As introduced in the last two updates (see Canterbury Cathedral and St Augustine's Abbey), a visit to the Shrine of Saint Jude allows the visitor a chance to see many other interesting and fascinating sites of pilgrimage either after a visit to us or on the way to us. All of this helps in having a truly great spiritual experience when you come and visit this corner of Kent.
In this update, I am going to discuss The Friars, Aylesford which is our sister shrine.
Also known simply at "The Friars", Aylesford Priory in Kent is one of the ancient houses of the Carmelite Order, and a major place of pilgrimage.
Aylesford (which means a "crossing place for all peoples") is a small village in the English county of Kent, where in 1242 a group of hermits from Mount Carmel were given land to establish a community by a crusader returning from the Holy Land.
Five years later Aylesford hosted a General Chapter (meeting) of Carmelites from across Europe. The hermits took decisions at that Chapter which led them to adopt the lifestyle of mendicant friars at the service of Church and Society. So fundamental was this decision to the future development of the Carmelite Order that Aylesford was henceforth revered as a spiritual epicentre, sometimes nicknamed "the second Carmel". Several leading figures of the medieval Order were associated with the priory.
The priory passed from Carmelite ownership into private hands at the Reformation in 1538, becoming known as "The Friars".
Aylesford was purchased back by the Carmelite Order in 1949 when, on 31st October (the vigil of All Saints), Mass was celebrated once again and, in the words of the first prior of the restored community, Fr. Malachy Lynch, life returned!
Aylesford Priory Today
Many of the medieval buildings have been restored and a new open-air church has been built on the site of the medieval chapel.
The shrine at Aylesford is dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption, and beautiful chapels dedicated to the saints of Carmel (notably St. Simon Stock) have been described as "prayers in stone". Aylesford has always inspired creative endeavours, and the work of artists such as Adam Kossowski and Philip Lindsey Clark who did so much in Faversham too add great beauty to the priory.