Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding.

I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop...
It was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.


Friday, 31 December 2010

Endings and beginnings


The end of 2010 is witnessing a number of changes in the world around me. I returned to Oxford to learn that St Bede's Hall where I was listed as tutor and lecturer in History has, sadly, had to close. St Bede's was an attempt to establish a new, conciously Catholic, educational institution in the city, and much effort was put into setting it up by the initial founders, notably Dr Penny Cookson. Unfortunately they have failed to find the support they needed and have been forced to close. I feel very sorry for those like Penny who worked so hard, and hope that the vision will not be lost.

Elsewhere I hear that the Anglican Bishops of Ebbsfleet, Richborough and Fulham, who resign today, will be received or reconciled tomorrow as Catholics, and that their ordination will take place soon. So here indeed is an ending, but also the positive beginning of the Ordinariate in England. It is topic I keep very much in my prayers and hope that 2011 will see real and positive developments there.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Christmas in Totnes


I returned to Oxford today after my Christmas holiday with a cousin in Totnes in Devon. Quite apart from the pleasure of catching up with family I always enjoy my visits to what is one of the most picturesque and historic towns in the country. Oxford is not that far away in so much as for the fact that Sir Thomas Bodley and his wife were from Totnes and its neighbourhood, but in other ways a visit to Totnes is to return to a quieter England that was disappearing elsewhere even when I was a child.

We spent a quiet Christmas, whilst I had the opportunity to catch up through my cousin's Sky TV link with a whole range of historical programmes - the usual re-runs of Time Team, yet more on Akenhaten and Tutenkamen, the Holy Shroud, American biblical archaeology (with the inevitible Evangelical biblical angst), Bettany Hughes on Helen of Troy and a programme on Filippo Lippi's Adoration of the Christ Child. There was also some good ski-jumping to watch.

A break in Totnes definitely hel;ps recharge my batteries, and so back I come for more teaching, lecturing, invigilating, blogging - and, once again with several ideas I always mean to follow up as lines of research - but never quite find the time. We shall see what 2011 brings in that aspect of life.

The Battle of Wakefield 1460


Today is the 550th anniversary* of the battle of Wakefield.

This modern painting of the battle is by the excellent historical battle scene artist Graham Turner:


There is a tolerable account of the battle on Wikipedia here - my caution comes from its frequent citation of A.L.Rowse's dreadful book on the Wars of the Roses. Whatever else Rowse got from his relationship with the great K.B. Macfarlane it was not an understanding of the fifteenth century.

There is another online article about the battle here, and a longer, illustrated, essay by Keith Dockray and my good friend Richard Knowles is available here.

There is an exhibition at Wakefield Museum about the battle until the end of January.

My interest in the battle is not just that it occurred in my home area, but I was actually born on the battlefield, in Manygates Hospital, which is adjacent to the traditional site of the death of the Duke of York in 1460. I would not attribute my interest in the fifteenth century solely to that fact - there are so many associations in that part of Yorkshire with the castles of Pontefract and Sandal and the battlefield at Towton as well as that of Wakefield, but it does give one a sense of linkeage - one that comes through to my work on Bishop Fleming, whose church at Crofton still overlooks the battle site.

According to John Leland iin the sixteenth centiry Edmund Earl of Rutland, the second son of the Duke of York, was killed beyond Wakefield bridge - and not as in Shakespeare' s play where the school boy Rutland is killed despite his tutor's pleas by the vengeful Lord Clifford who exclaims "Thy father slew my father and I will slay thee." Rutland fought as a combatant in the battle, and who killed him is unknown. However Leland adds the detail that Rutland would have taken refuge in a poor woman's house but that she shut the door in his face and he was slain forthwith. I sometimes wonder if the woman was an ancestress or prototype of that icon of Yorkshire feminity, Mrs Nora Batty...**

* Allowing that is for the 1752 calendar correction.

** For the uninitiated this is a humorous reference to the BBC comedy series Last of the Summer Wine.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

St Thomas of Canterbury


Today is the feast of the martyrdom of St Thomas of Canterbury in 1170.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_X7cq0i0IwXc/S-yKVbayGHI/AAAAAAAADpM/p63jqk2TIxA/s1600/thomas_becket.jpg

A late medieval depiction of the martyrdom of St Thomas

Image: anatheimp.blogspot


St Thomas was a complex man - indeed a difficult man for his friends as well as his opponants - and King Henry II was, of course, both. These complexities are brought out splendidly in Prof. Frank Barlow's Thomas Becket.

Over the years I have become more sympathetic to St Thomas than I perhaps once was - which says something about my progress in faith - and when I worshipped at St Thomas the Martyr here in Oxford my devotion to him increased. As in the twelfth century the issues he rasied do not always have easy answers, but the underlying issue of the freedom of the Church is a crucial one to any Catholic, then or now.


