Nuns celebrate return of convent’s megillah

Mother Hildegarde of the Tyburn nuns with the megillah

Mother Hildegarde of the Tyburn nuns with the megillah

An antique megillah restored by a London scribe was returned this week to its owner — a convent of nuns in the West End.

The Tyburn Nuns, who belong to a Benedictine order, received the scroll of Esther as a gift from an American supporter of Jewish-Catholic dialogue.

The heroine of the Megillah, which will be read by Jews at Purim in a few days time, has resonance for the nuns.

“We take Esther as a model of godliness, faith and virtue,” said the Mother General of the convent, Mother Xavier McMonagle, “and also as a life of sacrifice for others — she was prepared to sacrifice herself in the hope that the Lord would save her people.”

The convent was founded around a century ago near the site of the Tyburn gallows to honour the memory of more than 100 Catholics who were hanged there in the 16th and 17th centuries, and who are regarded as martyrs to the faith.

Mother McMonagle said: “Esther prayed when the Jews were faced with genocide from their enemies. She made her prayer after fasting and with total confidence in her God… and God reversed their fate miraculously.

“The story of Tyburn proclaims a similar message: the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.”

The Tyburn Megillah, whose return was due to be celebrated at an interfaith ceremony yesterday, was donated by Jordan Cherrick, a lawyer from St Louis, Missouri. Scribe Marc Michaels, who restored it, believes it dates from Italy in the late 1780s.

He said: “The parallels between the hanging tree and the kings who rid themselves of queens in the Tyburn history and the Megillah [where the villainous Haman plots to hang his arch-enemy Mordecai] are amazing.”

Last updated: 12:32pm, March 7 2014