Saturday, July 10, 2010

Abbey Park, Leicester

When Cardinal Wolsey fell from favour with Henry VIII over his failure to persuade the Vatican to annul the king's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, he lost all his titles accept Archbishop of York. Then he was accused of treason and summoned back to London. He died at the Abbey of Saint Mary de Pratis (also known as St Mary of the Meadows) outside Leicester on the journey south and was buried there.

Today the abbey ruins give their name to Leicester's Abbey Park. Wolsey is commemorated by a statue (given by the Wolsey knitwear people), though he looks bemused to find himself outside the rather tawdry pavilion and cafe there.

The Abbey ruins are a disappointment. They were lost for centuries after the dissolution of the monasteries and no original remains are to be found above ground level. What you see today are foot-high walls put up after excavation in the 1920s to show the abbey's original footprint, complete with a tomb for Wolsey. Given the rudimentary state of the discipline in those days, it is possible to wonder how much worth this recreation has.

Nearby you will find the more substantial remains of Cavendish House, the main part of which has been ruinous since the Civil War. And the park also contains a picturesque stretch of the River Soar and a miniature railway. The latter is worth a posting of its own.


ramtops said...

I used to take my daughter to feed the ducks in Abbey Park when she was in her pushchair. That was 30 years ago!

Mark @ Israel said...

These are remnants of the religious-political controversies which I could still remember in my Church History lessons. Even until now the controversies in the history of the church cannot just easily fade away. Even in the Middle East conflict, religion and politics cannot easily be separated.