An English Martyr… (Sonnet)

Thomas Becket, man of God
once confidante of the King,
transferred his allegiance to God
as church opposed the King.

The King called out in despair
will no one rid me of this man,
knights hearing of King’s despair
answered the call, removing this man.

They killed him
this man of God,
they murdered him
upon his altar; to God.

Henry II and his knights paid a penance,
for the taking of Becket’s life.

Saint Catherine: Christian Martyr

St.Catherine of Alexandria, daughter of King Costus and Queen Sabinella rulers of Alexandria.  She was well versed in the arts, sciences and of philosophy.  She was raised a pagan, and in her teenage years turned to Christianity, receiving a vision in which the Blessed Virgin Mary gave her to Christ in a mystical marriage.

Catherine attempted to convince the Roman Emperor; Maxentius, the error of his ways, by persecuting Christians who refused to worship idols.  He called upon his philosopher’s to show her his beliefs, as Catherine won debate after debate, she won through.  A number of her adversaries, declared themselves Christians, and were put to death.

Catherine was imprisoned, hundreds visited her including the wife of Maxentius; the Empress.  All who converted to Christianity were martyred.

Maxentius, had Catherine tortured, but she would not yield, he proposed marriage, she refused; Jesus Christ be my spouse.

An outraged Maxentius condemned her to death on the spiked breaking wheel, but this instrument of torture was destroyed by her touch.  Maxentius ordered that she be beheaded.

The corpse of Saint Catherine, a 4th century Christian martyr was carried to Mount Sinai, by angels.

In the 6th century, Emperor Justinian created Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt.  The church was built between 548-565, as the site attracted thousands of pilgrims.

In the 15th century France, the young “Joan of Arc” only thirteen years of age at the time, believed she had heard the words of God, speak to her.  She had been chosen by God, to lead France to victory, in its war with France.

Joan of Arc repeatedly said, Saint Catherine had come to her, in her time of need, offering her words of encouragement.

Joan had been chosen by God, aged just thirteen, burned at the stake, aged nineteen.  She became one of history’s great saints… a French martyr and patriot.

A Scottish legend tells of a pilgrim who dropped a single drop of oil, which had come from Mount Sinai.  The oil used to embalm St. Catherine of Alexandria, was on route to Queen Margaret.  From a single drop of oil, grew a healing spring.

An ointment from this well was an effective treatment in skin complaints and burns.  The well was visited by many Scottish monarchs.  In 1504, James IV visited, in 1617 James VI ordered a well-house complete with steps for easy access be constructed, following his visit.

In 1650, destruction came to the well at the hands of Cromwell’s troops.  In 1889, a new well-house was built.

Ireland’s 19th Century Apparition

It is said, Mary McLoughin and Mary Beirne from the village of “Knock” in County Mayo, were to see an apparition on the 21st August 1879.

Close to the town’s church, they were to observe, the “Blessed Virgin Mary, St.Joseph and St.John the Evangelist, along with an altar, with a lamb and cross upon it, with several angels flying there about’s.”  Other’s seeing the bright light, investigated and a total of fifteen people witnessed this apparition.  Reports came in that people who visited “Knock Church” were being healed of their afflictions.  By the end of 1880, some 300 people had been cured, as recorded in the diary of the parish priest.

As the news spread across the land, thousands descended upon “Knock” with their sick.  Cures were happening every day, many disabled left their walking sticks and canes, walking away freely.  People grabbed plaster from the church walls as a memory.

Towards the latter part of 1880, a statue of “Our Lady of Knock” was erected, in the place of the apparition … and so it became a place of pilgrimage.

The Church carried out investigations of the apparitions at “Knock” in 1879 and 1936.  Witness statements left them in no doubt, that an apparition had taken place, and many have been healed, through faith.

Pope Pius XII blessed the Banner of Knock at St.Peter’s in 1945.

Pope John XXIII presented a special candle to “Knock” on Candlemas Day in 1960.

Pope Paul VI blessed the foundation stone for the Basilica of Our Lady, Queen of Ireland on the 6th June 1974.

Pope John Paul II made a personnel pilgrimage to the shrine on 30th September 1979.  He celebrated mass, and went on to establish the shrine as a “Basilica.”  He presented to the shrine a candle and golden rose, and then knelt before the apparition wall in prayer.

