Thursday, April 16, 2009

Greyfriars in Cornwall and an enclosed Convent at Lanherne!! Part One



Two days ago we visited a tiny convent in St Mawgans. In fact this was the oldest Carmel in England. This is in a beautiful valley midway between the town of St Columb and the sea and the site of a monastic settlement in Celtic times. You can still see the ancient cross with Christ dressed in a tunic next to the ancient chapel.In Saxon times it became administered by Bishops of the Saxon church and then it became the great manor house of the Arundel family.

We have in previous blogs been over many things: How the celtic saints

a)tended to be from royal families and took their retainers with them
b)They embarked on 'martyrdoms' and would give up their lives for God

i.White martyrdom, setting sail on the sea (symbolic of death) on a small craft and setting up a small monastic settlement wherever they landed.
2. Green Martyrdom-starting a small monastic settlement on some sort of 'island' in a beautiful place-often next to a water source, or obedient to the Pope, in a place previously held as holy by Druids. Many priests became the new advisors to the king
3. Sometimes there was a martyrdom by blood -a 'red' martyrdom-in some ways reflecting the red colour of vestments on martyrs days.

c) They tended to 'hallow' a piece of ground for their island. Everything inside the wall belonged to God, and all outside to the earth.The little oratory chapels would be consecrated by 40 days of praying and fasting(only being allowed a scrap of bread, a hen's egg and a little milk and water)The church, often made of wood or mud and wattles in these early days would then be consecrated in the name of the founding saint. When a church was restored or enlarged, frequently another saint was added.

d)Celibacy was not mandatory for clergy in the early church, and because of the early influences in Britannia, either through St Joseph of Arimathea or through the good offices of Pope Eleutherius and , of course the Roman army members coming to Britain, Catholicism in Britain developed a flavour of its own. It myst be said, however, that the Christian faith is the first which gave women the freedom not to marry or have a family if they wished to consecrate themselves to God.

It is to these two Celtic settlements, one at Laneherne, which developed into a wonderful witness of the faith, through the Arundel Family and one at St Ives. Tomorrow I shall take St Ives, today Lanherne.

St Hernan
Feastday: September 15

Hernan was a 6th century Cornishman, who had studied in the great monastery of Illtyd at Llantwit Major (blog coming soon)He travelled to Britanny and spread the gospel there so effectively that he became patron Saint of Loc Horn in Brittany.Like many of these forgotton sons and daughters of God, he toiled and clothing the naked, healing the sick and feeding the hungray and his monastic settlement did well and much to improve life in the area until the beginning of the Anglo Saxon raids. Whereas the Saxons gradually put most of the old British Christians to the sword and bornt all their churches, they began a similar harrying of the lands of Britanny. People had adorned their little churches with beautiful and costly things, which were prized by the Saxons.Cornishman, Hernan and some of his followers, hearing that Saxons were coming, managed to get himself and his people into a boat and sailed accross to Cornwall, which was largely free from English interference, largely because the Saxons were not attracted by the rough and lonely landscape with no possiblily of arable farming. Saint Herne (Hernan) settled in this tiny beautiful valley where he built up his community. He, like Materiana, established their green martyrdom after following a white martyrdom, neccessitated by their refugee status. They had skills and were a big addition to the community.

In Wales we call them Llans. In Cornwall they are 'lans'.Loc Harne is near Mantafilan in the Catholic diocese of Vannes. He died in Brittany.A church was built there over a sepulchre which still remains , and many of the relics of the saints are held there, with due reverence. St Hernan may have been attracted back to Cornwall by the holiness of St Meugant (St Mawgan or St Maugham (in Monmouthshire)who was a great disciple of St Illtyd, the famous teacher of the faith, who had lived there as a hermit among the people in Western Britain.The village which sprang up was called 'Mawgan' after the saint.

The old Monastery at Lanherne gave many pilgrims shelter and refreshment as they made their way to Rome and compostella. Mawgan lay in the direct rout of the Welsh and this pilgrimage to St James of Compostella was also a favourite with the English, and we find many St James dedications on the route.Near the Church at Mawgan is St James Moor and a well higher up on the hill supplies the COnvent and village with water is called St James' Well.

