On the revival of the "old religion," under Queen Mary, John Feckenham, late Dean of St. Paul's, was appointed Abbot of Westminster and Chaplain to her Majesty, and, with fourteen monks, took possession of the Abbey. Malcolm quotes a few lines from a proclamation issued in 1553, to show the probable state in which Feckenham found the Abbey. Speaking of the churches—"especially within the cittie of London, irreverently used, and by divers insolent rashe persones sundrie waies abused, soe farre forth, that many quarreles, riottes, frayes, and bloudshedinges have been made in some of the said churches, besides shotinge of hand-gonnes to doves, and the com'on bringinge of horses and mules into and throughe the said churches." He was indefatigable in restoring the building to its former state, and Mary, with great zeal, collected into it as many as she could of the rich habits and other insignia of its former splendid worship; but the death of his royal mistress put an end to his exertions, and his authority as abbot ceased on the 12th of July, 1559.
At the death of Queen Mary, Feckenham carefully removed from the Abbey the "relic of the true cross," which had been exposed there to the veneration of the faithful for centuries. It was carefully secreted during nearly two centuries, and found in 1822, in a box along with some antique vestments, at the house of a Roman Catholic gentleman in Holborn—Mr. Langdale**. Having been duly authenticated, it was removed to the Benedictine College of St. Gregory, at Downside, near Bath, where it is still kept. It may be added that this particular relic is minutely described in the Chevalier Fleury's work on "Relics of the True Cross." [I'm not confusing Abbot Feckenham's crucifix with this relic of the true cross!]
How to do this legally caused a delay of four years. The difficulty was at last overcome by a young lawyer of Abergavenny who had gone to Italy to fulfil a vow and had returned a Benedictine monk. Br Augustine Baker drew up a legal instrument for the aggregation and succession which satisfied all ecclesiastical law. . . .