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Secret Faith

An exhibition at Ushaw


From the break with Rome in 1534 to 1829 Catholics in England experienced various levels of persecution. Any act of allegiance to the Catholic faith was considered illegal. However, many Catholics persisted with their faith and chose to hide their beliefs rather than become Protestant. They were known as recusant Catholics following the Latin recusare - to refuse.

Catholics who were discovered were punished in a number of ways such as fines, property seizure, imprisonment, or execution. Attitudes toward Catholics gradually changed over time and by the late 18th century they were able to enter the legal profession, and allowed set up schools and places of worship. These artefacts from Ushaw College’s collection reflect the changing laws and attitudes towards Catholics during this period.

The chalice is an important item in Catholic liturgical practice. It is a ceremonial standing cup designed to hold sacramental wine. They are used during the Catholic rite of communion, where wine and bread are consecrated on the altar and then consumed. Catholics believe that during this practice the wine becomes the blood of Christ. 

When Catholics were not able to worship openly it was necessary to hide evidence of their faith. Ushaw holds examples of chalices from the 16th - 19th centuries showing the change in design over the period.

       
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