St Thomas the Martyr Oxford
Fr Hunwicke's Liturgical Notes

I had the great privilege of being Churchwarden at St Thomas from 2002 until a few days before my reception at the Oratory in 2005, and in 2003 wrote and published a history of the church. The contribution it made to the Anglo-Catholic revival in the mid-nineteenth century was a remarkable one under the great Thomas Chamberlain, vicar from 1842 until his death in 1892. Chamberlain's current successor, Fr Hunwicke, is in the best traditions of the parish, and his blog, Fr Hunwicke's Liturgical Notes, has helped put it back on the map. I am sure if the internet had been available in the nineteenth century Thomas Chamberlain would have been using it.

I still live within sight of the church and keep it and its people in my prayers, especially today.

May St Thomas continue to pray for them and for the Church in England.


Sunday, 26 December 2010

More continuing Cornish Catholicism


Being temporarily based in the West country makes me all the more responsive to a second piece by Fr Hunwicke about the vitality of mid-sixteenth century Catholicism in Cornwall, which follows on from his post just before Christmas to which I linked. You can read his new account here.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Christian Remember Your Dignity


St. Leo the Great, The Early Church Father, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio

St. Leo the Great was Pope from 440-461. His preaching was eloquent and magesterial - not unlike that of his current successor in the See of Rome. This excerpt from one of his most famous Christmas sermons (Sermo 1 in Nativitate Domini, 1-3; PL 54, 190-193) is used in the Office of Readings for Christmas Day, and is one which I always find very impressive and enlivening.

Dearly beloved, today our Saviour is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness.

No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all. Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand. Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness. Let the pagan take courage as he is summoned to life.

In the fullness of time, chosen in the unfathomable depths of God’s wisdom, the Son of God took for himself our common humanity in order to reconcile it with its creator. He came to overthrow the devil, the origin of death, in that very nature by which he had overthrown mankind.

And so at the birth of our Lord the angels sing in joy: Glory to God in the highest, and they proclaim Peace to men of good will as they see the heavenly Jerusalem being built from all the nations of the world. When the angels on high are so exultant at this marvellous work of God’s goodness, what joy should it not bring to the lowly hearts of men?

Beloved, let us give thanks to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit, because in his great love for us he took pity on us, and when we were dead in our sins he brought us to life with Christ, so that in him we might be a new creation. Let us throw off our old nature and all its ways and, as we have come to birth in Christ, let us renounce the works of the flesh.

Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition. Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God’s kingdom.

Through the sacrament of baptism you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not drive away so great a guest by evil conduct and become again a slave to the devil, for your liberty was bought by the blood of Christ.

Text adapted from the Crossroads initiative website

Unto us a Child is born




A Blessed and Happy Christmas to you all





Madonna of the Rose Bower

c. 1440

Stefan Lochner c.1400-1451

Oil on panel, 51 x 40 cm
Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne


This small panel which employs several iconographic models is an especially charming remnant of Cologne Gothic.

It depicts the "humble Madonna" (Madonna dell' Umiltà) as Mary is sitting on the ground or on a pillow placed on the ground, gently holding an infant in her lap. Their figures are surrounded by adoring angels who offer flowers and fruits to the baby Jesus. To create a backdrop for the scene, two diligent angels stretch out a golden brocade curtain which reminds the viewer of the reigning, victorious Madonna. At the same time, this curtain insures separation from the rest of the world and the intimacy of the holy family. Above, surrounded by light-rays, we can see God the Father and the dove of the Holy Spirit. This intimates the Immaculate Conception; thus the painting includes the depiction of the Holy Trinity. This is the picture of completeness with the Divine Mother as its centre.

The image of being enclosed is reinforced by another motif: the low stone wall around Mary, which recalls the "hortus conclusus" (enclosed garden), the symbol of Mary's purity and innocence.

The spectacular carpet of flowers covering the ground intimates the earthly Garden of Eden, as does the bower of roses. Roses were often connected with the Madonna; such a simile appears in several medieval Latin hymns to the Virgin.

The musical child angels in the foreground play an important part in the creation of an idyllic atmosphere. Their instruments - two different sized lutes, a harp and a portative organ - are realistically rendered, and their small hands reveal their musical expertise.

Notes from the Web Galley of Art



Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Continuing Cornish Catholicism


Fr Hunwicke had an interesting post yesterday about the continuing practise of Catholicism in mid-sixteenth century England - or in this case, particularly, the diocese of Exeter. He begins with the life of Fr Tregear, vicar of St Allen in western Cornwall from 1544 - 83, and his conformity or otherwise to the changes visited upon the parish and parishioners by successive governments. It can be read here.


