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13 January 2011


Pilgrim badge from Boxley

Chambers' Book of Days:
One of the most famous of these roods or crucifixes was that at the abbey of Boxley, in Kent, which was entitled the Rood of Grace. The legend is, that an English carpenter, having been taken prisoner in the French wars, and wishing to employ his leisure as well as obtain his ransom, made a very skilful piece of workmanship of wood, wire, paste, and paper, in the form of a cross of exquisite proportion, on which hung the figure of our Saviour, which, by means of springs, could bow down, lift itself up, shake its hands and feet, nod the head, roll its eyes, and smile or frown. The carpenter, getting permission to return and sell his work, put it on a horse, and drove it before him; but stopping near Rochester at an alehouse for refreshment, the animal passed on, and missing the straight road, galloped south to Boxley, and being driven by some divine furie, never stopped until it reached the church-door, when it kicked so loudly with its heels, that the monks ran out to see the wonder. No sooner was the door opened, than the horse rushed in, and stood still by a pillar. The monks were proceeding to unload, when the owner appeared, and claimed his property; but in vain did he try to lead the horse from the sanctuary; it seemed nailed to the spot. He next attempted to remove the rood, but was equally unsuccessful; so that in the end, through sheer weariness and the entreaties of the monks to have the image left with them, he consented to sell it to them for a piece of money...

At the dissolution of the abbeys, Cromwell and his associates laid their ruthless hands on Boxley; and Nicholas Partridge, suspecting some cheat in the Rood of Grace, made an examination, and soon discovered the spring which turned the mechanism. It was taken to Maidstone, and there exposed to the people; from thence to London, where the king and his court laughed at the object they had once deemed holy; and, finally, it was brought before an immense multitude at St. Paul's Cross, by Hilsey, bishop of Rochester, on Sunday, the 24th of February 1538, when it was broken to pieces and buried, the bishop preaching a sermon on the subject.

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