August 2015 marked the 150th anniversary of the foundation of St. Dominic’s Priory at Carisbrooke; – the first monastic institution established on the Island in the Post Reformation era. It was founded by Elizabeth, Countess of Clare, who had a close affiliation with the Dominican Order.
Bishop Thomas Grant of Southwark laid the foundation stone on the feast of St. Dominic (4th Aug) 1865. Co-incidentally, it was this same Thomas Grant who, as a young seminarian in Rome, had given the Countess of Clare instructions in the Faith, before she converted in 1841.
The year 1865 was a very significant year for the Dominican Order. It was 650 years after St. Dominic founded the Order of Dominican nuns, and the establishment of the Order of Preachers by Pope Innocent III.
The date chosen (4th August), was also significant in Catholic history as this was the date of desecration of the Medieval shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham in 1538. At the request of the Countess of Clare, the foundation stone of the new Dominican Priory at Carisbrooke was to be dedicated to Our Lady and St. Dominic, as the bishop stated, “as a fitting act of reparation for the destruction of the Shrine at Walsingham 327 years ago to this very day. We must hope and pray that faithful Catholics will find peace and consolation at this priory here on the Isle of Wight, as our spiritual ancestors did at the ancient Priory of Walsingham in Medieval times“.
Mass was offered on the Feast of St. Dominic in the priory chapel by Fr. Gerard Flynn (Parish Priest of Newport and Totland Bay), Fr. Jonathan Redvers Harris (Ordinariate and Parish Priest of East Cowes), Fr. Petroc Cobb (Quarr Abby) and Fr. Simon Gaine O.P. (representing the Dominicans). Two Dominican Sisters also came from Sway in the New Forest for the Mass.
In his sermon, Fr. Simon Gaine reminded the congregation that the Dominicans went out from their abbeys and monasteries to carry the Gospel message to those who did not fully understand it. The Dominicans were to preach clearly and effectively. He said: “a Dominican needs first to be a contemplative. Preaching is to help others to contemplate the Truth. The contemplative life of a monastery is a form of preaching. Without contemplation, the Dominican life would be incomplete. The same can be said of our own lives.
We should contemplate the glory of God, – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This will lead us to perfection in the next life.
On this anniversary please remember to pray for the Dominican family. Amen”
After this Mass everyone processed through the garden to the cemetery where the De Profundis was recited and the graves of the nuns were blessed before concluding with the Salve Regina.
On the Feast of the Transfiguration the Priory Trust in conjunction with the IoW Catholic History Society, organised a Flower Festival, with 34 churches / societies contributing floral displays. An ecumenical Service was held and Peter Clarke gave a talk on the history of the priory. After this a number of people walked from the priory to the grave of the Countess of Clare to lay a wreath and for an Act of Remembrance.
See photographs of the events associated with the anniversary in our Gallery – Island churches page.
A new booklet “History of St. Dominic’s Priory, Carisbrooke” has been written and produced by our society and is on sale at £2-00.