Church

St Allen church
Photo by Steve Beazley

Monday, 20 December 2010

The 1962 Missal


There is a sensible piece here about the status of the 1962 Missal on a new and promising blog, The Liturgical Pimpernel , which I discovered thanks to NLM. He makes some good points, and indicate a way forward in the discussion about restoring and renewing the Rites of the Church.

In the bleak midwinter


Given the weather readers may be amused by this piece from Fr Tim Finigan on his Hermeneutic of Continuity blog.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Translating the Missal


Fr Tim at Hermeneutic of Continuity recently had this post about the delays to the new English translation of the Missal, and the reported reasons.

http://www.stjudeshop.com/resources/StJudeShop/images/products/processed/24360.zoom.a.jpg


This is a very important topic, and the material he presents worth looking at.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

King Henri's head


An interesting story caught my eye on the web today about the identification of the head of King Henri IV of France and the plan to re-inter it at St Denis. You can read it here.

There are further reports, with illustrations, from the Daily Mail and also in the Daily Telegraph.

A mummified head dug up after the French Revolution, lost for a century and unearthed by an antiques dealer belongs to Henri IV, the revered French king who died 400 years ago, leading historians and scientists have revealed.

King Henri IV

Reburial of the head of the King at St Denis would be some small act of reparation for the frightful desecration of the royal tombs in 1793, and perhaps one also for the ingratitude of so many of the French towards the monarchy that created the country.

2011 thus may afford us the sight of something like a royal funeral at St Denis - presumably the first since that of King Louis XVIII in 1824.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Masses in the Extraordinary Form in December


For the rest of December there will be additional celebrations of Mass in the Extrordinary Form in the Oxford area as follows:

Friday December 17th 6pm Low Mass: Ember Friday of Advent, SS Gregory & Augustine

Saturday December 18th 7am Sung Mass, votive Rorate Mass of Our Lady, Oxford Oratory


Christmas Day, Saturday December 25th

Midnight Mass, Sung, 12 Midnight, St William of York, Reading (Carols from 11.30pm)

Dawn Mass, Low, 8.30am, St Anthony of Padua

Mass of Christmas Day, Low, 8am, Oxford Oratory

Mass of Christmas Day, Low, 11am, St William of York, Reading

In addition there are the regular celebrations in the EF at The Oratory, SS Gregory and Augustine, St Anthony of Padua in Oxford and at St Birinus at Dorchester and at St William of York in Reading.

In 2011 Fr John Saward is going to start, as an experiment, celebrating a Mass on the 2nd Sunday of each month at 12 noon at SS Gregory and Augustine. These will normally be sung. The first will be on January 9th; they are confirmed for February 13th, March 13th, and April 10th.

Medieval standards of living


Two friends have forwarded to me a link to this article which offers some interesting points about medieval living standards, and rather confirming what some of us have thought or suspected all along.


Friday, 10 December 2010

More on the Crown of Finland


Following my post abbout the King of Finland and his crown I received the following pieces from my Orielensis friend in Finland, Konsta Helle - perhaps I should head this From Our Finnish Correspondent.

"After not checking your blog for a few days I was delighted to find out you had posted a piece on Finland; it's rather a shame there's very little information on the proposed Kingdom of Finland in English. Dr Vesa Vares, a Finnish political historian, wrote an eminently readable and scholarly treatise on the topic in 1998, entitled Kuninkaan Tekijät: Suomalainen Monarkia 1917-1919 (Makers of a King: The Finnish Monarchy 1917-1919.) Dr Vares has written quite a lot in English and in German, but as far as I know the monograph is currently only available in Finnish.

One of the interesting and quite unique aspects of Finnish history is that while it was eventually deemed expedient to have a president instead of a king, the wide-ranging political powers designed for the king remained practically identical in the republican constitution; and thus between 1918 and 2000 (when the constitution was altered) we had a president who could - and often, especially at the time of Urho Kekkonen, would - exercise extremely dominant though perfectly constitutional political role ranging from appointing 'his men' for bishops, judges, and ambassadors to dissolving parliaments, calling general elections, sacking ministers, and single-handedly conducting foreign policy. It's also notable that the very monarchical systems of noble titles and their inheritance continues together with the proliferation of various military and chivalric orders. "

In response to an e-mail from me he adds

" I should add that the old constitution I mentioned was not a single entity (like the new one is) but was composed of several pieces of legislation passed between 1918 and 1928 with various later amendments. The most important individual act was the 1919 Order of Government, or Hallitusmuoto in Finnish.

There is further information on various noble families and Finnish nobility here - click a link on the right for an English summary. There's also a website for different orders of chivalry here and here .