St Teilo

St Teilo, second Bishop of Llandaff after Dyfrig , while on his way to Brittany was entertained by Geraint of Cornwall. Seven years later, Geraint received the Viaticum from the Holy Bishop.

At the close of the first Millennium, the two neighbouring British churches of St Mawgan (Lanherne) and St Columb became administrated by the Saxon Bishop of Crediton or St German's and became a manorial estate under the name Lanherne.The bishops in those days had to provide (as did other manorial lords) a certain number of men for the army and granting property to their retainers they rid themselves of a great deal of the responsibility. In 1074, we see Lanherne was 'Three Hides' in Bishop Osbert's endowments.The Domesday Book (1085) records the owner as the layman Fulcard under the Bishop of Exeter as Overlord. He was probably a knight.The last of the Fulcards married an Arundell.

The Arundells

This was Lady Alice, the heiress and she married Sir Remphrey Arundell of Treby and Trembleth in 1231. Lanherne was her dowry and this set the Arundells up as the most ancient and wealthy family in Cornwall for five or six centuries.According to Carew, the Cornish historian,

this family were the greatest for love, and living heretofore in the county; but they placed their highest honour in the practice and munificent protection of religion'.

1333 St Columb Major

In this year they built the church at St Columb and instituted a fair there, and the new patronage and benefice was theirs.

1376 Lady Joan de Arundell had a licence to have Mass in her private oratory at Lanherne and in 1385 had a licence to choose her confessor.

1379 Sir John Arundell replulses the French Fleet

this he did off the coast of Cornwall when commanding an expedition fitted out by King Richard II in aid of the Duke of Brittany. Later the ships were wrecked off the Irish coast and Sir John was drowned. His grandson (Sir John Arundell KB) was called 'The Magnificent' and was a great benefactor and also of the submerged church of St Petroc at Peranzabuloe-St Piran in the Sands. He also founded the Arundel chantry of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the church of St Columb Major with a warden and five priests in 1427.He was a naval commander, Sherriff of Cornwall, possessed 52 complete suits of gold, and he was an MP for 1422-3. This family married with all the other old Cornish families and in the reign of Henry VI, John Arundell (1421) was the largest free tenant in Cornwall with an income of £2,000 per year-an enormous sum in those days.

Bishop John Arundell

died in 1504 and was educated at the college for Augustinian monks in St Columb and took his MA at Exeter College, Oxford. He then became Rector of St Columb, Bishop of Lichfield, Coventry and Exeter. He died in London at St Clement Danes and it was said of him that he was conspicuous for his love of learning and is hospitality to the poor.

The Brutal times of the Tudors

Henry VIII , wishing to marry his mistress, decided to put away his wife of 35 years and his daughter and as the Pope would not comply with this scheme, he decided to start his own version of the church.Acts of parliament 1536 and 1539 seized the property of the church and sold it off to the many noblemen, eager to have the wealth and assets of the abbies. The monks and nuns were turned out, although a few received pensions in the richer monastaries and convents.Aged clergy were simply put out to starve, many were killed as they refused to deny the church thy loved. Cranmer brought in a new Protestant prayer book, put together from prayers furthered by Luther and Calvin abroad. Edward was just a boy and his many advisors were beneficiaries of the lott from the convents and monasteries and not eager, ever , to see their reightful owners restored. Cranmer also made the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass illegal and in places like Wales and Cornwall, where the people did not speak English, but knew what the Latin meant, there was great distress.The country was thrown into poverty and unrest. The dissolution had led to many being turned out of house and home with no resources or alternative employment. Besides the vast army of monks and nuns , instead of offering help, they themselves were forced to beg and forage for food and warmth, and begged or starved if they could not find a job. The new landlords turned out the peasants and lay brothers and whole villages made destitute. And Rowe in 'Struggles for the Faith' says 'in all their troubles the poor people were deneid the consolations of their religion'.

