Imagine viewing the golden crucifix of St. Thomas More with a relic of St. Thomas the Apostle inside it. Or, looking at the rope that bound St. Edmund Campion to the hurdle at his execution, or, the Book of Hours belonging to Mary, Queen of Scots.
They are all part of the collection belonging to the Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst in England which was originally founded at St. Omers on the continent in 1593. The school was meant to provide a Catholic education for English boys who couldn’t get one in England at this time of Catholic persecution under Elizabeth I.
Stonyhurst houses the oldest surviving museum collection in the English-speaking world. The historian and Catholic, Paul Johnson, attended Stonyhurst where, according to his website, he “received an education grounded in the Jesuit method, which he preferred over the more secularized curriculum of Oxford.” Mr. Johnson supports the Centre, saying “The Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst deserves the support of everyone who values Christian truth.”
Recently, Catholic convert, Lord Nicholas Windsor, son of the Duke and Duchess of Kent, came to America to promote the collection. In an interview with the National Catholic Register, he told editor Joan Frawley Desmond, “The collection really tells the story of men and women who have lived their Christian life to the full and have been prepared to suffer and even to give their lives during a time of persecution in England.”
Lord Nicholas goes on, “During that period the Jesuits wanted to educate young Englishmen who couldn’t receive a Catholic education in England….The English boys were sent with items that had been preserved and saved from the officers of King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth, who sought to destroy every physical trace of Catholic culture: from the art to vestments. These Jesuit schools became a depository of sacred history, and the boys were taught to venerate the relics and the memory of the martyrs.”
Preserving our Catholic culture and heritage, is important, especially in an era which more and more marginalizes it. Check out the International Christian Heritage Centre website to learn more about them.