12 September: the fragments that remain to us.

A defaced carving of St Mark with his lion, Canterbury.

This XIX Century passage captures a moment when attitudes to relics and pilgrimages were beginning to change. Since then the sites of many saints’ shrines have been refurbished to welcome visitors, who may be bemused, but are not as scornful as our writer feared. The modern loving inscriptions on seaside or park benches are in direct line to the shrines of saints, not to mention the verses and flower symbols carved into grave markers.

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It is not, perhaps, a difficult matter for an age which has lost all faith in saints, and almost all in the possibility of saintliness, to find ground for scornful derision in the devotion of the men of old, to the tombs of the hallowed dead; but it is, at least, open to question whether such a method of raising funds for religious purposes was not quite as legitimate and consistent as the modern fancy for the frivolity of a “Bazaar”, or the feebleness of an amateur concert.

Alas! That in speaking of the English shrines, one should have to speak always of what has been, or of the fragments, the shadows, the dry records only, that remain to us. If the veneration of centuries, if the glories of art, had no voice that could be heard against the clamorous cupidity of the despoiler, surely one might have hoped that the presence of the holy dead would have availed to arrest the royal tyrant and the puritan  bigot in their career of sacrilege and crime.

Some English Shrines by the Rev. Geo. S. Tyack, B.A. in Curious Church Gleanings, ed William Andrews, F.R.S.H., Hull, William Andrews & Co, 1896.

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Filed under Christian Unity, Daily Reflections, Laudato si', Mission

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