Abbey of Sts. Alban & Æthelwold
The Abbey of Saint Alban and Saint Æthelwold, or, colloquially, Botel Abbey, is an Orthodox Abbey of the Western Rite, established under the patronage of St. Alban, St. Æthelwold, and Our Lady of Walsingham. It serves as the Episcopal Palace and Diocesan Headquarters of the Diocese of Whithorn. The Monks of the Abbey aim, in their daily lives, strive for Christian Perfection in the Rule of Saint Benedict, to serve each other and the world in prayer, and to participate in the continued preservation of Britain's venerable religious heritage, both in the liturgy, and in artistic expression.
Buittle Castle, Botel in its old spelling, serves as the site for the Abbey. It is a mediaeval Motte and Bailey Castle site of significant archaeological and historical interest, serving as a royal castle seat of the Balliol dynasty in Scotland, during their kingship, as well as the home of the pious Devorguilla of Galloway, mother of King John de Balliol. She was benefactress to the founding of both the nearby Sweetheart Abbey, and Balliol College, Oxford. The motte of the Castle was besieged by Bruce Forces and damaged, after which the Tower which stands today was built, likely on top of an existing building of the Castle's Bailey.
While plans are underway to build a church on the property, the community and parishioners gather in the Abbot's chapel of Our Lady of Walsingham, or St. Mary Undercroft, as it is located in the vaulted undercroft of the Tower. Remarkably, the dimensions are almost exactly those of the original Holy House, in which the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary the tidings that she would bear a Son. This chapel also serves as the Orthodox National Shrine to Our Lady of Walsingham. The Church contains several altars and shrines, as well as many relics of Orthodox saints, including significant relics of St. Alban, St. Walburga, St. Machutus, St. Silouan of Mt. Athos, and several early Roman Martyrs.The Rood Screen displays depictions of the 12 Disciples, and the Holy House also includes relics of all of these.
St. Alban, Protomartyr of Britain
St. Alban (d. 304) was Britain's first Martyr, who died for Christ on the 22nd day of June, 304. His inspirational life, as recorded in Bede's Ecclesiastical History, recounts his glorious witness for God and the Gospel in our land. Little is known about his occupation, although some traditions suggest he may have been a soldier. He was martyred for sheltering a Christian Priest under the persecution of the Emperor Diocletian, and for switching clothes with him so the priest could escape. His executioner was converted to the Holy Faith by Alban's example of patient martyrdom, and through the miracles which shewed forth in the events which led up to it. His feast is kept on the 22nd of June.
St. Æthelwold, Bp. of Winchester, C.
St. Æthelwold (b. 904 - d.984) was a Bishop of Winchester and Benedictine Abbot during the Monastic Revival in Britain. He was born to Noble parents in Winchester, and was Monk of Glastonbury. He was later Abbot of Abingdon until his election to the See of Winchester in November 963. Between 964 and 971 he refounded monasteries at Chertsey, Milton Abbas, Peterborough, Ely, and Thorny, and the Nunnaminster Convent at Winchester.
Æthelwold was a zealous proponent of Monasticism and the Benedictine Rule, and was called 'Father of Monks' and ' Benevolent Bishops'. He is described, in the Eastern Orthodox Service to him as a 'man of noble desires', and pursued an increase in religious art and liturgy during his episcopate, even turning his own hand to gold-smithing in his leisure time. His feast is kept on the 1st of August.
Our Lady of Walsingham
The Image of Our Lady of Walsingham is a particularly British expression of the ancient Icon, Sedes Sapientiae, or Seat of Wisdom. Since the establishment of the Shrine and Holy House at Walsingham, pilgrims have flocked from all over the world. Sadly, the original shrine was destroyed under Henry VIII who, ironically, had prayed there only a few years before with great devotion. The image of Our Lady of Walsingham has been a rallying point for the restoration of Christian Tradition in Britain, and the town, once home to many monastic foundations, is once again a place of pilgrimage. The Abbey's Shrine and Altar to Our Lady of Walsingham is the only such place of pilgrimage within an Orthodox monastery.
The Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham is kept on the 24th of September.