Plantagenets: Cistercian Abbey of L’Epau

The old Plantagenet town of LeMans rises high upon a pinnacle, with tiered houses in golden coloured stone, clinging for dear life, to the riverside hill.  Part and part girdled by a 3rd century Roman wall, with richly decorative brickwork, displaying the Empire’s wealth.

Berengaria of Navarre, daughter of Sancho VI, King of Navarre, was born in 1165, and married Richard the Lionheart in May of 1191 in Limassol, Cyprus.  In April of 1199, her estranged husband died.

England’s crown passed from Richard to his brother John.  John withheld funds due to Berengaria, and she lived a life of poverty, until she could stand no more, and threw herself at the mercy of the French Monarchy, who gave her the town of LeMans.

Berengaria opted to build the Cistercian Abbey of L’Epau between the town and forest in 1228.  Construction commenced on the 25th March 1229 by Citeaux monks, who resided in the area.  She retired to the Abbey and on the 23rd December 1230 died, and was buried within the Abbey.

Design of the Abbey, was based on a classic construction, similar in style to other Cistercian buildings.  The main buildings took till 1280 to complete and final construction was completed in 1365.

Monks fled the Abbey during the Hundred Years War, and the town inhabitants, feared troops would seize the building, as a base to attack LeMan.

In 1366, the damaged sections, destroyed the previous year were rebuilt by the Bourgeois (Middle Class Property Owners) of LeMans.

Charles VI taxed the local inhabitants, leading to the restoration of the Abbey and Church (1400-1444).  Guillaume de Bonneville, an artisan played a major part in its restoration.

In 1960 during the restoration of the Abbey, Pierre Terouanne uncovered a skeleton of a woman who died in her sixties, which is thought to be; Berengaria of Navarre.  The remains have been preserved beneath the stone effigy of the queen, which is now located in the Chapter House of the Abbey.

Plantagenet Dynasty: Abbey of Fontevrault

Robert d’Arbrissel, Archpriest of the Rennes Diocese, carried out reforms on behalf of his bishop, until his death in 1095.  Hostility erupted following the bishop’s death, amongst the local clergy, forcing the Diocese to step in and remove Arbrissel from his position.

Arbrissel became a hermit, practicing a life of penance in Craon forest.

In 1096 he founded a monastery of Canons at LaRoe, with himself as the first Abbot.

Pope Urban II summoned Arbrissel to Angers, appointing him as apostolic missionary, and granted him the right to preach anywhere.  His preaching drew crowds of devoted followers.

In 1099, Robert d’Arbrissel, settled in the Fons Ebraldi Valley, where he established his monastic community.

The foundation flourished, attracting more followers to his dream , a new monastic order; the Order of Fontevrault, consisting of a monastery and nunnery, within a single complex, governed by an Abbess.  As such nuns and monks lived by the Rule of St.Benedict.

Aristocratic ladies often retreated or retired to the Abbey of Fontevrault, banished from court, discarded mistresses of Kings.  Robert d’Arbrissel ruled that the Abbess would never be one from within, but drawn in from outside, one with worldly experience.  In 1201, Pope Innocent III removed this rule.

The Abbey of Fontevrault is located in the Pays de la Loire region, a monastic city of Europe, and royal necropolis cemetery of the Plantagenet dynasty.

In 1804, it was saved from destruction when Napoleon transformed it, into a prison, and it remained so until 1985.

The Plantagenet Dynasty and Fontevrault Abbey

Founded in 1101 by Robert d’Arbrissel, known as the Royal Abbey of Fontevrault, characterised by its two orders, and governed by women.

Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) was Queen to Louis VII, King of France and King Henry II of England.

In 1137, her father died and she became heiress of the duchy of Aquitaine, the richest province of Southern France.

In 1173, Eleanor backed her sons, when they revolted against their father; King Henry II.

Her actions came at a price, Henry defeated his sons and imprisoned Eleanor until his death in 1189.

Richard I (The Lionheart) became King, and appointed his mother, Eleanor as his regent when he was in the Holy Land.

Richard died in 1199, in her arms, and was succeeded by his brother Prince John (John Lackland).

Eleanor retired to the Abbey of Fontevrault where she died in 1204.

In the early years the Plantagenets became major benefactors of the Abbey, and during Isabella d’Anjou time as Abbess, Eleanor of Aquitaine, made the Abbey her home.

