Saturday, 17 March 2007

Our Lady Vulnerata

In my previous post on the Royal English College, Valladolid, I deliberately didn't say a great deal about Our Lady Vulnerata. There are many things to admire in the College chapel - the golden altarpieces, for example, or the fact that 350 English Catholic exiles are buried beneath (including a holy seminarian whose incorrupt body still smells of roses) - but this battered statue of Our Lady forms the centrepiece.

Originally the statue was venerated in Cadiz, where its devotees included Christopher Columbus prior to his great voyage of discovery. However, on 21 June 1596, the town was raided by English ships under the command of the Earl of Essex and Sir Waiter Raleigh (not to be confused with Sir Francis Drake's daring raid of 1587). The Armada had been defeated only eight years previously and the purpose of the English raid was to destroy the fleet gathering in Cadiz harbour for another expedition against Protestant England. As so often happened on these occasions, the commanders lost control of the soldiers and much destruction ensued. The famed statue of Our Lady was desecrated and all that remained of the Christ child were parts of His feet on the Virgin's knee. Our Lady's face was disfigured with sword cuts and both arms reduced to stumps.

This caused great shock in Spain and it was as if Christ and His Mother had themselves been attacked. The mutilated statue was placed with great honour in the Madrid chapel of the Countess of Santa Gadea, wife of the Adelantado (Captain-General) of Castille. The story became so well-known that the English seminarians of Valladolid asked for the statue, so that the College could make reparation on behalf of the English nation. The Countess half-heartedly agreed and the statue was solemnly enthroned in the College chapel on 8 September 1600. The local bishop gave the statue the title Our Lady Vulnerata (Wounded Lady).

A new octagonal chapel was opened in 1679 and the statue placed in its present location behind the High Altar, surrounded by statues of SS Alban, Edward the Confessor and Thomas of Canterbury. Large seventeenth century paintings tell the story of Nuestra Senora La Vulnerata - including an image of the crowned statue surrounded by devotees, included Charles I (with axe in head) and Charles II!

Prayers are still said by the students for the Conversion of England before the statue and the feast of Our Lady Vulnerata is kept in the college by special indult on the Sunday after the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

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Blogger Hebdomadary said...

What a beautiful story. I should very much like to visit the place. But the statue...the reminds me of the "wounded" statue of Our Lady of Walsingham. I wonder what happened to the remains of the statue, if it was utterly destroy, unto ashes, or if any charred remains were left to be collected and venerated privately. Has anything ever been rumoured to have survived?

6:49 am  
Blogger Fr Nicholas said...

No, I don't know of any rumours. The only thing I know is that one of the statues of Our Lady of Ipswich was saved from the fires of the 'reformers' and secretly taken overseas, where it is now venerated in Nettuno (not far from Rome), in the basilica where St Maria Goretti is buried.

8:38 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to be so vague about this, but the medieval statue of Our Lady of Aberdeen - it is minute - has been honoured for hundreds of years in a fine c17 church in Brussels, the name of which escapes me. If I remember it in the next twenty-four hours I shall post another comment. Alternatively, some of your readers might know it. It's beautiful.

4:00 pm  
Anonymous curious said...

Did you smell the rose-scented remains of the pious seminarian yourself? I've always wanted to smell the odour of sanctity and think I should book a Spanish holiday in Valladolid. However did all this baroquery survive Vatican II, or has it been messed up and you're not telling?

4:39 pm  
Blogger Fr Nicholas said...

Actually, it was the present Rector who mentioned the seminarist with the odour of sanctity, though the tomb wasn't accessible when I was there. I didn't find out who he was.

The 'baroquey' seems to have survived quite well - but then it IS Spain.

4:43 pm  
Anonymous curious said...

Thanks Father. The English College in Rome is in Italy and I wish a little more baroquery had survived in the chapel, even though it's not baroque at all, but you know what I mean as you were there. That great slab of an altar spoils a good nineteenth-century interior and looks completely out of place surrounded by so much marble and mosaic.

4:36 pm  

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