The three current orders are the Order of the Cross of Liberty, the Order of the White Rose of Finland, and the Order of the Finnish Lion. The President of the Republic is the Grand Master of all three orders and has the sole right and authority to award decorations.

Here's a collection of photos of the different types and classes of decorations of the Order of the Cross of Liberty, for the Order of the White Rose of Finland, and for the Order of the Lion of Finland.

The presidential website has some detailed information on the subject here.

Konsta adds "Hope this is of interest, and please let me know if you'd like to know more about the subject! "

Well, yes I would!


king_of_finland.JPG

Image from the Almanach de Gotha


Adding to the blogroll


I have been adding to the various blogs and websites I list at the side. Readers will, or may, find some at least of them of interest.

Ite ad Thomam is, as its name suggests, a Thomist site from a distinctly traditional perspective. I met the author at the Garrigou-Lagrange conference.

Audio Sancto is an extensive series of on-line audio sermons from a traditional orthodox perspective and comes to me highly recommended.

There are two sites from Dom David Bird OSB, a monk of Belmont whom I met there on one occasion, although he spends most of his time at the abbey's daughter house of Tambogrande in Peru. One is his monastic blog Monks and Mermaids, the other is Heavengate dealing with liturgical matters. That is more 'Reform of the Reform' in its emphasis than Traditionalist, and has an interest in Orthodox practice. I think it worth including as a way of carrying forward discussion about this topic, even if it is not entirely my point of view.

I have added the site of the Australian St Bede Studio which discusses vestments as well as advertising the ones they make.

Royal Musings is a US based site, and consists largely of copies of contemporary American press reports of the last 150 or so years about European dynasties, which makes for interesting reading. In other articles the author shows an understanding of the technicalities of royal precedence that is impressive and far better than the stuff one reads in the press here.

A friend tipped me off about the existence of the site European Heraldry. This is what might be described as seriously hardcore, the sort of thing that should be sent out under plaincover. Not for the fainthearted- but who fainthearted would look at my blog?

As another friend said "If it's mad, or bad, or Catholic and sad, it's on John's blog."

Our Lady of Guadalupe and St Juan Diego Cuatitiatoatzin


This year as it falls on Sunday we shall miss out on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, but today is that of St Juan Diego Cuatitiatoatzin, who received the vision of Our Lady and whose tilma bears her image.



Our Lady of Guadalupe

The apparition at Guadalupe has been interpreted in a variety of ways. One has emphasised its providential nature, as with others in later centuries related to times of crisis in the Church. at the time of the spread of heresy in the reformation era. Indeed in contast to the view that Guadalupe represents a Catholic or Counter Reformation sensibility it is interesting to realise from an English standpoint that in December 1531 King Henry VIII had not yet broken with Rome - so Our Lady of Guadalupe is in a real sense in communion with pre-reformation England.

More immportant perhaps is the fact that Our Lady's appearing to St Juan Diego can be seen as a positive recognition of his and his countrymen's conversion and their full membership of the Catholic Church, thus anticipating the debate about the status of the native populations of the Spanish Empire in succeeding decades.

The Conquistadors brought Christianity to the Americas, the true "Liberation theology" that delivered the inhabitants from slavery to appalling religious systems. Next time a dewy-eyed PC pinko-liberal witters on in your presence, as they are wont to do, about the "evils" visited upon the New World by the Spanish Conquest just remind them of the nature and realities of Aztec worship...

As a friend once expressed it with his customary eloquence "The best thing any dago ever did was stamping out native South American religion."

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Spanish Blue


Today, as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, is the day for Spanish Blue.

No, its not cheese - a blue veined Manchego perhaps - still less pornography - a dubious product of the back streets of Barcelona - but is, of course, a liturgical colour, conceded to the Church in Spain and in her former colonies by Pope Pius IX in recognition of the support given by the Spanish for the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. On the basis that they were once base in the Spanish Netherlands the use of the colour has been adopted by some EBC houses such as Downside. It is also used by some Marian shrines - remember (well, lets try not to) the hideous vestments Archbishop Marini had for the Pope on his visit to Mariazell - though one theory is that they were the cause of the Archbishop's retirement.

This time last year the NLM had two illustrated posts about the colour which can be viewed here and here

The chosen shade of blue appears to derive from the riband of the Order of Charles III, which is under the patronage of the Immaculate Conception, and depicts that on its badge and star.

The Spanish Privilege is not to be confused with Sarum blue. That was a very different colour, and from its iuse in Advent probably originated as substitute for violet, which was always an expensive colour. If I remember aright from the appropriate volume on liturgical colours in the Henry Bradshaw Society medieval dioceses followed the use of their cathedral - thus Wells wore blue and Exeter violet.

