Page 9, 13th July 1935

13th July 1935
Page 9
Page 9, 13th July 1935 — THE MARTYRS' RELICS ft, • Mgr. Hallett On Their Authenticity And Position

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Locations: Canterbury


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THE MARTYRS' RELICS ft, • Mgr. Hallett On Their Authenticity And Position


The Catholic Record Society held its annual meeting on Wednesday, when the annual report was made and Mgr. Hallett addressed the meeting on "The Relics of SS. John Fisher and Thomas More."

There was an adverse balance in the year's accounts of £106 which had been made up by a loan. The total expenses for the year were £583 Is. 9d.

The secretary in making his report announced that the council had been obliged to remove the Gillow Library from Ken. sington to a place nearer the Cathedral. During the year Fr. Alphonsus Bonnar, 0.F.M., had compiled a brochure called Over Thirty Years' Work of the Catholic Record Society, which brought up to date the work produced in 1914 by the late Fr. John Pollen. S.J.

The membership of the society was 360.

Where are Their Bodies?

In his address Mgr. Hallett remarked that the earliest English life of St. John Fisher made out that the martyr's body was buried the evening of the day of his execution in the churchyard, near by of All Hallows. Barking. a fortnight before St. Thomas More's headless body was buried by his devoted daughter Margaret in the chapel of St. Peter in Chains within the Tower.

There was, he said, much controversy about this matter, but that the place usually pointed out as being the final resting place of both martyrs was by the north wall near the entrance to the little bell-tower. Many "chroniclers" of the period testified that 'both their bodies had been removed later to Chelsea and there was much to be said for this opinion.

"But even if we accept the re-interment at Chelsea as a fact," Mgr. Hallett 'went on, "we are not at the end of our troubles. Dr. Cotton in a letter to The Times recently suggested an examination of the More vault, but Mr. Reginald Blunt, replying. showed that there is no certainty where the vault is. The present epitaph—. More's own composition, though recarved—almost certainly does not cover the vault. Weever, indeed, says that the body lieth under a plain monumenton the south side or the choir of this church', but John Aubrey, another 17th-century writer. states that More's trunk 'was interred in Chelsea church • near the middle of the routh ,wall.' But wherever the vault may be—for there have been several enlargements and alterations to the fabric of the church—it is satisfactory at least to know that Father Morris afterwards found reason to reject the story he had at first believed, -Viz., that the vault was empty, the coffins having been rifled. as it was said, •fors the sake of the lead."

Leaving the question of the bodies Mgr. Hallett .stated that with regard to the position of More's head, • it was almost certainly accurate to state that it lay' in St. •Denstan's, Canterbury.

This belief was based mainly on Staples ton's aceount, the fact that • rio other member of More's or Roper's family was beheaded, and the fact that no other place claims to possess More's head. together with the strong and eulminative support for tht truth of tradition.

Contradietork. Statements As against the autheniicity of the relic at St. Dunstan's, Mgr. Hallett added: in November, 1535, it was reported that the head tied tweed black and been thrown into the river; that in reply to a book of indignant protest against. the martyrdom of Fisher and More, written by John Cochlaens, a German theologian, in which the removal of the two heads was mentioned, Sir. Richard Morison in .1536 writes, "Come here, -and you shall see both heads where they were placed,. and still warning men by the spectacle not to conspire against the -king or the laws of the kingdom."

Mgr. Hallett pointed out,that these two statements contradicted each other and that as the head had been recovered by n bribe it was more than probable that false reports would have circulated. that the head had been thrown into the river.

He mentioned many other relics and referred to the collection at Stonyfiurst in which there is a tooth which is alleged to have been St. Thomas More's. He said that it was not _generally accepted that this tooth was not St._Thomas's. but belonged to Another saint and had been in More's possession during his life-time. The inscription round the rim was "Reliquae Thomae More Mar. Ang. Chan." and supported its authenticity.

The most famous of More's relics, said Mgr. Hallett, is his hair-shirt which has been divided and has 1-mind homes_ in many parts of the country. Other of his relics are his drinking-cup, a rosary and his Book of Hours, and may besides these, all of which are believed to be genuine.

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