With the passing of the Plantagenet dynasty, Fontevrault fell on hard times, and Abbess Matilda of Flanders (1189-1194) complained of extreme poverty.

In 1247, during the time of Abbess Mabile of La Ferte, nuns were permitted to receive inheritances to provide income for their daily needs, which was contrary to monastic custom.

Abbess Louise de Bourbon left her crest on many of the alterations she made, during her term of office (1534-1575).

The Holy Order at Fontevrault Abbey was dispersed during the French Revolution, and in November 1789, all Catholic Church property, became the property of the nation.

On the 17th August 1792, by revolutionary decree, the evacuation of all monasteries was so ordered, and completed by the 1st October 1792.

The Holy Order’s last Abbess, Julie Sophie Charlotte de Pardaillan d’Antin (1765-1792) died of poverty in Paris of 1797.

List of Abbesses:

Petronille de Chemille (1115-1149)

Matilda of Anjou (1149-1155)

Audeburge of Hautes-Bruyeres (1155-1180) 

Gilles (1180-1189)

Adelaide (1189-1189)

Matilda of Flanders (1189-1194)

Matilda of Bohemia (1194-1207)

Marie of Burgundy (1207-1208)

Alice of Bourbon (1208-1209)

Alice of Champagne (1209-1218)

Bertha (1218-1228)

Adele of Brittany (1228-1244)

Mabile of La Ferte (1244-1265)

Jeanne de Dreux (1265-1276)

Isabeau Davoir (1276-1284)

Marguerite de Pocey (1284-1304)

Eleanor of Brittany (1304-1342)

Isabel of Valois (1342-?)

Marie of Brittany (1457-1477)

Anne of Orleans (1477-1491)

Renee de Bourbon (1491-1534)

Louise de Bourbon (1534-1575)

Eleonore de Bourbon (1575-1611)

Louise de Bourbon de Lavedan (1611-1637)

Jeanne-Baptiste de Bourbon (1637-1670)

Gabrielle de Rochechouart de Mortemart (1670-1704)

Louise-Francoise de Rochechouart de Mortemart (1704-1742)

Marie-Louise de Timbrone (1753-1765)

Julie-Gillette de Pardaillan d’Antin (1765-1792)

Fontevrault Abbey during the Plantagenet dynasty became a mausoleum for King Henry II of England, Eleanor of Aquitaine, King Richard I of England, Joan their daughter, grandson Raymond VII of Toulouse and Isabella of Angouleme.  Their remains possibly destroyed during the French Revolution, or during change of use to a prison.  Today, the Abbey house figures represent Plantagenet sovereigns… Counts of Anjou and benefactors of the Abbey.

During the early years of the 1980’s Fontevrault Abbey, a former Plantagenet Mausoleum underwent restoration, turning it from a prison back to that of an abbey.  Much was based on the Abbey’s writings and how a Cistercian Abbey should look.

The Chapter House, would be located around the cloists, and used for ceremonies.  Fontevrault was built in the 16th century and its walls painted, covering up monastic images and texts, when it became a prison.

The Warming Room, as it became known, was the only area to have heating.

Three Dormitories are located on the first floor, access by way of a Renaissance staircase, and date back to the 16th century.

The Infirmaries were built in the 12th century, then rebuilt in the early part of the 17th century and originally formed the main courtyard of the Abbey.  This is where Nuns would end their days.

The Romanesque Kitchens were built in the 12th century.

Fontevrault, is no different to other Abbey’s, surrounded by gardens; Utilitarian kitchen garden, Cemetery orchard and a medicinal herb garden.

English Martyr: Edith Cavell

Few people catch the heartfelt thoughts of one so brave, but one-hundred years ago, during the early part of the First World War (1914-1918).  Edith Cavell sacrificed her life for her fellow man, and became an English Martyr for her beliefs.

I don’t think anyone expected that the German Military Prussian officers would actually have her executed.  Yet she was gunned down in a hail of bullets, for assisting allied soldiers out of Belgium, and home to Britain, on 12th October 1915.  Following the end of the war she was moved to her final resting place in the grounds of Norwich Cathedral, and since that day a small Rememberance Service has been held by her graveside, each and every year.

We should not forget the price she paid; her life!        

On the 4th December 1865, in the quiet Norfolk village of Swardeston, 4½ miles south of Norwich, an English Martyr was born; Edith Louisa Cavell.  Neither Louisa her mother or her father the Reverend Frederick Cavell, could have imagined as they held their child for the first time, she would be executed during the First World War, for doing her duty as a nurse.  

In her early years Edith was tutored by her father, and later educated privately.  At 16 she left home to attend firstly Norwich High School and other schools including Laurel Court, until she was 19, and had become fluent in the French language, this was a factor which would shape her future.

In 1886, the Reverend Powell of Steeple Bumstead in North Essex, appointed Edith as governess to his children.  In 1890, she was forced to seek new employment, when the children reached an age, where they no longer needed a governess.  This led to short term appointments, working for prominent families in the banking industry.  She was remembered for having a good sense of humour and kindness to all children in her care.

In her mid twenties, she was left a small legacy, and for the first time travelled around Europe.  Whilst visiting Austria, she visited a Free Hospital which had impressed her so much, that she endowed part of her legacy to it.

Upon the recommendation of Margaret Gibson, head teacher at Laurel Court, Edith was appointed as governess to the children of Mr & Mrs Paul Francois; a prominent lawyer in Brussels.

Whilst educating Margarite; Georges; Helene and Eveline Francois, so began her association with Belgium. Each summer she returned to Swardeston the family home, and it is here she fell in love with Eddie her second cousin. They were never married, as he’d feared he had inherited a nervous illness.  Her time in Belgium was short lived, for in June 1895, news reached her, that her father was seriously ill, forcing her to resign her post and return home, and nurse him back to good health.  It was during these months, whilst nursing her father, she realised there needed to be a change in her future, no longer a ‘governess’, but a nurse.  In the December of 1895, she started work at the Fountains Fever Hospital in south-west London, and was accepted in April 1896, for nursing training at the London hospital in Whitechapel.  Her early years must have been a gruelling introduction, as both poverty and poor health, were always high on the agenda.  By 1903 she was Assistant Matron at Shoreditch Infirmary.

Dr Antoine Depage a leading surgeon, responsible for Belgium’s first training school for nurses, appointed Edith Cavell to the post of Matron in 1907.  The Belgium people at that time considered it a disgrace for a woman to work. Their views changed when the Queen of Belgium broke her arm, and called upon the training clinic for assistance.  Overnight nursing became an accepted career for women, with an influx of many new nurses.  By the time Europe found itself at war in August 1914, the college and clinic were well established. 

Whilst visiting her widowed mother in 1914, news reached her that the Germans had invaded Belgium on route to France, hastily she returned taking charge of the Red Cross Hospital in Brussels.  The invading forces cornered the Belgium population including Edith, and by the autumn of 1914, only the south-east sector remained in Allied hands. 

Edith as a protected member of the Red Cross sacrificed her conscience to help some 200 allied soldiers.  Through a network, she secretly nursed and aided their escape via neutral Holland to safety in Britain.  She always knew she risked execution if she was caught.  The network was compromised, and Edith was arrested on the 5th August 1915 along with other members.

Whilst being interrogated Edith, was alleged to have ‘confessed’ to her part in nursing and assisting the escape of Allied troops, and was detained in solitary confinement prior to her trial.  The German Military Authorities; Prussian officers, found Edith guilty of spying.  Appeals were put forward for clemency by Brand Whitlock, the United States Ambassador to Brussels at that time.  His request for clemency was denied, and the German authorities pronounced the death sentence on the 8th October, and Edith was shot by a firing squad on the 12th October 1915.

Edith said to an English chaplain before her execution.  “I realise patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.”

A life spent caring for others came to an abrupt halt by a hail of bullets.

The violent execution of such a devoted woman, brought outrage from Britain and the allied countries.

Following her execution in Belgium, she had been hurriedly buried beneath a plain wooden cross, which is now located at St.Mary’s Church in Swardeston, along with a stained glass window in the east dedicated to her.

On the 13th May 1919, her body was exhumed, and brought to St.Paul’s Cathedral where a memorial service was held in her honour. 

A special train from Liverpool Street Station to Norwich Station had been laid on, complete with military escort, an honour usually bestowed on royalty. 

Her body was taken through the streets of Norwich, as crowds welcomed home an English Martyr.  She was buried in the grounds of Norwich Cathedral, just outside the south wall, in a spot known as ‘Life’s Green,” on the 15th May 1919.

The simple grave is kept bright with colourful and fresh flowers, all year round, as a mark of respect to one so brave… Norfolk’s English Martyr; Edith Cavell.

