Toward the end of the period covered by today’s concert, when the practice of Catholicism was entirely banned in England, a Seminary was founded in the small city of Vallidolid in Northern Spain. At the center of that chapel was enshrined an odd statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of La Vulnerata, or The Wounded One.
The statue was originally a part of the altar in the major Church of a nearby town, located just off the market square. When, in 1596, Sir Walter Raleigh and the Duke of Essex invaded the town, their rioting anti-Catholic troops dragged the statue from the Church and began to kick it like a soccer ball. Then they hacked off the arms of the Virgin and the entire Body of the Christ child except for his two small feet.
The seminarians of the English College begged that the statue might be given to them and enshrined in their Seminary Chapel that they might offer their lives in reparation for the desecration. It sits there today, a part of the gloriously gold leafed reredos, but missing arms and legs and the head of the Christ as a testament to sectarian violence.
Twenty-two of the seminarians from that English College were martyred after ordination. And the music they would have heard as they were formed in that Chapel of the Wounded One is the same Catholic Music you will hear this afternoon.
In some very real ways this music forms a bridge to those good men, not unlike the men who sit in this chapel every morning and every evening who seek to give themselves entirely to God. I am grateful to Dr. Hunt and each of today’s performers for joining us to the one faith through the holy beauty which they will so wonderfully sing. Thank you.