St Marys Chapel | St Marys Well | Jesmond Dene Newcastle | History and A Documentated Apparition of The Virgin Mary

On Wednesday, myself and Aimee decided to take a road trip to Newcastle. We decided to pull in a pin ive had on my map for a while and only if I had looked into it a little bit more, I think our live would have been a lot longer.

Part of the path we ventured down near a tunnel lead on to so much more, named locally as ‘The Devils Canyon’ which lead onto Devils Island and a derelict hall however, on our visit that path was closed so I think its mostly definitely due another visit some time soon and I’m gutted we didn’t venture down….

Before I delve deep into the history of this location, I think its important to firstly mention that it is believed that the site in which St Marys Well and chapel sits may have been first used by pagans. St Marys Well most possibly was used as a shrine by pagans prior to Christianity becoming popular.

It was a common practice for Christian leaders to take sites from pagans and claim them as their own and they would simply sprinkle holy water on the site and claim it as a Christian site.

Therefore, the history of this particular site could go back much further than is recorded.

St Marys Chapel

St Mary’s chapel is now a historical ruin on the west bank of Jesmond Dene. Jesmond (or Jesus mound) was an important place of pilgrimage and St Marys was the 3rd biggest pilgrimage in the UK.

According to local legend, sometime after the Norman conquest, an apparition of the blessed virgin Mary holding baby Jesus appeared at what is now known as St Mary’s rock close by to the chapel.

The News of Marys apparition travelled far and we know that the church encouraged pilgrimages to holy places. As a result Jesmond’s reputation as a holy shrine grew and it soon attracted pilgrims from all over the country. 

In the 12th century, presumably in response to the advent of mass pilgrimage, St Mary’s chapel was built. At one time it was thought to house holy relics, but what them relics were are is still unknown to this day. This must have increased it’s prestige as a shrine and, as a result, the chapel was later extended in the 14th century. 

In addition to being a house of prayer the chapel may have served as a slipper chapel, where pilgrims removed their footwear before walking barefoot to St Mary’s rock.

The Chapel was that important that in 1479 a rector from Yorkshire – who  bequeathed a sum of money intended for the pilgrims – referred to the shrine as one of the greatest in the kingdom; ranking alongside places like Canterbury  and St Paul’s Cathedral. 

Over the centuries the chapel has had many owners. However, in the 18th century it was returned back to the people of Newcastle by Lord Armstrong and remains in public ownership.

St Mary’s Well

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