Stonyhurst relics help launch Washington exhibition

Sir Thomas More by Hans Holbein the Younger. Commons Wikipedia
Sir Thomas More by Hans Holbein the Younger. Commons Wikipedia

The Curator of the Collections at Stonyhurst College will be helping to launch a major exhibition in Washington DC this week, on the life and legacy of St Thomas More. More than 60 relics and artefacts will be on display at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine for the exhibition entitled God’s Servant First: The Life and Legacy of Thomas More. Between now and the end of March 2017, it will aim to bring to life the courageous witness of the Catholic martyr whom Pope John Paul II declared to be the "heavenly Patron of Statesmen and Politicians".

Tomorrow, Jan Graffius of Stonyhurst will be delivering the first lecture as part of the exhibition:  Thomas More's Life and Legacy: Witnessed through Artefacts. The event in Washington DC will feature many treasures from the Stonyhurst College Collections in Lancashire.

Among the items which will be on display are a hat worn by St Thomas More and a garment embroidered by Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of King Henry VIII. The exhibit will also include a monumental woodblock print by the German artist Albrecht Dürer; a first folio by William Shakespeare; and the pectoral cross and saddle chalice that belonged to John Carroll, the first Catholic bishop in the United States, as well as other relics of Saints Thomas More and John Fisher.

The preservation of Catholic heritage

Sir Thomas More was imprisoned for treason in the Tower of London, along with Bishop John Fisher. They were beheaded 14 days apart in July 1535. The relics held by Stonyhurst include a personal ring with a cameo of the philosopher Aristotle that St John Fisher wore throughout his life, and a tooth and jawbone of St Thomas More that his daughter, Margaret, saved from his severed head, which she received after it had been exposed on London Bridge. They were passed into the care of Stonyhurst College’s Collection, which, since it was established in 1593, aimed to preserve Catholic manuscripts, relics and other holy objects at risk of loss or destruction during the English Reformation.The St John Paul II National Shrine in Washington DC

Jan Graffius has worked with the collections at Stonyhurst College since 2001 and previously worked in a number of museums in the United Kingdom. She has published extensively, including works on English Catholic vestments, Jacobite artefacts and relics, Shakespeare and Jesuit drama, and Two Thousand Years of Sacred Culture in the Stonyhurst Collections. Her broadcast work includes a number of programmes for BBC Radio and Television and EWTN.

Over the coming months, there will also be lectures by several experts on St Thomas More – his life, politics and writings, including Dr Bryan Berry whose new book, Priests, Poets, and Kings: Thomas More, Religious Controversies, and the Rise of Modern Secularism is due to be published next year. Dr Berry has taught literature, writing, and journalism at several universities, including Wheeling Jesuit University.

The exhibition at the St John Paul II National Shrine in Washington DC will be open daily from today (16 September 2016) until 31 March 2017.