Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Our Lady of Evesham

Today the Marian spiritual pilgrimage goes to Evesham. The story of the foundation of the great and influential abbey begins with the story of Eoves the swineherd who had a vision of Our Lady about the year 705 and was sent by her to the Bishop of Worcester, St Egwin, who, having himself seen Our Lady, established the monastery.

As far as I can see this was apparently the first such apparition of Our Lady in the west - though I am open to correction on that. However that is what it appears to be, and to conform to recognised features of such visions - the solitary visionary, the Virgin standing in a tree, the simple message to build a house of prayer on the site.

The Victoria County History account of the well documented history of the monastery at Evesham can be read at Abbey of Evesham.

Evesham has left a remarkable and precious legacy to the continuing English Benedictine Congregation through Abbot Feckenham and the refoundation of Westminster Abbey under Queen Mary I, and the last survivor of that community, Dom Sigebert Buckley, transferring his residual rights to the monks of Dieulard, and hence to Ampleforth.

In the excellent museum in the Almonry are items from the abbey and a model reconstruction drawing upon archaeological and documentary sources, such as the height of the spire.

Evesham Abbey as it may have appeared in 1540
The bell tower is centre right, the adjacent two surviving parish churches together 
with the Almonry and the doorway to the Chapter House are all that survives above ground.

The abbey model as seen from the south-west

In the twentieth century a statue of Our Lady of Evesham has been installed in the Catholic church of St Mary and St Egwin and there is an annual pilgrimage each summer - doubtless not alas this year - but a very good occasion on the year I was able to attend.

The Pilgrimage procession in the abbey grounds
Image: Evesham Journal

There is also a small but very clever modern bronze sculpture by John McKenna ARBS of the apparition to Eoves which has been installed in the Market Place. To appreciate it you need to peer quite closely into the foliage, as this article about its creation demonstrates: Evesham Eof legend

Our Lady of Evesham, pray for us

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks for your blog.As a Brummie I never knew about the legend of Eof until last year, and was very surprised and pleased to hear of our Lady's appearance in the Midlands! Furthermore, on some panels depicting Marian devotion in England and Wales at the Shrine of Our lady of Walsingham, Our lady of Evesham is shown to be the first recorded Shrine in England.
I decided to go on an individual pilgrimage to Our Lady of Evesham on a lovely sunny day in 2019 and had a great day, visiting the river and abbey in the park and the Catholic Church.