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.

Friday, 22 May 2020

Our Lady of Pity in the Rock at Dover

Today the Marian spiritual pilgrimage reaches Dover. There stood the Chapel of St Mary or Our Lady of Pity (also recorded as Our Lady of the Rock in 1532), which was on “a piece of chalky cliff, at the extremity of the pier” or the shore to the east of Archcliffe or Arcliffe Fort. It is said to have been built by a northern nobleman on the place where he had been shipwrecked or at least in danger of so being. The dedication would suggest a late fourteenth or fifteenth century foundation at the time devotion to Our Lady of Pity became widespread. It is apparently first mentioned in 1530 when it was repaired by Joachim de Vaux, the French Ambassador, after he had survived being shipwrecked. 

A record exists that on the outside of the building over the steps was the badge of a rose and crown and over the door the impaled arms of England and France. 

When King Henry VIII landed at Dover in 1532 after his visit to Calais with Anne Boleyn to meet King Francis I he made an offering of 6s 8d at the chapel; his return had been delayed for several days by stormy seas and as it was the royal ship apparently took twenty eight hours to make the journey. The King may well have been very thankful to be back safe and sound.

The chapel was served in 1535 by John de Ponte, a Friar, who sought appointment as Master of the town’s Domus Dei from Thomas Cromwell that year. In 1538 he was imprisoned by the Mayor of Dover, Ralph Buffkyn, because he was said to communicate with the French during the war by keeping lights burning in the chapel at night. 

I find the idea of the Mayor acting as a sixteenth century equivalent of an ARP warden rather endearing.

At the suppression of the chapel it was valued at £50pa and the vestments and plate valued at 200marks (£133 6s 8d), so it was not an inconsequential foundation and presumably reflected the offerings in anticipation or gratitude for seaborne travellers for a safe crossing of the Straits.

Work at the harbour undermined the rock, and the chapel was probably carried away in a storm of 1576. The place where it stood was still called in 1798 Old Chapel and Chapel Plain but by 1828 nothing remained save the bare rock on which had once stood.. The burying ground was still extant in 1819.

With thanks to Arthur Hussey ‘Chapels in Kent’ in Archaeologia Cantiana (online).

Our Lady of Pity in the Rock at Dover, pray for us


Zephyrinus said...

Dear "Once I Was A Clever Boy".

Further to your excellent Post on "Our Lady of Pity" in the Rock at Dover, I send you this missive already sent to Rev. Fr. Hunwicke, reference his Spiritual Pilgrimages Post.

Dear Reverend Fr. Hunwicke. May I please offer the following, to add to your excellent Post on Spiritual Pilgrimages to Our Lady's Churches/Chapels ?

The Mediaeval Chapel of "Our Lady of Dode", aka "Our Lady Of The Meadows". The Last Mass (Latin, of course) was in 1367. It is the only remnant of this Kent Village wiped out in The Black Death in 1347. As a result, this Church has never had anything other than a Traditional Latin Mass Celebrated within it.

For further information, please see the Post on https://zephyrinus-zephyrinus.blogspot.com/2017/12/dode-church-our-lady-of-meadows-prior.html

in Domino

Pip said...

Thank you for this fascinating post.

Unknown said...

I love the title Our Lady of Pity and am glad to have found this site! Im looking for any information on this old devotion. 🤗

Unknown said...

Ps if anyone has further info please email Maragal16@outlook.com.