Church Curiosities

Miserrimus


Category: Church Curiosities
Wordsworth saw the stone and was greatly moved to write:

"Miserrimus! and neither name or date,
Prayer, test, or symbol, graven on the stone;
Nought but that word assigned to the unknown;
That solitary word to separate
From all, and cast a cloud around the fate
Of him who lies beneath. Most wretched one; 
Who chose his epitaph?  Himself alone
Could thus have dared the grave to agitate,
And claim, among the dead, this awful crown;
Nor doubt that he marked also for his own,
Close to these cloistral steps, a burial place
That every foot might fall with heavier tread
Trampling upon his vileness. Stranger, pass Softly!
To save the contrite, Jesus bled".

Who was the wretched one? He was infact, the Rev. Thomas Morris, a minor canon of the Cathedral and curate of Claines, a man of great charm and eloquence, handsome, kindly and cheerful.
His story touches on the problem of loyalty, which caused so much heart-searching in the 17th century. He believed in the divine right of hereditary soverigns, and when James 11 was driven from the throne, his conscience forbade him to transfer his allegiance to the new sovereigns William and Mary. There were others like him called non-jurors ( a kind of conscientious objector) one of whom was Dean Hicks of Worcester.
Eventually they were 'ejected' from the Church, but only after the new Dean and Chapter had shown extraordinary forebearance, doing what they had to do only because it was law.
Thomas Morris withdrew from his office in the Church, but lingered under the shadow of the Cathedral , attending daily services, kind and gentle to all, leading a quiet life, till in great age, the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle extinguished the last hope that the exiled family would return, and the old man's heart was broken.
He was carried to the grave in the cloister, close to the Cathedral he loved, but outside it, as he had been ejected. His coffin was borne by six maidens dressed in white, with rosettes of a pattern of his own choosing; and by his desire, one word .. 'Miserrimus' .. was engraved on the stone.


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