St Joseph Chapel

Enter the St Joseph Chapel and look to your immediate right, where you will see a statue of St Hilda with a shepherd’s crook – the traditional staff carried by Bishops, Abbots and Abbesses.

The statue also shows her holding a building in her right hand – an indication that she founded the Abbey which she led.

Now look at the pillar her statue is standing on and you will see the fossil of an ammonite – an extinct type of sea snail, many of which are found around Whitby.

A local legend explains the presence of so many ammonite fossils in Whitby by claiming that they are the remains of a plague of snakes which Hilda ended by miraculously turning them all to stone.

Look at the tiling on the right wall which are images of six virgin saints: St Catherine, St Barbara, St Dorothy, St Agnes, St Clare and St Margaret of Antioch.

Nortfolk Chapel in the Cathedral Church of St Marie

St Clare was the sister of St Francis of Assisi and is the only one of the six who is not a martyr.

Four of the six saints carry palm fronds. St Dorothy also carries a platter of roses and apples, as befits the patron saint of horticulture, florists and gardeners, while St Agnes holds the Agnus Dei lamb – a wordplay based on her name.

You will also find pomegranates, signifying resurrection and the promise of eternal life, in the background of the image of Saint Barbara.

Look at the reredos, the carved screen behind the altar, and you can see a statue of St Joseph, holding a lily.

Reredos and Altar in the St Joseph Chapel

On the left hand wall, you will find a tiled tribute to the Sisters of Notre Dame.

The tribute features the same six virgin saints that you saw on the opposite wall, together with Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, who we will meet later, as well as a depiction of St Joseph, holding a lily, the Virgin Mary and the Agnus Dei.

Look to your right as you leave the chapel and you will see a statue of the martyred Welsh saint, St Winifred, holding a palm frond.

Legend has it that Winifred was the daughter of a 12th century Welsh chieftain, whose head was cut off by her suitor, Caradog, when she decided to become a nun. A healing spring appeared where her head fell to the ground and she was miraculously restored to life by St Beuno. Winifred went on to become an Abbess, while Caradog was struck dead on the spot and the earth swallowed him up.

Statue of St Winifride of Wales in the St Joseph Chapel