Monday, 1 July 2013

Hailes Abbey Gloucestershire

The ruined Cistercian abbey at Hailes near Winchombe Gloucestershire was founded by Richard, Earl of Cornwall - the second son of King John and the younger brother of Henry III. It is said that the motivation for the construction of the abbey came as a result of a sea voyage which Richard embarked on in 1242 and where he narrowly missed being drowned in a tumultuous storm. Subsequently he built the abbey to give thanks to God for sparing his life.

It took three years before Earl Richard’s brother, King Henry III granted him the manor of Hailes and lands to build the abbey. In 1246 a monastic ordered of twenty monks and ten lay brothers from the abbey at Beaulieu set about constructing the abbey which was completed five years later.

Hailes is probably best known for its holy relic. A tiny phial of blood said to have been taken from Christ at the point of his death. The relic had been purchased from the Count of Flanders in 1267 and was presented to the Cistercian community by Edmund, the second son of Earl Richard. The blood had been authenticated by Pope Urban IV. The phial was placed in a specially constructed shrine within the abbey. The “Holy Blood of Hailes” was to prove a Mecca for thousands of pilgrims from all over England.

Following King Henry VIII falling out with the Pope because he refused to sanction Henry's request to Catherine of Aragon. He set about forming the Church of England and ordered the dissolution of the monasteries and abbeys.

In 1538 the King’s commissioners were ordered to suppress all holy Catholic shrines and have any relics destroyed. So it was, on 24th November 1538, Hilsey - Bishop of Rochester acquired and displayed the phial at St Paul’s Cross London where it was declared a fake being nothing more than “honey clarified and coloured with saffron as had been evidently proved before the King and his Council.” The phial was cast onto an open fire to rapturous applause from the officials.

It is said that ghostly monks still haunt the abbey ruins, though sightings have been infrequent of late. Is it possible the monks of Hailes are still engaged in a daily routine, perhaps administering to the many spirit pilgrims. It is also claimed that on certain nights ghostly chanting can be heard coming from the ruins.

No comments: