OSJ's Spiritual Centre

The Order's Spiritual Centre:  St Leonard's Chapel, Hazlewood, North Yorkshire.

  Above:  St Leonard's Chapel interior and exterior view of the chapel from the Castle courtyard.

St Leonard's Chapel, Hazlewood, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, in the grounds of Hazlewood Castle.  The Chapel is around 900 years old and is remarkable for its brightness, acoustics and peacefully spiritual atmosphere.  It served as the Roman Catholic chapel for many years and was also used as their centre of worship by the Carmelites during their stay at Hazlewood Castle.

Regular public service are still held here, OSJ currently providing Episcopal oversight and celebrants. 

The chapel was dedicated as a shrine to the 40 Martyrs during the period when the Carmelites used Hazlewood as a monastery and retreat centre (mid 1970's to mid 1990's).  

OSJ has provided 180 Carmelite mass books so the traditions established by the Carmelites can be maintained.

The painting over the chapel's altar is a celebration of the steadfast faith of those who died during the persecution of Roman Catholics.

A Holy Place

''The Dancing Sun - Journeys to the Miracle Shrines' By Desmond Seward, Published 1993 by Macmillan, ISBN 0 333 57440 0.  See page 111.  

Hazlewood Castle might probably have developed to be a Christian pilgrimage site of equal stature to Walsingham had it not been for the actions of the then Roman Catholic Bishop.   

The fact it was not owned by the Roman Catholic church at that point in time may have been of great influence in this decision.  A story still shrouded in mystery.

Above:  Hazlewood Castle, North Yorkshire.  Frontage.  St Leonard's Chapel (extreme right) is almost hidden from view and can just be made out behind the parked cars.

St Leonard   (various sources)

According to the building report provided by English Heritage, the weather worn figure above the porch is that of St Leonard to whom the chapel is dedicated although this is disputed by other sources as being Mary, mother of Jesus, and also St Margaret.  Not many people know who St Leonard was, so here is a potted history.

St Leonard was born towards the end of the fifth century near the  town of Orleans, France. He was the son of a Frankish nobleman, a high-ranking officer in the army of the king, Clovis I.

At fourteen years of age, St Leonard went to the monastery of  Micy in Orleans and, on completion of his studies, entered Holy Orders, eventually succeeding Saint Remy at Rheims.

St Leonard's holiness attracted sick people to him. It is recorded that they obtained their recovery and spiritual enlightenment. 

The king heard of this and asked Leonard to become chaplain to his court. However, Leonard's zeal for saving souls made him refuse this tempting offer. Preferring solitude, he chose to retire in isolation to the region of Aquitaine. Finally, reaching the forest of Pauvin just north of the town of Limoges, he built himself a cell and lived on vegetables and fruit.

At first, he devoted himself to prayer and contemplation but, as a man of compassionate disposition, he later befriended prisoners and captives of war.

In one account of St Leonard's life, it is also reported that Theodebert, King of Austria and grandson of Clovis I, while hunting with his couriers in the area, became distraught when his pregnant young wife, Queen Wisigarde, who was accompanying him, went into premature labour and was having serious difficulties. The royal doctor despaired of her life. 

St Leonard arrived at her side and fell to prayer on her behalf. Through his prayers of intercession, the Queen recovered and gave birth to a healthy child. The king's gratitude was expressed by offering St Leonard the estate of Pauvin, where he was joined by young men wishing to share his monastic life and form a community. Over time, a flourishing monastery was built on this estate in honour of Our Lady of the Forest.

Leonard changed the name of Pauvin to Noblat in the King's honour. It was from here that he carried out his work of evangelisation, preaching the Gospel across the whole region.  As reports of his characteristic holiness and miracles spread, sick people were brought to him and many went back home cured. Clovis I promised to release every prisoner St Leonard converted. Many of those released in this way joined his ever-growing community.

St Leonard's pastorate continued to grow until his death on 6 November, 559 A.D.

St Leonard's fame spread as details of his life and miracle-working became known. It was reported that prisoners who invoked Leonard’s aid discovered that their chains and shackles miraculously fell from them

(Although probably based on the incident in Acts regarding St Paul,  Charles Wesley's words for 'And can it be,' (circa 1735) certainly resonate with the stories regarding St Leonard and also with the work of OSJ.)


And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour's blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?


’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.


Still the small inward voice I hear,
That whispers all my sins forgiven;
Still the atoning blood is near,
That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Saviour in my heart.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Saviour in my heart.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

It seems that Leonard was never at a loss for an edifying sentiment. “A fare of dry bread, eaten in the joy of a pure conscience,” he held, “is of more worth than a house abundantly furnished, where quarrels and divisions prevail.”

Yet St Leonard’s death was followed by five centuries of anonymity. From the 12th century, however, his name was copiously invoked, not merely throughout France, but in various parts of Europe.

In England, there were 177 churches dedicated to St Leonard, many of them in Kent and Sussex. There were also several dedications in the West Midlands, notably at Bridgnorth and Bilston, and also here in Yorkshire.

Also, monasteries, hospitals and hermitages were dedicated to him in France, Italy, England, Scotland and, not least, in Bavaria. At York, the largest medieval hospital in northern England, run by the Augustinians, was dedicated to St Leonard.

Noblat is identified as the Saint's home town and the church there became a great pilgrimage shrine.  The Saint was invoked both by women in labour and by prisoners of war.  Relics of Saint Leonard are placed above the main altar in the church of Saint Leonard de Noblat, at the place where his hermitage once stood.

St Leonard's Chapel at Hazelwood also has one relic of the saint which is housed in the tabernacle on the altar and also has the stewardship of two relics of St James the Lesser, one of St James the Great, another of St Bartholomew and one of St Ignatious Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits .  These have been obtained from various monasteries in France and Belgium by the Order of St James.  St Leonard's chapel has been re-consecrated for Christian rather than denominational use and all priests, ministers and pastors are welcome to use the chapel providing they treat it with the respect it is due.

The Order also holds a number of historical seals including those of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Greek Orthodox Church, along with its own episcopal seals, but is should be remembered that all OSJ members express their faith in their own way and through their own traditions by right of conscience.