Wednesday 28 May 2008

St Margaret Clitherow Pilgrimage

Today, I went with my mother to the Forst of Bowland in Lancashire to visit the places where tradition says that the body of St Margaret Clitherow was taken after her execution.
Some weeks after her death Fr Francis Ingleby, the priest whom she was condemned for having haboured, arranged for her body to be taken into the safe keeping of a relative of his. Ingleby was related to the Catholic Hawksworth family of Mitton near Ribchester. Missionary activity in this area was centred on Bailey Hall, and it is beleived that Margaret's body was first taken to Bailey Hall. The photo below shows Bailey Hall today; only a part remains of this fortified and moated manor house, the home of the Catholic Shireburns. To the left of the house you can see a low stone wall - this is all that remains of their chapel of St John the Baptist.
Within the confines of this ruin you can see some old sheets of corrugated iron weighted down with house bricks. To my amazement, I could see beneath the remains the original mediaeval vault of the chapel. This vault was excavated in 1915 by students from nearby Stoneyhurst College who found the mausoleum empty. However, in 1716 the Shireburns were indicted for their involvement in the 1715 Jacobite rebellion and were imprisoned, forfeiting their entire estate. It is believed that at that time the body was removed to the greater safetly of the chapel of St Saviour, two miles away at Stydd.
We drove over to Stydd and were delighted to find the old church open.

And, within the old sanctuary, there we found the stone slab engraved with a simple cross which is believed to be the place where her body lies. (It is the stone in the photo which is immediately in front of the stacked chairs.)

Here we prayed for the conversion and evangelisation of the country. I would like the opportunity of returning to celebrate Mass there and, I would like, one day, to see her relics honoured. For she stood before the judge, the city, the nation, the Queen and State and would not be intimidated by their falsehood, choosing to honour God instead. Perhaps one day there will be sufficient interest to investigate the vaults within the Stydd chapel and to search there for her relics.
There is an oral tradition within the Vavasour family that "there she will remain until the Church is restored to its own."
(Acknowledgements to David Alton for the historical details)

St Margaret Clitherow, pray for us.


Kirk said...

I was shown the hand of St Margaret by the Nuns at the Bar Convent in York so I guess not all of her body is beneath that stone

Fr Richard Aladics said...

Her other hand is reputed to be kept at the Shrine of Ladywell near Preston.

LizzieD said...

Lovely post Father, I recently found out about her burial at Stydd, and would love to get up there some day. If you do get to offer Mass there, please advertise it!
By the way, do you know of anywhere that one can get a medal of Saint Margaret Clitherow?
This is the first time I've visited your blog - and I'm enjoying your posts - thanks.