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episodes recorded in the foregoing pages it will be seen that the
these costly shrines were not needlessly appointed.
Priceless jewels, fastened by merely a wire
on to a wire trellis-work, and many a golden ornament would easily be
from its position by pilfering hands if a vigilant oversight were not
covetousness in all ages disregarded things sacred equally with things
secular. For the better preservation of
these riches, watching galleries were erected from which the Custos
one of the brethren could overlook the shrine. But few of these remain
exceed in number those objects for which they were built.
The chamber in St. Anselm’s tower has lost
its mission—no offerings to
The sad story
of the destruction of
violation of sanctuaries might possibly be partially condoned. Fanatics are usually irresponsible, trusting in no higher power than their own mental capacity, minds which have become distorted ; but official documents prove that the vast sacrilege committed by Henry the Eighth, whether in the suppression of monasteries of the destruction of shrines, was for his personal and worldly gain. The monasteries yielding broad lands and large states with rent rolls of enormous value, and the shrines producing that which could be easily turned into ready money. Marillac, the French ambassador, declared that Henry was so avaricious and covetous
“that all the wealth of the world would not be enough to satisfy and content his ambition . . . from which has come the ruin of the abbeys and the spoiling of every church in which there was anything to take. . . S. Thomas is declared a traitor because his relics and bones were adored with gold and stones.”1
And if many of the lands were bestowed on his subjects, it was yet for his own gain, for no greater influence could be exercised than lavish bestowal of gifts to make those subjects servile creatures, who, once enriched by these means, could have no power to withstand their prince’s enormities. It may be an easy matter to blame them for their non-support of higher principles, but Mammon, combined with the imperious will of an unscrupulous sovereign, can only be resisted by an ideal Christian.
people looked to the archbishop as the most able to defend the Church,
The instruments for the destruction of shrines, issued
in 1538, were
local commissions under the Privy Seal, each one directed to two or
persons acting as visitors, and formally countersigned by the Lord
Seal—Thomas Cromwell. They dealt in
words with the shrines and the treasures only, leaving the
deal with the relics at discretion. Athough[sic]
no general orders for the destruction of
issued until about the middle of the year (1538), instructions were
the Duke of Norfolk as early as May, 1537, directing him to remove that
“As for the shrine, the king’s highness, to the intent that his people should not be seduced in the offering of their money, would have it taken down.”
The jewels and place were to be sent to London.2
The “Declaration of Faith” written by Thomas Derby, clerk of the Privy Council, corrected under the instruction of the Council, and issued by royal authority in 1539 for preaching at Paul’s Cross, is a public vindication of the late proceedings of the king, and in it is the following passage in justification of the destruction of shrines and reliquaries, making special mention of that of St. Thomas of Canterbury. That portion which it was thought inadvisable to make public had a pen run through [was edited out, a line marked through it], and is here placed within brackets.
“As for the shrines capses3 and reliquaries of saints so called, although the most were nothing lesse, for as much as his highness had found other idolatry or detestable superstition used thereabouts and perceived that they were for the most part feyned things . . . his majestye therfore hath caused the same to be taken awaye and the abusyve pices therof to be brent [burnt], the doubtfull to be sett and hyden honestly away for feare of idolatry.
As for the shryne of Thomas Becket, sometime Archbishop
In 1541 Henry sent a letter to Archbishop Cranmer on this subject, who then sent his mandate to the other bishops :—
“Most reverend father in God, right trusty and right entirely well-beloved, we greet you well. Letting you wit, that whereas heretofore, upon the zeal and remembrance which we had to our bounded duty towards Almighty God, perceiving sundry superstitions and abuses to be used and embraced by our people, whereby they grievously offended him and his word, we did not only cause the images and bones of such as they resorted and offered unto, with the ornaments of the same, and all such writings and monuments of feigned miracles wherewith they are illuded, to be taken away in all places of our realm ; but also by our injunctions commanded,4 that no offering or setting of lights or candles should be suffered in any church, but only to the blessed sacrament of the altar : it is lately come to our knowledge that, this our good intent and purpose notwithstanding, the shrines, covering of shrines, and monuments of those
things do yet
remain in sundry places of our realm, much to the slander of our doings
the great displeasure of Almighty God, the same being means to allure
subjects to their former hypocrisy and superstition, and also that our
injunctions be not kept as appertaineth : for the due and speedy
whereof, we have thought meet by these our letters expressly to will
command you, that incontinently, upon the receipt hereof, you shall not
cause due search to be made in your cathedral churches for these
things, and if
any shrine, covering of shrine, table monument of miracles, or other
do there continue, to cause it to be taken away, so as there remain no
of it ; but also that you shall take order with all the curates, and
having charge within your diocese, to do the semblable, and to see that
injunctions be duly kept, as appertaineth, without failing, as we
trust, and as
you will answer for the contrary. Geven
under our signet at our town of
The king must
have concluded that his subjects had very short memories, for, until
his evil desires
for his first divorce brought him into conflict with
In the Injuctions of King Edward VI.[Henry’s son and boy king], issued in 1547, the clergy are told, among other things,
“that they shall take away, utterly extinct, and destroy all shrines, covering of shrines, all tables (of relics), candlesticks, trundles or rolls of wax, pictures, paintings, and all other monuments of feigned miracles, pilgrimages, idolatry, and superstition ; so that there remain no memory of the same in walls, glass windows, or elsewhere, within their churches or houses.”
and in paragraph three it is ordered that all standing images were to be taken down and destroyed which had been “so abused with pilgrimages or offerings of anything made thereunto.” Also the Act of Parliament 3 & 4 Edward VI. c. x. § 6, spared only recumbent
“images set upon a tomb only for a monument of any dead peson who hath not been commonly reputed and taken as a saint.”
were these repeated injunctions enforced that no shrine of the primary
was left standing except that of St. David in the remote corner of
Analytique, ed. Kaulet, p. 211.
-end chapter six-
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