Tuesday, 15 July 2008

The 'Second Spring' in Leicestershire

I visited a priest friend in the East Midlands today. His parish couldn't be more different from a London one - a large geographical area, a charming little church in one of his 18 villages, a close-knit congregation where most people know each other by name and (most strikingly) a presbytery where the phone and doorbell rarely sounds!

We had a most enjoyable drive around some of the local Catholic sites, especially in the Charnwood area which owes many of its foundations to the vision of a nineteenth century convert, Ambrose Phillipps de Lisle. He was a friend of Pugin and a great patron of the Trappists and the Rosminians. His home was Grace Dieu Manor, built in the 1830s, enlarged by Pugin and now a school run by the Rosminians. The grounds were most impressive and are used by the diocese of Nottingham for an annual Rosary Rally:


Grace Dieu served as the centre of Catholicism in the area and the great Rosminian missioner, Fr Luigi Gentili, lived here for a time, as he toured the surrounding villages and established missions. One of these was erected at nearby Shepshed and Gentili's chapel can still be seen (though it is now a private house):


In the grounds of Grace Dieu are the ruins of a medieval priory of Augustinian Canonesses, founded 1235-41 and referred to as 'the church of the Holy Trinity of the Grace of God [Grace Dieu] at Belton dedicated to God and St Mary.'
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The ruins inspired Wordsworth to write:

Beneath yon eastern ridge, the craggy bound,
Rugged and high, of Charnwood’s forest ground,
Stand yet, but, Stranger, hidden from thy view
The ivied ruins of forlorn Grace Dieu,
Erst a religious House, which day and night
With hymns resounded and the chanted rite

Grace Dieu Priory is supposedly haunted by a 'White Lady,' one of the nuns, but she seems to have been otherwise occupied for we only saw a group of friendly cyclists.

Ratcliffe was the next stop - built by Pugin as a novitiate and school for the Rosminians. It is still in the hands of the Institute of Charity and a successful independent school (old boys include one of our auxiliaries, Bishop John Arnold):


The key attraction for me was the little cemetery:


Here, in the corner, are the tombs of Fr William Lockhart and his mother Martha, respectively the first parish priest and benefactor of my current parish. I'm putting together a short life of Fr Lockhart and will be travelling to the Rosminian Archive in Stresa at the end of the month:
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7 Comments:

Blogger Jackie Parkes said...

Interesting post Fr..

8:10 pm  
Blogger Marta Hoferova said...

So you like cemeteries!
I will share with you what happened at my church's cemetery.

Well, it isn't in use for many years but you still can find some grave stones on the church's wall or a baroque crucifix or a mourning statue carved in stone. But as everywhere what's old (fundation of our church dates to 1226-36), is being searched by archielogists, they wanted to excavate some of the former cemetery. I don't remember details but I think that they wanted to dig a bigger area than what finally our priest allowed: 2 m2. And so it happened. We could see earth shaping bigger and bigger hill next to the deeper and deeper hole full of skuls and bones outreaching inside the marked space.

When the work was finished, our priest decided to do a burial service for the lifted remains for the dignity of their passed presenters. For this occasion, he let made two coffins. But it revealed that all remains was able to put in just one coffin. Since then the other one stayed at our presbytery.

Some years flew by and a new priest came. In interest of knowing whether he had alredy had a search through the presbytery (for it was unhabiteted, used just as a hinterland for maintaining equipement) and discovered the coffin, eager of telling him the story, he answered: Yes, I saw the coffin. I even tried to lay in interest if is it possible to sleep in, however it was very uncomfortable!

2:26 pm  
Blogger Christian said...

Err, how do I send you emails directly father?

11:57 pm  
Blogger Fr Nicholas said...

njschofield at hotmail dot com

7:09 am  
Blogger Pastor in Valle said...

The Rosminians (probably following de Lisle) actually pronounce Grace Dieu as if the words were English. When I first heard them (before seeing them written), the IC brother said that he was going to 'grey stew', and I couldn't work out what he was going on about.

8:27 am  
Blogger Iosephus said...

Beautiful! I love learning about English Catholic history

2:48 am  
Blogger piccic said...

I have the biography of Antonio Rosmini written by Lockhart (I think also it was the first biography of Rosmini written in any language).
I have to read it in full yet (I'm not so fluent to read in English), but it looks like a great work…

5:36 pm  

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