International Museum Day: 30 Objects – Communion on the Road

06 May 2017

For International Museum Day on 18 May our Head of Collections, Alice, has chosen her top 30 objects from Mount Stuart’s Collections which we’ll bring to you throughout the Month. Ranging from books, furniture, silver-work, paintings and documentation from hundreds of years of Stuart family life, this barely scratches the surface of our Collections so make sure to plan your visit and experience it for yourself!

John Patrick Crichton-Stuart the 3rd Marquess of Bute was a frequent traveller and explorer throughout his lifetime.  A man of true faith, he amassed a large collection of relics and mementos from his trips to areas of Catholic interest and pilgrimage. One such object is particularly relevant to his observance of the faith, a Russian portable communion set in the model of a tabernacle. The tabernacle was originally a tent or portable dwelling used to protect the Eucharist, the wine and wafer taken during Catholic communion as a representation of the last supper, from contamination.

Bute visited Russia in 1868, as his passport attests, and it was during this trip that he acquired this object which also contains a slip of paper in the 3rd Marquess handwriting ”This box of presents of God came from the Troitzki monastery and was made by the priest Fyodor Petrov 1733 May 3rd”. The inscription on the back in old Slavonic reads ‘This tabernacle of the priest Fyodor Petrov of the Trinity Cathedral was constructed in 1733’ confirms it was over 130 years old when he acquired it.

This trip was taken shortly before the Marquess finally converted to Catholicism a few weeks after his 21st Birthday and coming of age. Both events were widely reported in the press for very differing reasons!  In the Western Daily Press’s Tuesday January 5th 1889 edition they ran the headline “The Perversion of the Marquis of Bute” over a damning article that draws a comparison between recent events “it is not many weeks since whole districts in Wales and Scotland were rejoicing at the coming of age of a young nobleman” as their pronouncement on the news of his conversion.

“In fact whereas a few weeks we had heard that the Marquis had entered upon his inheritance of wealth and power we are disposed to regard the present news simply as an announcement that he has thrown a considerable proportion of his power away”

From Henry VIII’s break with Catholic Church in the 16th century to the gunpowder plot in the 17th restrictions on Catholics had begun to ease to such extent that by 1850 Pope Pius IX felt emboldened enough to re-establish the Roman Catholic Church. This act led to backlash of anti-Catholic feeling throughout the country, something that would have been keenly felt by Bute whilst studying at Oxford University where Catholic students were barred from joining until 1895. This fact illustrates the suspicion the religion still laboured under at the time of his conversion. Indeed anti -Catholic acts still remain in place to this day including the Act of Settlement passed in 1701 barring Catholics from the line of succession to the English and Irish thrones although Protestant heirs to the throne are now able to marry Catholics without abdicating their right to the crown.