Sarum blue is a darker shade, as in this extant fifteenth century example:


Sarum Blue vestment worn by the late Fr David Higham
Photograph from Lacrimarum Valle

There is a link here to a piece from the Australian St Bede Studio about the variety in the shades and use of blue, violet and red in ecclesiastical dress.

Reviving Sarum Blue was a point of honour with some Anglo-Catholics of a past generation, and it has, I believe, remained popular with some of their successors in the US. Here in England the most prominent church to use it is Westminster Abbey - there it is used as a mourning colour - remember the funeral of Diana Princess of Wales. Maybe the Ordinariate can restore its use to the wider Church.

As for the Spanish variety perhaps the English Marian shrines should petition for the right to use it.


Tuesday, 7 December 2010

St Ambrose in Milan


Today being the feast of St Ambrose it seems appropriate to share these views of this Doctor of the Church from Milan.


A restored fifth century mosaic portrait from his shrine church of Sant' Ambrogio - so it may preserve some memory of his appearance as he died in 397.

Image: Wikipedia

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/52/124723968_aff97d80b8.jpg

Today in Sant'Ambrogio Ambrose, vested in white and with a mitre on his skull, lies between the martyrs SS Gervasius and Protasius, whose remains he discovered.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Relics of St Nicholas


St Nicholas is a saint whose cult has spread far and wide, and who retains his appeal - even if only as Santa Claus. Today is his feast day.

A few years ago I twice saw a programme on television about the relics preserved at Bari which are well attested to be those of the Saint. There is a page here from the St Nicholas Center about these and other relics elsewhere, and here there is an illustrated, English-language page on the examinations in the 1950s of the relics believed to be St Nicholas at Bari.

The St Nicholas Center appears from its website to be a rich source of information on all aspects of the Saint and his cult. The following image is taken from their piece about reconstructing the facial features of the skull at Bari:

Reconstructed face

Image: St Nicholas center


As the website shows this accords well with the iconographic tradition in Orthodoxy as to the appearance of St Nicholas.


The Gospels of St Chad

Cutting-Edge Imaging Helps Scholar Reveal 8th-Century Manuscript 1

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Image of St. Luke in the St. Chad Gospels
Courtesy of The Dean and Chapter of Lichfield Cathedral


The Medieval Religion discussion group has a link today to an article about work by two academics from the University of Kentucky on digitising and interpreting the eighth century St Chad Gospels at Lichfield Cathedral. You can read it here.

St Chad, about whom there is a good article here, died in 672. The Gospels date from c.730 and were associated with his shrine at Lichfield.

The relics of St Chad himself are now preserved in the Metropolitan Cathedral in Birmingham, which is dedicated to him.

Friday Fast


It was interesting, and a hopeful sign, to read in the Bishop of Arundel and Brighton's Advent pastoral letter that he appears keen to see the restoration of the Friday Fast to Catholic life in this country. You can read his letter here, courtesy of  Laurence England's That The Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill.

I always aim to observe the Friday fasting rules, and equally when one is permitted to eat meat on a Friday which is a Solemnity I appreciate the privilege. It is something we can encourage our fellow Catholics to do just by our own practice.

The Crown of Finland


Today is Independence Day in Finland - so it is an opportunity to send greetings to my regular reader and fellow Orielensis in Finland - and also to post about one of the might-have-beens of twentieth century dynastic history.

When on 6 December 1917 the Grand Principality of Finland (often referred to as a Grand Duchy although that was not the correct title) declared itself independent the future form of its government was unresolved. Following a civil war the cause of retaining a Finnish monarchy being in the ascendant the crown of the new Kingdom of Finland was offered to the Landgrave Frederick Charles of Hesse-Kassel in October 1918. He was the brother -in-law of Kaiser Wilhelm II, being married to Wilhelm's sister Princess Margaret of Prussia. The new King, about whose regnal name there remains some dispute - Charles I, Frederick Charles I or Vaino I (which appears altogether less probable than many sources might suggest) never managed to reach his kingdom before the German capitulation led him to renounce his claim in Decmber of the same year. His rather splendid array of titles - King of Finland and Karelia, Duke of Aland, Grand Prince of Lapland, Lord of Kaleva and the North (Suomen ja Karjalan kuningas, Ahvenanmaan herttua, Lapinmaan suuriruhtinas, Kalevan ja Pohjolan isäntä)- were not, alas, to become a reality.

The succession would today be with Landgrave Moritz of Hesse, and afer him his second son Prince Philipp of Hesse could be a theoretical claimant if the principle of the second son succeeding to te Finnish crown obtained - which is rather difficult to imagine as a regular system of inheritance. The links give more details and portraits. There is a similar account in the online Almanach de Gotha, with the appropriate heraldry.