Cassell's History of England says:

'their oldest and most sacred associations were broken, their hapy holidays had become a gloomy blank. What their fathers and pastors had taught them as peculiarly holy, their rulars now pronounced to be damnable doctrines and delusions of priestcraft. They thought the sermons very dull, and were, by no means , pleased with these renovations.'

Insurrection breaks out all over Britain 1549

Men of Cornwall and Devon 1,000 strong rose in arms against the enemies of the Old Faith. At their head was Sir Humphrey Arundell of Lanherne.1539 he had received the monastery of St Michael's Mount, hoping to restore it in happier times to the church. The Defenders of the Faith mustered at Bodmin , they had a wagon with an altar for saying Mass . Their protest was as follows:

Item we will not receyve the new servyce because it is like a Christmas game, but we will have holy bread and holy water made everye Sundaye:Palmes and Ashes at the tymes accustomed; images to be set up againe inevery church and all other auncient olde ceremonies used hertofore by our Mother the Holy Churche.
Item, we wyll have everye pryest at his Masse praye especially by name for the soules in purgatory as our fathers did'.

Some Sucess and then Overwhelming Defeat

The authorities managed to 'spin' support for the Holy Faith as disloyalty to the country and the newly wealthy had much to fight for to keep their booty. A fierce battle raged around St Mary Clyst and Arundell fled to Launceston. The town council, themselves cowed by all the edicts gave him up for Tyburn on January 27 1550. Henry Bowyer, Mayor of Bodmin, another loyal Catholic was hanged at Bodmin and Master the Mayor of Lanherne was also condemned-his wife who intended to plead for him took so long 'prinking' herself that she missed his execution. Heywood in his 'Chronicle' complains of the extreme cruelty measured out to the Cornish Faithful who took part in this struggle for the Holy Faith. His son and granson pretended to conform for a while to hang on to their estates, but in 1570 (Queen Elizabeth) his name appears on the recusant rolls. By then the Jesuits had begun to arrive in England, and Father John Cornelius SJ reconciled that Sir John Arundell to the Church.Sir John's daughters, Gertrude and Dorothy entered a convent in Brussels six years after their father's daeth.

Father Cornelius was martyred in 1594

He was arrested in the house of Sir John's widow and Mr Thomas Bosgrove a kinsman was also arrested , as well as two servants of the family. He was taken to London and tortured by the Lord Treaurer,and the Privy Council as well as the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury. they wanted the list of other Catholics in the area. He would not answer them, and sent back into the country to stand trial with his three friends.(no doubt it was hoped the servants would 'break rangks' with their masters)

'Charges !:Mr Cornelius-high treason for being a priest, coming into the kingdom and staying.
Mr Bosgrove and the other two, for felony , aiding and assisting Mr Cornelius knowing him to be a priest.'

They were all condemned on July 2nd and suffered martyrdom at Dorchester on July 4th 1594, in the dying years of Elizabeth's reign, and entered their eternal rest.

The Letter

In the letter he wrote to Dorothy in Brussels, half an hour before he was to die, he begs her to keep inviolable the word she has first given to God and then to St Bridget and concludes ' I don't forget those whom I don't name. God be your keeper. Yours, John, who is going to die for a moment, that he may live forever.'

Lanherne and 'Popish Recusants'

Lanherne's chapel became a rallying point for Catholics in Cornwall and the West. They would not attend the new services in the old parish church. Mass was said here in secret by devoted English priests from the seminary at Douai, who landed in a secret creek in Cornwall and were entertained by Sir John at Lanherne, sometimes ten or twelve at a time. These brave men, many of noble families, became outlaws and exiles for the faith and suffered exile to Flanders to be educated and ordained, and returning to England their lives were forfeit and if they were aught it was death.One priest was hidden in the house for eighteen months for fear of priest bounty hunters. Hiding holes can be found in the chimneys at Lanherne, which rise a solid stack to the attic.

St Cuthbert Mayne

was intimately connected with Lanherne, but I will tell his story separately as the blog is becoming long.

