Our Lady Vulnerata
Mr. Gregory Tomlin is one of the students of the Diocese, currently resident at the seminary of the English College at Valladolid, in Spain. Here he tells of one of the greatest items of devotion that the College in Valladolid has acquired in her long history of exile from England.
"Who is the longest serving and most distinguished member of the community at the Royal English College in Valladolid? Anyone familiar with the College will instantly know that it can only be Nuestra Señora de la Vulnerata – Our Lady Vulnerata. Despite her significance and prominence in the College community, she is relatively little known outside it.
"What is immediately noted by anyone seeing her for the first time is the scale of damage she has suffered. Yet it is exactly that damage that brought her to the College and has resulted in the exalted position she has always held in it. In the years after the Spanish Armada of 1588, the Spanish Government sought to rebuild their naval forces. Fearful of another Armada forming and also drawn by the lure of capturing treasure that had been returned to Spain from the Americas, an Anglo-Dutch raiding party attacked the port and city of Cádiz in 1596. The assault resulted in the destruction of the Spanish naval ships but the troops that landed, though respecting the civilians, did set about inflicting substantial damage to property. This included raiding churches, in one of which a statue of the Virgin and Child was found. The soldiers dragged it out of the church and attacked it with their swords, completely destroying the infant child apart from two small stubs of feet, and the Virgin suffered significant damage to her face and the loss of the entirety of both forearms.
"Despite the marring of her features, the statue became the subject of greater devotion. It was taken back to Madrid by the Count of Santa Gadea and his wife. There it might have remained had it not been for a visit to Madrid by Fr John Blackfan, a member of the College staff. During his time in the city he heard of what had happened to the statue of the Virgin. He approached the Count asking for the permission to take the Virgin back to the College so she could be venerated there. The Count and his wife were initially reluctant to part with her. A petition was organised amongst the English students in which they promised ‘Our respect to her will be greater and more sincere than the irreverence which they (the English soldiers) manifested to her.’ The Countess in a personal letter responding to the College stated that she had been persuaded to honour their request. The figure of Our Lady was transported personally by the Countess to Valladolid in 1600. Upon arrival in the city, the Virgin was brought in procession to the Cathedral on a carriage loaned by the Queen and accompanied by twenty-four students of the College. After an all-night vigil, the Virgin was carried to the College to be met by a large crowd, and in the chapel was the Spanish Queen to greet the Virgin in her new home. Over nine days, various celebrations and ceremonies took place, including one in which the Bishop gave her the new title of ‘Vulnerata’ – the Wounded One.
"Her arrival at the College in 1600 was a significant moment in the history of an at that time young institution and forged a tie between the Spanish people and the College that has existed ever since. To this day when Evening Prayer concludes, the College community gather round the Vulnerata to sing the Salve Regina and each Wednesday evening a student of the College will lead the community in the Vulnerata prayers. On the first Saturday in December, the Cardinal Archbishop of Valladolid visits the College for the Feast of Our Lady Vulnerata. The Mass is said in Spanish and the congregation consists largely of people from Valladolid who are linked to the College in numerous ways. Our Lady Vulnerata who over four hundred year ago first came to prominence as a source of discord between the English and Spanish people has since become a source of friendship and shared veneration."
The sanctuary of the chapel of the English College, Valladolid, on the feast of Our Lady Vulnerata