In the late Medieval period, St. Thomas of Canterbury was the most famous martyr of the Church—murdered by King Henry III’s knights to “rid him of that meddlesome priest.” Because of this, St. Thomas of Canterbury church has several shrines to martyrs: The Martyrs of Vietnam, of Laos, of Korea, of Japan, San Lorenzo Ruiz of the Philippines, and Friar Casimir Cypher, the Conventual Franciscan priest from Wisconsin murdered in Honduras.
To further honor the martyrs of the Church, a Shrine to the Martyrs of England and Wales has been created by Joe Malham of Trinity Icons.
The center of the Shrine is a statue of Our Lady of Walsingham, who appeared in England to Lady Richeldis in 1061. A shrine was built on the spot and it became the center of Marian devotion in England—Thomas of Canterbury himself visited on many occasions.
As part of the Reformation, Henry VIII destroyed the shrine and statue. In 1897, Pope Leo XIII restored the shrine and had a statue made by the artists of Oberammergau, Germany, based upon images of the original statue.
Our statue of Our Lady of Walsingham, also from Oberammergau, is seated upon a shelf supported by two Augustinian friars—the religious Order that served the original Walsingham shrine. A tapestry of St. Margaret’s Brocade (a design of the Tudor period) hangs between the two friars.
Beneath Our Lady of Walsingham hangs a print by Daphne Pollen titled “The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales," commissioned as part of the celebration of the martyrs' canonization in 1970. Featured prominently at the center is St. Margaret Clitherow, who was pressed to death for hiding Catholic priests during the persecutions in England, which roughly spanned from 1535-1679.
On either side of “The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales” are original paintings by Joe Malham. To the right one finds a portrait of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, executed by Henry VIII. They have been described as the “Peter and Paul” of English Catholicism. To the left, one finds St. John Jones (+1598) and St. John Wall (+1678), the two Franciscan friars among the forty martyrs. They were hung, drawn and quartered.
Beneath the print and paintings, there is an altar with the risen lamb, bearing the flag of St. George.
The wall is painted red to represent the blood of the martyrs, and is adorned with gold Canterbury crosses. Above the shrine are the words “Martyres Anglia et Cambria”—Latin for the Martyrs of England and Wales.
Holy Martyrs, pray for us!