Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Liskeard, Cornwall: The Lost Shrine of Our Ladye of the Park

This one could come under the heading of "Found While Looking for Something Else" if I hadn't just used it for something else.

Ladye Park in Liskeard, Cornwall was a well-known shrine to Our Lady in the middle ages but like Walsingham and the other great shrines of England, it was ravaged by Henry VIII at the beginning of the English reformation.

There are several short histories of Ladye Park on the web each adding a bit more information. None seems to include photographs, though. This site from the Marian collection at Dayton University gives the Celtic origin of the shrine. This site gives a bit more about the modern revival of the site and is worth quoting at least in part:

The story of the revival of the Ladye Park cult is remarkable. It began with an apparition of the Blessed Virgin witnessed by Dr Peggy Pollard who was the great granddaughter of William Gladstone, the nineteenth-century Prime Minister. Dr Pollard, who died in 1996, was a brilliant but eccentric academic, a Cornish Bard, a skilled linguist, artist and musician. In her own words which were carefully recorded at the time, she described how in November 1955 in her home in Truro, she suddenly noticed ‘a woman sitting in an armchair. She was dressed in a variety of shades of blue, full flowing, draperies and she wore a tiara-shaped crown with projecting rays that appeared to be jewelled with dull opaque stones like pearls and opals. She had dark hair … she spoke in Russian … "I want to come back to Liskeard".' Dr Pollard was sceptical by nature and replied; ‘If you are who you seem to be, I need some sort of proof. So I ask you to stay there long enough for me to make a sketch of you, then tomorrow, I'll start painting a picture based on that sketch. I'll submit it to the Paris Salon and if it is hung, which is most unlikely, I will accept that you are genuine and try to do something about your request.’ Dr Pollard did a quick sketch on an envelope and the woman disappeared.

The painting, ‘La Vierge à la Porcelaine’ was completed and duly accepted for an exhibition in the Paris Salon! Dr Pollard then began her research at the Cornish record office and found that a shrine in honour of the Blessed Virgin had existed on a site in Liskeard called 'Ladye Park'. Records from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries proved that the pilgrimage spot was situated in a clearing between two woods: ‘one with deer and the other without’. A series of extraordinary events (outlined by Claire Riche in ‘The Lost Shrine of Liskeard’) led to the restoration of the shrine and at the turn of the new century an annual pilgrimage to Ladye Park was established, organized by the Cornish branch of the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Some of the "official" information from the local parish church's website can be found here, including Dr Pollard's hymn to Our Lady of the Park (sung to the traditional tune of Daily, Daily Sing to Mary):

Ladye Mary, Blessed Mother,
Whom we hail as full of grace,
Whom our Cornish fathers honoured,
In this green and peaceful place,
Pilgrims from the stony moorlands,
Through the rain and wind and dark
Loving Mary, praising Mary,
Lady Mary of the Park.

Poor men tramping, rich men riding,
All Our Lady came to greet:
Wife and widow, youth and maiden,
Gathered at the virgin's feet.
Of God's justice she is mirror,
Of his covenant the ark,
Blessed Mary, Holy Mary,
Lady Mary of the Park

Grazing deer deep in the forest
Heard the pilgrims" joyful song,
And the birds among the branches
Sang in chorus with the throng:
Wren and robin, thrush and blackbird:
And the heavenward-soaring lark
Sang to Mary, Blessed Mary
Lady Mary of the Park.

Now returning, we will praise thee,
For the peril is long past.
Come again O Blessed Mother
And reclaim thy shrine at last.
To the promised Land in safety
God has brought his sacred Ark,
And we praise thee, Blessed Mary,
Lady Mary of the Park

And there's a lovely little map in pdf format of many of the old shrines of England and Wales here. (And one in Scotland.)


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