|St Mary's Ryde|
When planning a holiday destination, one point Catholics must consider is ‘can we get to Mass while we are there?’ For those attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, this question is not always very easy to answer in the affirmative. However, if you were to book a holiday in the Isle of Wight, within reach of the seaside town of Ryde, you would be in luck. Fr Anthony Glaysher, parish priest of St Mary’s in Ryde, offers Latin Masses every Tuesday at 12.30pm, every Thursday at 7pm, preceded by a Holy Hour with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and devotions, and a Missa Cantata at 6pm on the first Sunday of each month.
St Mary’s, Ryde is the first church in England to be dedicated to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary. It was founded in 1844 by Elizabeth FitzGibbon, Countess of Clare, who converted to Catholicism in St Peter’s, Rome after a ‘Grand Tour’, and returned to the Island to build a church in honour of Our Lady. She engaged the well-known architect Joseph Hansom, an admirer of AWN Pugin, to build a fine Gothic church on the High Street. At that time, anti-Catholic sentiment on the Island was such that the Countess had to ask a Protestant to bid for the site on her behalf, and there was an outcry in certain quarters when the tall, elegant Catholic church was completed, occupying a prominent position on one of the most important streets in the town (see above).
|Stained glass windows in the north-west end of the church, |
depicting three of the seven sacraments.
Inside, the church has many interesting features, including a rare set of stained-glass windows depicting the seven sacraments (above). One of the highlights of a visit to the church is the beautiful Lady Chapel, which was built in response to a request by His Holiness Pope Leo XIII that the English Hierarchy re-dedicate England to the Patronage of Mary in 1893. The Hierarchy carried out this request on the feast of SS Peter and Paul 1893, in a solemn ceremony at the London Oratory. Thereafter, every parish was encouraged to construct chapels, shrines or grottoes in honour of Our Lady.
|Lady Chapel, St Mary's Ryde|
The shrine and altar in St Mary’s was built from designs by Pugin. The altar (below) which dates from the 1850s, depicts Our Lady of Walsingham. It is one of the earliest representations of this image following the Restoration of the Hierarchy, and pre-dates the re-opening of the Slipper Chapel.
|Lady Altar designed by AWN Pugin|
|Our Lady of Walsingham, designed by AWN Pugin.|
The walls and ceiling of the Lady Chapel were decorated in 1894 by the Victorian artist Nathaniel Westlake, F.S.A. Westlake covered the chapel with images from the Litany of Our Lady and scenes from the Joyful and Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary in rich jewelled colours (below). On the feast of the Visitation, 2nd July this year, a Latin Mass was celebrated at the chapel, followed by recitation of the Litany of Our Lady.
|The Coronation of Our Lady in Heaven|
|Low Mass for the Feast of the Visitation in |
the Lady Chapel, St Mary's Ryde.
Another gem in the church is the Countess of Clare’s private oratory, which occupies the north-east corner above the sacristy (below). It is dedicated to St Elizabeth of Hungary, the Countess’ patron, and it was her favourite place of prayer. She would attend Mass here with her family and household servants, out of sight of the congregation but with a good view of the High Altar and the sanctuary.
|St Elizabeth's Chapel|
|Altar of St Elizabeth's Chapel|
When Bl. John Henry Newman visited the Island in 1865 he celebrated Mass in St Mary’s, and used the Countess’ chapel for his private devotions. Towards the end of her life the Countess spent many hours praying there. A small fireplace can still be seen in the north wall, and one can imagine a maidservant arriving early in the chapel to light a fire on cold mornings. In the 1970s the chapel was stripped of its altar and all its adornements, and it quickly fell into disuse, and for several decades it was used as a store-room. In 2008 Fr Glaysher and a small group of parishioners set about restoring the chapel, and today it is once again a beautiful and peaceful place of prayer, filled with statues, lamps, candlesticks and a wonderful collection of reliquaries, including relics of St Dominic Savio and St Edmund of Abingdon. Every Thursday evening from 6pm the Blessed Sacrament is exposed in the chapel with devotions, followed by a Latin Mass at 7pm. It is a truly uplifting experience, highly recommended to any visitor to the Island.
|Statues and Reliquaries in St Elizabeth's Chapel|
|Reliquaries in St Elizabeth's Chapel|
|Reliquary containing a relic of St Edmund of Abingdon |
in St Elizabeth's Chapel.
The LMS Rep for the Isle of Wight is Peter Clarke. He and his wife Gill are parishioners of St Mary’s Ryde, and give guided tours of the church on Wednesdays at 12 noon. They would also be happy to give a tour at any other time. Contact them on: 01983 566740.
Peter Clarke is also the founder of the Isle of Wight Catholic History Society, whose patron is our own Bishop, Rt. Rev. Mgr. Declan Lang. See the website here.
Peter’s book, ‘Ryde to Rome’ is a fascinating history of the Countess of Clare and the building and adornement of St Mary’s Ryde. It paints a most interesting and illuminating picture of Catholic life on the Island in the days of Queen Victoria. The book can be purchased for £3 plus p&p from: the Isle of Wight Catholic History Society, Whitehaven, 72 Mayfield Road, Ryde, Isle of Wight, PO33 3PR.