Celebrations mark 100th anniversary of Benedictines at Quarr Abbey

Bishop Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth presided at a Mass of Thanksgiving at Quarr Abbey, home of the Benedictine community of the Solesmes Congregation, situated near Ryde on the Isle of Wight, on Friday 2 March, to mark the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the monks at Quarr in 1907, writes Peter Jennings. A special commemoration was made of Bishop Cahill, who as Bishop of Portsmouth gave a warm welcome to so many persecuted men and women Religious who came from France at the beginning of the 20th Century. The Benedictine monks of the Abbey of Solesmes were exiled from France in 1901 following the introduction of anti-religious laws. The community found refuge on the Isle of Wight. In 1907 the monks moved from their temporary home at Appuldurcombe in the south of the island to their present site at Quarr. Bishop Cahill of Portsmouth encouraged them to purchase Quarr Abbey House on the estate of the ancient Abbey of Quarr founded in 1132 and destroyed by Henry VIII in 1536. In June 1907 the first group of monks settled at Quarr thus restoring monastic life after an interval of 400 years. The old Quarr Abbey was destroyed during the persecution of the Catholic Church in England by Henry VIII in the sixteenth century; the new Quarr Abbey was established because of persecution of religious communities in France during the early part of the twentieth century. At the Mass of Thanksgiving religious sisters from four convents Sisters of Mercy, Newport; Presentation Sisters, Ryde; Sisters of Christ, East Cowes; and one sister from St Cecilia's Benedictine Abbey in Ryde, were invited to join the monks in choir for the Mass. During his homily, Abbot Cuthbert Johnson OSB, reminded the congregation that: "In 1901, after the longest reign in British history Queen Victoria died on the Isle of Wight at Osborne House. In the same year, 1901, the community of Solesmes which had begun its life as an Abbey in 1837, the same year as Victoria,s accession, found a home within a short distance of the royal residence where she died." Abbot Johnson, the fourth Abbot of Quarr emphasised that: "As a result of anti-religious laws promulgated by the French Government on 1 July 1901, more than 17,000 religious communities went into exile. At the time this was seen as a major catastrophe for the Church in France but it was through this historical event that religious life took root in new soil in England. "The Diocese of Portsmouth, which this year celebrates its 125th anniversary, was enriched by the arrival of a number of these exiled communities at Douai, Quarr, Ryde and East Cowes Farnborough had been founded in more peaceful circumstances nearly a decade previously. These and other communities were warmly welcomed by Bishop John Baptist Cahill." Abbot Johnson added: "Today, as part of our homely celebration of this centenary year marking the return of monks at Quarr, we are giving thanks for the welcome given by the diocese of Portsmouth to all religious, and remembering especially Bishop Cahill." Quarr Abbey Heritage Project Meanwhile, the Heritage Lottery Fund has approved a project planning grant of 50,000 to the Quarr Abbey Heritage Project, to pay for a conservation plan to include the abbey church and ancient ruins situated in the grounds. The report to be drawn up during the next twelve months will evaluate the heritage at Quarr and identify and prioritise what needs consolidation or improvement. The Prior, Fr Gregory Corcoran, said: "This grant will pay for the production of a detailed report that will enable Father Abbot and the Chapter to judge whether it is appropriate for us to proceed with an application for a major grant. For more information see: www.quarrabbey.co.uk/

Share this story