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Rare Prayer Roll Resurfaces

Updated: Dec 31, 2021

Recently, researchers reviewed a rare prayer roll from before the Dissolution of the Monasteries in England (1536-1541). What they found was startling.

A meter-long illuminated prayer roll, which is constructed from two pieces of vellum stitched together and was meant to be handled and even kissed during prayer at home, describes the rituals around the ”crosse of bromholme.” Since prayer rolls were so well used and did not have a cover to protect them like a book, only a few dozen survive to this day.

The cross, or Holy Rood of Bromholm, was housed at Bromholm Priory in Norfolk, England. It supposedly contained a piece of the cross upon which Jesus was crucified. Since it was also associated with miraculous healings, the presence of the rood made the priory a popular pilgrimage site. In fact, it is said that as many pilgrims visited the Holy Rood of Bromholm as visited the tomb of Thomas á Becket.

Since the prayer roll mentions John Underwood, prior of Bromholm (1505-1535), it was most likely commissioned by a member of his family, a wealthy pilgrim, or a worshipper at the priory. After Henry VIII closed the monasteries in 1536, the rood was taken to London and most likely destroyed. The prayer roll also disappeared, only resurfacing when it was purchased by its current owner in the 1970s.

Today, the once wealthy and powerful priory lies in ruins in a field near the village of Bacton. The prayer roll remains in private hands.


For further info about the prayer roll, visit this page.


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