Stonyhurst College opens new museum

Bishop John Arnold at Stonyhurst new museum
Bishop John Arnold at Stonyhurst new museum

The Bishop of Salford opened and blessed the newly established Old Chapel Museum at Stonyhurst College on the feast of the Immaculate Conception 8th December, marking another important step in creating greater public accessibility to the oldest museum collection in the English speaking world.  Amongst the guests were foreign royals, religious leaders, British parliamentarians, and leading academics.

The opening of the Old Chapel Museum at Stonyhurst College is the culmination of five years of conservation work and research. It brings together an extraordinary gathering of artefacts, from many millennia BC to the 21st century, which reflect human history and culture, art, music, science and the flourishing of knowledge and spirituality.

The museum opens access for the first time to artefacts such as the First Folio of Shakespeare, possessions of Tudor and Stuart royalty and rare medieval silver and embroideries. The displays circle the globe, from prehistory to Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, bringing the visitor through 5000 years of civilisation right up until the turning of the present century. This exciting new resource provides an unparalleled opportunity for education and discovery for local, national and international audiences.

The first acquisition to the collections now on display, Henry VII’s cope and chasuble, was recorded in 1609. Since then the collection has become the repository for the historically marginalised but culturally-important Roman Catholic minority both at home and in exile from before the Reformation until the present day. It has also gathered together an awe-inspiring array of objects amassed through the activities of the Jesuits as missionaries and teachers all over the world.

The establishment of this new home for the collection has been made possible through Stonyhurst College working closely with the Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst, and a substantial grant from the E. L. Wiegand Foundation in the USA. Royal Patrons of the project  Lord and Lady Nicholas Windsor said that “with religious persecution rife at the moment, the story of the Christian martyrs is all the more relevant in our time”

Bishop John Arnold of Salford commented that "This important collection tells the story of the courage of our brother and sisters in faith to remain steadfast against all the odds. This new museum which tells their story is a welcome resource for the Church and education in this diocese and throughout the north of England".

The Chairman of Governors, John Cowdall KSG explained the importance of providing good formation for young Catholics and his desire to make that opportunity open to more than just those who attend the College.

Lord Alton of Liverpool, Chairman of the Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst and prominent religious liberties campaigner, talked about the next phase of the project. “The multi million pound restoration project of an old mill building on the Stonyhurst campus into Theodore House, a retreat, study and leadership centre, named in honour of St Theodore of Tarsus, a Syrian refugee and one time Archbishop of Canterbury. Lord Alton explained that Theodore House would provide accommodation for groups on retreats, studying the Collections, or taking part in courses and training will be provided by The Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst. Theodore House will have a Chapel, library, conference room and seminar rooms all in the uplifting surroundings of Lancashire.