Roman Catholic Church Silver, 17th Century, Belgium

Two silver statues of men in clerical dress.

St Thomas of Canterbury c.1666, St Chad of Lichfield c.1667. Made by Henri Flémalle (Belgium). Silver

These objects were used in Mass - the Catholic service which celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The silver is on loan from the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits. Until recently it was in regular use at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, a Jesuit School.

The origins of Stonyhurst College can be traced back to 1593. At this time English Catholics were being persecuted. Catholic families were forbidden to give their sons a Catholic education. The English College created at St Omers in France was one of several institutions set up to educate English Catholics abroad. Since then the college moved several times to avoid further persecution. It eventually moved to England in 1793 where the political and religious climate had improved.

TThese statues were placed on the altar on High Mass days. There are holes in the front of each statue's cloak, called a cope. A reliquary containing a relic of the saint would be attached to them. Relics were usually part of the body of the saint, such as skin, hair or bone.

St Thomas was Archbishop of Canterbury. He is shown holding a processional cross. He was murdered by four knights in 1170. One of the knights removed the top of St Thomas's skull with his sword, so he is depicted here with a sword embedded in his head. St Thomas was the patron saint of the College of St Omers in France where the Society of Jesus taught.

St Chad was Bishop of Lichfield and died in AD 673. He is shown holding a crozier in his left hand and the Bible in his right. Two relics of St Chad were presented to the College of St Omers in 1660. The statue was made to hold one of these relics.