St. Marie’s is very fortunate to be in the possession of a collection of 15th century carvings constructed from Nottingham Alabaster.Alabaster carvings of biblical scenes, often as altar sets, were significant methods of church decoration prior to the English Reformation. Under the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI, religious artwork (including alabaster carvings) were lost or destroyed. Today, very few complete altar sets are still in existence.
The alabasters at St. Marie’s were thought to be unearthed some time during the Gothic Revival period, prior to 1845. They were purchased for the new Sheffield church of St. Marie, as in its construction it aimed to follow Gothic detail with reference to the Catholicism of the Medieval Period. They were initially built into the altar of the Mortuary Chapel prior to the redevelopment of St. Marie’s in the late 1960s, when they were lost during this process.
The alabasters were rediscovered in July 2012 during the recent redevelopment of St. Marie’s Cathedral, and underwent major restoration (funded by the National Lottery) prior to being put on display in the Cathedral cloisters.
The alabaster scenes depict;
- The Annunciation
- The Adoration of the Magi
- The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- The Coronation of the Virgin
- The Betrayal of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane
- The Scourging of Jesus at the Pillar
- The Crucifixion of Jesus
Alabasters of St Marie's Cathedral Gallery
St. Marie’s Reliquary
This is kept in the main sacristy at St. Marie’s. The relics it contains were acquired by Canon Samuel Walshaw, who was Parish Priest from 1866-1896, as an act of personal faith and devotion. The architect of St. Marie’s, Mathew Hadfield, recorded the reliquary as containing the following;
- A piece of the true cross
- A piece of Our Lady’s veil
- Katherine, St. Dorothy, St. Cecilia, St. Barbara, St. Agnes
- Martin of Tours
- Thomas of Canterbury
- Charles Borromeo
- Rose of Lima
The Pugin Chalice
The chalice was constructed following a uniting of the female portion of the congregation into a band of workers, and collectors, for the altar furniture and accessories in the new St. Marie’s church. It was named "The Ladies' Ornamental or Altar Society", and to this day substantial evidence of its doings remains in the magnificent jewelled and enamelled Pugin chalice, which was purchased, in 1850, by the society, at a cost of £50. It is a piece of very artistic work, and bears the following inscription -
"Pray for the soul of the Reverend Charles Pratt, priest and founder of the Church of St. Marie, in Sheffield, and for the good estate of the members of the Altar Society of this church, by whom this chalice is given in the year of grace 185."
Other purchases of this society were the large gilt ciborium, the Monstrance of silver gilt, and a silver Pyx, and the crimson embroidered frontal of the high altar.
The Antique Chasuble of St. Marie’s
This chasuble is of very rich and detailed design. In a neo-Gothic style, it depicts scenes representing the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady. Little is known of the exact origins of this vestment, though it is thought to originate from France, and constructed around 1870. The weaving is of metal and silk, and seems to have been woven on a Jacquard loom.