Now one might very well regret that the Kingdom of Finland under another branch of the extended Scandinavian and German royal houses did not join them in providing a stable constitutional basis for government. What was surprising was to discover the existence of a crown for the King to wear, or at least symbolise his sovereignty and that of Finland. Moreover it was made in recent years.



The crown was designed in Finland in 1918 for the proposed King.The crown which exists today was made by goldsmith Teuvo Ypyä in the 1990s, based on the original drawings, and is kept in a museum in Kemi where it can be seen today. The crown, which is made of silver gilt, consists of a circlet and cap decorated with the arms in enamel of various provinces of the realm. Above the circlet are two arches. Topping the arches is not a cross and globe as in most European crowns, but a gold rampant lion in the form as found in the coat or arms of Finland.
The inner circumference of the crown is approximately 58 centimeters and it weight about 2 kilograms.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

The Bishops Conference


I was going to put a link in to an article by Dominic Scarborough on Catholic World Report about the Bishops Conference for England and Wales and its relations with both the Papacy and the laity, but have found that others have got there before me (no surprise in that), so here is a link to Fr Ray Blake's blog post about it, which contains a link to the original article . You can read it all here.


Resumption of service


Now we have got to the end of Term, and hence more time and also, hopefully, a few computer glitches have been sorted out I can resume posting on a more regular basis once again. Some posts which have been delayed may appear a little later than was intended. Well, that's what I hope.

Postscript

I think I have managed to work out how to re-write and insert in their proper places various posts which were being awkward, so if you are a regular reader - and I know there are some of you - bear with me and I will re-insert over the next couple of days some posts for this last week. Therefore this is not the most recent post in the sequence, just the first to appear... scroll down the page for posts for November 30th and December 1st.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The last Abbot of Colchester


December 1st 1539 saw the third martyrdom of an English Benedictine abbot that autumn, with that of the Abbot of Colchester following those of his brothers of Reading and Glastonbury.

Bl John Beche, was also apparently known as Thomas Marshall - I have not seen an explanation of this point.

His date of birth is unknown. He was educated at Oxford (probably at the Benedictine Gloucester Hall, now Worcester College) and he took his degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1515, and within the next fifteen years ruled the Abbey of St. Werburgh, Chester (now Chester Cathedral), his name appearing as twenty-sixth on the roll of abbots of that foundation.

He was elected Abbot of St. John's, Colchester, 10 June, 1530, and, with sixteen of his monks, took the Oath of Supremacy on 7 July, 1534. The year 1535 brought the martyrdoms of the three Carthusian priors and their companions (4 May), of St John Fisher (22 June), and of St. Thomas More (6 July), all for the Papal right to universal supremacy in spirituals. Beche was so deeply affected by these examples that his unguarded expressions of reverence and veneration for the martyrs, reported by spies, drew down upon him the resentment of the King. In November, 1538, the Abbot of St. John's further exasperated Henry and his ministers by denying the legal right of a royal commission to confiscate his abbey. Within a year of this he was committed to the Tower of London on a charge of treason, was discharged from custody, and rearrested some time before the 1st of November, 1539.

Witnesses were found to testify how the abbot had said that God would "take vengeance for the putting down of these houses of religion", that Fisher and More "died like good men and it was pity of their deaths", and that the reason for the King's revolt from Catholic unity was his desire to marry Anne Boleyn. In his own examination the abbot yielded to human weakness and tried to explain away his former assertions of Catholic truth. Despite this he eventually received martyrdom. Tried at Colchester, by a special commission, in November, 1539, he no longer pleaded against the charge of contumacy to the newly established order of things. He was convicted and executed.

An anonymous contemporary partisan of Henry, quoted by Dom Bede Camm in "English Martyrs", I, 400, says of Abbot Beche and others who died at that time for the same offences, "It is not to be as these trusty traitors have so valiantly jeopardized a joint for the Bishop of Rome's sake. . .his Holiness will look upon their pains as upon Thomas Becket's, seeing it is for like matter".

Pope Leo XIII beatified Abbot John Beche on 13 May, 1895.
Adapted from the Catholic Encyclopedia 1913

The abbey is depicted in a drawing done before the dissolution - a rare thing in itself - and it gives some idea of the appearence of the church


The abbey church of Colchester before the dissolution.
From BL Cottonian MS Nero D VIII


The fifteenth century gateway and some stretches of precint wall are all that survive - the gateway gives some idea of what has been lost.


Photo from Wikipedia

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

St Andrew's Day


Fr Hunwicke has two posts relevant to today - well worth reading with their comments, both about the reconciliation of England to the Church in 1554, and of the diocese of Durham in 1569, and about the possible options for the Ordinariate liturgy. You can find them here and here.