Holy and happy Lanherne, hallowed by the footsteps of the Martyrs, poor and abandoned in the eyes of the world, yet rich, immeasurably rich in the things that perish not'

1794 The French Revolution

and a party of English Carmelite nuns flee the terrors of France and Lord and Lady Arundell offer them the Manor of Lanherne to set up their convent. This Carmel was founded in 1619 (1/5)In that year Venerable Ann of Jesus, chosen companion of St Theresa sent two of the Community to Antwerp to run a convent for English Carmelites. She was helped in making the foundation by Lady Mary Lovel, who wanted to help the persecuted Catholics of England and keep the Faith alive. St Theresa of Avila and Venerable Ann loved England, adn there were already three English nuns in the order.The foundation flourished and the order spread to Cologne Dusseldorf and Bois de Luc . Another foundation hapened at Lierre (now Darlington)and another at Chichester, which remained wholly English. All from Antwerp. 1794 the revolutionary armies attacked Belgium a second time and the nuns had to flee the country. June 29th, they chartered a boat from Rotterdam with the Augustinian nuns of bruges and sailed for their native land, arriving in Wapping on 12th July with cries of 'French Devils' and other rude names, but when they explained they were English ladies seeking refuge from the French in their own country, the temper of the crowd changed and they were shown every kindness and consideration.

Toleration Act 1781

brought an improvement for Catholics in England. Oaths etc from previous reigns were no longer enforced and they were allowed to live in London and religious wroship was permitted in licensed little chapels .1794, the Mother Prioress Elizabeth Maddocks and twelve nuns and three lay sisters took up residence in Lanherne. The house needed to be renovated because it had not been in use, but been used for smuggling. Apparently one of the nuns met a smuggler to his, and her surprise.

The repairs took years and Feb 27th 1797 when alterations were completed the sisters resumed their lives of prayer and penance in this treasure hous of the Faith.

The Building

The oldest portion is the nuns choir.the wall of which and the cellar opposite date from Celtic times. The windows in this wall are the original ones and this was the Church of the Celtic monastery.

The Entrance to the Convent, old staircase and wondows inside are Elizabethan. Sir Christopher Wren refaced the building and Bishop Vaughan caused many alterations to be made.

The Chapel

Only the chapel is open for viewing and worship (an EF Mass is said every morning at 8am) It is built in the style of Louis VIV with rich ornamentations. There are three wonderful medallions showing the Agony in the Garden, the Crucifixion and the Last Supper. In the niches are fine carvings of representations of Our Lady, St John Baptist, St Anne, St Theresa, St Joseph and the Angel Gabriel. Pillars of marble and stone support the base and the tabernacle is carved in alabaster, with 4 beautifully carved angels above appearing to adore the Blessed Sacrament. The old silver lamp burning before the Blessed Sacrament has not been extinguished since pre reformation days; it bears the crests of the Arundells-three swallows 'Les hirondelles' was a version of the name.

Parish Church

The chapel serves as the Parish church of the Catholics in Mawgan and district, the beautiful church next door now having been passed into Anglican hands. The Arundell aisle in this church remained for some years the porperty of the family and the convent and ten of the Carmelite nuns are buried here.

I must stop for today! This was a trasure place for Catholics and there is much, much more to come in the next days!!!This holiday was amazing for fact finding.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am from Colorado in the US and am writing a novel and subsequent screen play that would take place in the shires of Devon and Cornwall in about 1512-1513. I hope you can help me with your insight. I am searching for a nunnery there in that time period. Do you happen to know of such locations?
So much was destroyed by Henry VIII that I know history is sketchy.
I am looking for those nunnery locations as well as a nearby tin mine and where a local lord would have held a joust or tilting tournament. Those three elements converge in the plot.
I have been in touch through the Chamber of Commerce in Tavistock with the historian there who graciously shared his knowledge. He said no nunnery was ever located there in Tavistock and no tournaments were held, though the tin refining was done in that town. Mines, he said, were in Dartmoor. I suspect there were others. If you have answers, please let me know. It will help greatly in creating a clear picture of life and times of the people, arts of the tinsmiths, the nuns and nobles. The story will then tie in with the pewter goblets that I create in my studio as tradition and history goes on. Thankyou so much. My email in
Cheers! kdopita