Old Catholic archives, photographs, documents and memorabilia

scribeOver the years, the Abbey-Principality has been the recipient of a significant amount of archival material concerning the Old (Roman) Catholic, Independent Catholic and independent sacramental movements, as well as material concerning its own history.

The Prince-Abbot’s background as a historian means that there is a special emphasis within the Abbey-Principality on the preservation and dissemination of material relating to the wider history of the Free Catholic movement which developed from Catholic and Orthodox roots during the twentieth-century. As well as biographies of Prince-Abbot Joseph III (Archbishop Joseph-René Vilatte) and Archbishop Arnold Harris Mathew which are already in print, work continues on other key bishops and churches, embracing aspects of ecclesiology, theology and biography.

Others have often commented on the balanced, factual and fair-minded approach that we take in this work. This is not to deny the darker aspects in the careers of some of those associated with our movement, nor to approach any aspect uncritically, but is rather born of a mission that seeks a Christian equity and justice in the treatment of historical matters, and to endeavour to understand the underlying motivations, context and reasons for actions that may at first sight appear strange or problematic to the observer. In this, we seek to provide a counterweight to notable past errors of bias – whether from jurisdictional rivals settling old scores, Catholic, Anglican or Orthodox commentators seeking to discredit any nascent movement that presents an alternative to their own churches, or postmodernist historians whose mode of discourse is intentionally unsympathetic to its subjects.

Opposition to our movement in some quarters has led to the deliberate destruction or suppression of archival material, while in other situations it has passed to those who have not understood its importance and have assumed incorrectly that there is already an established central repository where such items are duplicated. Our commitment is to safeguarding our movement’s heritage so that it may be passed in good order to the next generation, and where possible to digitizing materials to ensure that copies can be readily accessed and that an electronic backup of valuable documents exists. In addition, we look to preserve the oral history of the movement through recording the experiences and recollections of those who have been active within the movement. All of this is done without any form of public funding and through the work of unstipended clergy and their assistants.

We are interested in acquiring all archival materials pertaining to Old Catholicism and related churches and movements from the nineteenth and twentieth-centuries. The materials that are of particular interest include:

  • informational pamphlets, devotional materials, clergy directories, and magazines produced by independent churches;
  • copies (including photocopies) of certificates of ordination and consecration, charters and other official documents;
  • correspondence of members of the clergy;
  • photographs of clergy, churches and events concerning the movement;
  • cuttings of newspaper coverage, particularly from the local press;
  • vestments, chalices, ciboria and similar items with a specific connexion to the movement.

We welcome donations of items, including anonymous donations. Where items are for sale, we will where appropriate make a competitive offer to purchase. Within the United Kingdom, we can also arrange to make a digital photographic record of items that are not for sale in situ.  We are also interested in hearing from those with recollections that may be suitable for recording as oral history.

If you wish to contact us, please use our email address in the first instance: innerchurch@gmail.com

About johnkersey

Historian, musician and educationalist.
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