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Five hundred years after it was destroyed, St Chad’s shrine reinstated at Lichfield Cathedral in UK

Norwich, UK

Five hundred years ago, King Henry VIII’s commissioners destroyed the shrine of St Chad at the Church of England’s Lichfield Cathedral – now it has been reinstated, complete with a relic provided by St Chad Roman Catholic Cathedral in Birmingham. 

Rt Rev Dr Michael Ipgrave, the 99th Bishop of Lichfield, said that “[t]his is an enormously significant event for both our cathedral and the church across the wider Midlands for whom St Chad was apostle”

“The installation is a sign of both healing and forgiveness. St Chad was a saint of the undivided church and it sends a powerful message of hope and reconciliation in our divided world.”

UK Lichfield Cathedral Shrine of St Chad

The new shrine of St Chad within Lichfield Cathedral. PICTURE: Courtesy of Lichfield Cathedral.

Following centuries of division, violence and destruction in the name of faith, the new Shrine of St Chad seeks to be a focus of worship that will aid Christians from all traditions (Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant), returning the cathedral to a place of ecumenical worship and pilgrimage.

The links between St Chad and Lichfield go back a long way. St Chad was the first Bishop of Lichfield and is the cathedral’s patron saint. This year marks 1350 years since his death.

Since 1972, increasing attention has been focused on the saint who has become a focus for prayer and devotion at Lichfield Cathedral. A ledger stone was placed on the site of the original shrine, and this was later joined by an image of St Chad together with a candle stand.

The shrine itself was finally reinstated on 8th November, during a special ecumenical service. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham brought a small fragment of St Chad’s body to be installed in the shrine.

St Chad’s in Birmingham have been custodians of St Chad’s relics since the 19th century. Prior to that point, local Catholic families had been responsible for preserving the relics, having rescued them during the shrine’s 16th century destruction.

Bishop Bernard Longley, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, said “our pilgrimage together as Anglicans and Roman Catholics has been strengthened by our common devotion to the memory of St Chad, as a share of his relic returns to Lichfield Cathedral”.

“St Chad reminds us of the unity we already enjoy through our baptism and faith in Christ – he encourages us to pray and work for the fullness of unity together.”

The Dean of Lichfield, the Very Rev Adrian Dorber, added: “This moment marks the growing relationships between all God’s people. St Chad was bishop of an undivided church and he is a fitting patron of the unity we all seek. As the relic of St Chad is translated back to Lichfield, a part of the Cathedral’s heart is restored, and St Chad’s ministry of healing continues through the ages.”

The new shrine is modern and contemporary in style.

Vicky Osborn, marketing manager at Lichfield Cathedral, said  the new shrine was “humble in design” and fitting not only of St Chad, but also Jesus – “beautifully crafted in wood, mirroring Jesus the Carpenter”.

“The relic itself is housed in a cross that sits underneath the table of the Lord,” he said. “Above the altar is a large, suspended corona symbolising the crown of glory. In the arcades of the Lady Chapel will be six new artworks depicting the life of Christ. “

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Osborn said there had been a very positive reaction to the shrine.

“We have been commended for the sensitivity we have shown to Christians of many traditions. We have received many notes of thanks for the work we are doing towards Christian unity. Many have remarked how special it feels to welcome back part of St Chad to his original place of burial, and how his example as a disciple of Christ feels ever the more real.”



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