Centenary of Quarr Abbey

The abbey was packed on Friday, 12th October for the Solemn Mass to commemorate the centenary of the consecration of the abbey which is dedicated to Our Lady. Bishop Egan and his predecessor, Bishop Hollis were both present, along with Dom Aidan Bellinger, Abbot of Downside and Dom Cuthbert Brogan, Abbot of Farnborough. Over thirty priests concelebrated.

In his sermon Dom Aidan Bellinger recalled that “the beauty of a Benedictine such as Quarr lay not in its architecture or adornment, but in the fact that God is present. It is in this sacred place that Holy Mass and the Divine Offices are sung to glorify and praise Almighty God. He mentioned three characteristics that Dom Paul managed to achieve in his design, – integrity, clarity and proportion. The colour of the brickwork becomes stronger and more striking, the nearer one gets to the sanctuary,; emphasising that we are drawn to Our Lord in the tabernacle”.

Dom Aidan frequently referred to one of the monks, Dom Paul Bellot, was an architect and it fell to him to design and draw up the plans for the new abbey, some distance from the ruins of the medieval monastery, on the site of Quarr Abbey House. Under the direction of this monk-architect, 300 builders from the Isle of Wight, accustomed only to building dwelling-houses, raised a building whose design and workmanship is admired by all who visit the Abbey. The building of the refectory and three sides of the cloister began immediately in 1907 and was completed within less than a year. The rest of the monks came from Appuldurcombe and in April 1911 work began on the Abbey church and was completed in an amazingly short time, so that it was consecrated in the following year, on 12th October 2012. By co-incidence this is also the Feast of St. Wilfrid, Patron of the Island. Hence this anniversary on this particular feast was a great day for the Island, and, in particular, for Ryde. It was through the prayers of Ryde Catholics, among others, that the centenary celebrations were taking place today. In Victorian times Catholics would often walk on Sunday afternoons from St. Mary’s to the Pre-Reformation monastic ruins at Quarr to pray that, one day, monastic life would return to Quarr. Led by their parish priest, Mgr. John Baptist Cahill, they would gather at St. Mary’s and walk through the woods to the Medieval abbey site praying the rosary and singing hymns. On arrival at the ruins, they would pray on their knees for the eturn of monastic life. Little did they realise that by 1908 their prayers would be answered, when the Benedictine monks from Appuldurcombe, near Wroxall, came to establish an abbey adjacent to the Medieval ruins. Here is a wonderful example of answered prayer and a sign of encouragement to us all when we sometimes despair that Almighty God does not hear our petitions.

In his Address before the blessing, the bishop thanked the abbey and community for their warm welcome. “I have been coming to Quarr for quiet, private retreats, for a number of years. I congratulate you on adhering to that great Solesmes tradition inspired by Dom Prosper Geraunger, and the time-honoured Gregorian chant, to enhance the liturgy. As well as thanking God for the past hundred years, let us look, also, to the future and pray for an increase in vocations both here at Quarr and elsewhere”.

In the evening there was Solemn Vespers and Benediction.

Our society organise an annual walk (or pilgrimage) from Ryde to Quarr Abbey every year in September. This annual walk started in 1882 when Catholics walked from Ryde to the Medieval Cistercian ruins to pray for the return of monastic life at Quarr. Little did those people realise at the time, that their prayer would be answered within 30 years, when the Benedictine monks arrived to built the present abbey on the adjacent site. Today’s walk has a more ecumenical aspect with Christians of other denominations often participating.

The first stop is at the Pre-Reformation Church of the Holy Cross at Binstead, which has a close historical association with Quarr Abbey. The next stop was at the Medieval ruins, where walkers usually study a map of the Cistercian ruins identifying the various parts of the old abbey.

In 2013 the walk was held on 8th September; the Ffeast of the Birthday of Our Lady; the Patronal Feast at Quarr Abbey, (both the Medieval and the present abbey are dedicated to the Blessed Virgin), and this was the main theme of the talk in the abbey church by Fr. Luke Bell OSB. Afterwards, prayers were led by Fr. Jonathan Redvers Harris. The day concluded with the Service of Vespers and Benediction.