Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cornwall: Land of Saints

From Fr. Angelo:
Christianity arrived in Cornwall in the 5th century, at places like Lanherne, at what became various monastic centers situated around the area.  That was at the time of the legendary Arthur Pendragon, who is said to have been born in Tintagel, which is about a half hour north of here on the coast, where the friars play tennis once a week with a local priest and friend, Fr. Brian Storey. Glastonbury, or the legendary Avalon is about one hundred miles to the north.

Celtic monks founded a monastery at Lanherne in the 6th century the site of the present convent, which later came into the possession of the bishops and still later of the great English noble family of Arundell.  The present building is the medieval Manor House of the Arundells, which is the center of Catholicism in the area. The estate provided work for many people and the family built the Medieval Church of St. Mawgan which you can see in the background of the picture above.  The parish church is now in the possession of the Church of England and the convent is separated from the church property by an ancient wall.

The Arundells remained a faithful Catholic family that suffered terribly throughout the period of the English Reformation. They used the manor house to hide Catholic priests, who were in threat of certain death if captured.  Not least of these courageous priests was St. Cuthbert Mayne, who was eventually captured nearby at and hung drawn and quartered at Launceston, his quarters being sent to the four corners of the realm, his head being placed on a pike.  The top of his scull is in the possession of the convent and is venerated here every Sunday after Mass.  One can clearly see the hole in the top of the cranium from where his head was placed on the pike.

Local historians know more or less where the hiding places for priests (priest holes) were built into the manor house walls.  One of them is believed to be in the present chapel of the friars, though modern paneling currently prevents its definitive discovery.

The Manor House was also a way station along the route of the Welsh pilgrims to St. James of Compostella. The scallop shell of St. James is engraved in stone above the front door.

In 1794 the Manor House was offered by the Arundell family to a group of English Carmelite nuns who were fleeing France because of the persecution of the French Revolution.  From that time until fifteen or so years ago the Manor house has been a carmelite monastery.  The Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate took it over and it remains the place of their enclosure as contemplatives consecrated unlimitedly to the Immaculate. (Read entire post.)

1 comment:

julygirl said...

I pray that we are not headed into an era when the boundaries between politics and religion begin to blur. The horrors and suffering of that age are too dreadful to contemplate!