Shrines of England

Before the reformation, there were many shrines across England, some with a small relic of a saint, some with items associated with a saint, and some with the complete body. Of course, not all were genuine, but were worshipped anyway, so did the provenance really matter? I'll discuss that later.
  Then in the 1530's along came Henry VIII and the Reformation, and shrines were destroyed: partly because of the change in religious belief with the dawn of protestantism, but mostly because Henry wanted to get his hands on the treasures possessed by the shrines.
  So, did they all go? No, some remain, and we'll look at those. What is most interesting is that a number of shrines have been recreated in recent years - by the Anglican church! Some say it is just a ploy to attract tourist to cathedrals and other sacred places - but is this true?
  First then, the shrine that even Henry wasn't brave enough to destroy: B
ritainís most imposing surviving shrine, that of Edward the Confessor in Westminster Abbey.

Burial of Edward the confessor: Bayeux Tapestry.

                                                                             

    The shrine today


  Edward died on the 4th of January 1066, and was buried with great honour in the then Norman abbey, as depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry. Edward was canonised in 1161.
   The abbey was rebuilt in Gothic style by Henry III, and a splendid new shrine was completed in 1269; it is said that Henry III presented the relic of a stone said to bear the marks of Christ's feet, from his Ascension, and a relic of the girdle of the Virgin, to the shrine.
     Even, it seems, Henry VIII was moderately respectful and the bones of Edward survived the reformation, though the shrine was despoiled and the jewels made away with. Queen Mary insisted that the shrine be put back together, repaired, and new jewels added, and all was back in place by 1557, though the jewels are no longer there.

St Albans



 

 


The Cathedral of St Albans. It is said that there was a shrine to St Alban founded here in the fifth century. According to Matthew Paris, it was destroyed by the Saxons in 593. Building of the present building started in the 11
th century as a Norman Abbey, and the crossing tower, built of Roman bricks, remains.

  A major visitor attraction is the shrine of St Alban, restored in 1993. In 2002 a church in Cologne donated a precious relic: a shoulder bone, said to have been St Albanís. He was home at last.
  Apparently, when Cardinal Vincent Nicholls, Catholic Archbishop of Westminster heard about the restoration, he said ĎAt last the reformation is over!í We mentioned this to a member of the clergy at St Albans Ė it did not go down well.

                                                                             
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