A Shrine at Little Crosby
Photographs of the forgotten shrines of England fill a large book, but a greater stain than this blots the national honour; the forgetting of those who offered to their country a passion consecrated in their blood.
The English Martyrs, resolved to win us or die upon our pikes, are less than a name to the majority of Englishmen. The chapel of the English Martyrs at Little Crosby, near Liverpool, has been designed to pay this debt of memory that God may be glorified in His servants, and the oblivion into which their heroism has fallen challenged by that ancient battle-gage of the Church, the blood of her martyrs.
Eight martyrs, Lancashire men for the most part, as befits a Lancashire parish, are painted in fresco round the walls of the chapel. Some are paying court to our Lady and the Holy Child; others are grouped at the altar as if participating in the sacrifice which they shed their blood to maintain; and in a predella under the main figures are scenes wherein they confess Christ in their lives or deaths, Roger Wrenno, the weaver, re-mounts the gallows gaily, the first rope broken, to the astonishment of the Sheriff and the officers; Robert Arrowsmith, educated in a Protestant school, teaches his playmates the Little Office of Our Lady, which they sing in the Dominie's very ears; Richard Langhorne, steadfast in the following of his Master, is silent at the perjuries of Titus Oates; John Rigby, at the scaffold's foot, cleaves the conscience of a Protestant friend with his noble confession of virginity.
Round the altar stand St. John Fisher, triumphant in the sacred purple which he never lived to wear on earth; St. Thomas More, the King's good servant but God's first; Lawrence Johnson, a Lancash priest born but a stone's throw away; a Richard Herst, farmer and shelterer homeless priests, who stands spade in ha shyly in this glittering company.
The altar-piece itself, the older form the Pieta, the key-signature of the win shows prayer perfected in sacrifice. T Body of the Crucified, ever united to t Divinity of the Word and thus adorab stands in the tomb. Our Lady turns as to show the onlooker the pledge of her ti to be the Queen of Martyrs; and St. Jot fixed in contemplation of the Wound writes almost mechanically his Gospel.
These frescoes have already in a sm: way helped to stir devotion to the Engli Martyrs. Men come in on their way fro work, women snatching a moment fro the home, children coming home fro school run in; and often, as he worked, t painter caught the murmur of the praye "Jesus convert England : Jesus have men on this country." We have not quite fc gotten.