BY ED WEST
A STATUE Of Our Lady of Walsingham may stand on the banks of the River Thames in commemoration of Catholic sacred objects burned during the Reformation.
The Art and Reconciliation Trust is in negotiations with Kensington and Chelsea Council over plans to build the statue at Chelsea Embankment Gardens, the former site of the home of St Thomas More and also the site of one of the worst desecrations of King Henry VIII's reign.
In 1538, three years after the building was seized by the crown following St Thomas's execution, Henry VIII lent the saint's former home to his chief minister Thomas Cromwell as a refuge from plague-ridden London.
At the height of his campaign against Catholicism, Cromwell had the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham, Christendom's fourth holiest site, taken from its shrine and burned in his new residence.
Also destroyed were statues of Our Lady of Grace of Ipswich and the Black Madonna of Willesden, of which the king's mother Elizabeth of York was a devotee.
Renowned sculptor Paul Day, whose 30-foot romantic piece "Meeting Place" has just been unveiled at St Pancras, will design the Marian sculpture, which will depict the burning of the statues in Chelsea and the ransacking of the monasteries. The bronze monument will also depict Our Lady of the Cloak in front of Walsingham Priory and 11 scenes from Our Lady's life, with the words "Mary Most Holy" engraved in several languages.
As well as commemorating a huge loss to England's heritage, the statue will act as a reminder of religious intolerance.
David Prout, Kensington and Chelsea's executive director of planning, said that while the council initially supported the principle of a memorial to "mark both the artistic vandalism and religious intolerance", some questions had been raised about the "ornate" nature of the "medieval altarpiece".
"We have questioned the suitability of the design to an outdoor space and the conservativeness of the statue," he said.
A spokeswoman for the Art and Reconciliation Trust said that, while confident, she unwilling to say too much at this stage. She said: "The whole thing is progressing well, but it is a council matter. All I can say is that Paul is a wonderful sculptor."
The trust aims to build the statue in time for St Thomas's feast day on June 22.
Our Lady of Walsingham was itself revived after Leo XIII re-established the restored 14th-century Slipper Chapel as a shrine in 1897.1n 1938 the Anglican shrine was added.