Symbols {116} ~ The Keys Of Saint Peter


The Keys of Saint Peter symbol or the Keys of Heaven are an emblem of the Catholic Church and a symbol of papal authority. The keys represent the divine authority that was vested before the death of Jesus in the apostle Peter.

The symbol comprises as an image of two crossed keys and appears in the coats of arms of Popes, Vatican City State and Holy See. It represents the metaphorical keys to the office of St. Peter or the keys to the kingdom of Heaven which were promised by Jesus Christ to Saint Peter, along with the power to take binding actions.

The Keys of St. Peter symbol is found frequently in the Christian art. A number of Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic paintings and other artwork have depicted Saint Peter holding a key or set of keys. Even St. Peter’s Basilica has an almost key-shaped layout, which is…

View original post 67 more words

Saint Catherine of Alexandria

Saint Catherine was born into the aristocratic family of King Costus and Queen Sabinella, rulers of Alexandria in AD294.  The young Catherine was well versed in the arts, sciences and philosophy.  She was raised a pagan and in her teenage years, converted to Christianity by the teachings of a Syrian monk.  She received a vision which the Blessed Virgin Mary gave her to Christ, in a mystical marriage.

During the latter years of Christian prosecution by the Romans, she publicly confessed her faith, being a Christian.  Catherine attempted to convince the Roman Emperor; Maxentius the error of his ways, by persecuting Christians who refused to worship idols.  According to historical accounts, some fifty Philosophers from the Roman world were brought face to face with her, to reason with her.  Catherine won debate after debate, and converted her adversaries to Christianity by her persuasive arguments, and they were put to death by the Roman Emperor.

Catherine was imprisoned, and hundreds are said to have visited her including the wife of Maxentius; the Empress.  All who converted to Christianity were martyred.

Emperor Maxentius had Catherine tortured, but she would not yield, he proposed marriage, and she refused saying; Jesus Christ be my spouse.

An outraged Maxentius condemned her to death on the spiked breaking wheel, but this instrument of torture was destroyed by her touch, finally he ordered that she be beheaded.

Catherine was executed, and the corpse of Saint Catherine, a 4th century Christian martyr was carried to the peak of Mount Sinai by angels.  Some three centuries later, monks brought it down and buried her in the church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Keepers of the Eternal Flame — Martini Fisher

As fire is considered to be an agent of purity and as a symbol of righteousness and truth, a sacred fire is often a place for the offering of sacrifices and prayers. Therefore, those entrusted with tending this flame often held a sacred, important and very demanding role in the culture.

Keepers of the Eternal Flame — Martini Fisher

Rome’s Vestal Virgins

The Vestal Virgins were the priestesses of Rome, dedicated to the service of the goddess Vesta.  An important figure in Roman Cultic Worship.

It started out with two such virgins who would serve for a period of five years. Over a period of time, the orders rules changed and the number increased to six virgins, whose service would last for thirty years.

Vestal Virgins were chosen by the Pontifex Maximus, aged between six and ten years and more often from Patrician families.  Immediately upon being named, the young child left the authority of her parents, and became a child of Vesta.

The first ten years, they would serve as novices, and the next ten years as Vestal Virgins, and in their last ten years would train new novices of the order.

After thirty years as a Vestal Virgin, they would be set free, to live a private life.

The College of Vestals, an important order which was responsible for the well-being and security of Rome.  Vestal Virgins were priestesses of the Vesta, goddess of the hearth and charged with maintaining the sacred fire within the Temple of Vesta.

When Rome faced military defeat, Vestal Virgins were blamed with suggestions that they had not tended properly to the sacred fire, or loss of virginity.  The penalty for such acts would be death.

In 114 BC, Vestal Marcia was accused of taking a lover, and her punishment was to be sealed in a tomb, and left to starve to death.

Vestal Virgins were so sacred that they could intervene in criminal affairs at will.  If a vestal touched a slave, they were set free on the spot.  If a criminal saw a vestal virgin on his way to execution, he would receive a pardon for his crimes.

In AD394 during the reign of Theodosius I, a follower of the Christian religion, he brought an end to this ancient Roman Institution by disbanding the College of Vestals.

Legend has it, that the niece of Emperor Theodosius stole a necklace from Vesta’s statue.  Sixteen years later, Rome was destroyed by barbarians.  One has to ask, was this pay back?