At the sign of the Barking lion...

Shrine of the Mother of Good Counsel,
Clare Priory, Clare

At the sign of the Barking lion... - a journey through the churches of Suffolk


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The shrine is in a walkway from the former prior's house to the kitchen.

"Do whatever he tells you".

An old kitchen mortar tucked up one corner, for some reason.


The priory entrance.

I had not been to Clare Priory for several years, and it was a delight to come back. Although the Priory itself is the home of the Augustinian community, the parish church in the grounds is open to the public, and so is this pretty little shrine, established in 1998 to commemorate the 750th anniversary of the arrival of the Augustinians in Clare. That they spent 415 of those years dispossessed, many in exile, is triumphed over by the re-establishment of this focus of prayer at the heart of the buildings.

It is dedicated to the Mother of Good Counsel, a reference to the wedding at Canaan when Mary asked the servants to 'do whatever he tells you'. This philosophy of always putting oneself out to serve is central to the Augustinian philosophy.

The wing where the shrine is now was once a walkway from the kitchen to the Prior's house (the modern Priory). It probably dates from the start of the 15th century, when the Priory was expanded; at some time in the 19th century the walkway was plastered and rendered, but this has now been removed on one side, making it a transitional space between the elements and the security of the community. The focus of the shrine is a sculpture by a Benedictine nun, Sister Concordia, and is based on a 15th century fresco at Genazzanao, near Rome.

You stand on a simple, narrow brick floor, the breeze to your left flickering the flames in the round candlehost. Flowers beneath the sculpture soften and honour. 750 years become meaningless.



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