The Order of St Andrew the First Called


In addition to the Order of the Thistle the late seventeenth century witnessed the establishment of the premier Order of the Russian monarchy when in 1698, in emulation of other European monarchs, the Emperor Peter I established the Order of St Andrew the First Called. The Order of St Andrew was Russia’s oldest and most exalted chivalric order, and awarded for the highest civilian or military achievements. This remained the senior Russian Order down to 1917, and was revived in 1998 by President Yeltsin. There is an article about it here. Its annual celebration was held on 30 November, the feast day of St Andrew.

The following paragraphs are adapted and edited from an article based on a catalogue description by Valentina N. Nikitina, in The St Petersburg Times from 1999.

The Order of St. Andrew the First Called (Andrei Pervozvannyi) was named in honor of the Apostle who, from the time of the Kiev princes, had been the patron saint of the Russian lands. The highest Russian order of St. Andrew was awarded rarely. It was conferred principally on members of the royal family, heads of foreign states and "exceptional servants" of the state: dignitaries, diplomats or successful military commanders such as Count Alexander Suvorov and Prince Mikhail Kutuzov. A British recipient was the first Duke of Wellington.The heir to the Russian throne and other male members of the Romanov dynasty were awarded the Order at his christening, and female members recieved the Order on their coming of age.

The order had one class. Its symbol was a saltire, or X-shaped cross, with the letters SAPR (St. Andrew Patron of Russia) on the ends of the arms and an enamel image of the crucified saint. The cross is attached to the breast of a black two-headed eagle wearing three crowns with ribbons. The cross was worn on a broad blue riband stretching from the right shoulder to the waist.

The star is silver with eight points interspersed with rays. In the centre of the star is a two-headed eagle holding a blue cross of St. Andrew in its beak and claws, and surrounded by the motto of the order: "For faith and faithfulness."

On the feast day of the Order, and on other particularly solemn occasions, the Knights of the Order wore a gold collar instead of the riband. The collar is composed of three alternating links decorated with brightly colored enamels. These three links bear the state emblem of the two-headed eagle, rosettes with the cross of St. Andrew and a cartouche bearing the monogram of Peter the Great.

The order was redesigned for Emperor Nicholas I (1825-55) during the 1850s, and the new design was ratified and adopted by the Chapter of Orders from December 1856.

The example here originally was issued from the Chapter of Imperial Orders with a decree that it was the property of the Tsarevich Nikolai Alexandrovich (eldest son of Emperor Aleaxander II, and elder brother of the fuure Emperor Aleaxander III), who died in 1865 at the age of 22. It carries the hallmark of Master Alexander Kordes and of the most famous St. Petersburg firm of medalists, Keibel. This firm produced insignia of all the Orders throughout the 19th century for the Chapter of Orders and the Cabinet of His Imperial Highness.

Collar, badge and star of the Order by Keibel, St Petersburg, 1850s-60s
Badge Height: 8.9 centimeters; Width: 6.4 centimeters
Star Diameter: 9.2 cm.
Collar Length: 107.5 cm.
Photo from Kremin Museum and the St Petersburg Times 1999


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The Star of the Order set with diamonds and pearls.
This appears to pre-date the 1850s redesign


The Officers of the Order had their own ceremonial uniforms. That of the Herald was on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum's exhibition of Imperial Russian costumes in 2009, when I was fortunate enough to see it. This elaborate costume, like that of all the Orders’ heralds, was worn for ceremonies and at court.

Dress of the Herald of the Order of St Andrew, 1797. Museum no. TK-1658, TK2561/1-2, © The Moscow Kremlin Museums

Dress of the Herald of the Order of St Andrew
Russia (St Petersburg)
1797

Gloves: kidskin trimmed with silver braid and fringe, by Johann Conrad Weber
Museum no. TK-1658, TK2561/1-2
© The Moscow Kremlin Museums

Boots worn by the Herald of the Order of St Andrew, Johann Daniel Ermscher, 1797. Museum no. TK-1693/1-2, © The Moscow Kremlin Museums

Boots worn by the Herald of the Order of St Andrew
Johann Daniel Ermscher
Russia
1797
Silk velvet trimmed with silver braid, fringe and embroidery
Museum no. TK-1693/1-2
© The Moscow Kremlin Museums

The boots of the Herald of the Order of St Andrew are made from black velvet and embellished with silver braid and rosettes. Their shape and the lacing and crossed braid down the centre front are deliberately historical in style. Similar boots were worn by coronation heralds in the late 18th century. Made in red velvet with red leather heels, they were embroidered with lions’ heads. The lacing up the front and the decorative components were probably modelled on boots worn during the Roman Empire. In both cases, such ornament and style emphasised the importance of the ceremonial role of the herald as the representative and messenger of the Tsar.

