Our Lady of Caversham

Continuing my little ‘May is Mary’s Month’ series of Marian shrines of England, here is a little known shrine: Our Lady of Caversham. For a very nicely written history of the shrine link here.

Some folks underestimate the destruction of the English Catholic Church during the time of the Reformation. They think it was simply a matter of the king closing down some of the monasteries that were at the end of their lifespan. What really happened was that not only the monasteries were closed down, stripped bare and pillaged completely, but the local parish churches and shrines–which had been lovingly kept and maintained by the ordinary people were pillaged. The king not only took the rich vestments, altar hangings, church silver and rich ornaments and articles of devotion. He also took the lead from the church roof, the bells, the lands which endowed the priest’s ministry and funded the schools and hospitals and poor houses. He also took the money invested over decades to fund the work of the church. If there was any riches of any kind from the humblest parish church to the richest of monasteries the king had it.

The shrine of Our Lady of Caversham had been in existence from before the Norman invasion in 1066. For centuries it was a place of popular devotion, pilgrimage and prayer. Then in September 1538, Dr John London, the kings’ agent came and stripped the shrine, took all the offerings (including a golden crown donated a hundred years earlier by royalty) and shipped them off to the king’s treasury. He also stripped the lead off the roof and sent the ancient wooden image of the Blessed Virgin off to Cromwell in London where it was burnt.

The story of the restoration of the shrine is given in the link above. It’s a beautiful story of the resilience of the Catholic faith in a land that has been hostile to Catholicism for much of its history over the last 500 years.

  • Anonymous

    While in England a few years ago, I saw first-hand evidence of HVIII’s plundering of church properties. In York, I almost cried when I saw the ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey. On our group tour, we visited several medieval churches which had been “wreckovated” by H and his minions. Curiously, many of them still had Lady Chapels (I have a lovely photo of one such). Nevertheless, it was sad to look at such marvellous places as York Minster and Westminster Abbey, and realize that at one time they had been Catholic churches… I returned from that trip really despising HVIII (God forgive me), and more aware of England’s negative attitude towards our Church. Still, it was a great trip, and I hope to return soon. Patricia Gonzalez

  • Anonymous

    Fr, Thank you for teaching us history. At least in this country, we’ve received a whitewashed notion of the beginnings of the anglican/episcopal church. I’m humbled by the stories of the Catholic martyrs of that era, esp Margaret Clitherow.

  • Anonymous

    “Continuing my little ‘May is Mary’s Month’ series ….”Every month is Mary’s month. [Sigh.]

  • Clare Krishan

    Tony Hadland’s online book “Thames Valley Papists” is a great lens on the fate of a particular location of recusant life in southern England:http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~hadland/tvp/tvpcontents.htm