the statue. Kings and Queens of England travelled up river from Windsor to visit the Shrine, the last being Queen Catherine of Aragon who came on July 17th 1532 to pray to Our Blessed Lady while Henry VIII pressured her for a divorce.

Henry’s break with Rome meant the destruction of all religious houses and shrines so, on 14th September 1538, Dr. John London, the government agent, arrived at Caversham and in a single day closed down the Shrine, stripped it bare of all its religious property and ended over five hundred years of religious devotion. The statue was sent up to Thomas Cromwell in London where it was burnt.

It almost seems that Henry VIII ordered the destruction of the shrine himself because Katherine of Aragon had gone there to pray for Our Lady's intercession in the cause of their marriage.

The museum in Reading has a photograph of the foundation stone of the new shrine being placed in October of 1958:

A revival of devotion to Our Lady of Caversham began in 1897 and in 1958 the parish priest, Fr. William O’Malley, decided that a new shrine should be built. A stone chapel was built and a large oak statue of Our Lady and child purchased. The renewed shrine of Our Lady of Caversham was dedicated by Archbishop Francis Grimshaw of Birmingham in 1958.

This photograph was taken for the
Berkshire Chronicle but was not published.

Christopher Haigh and David Loades collaborated on an article about "The Fortunes of the Shrine of St. Mary of Caversham in the  1981 issue of Oxoniensia,  the annual journal of Oxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society (OAHS).

Our Lady of Caversham, pray for us!

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!

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