The Order of the Thistle


Today being St Andrew's feast day seems an appropriate one on which to post something about the Most Noble and Most Ancient Order of the Thistle, founded in its present form in 1687.

There is a detailed and well referenced article here about the Order.

To that I would add the following reflections.

The ascription of the foundation of the Order to King James III (1460-88) appears to derive in particular from the presence in the inventory of his treasure made after his death at the battle of Sauchieburn in 1488 of a collar whose description matches that of the present Order. The design of links bearing the Thistle and sprigs of rue, said to be the floral emblem of the Picts looks to my eye like a typical late medieval punning rebus - Thistle and rue/Thistle Andrew.

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St Andrew with King James III and the future King James IV.
From the Trinity Panels by Hugo van der Goes
Royal Collection on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland
Photo from Englishmonarchs.orm

I discussed these points with a Scottish academic at the last Fifteenth Century Conference to be held in Oxford. She had done her doctoral thesis on chivalric culture in late medieval Scotland, and was clear in her own mind that James III had not founded an Order such as the Thistle. Nonetheless he does seem to have at least produced the design of the collar, and indeed to have promoted the Thistle as a national emblem. Like his son King James IV and his grandson King James V he seems to have been keen to demonstrate the courtly and artistic claims of the Scottish monarchy.

King James V's claim to be the founder of the Order arises partly from the fact that he is depicted in contemporary as well as later paintings wearing a collar of Thistles - perhaps his grandfathers'.



Anonymous, probably contemporary, portrait of King James V
Photo from Wikipedia

It is at least likely that the KIng established an Order in about 1540, but that his death in 1542 caused it to founder during the minority of his daughter Queen Mary I. One reason for him founding his own chivalric order was that, courted by the great powers of the day he had received the Garter from King Henry VIII, the Golden Fleece from the Emperor Charles V and the St Michael from King Francis I, and wanted to show himself their equal in courtly display.
The restored carvings showing the arms of England, Scotland, Spain and France encircled by their chivalric Orders over the entrance to the Palace at Linlithgow, built by King James V circa 1540
Photo from Scottishramparts.com

Thereafter the Order appears to have disappeared, and indeed in other Protestant countries such as Denmark and Sweden late medieval chivalric orders went into abeyance until later centuries revived them.

When King James VII established the Order in 1687 I think I am correct in saying that I have seen it stated that he designated purple mantles for the knights, and that the choice of green dates from the further revival under Queen Anne in 1703 - no conferments having been made since her father's flight in 1688. In 1687-8 King James had athe St Andrew Jewel made- a cameo with the saltire and thstle surrounded by twelve diamonds. This was one of the jewels he took with him into exile, and they were bequeathed to King George III in 1807 by Cardinal York (the de jure King Henry IX and I). On December 8th 1830 King William IV orded that they be displayed with the Honours of Scotland in Edinburgh Castle.

King James VII also renovated the nave of
Holyrood Abbey as a Chapel Royal, but this was sacked and the royal tombs desecrated in 1688 by the Edinburgh mob, and in 1768 the vault of the nave collapsed, leaving the ruin one sees today. The restoration of these remains of the abbey church has been proposed several times since the 18th century - in 1835 by the architect James Gillespie Graham as a meeting place for the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and, in 1906, as a chapel for the Knights of the Thistle, but both proposals were rejected. In the case of the latter plan I think it rather a missed opportunity, although Sir Robert Lorimer did produce instead in 1911 the beautiful chapel of the Order at St Giles Cathedral.

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The Queen and Prince Philip with the Officers of the Order of the Thistle outside St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh

Photo from shug17uk on Flickr

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Garrigou-Lagrange conference



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Today I attended the congference at Blackfriars on the work of Fr Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange (1877-1964). It was a well attended and well organised event with a series of interesting addresses.


The first speaker was Fr Richard Peddicord OP, who has published a life of Garrigou-Lagrange The Sacred Monster of Thomism . His paper considered Garrigou's critique of the work of Henri Bergson and Maurice Blondel. This was followed by a paper from Fr Aidan Nichols OP, who has also recently published a book on him an dhis influence on the Catholic Church, on Garrigou and Henry de Lubac on Divine Revelation, drawing out their common emphases in two very different works. After lunch we had a talk from Fr Henry Donneaud OP about Garrigou and Chenu's fundamentally different approaches to Thomism and the Nature of Theology and the ways they influenced one another in their writings.


This was followed by three responses from Prof John Sullivan of LIverpool Hope University, a specialist in the work of Blondel, Fr Thomas Crean OP and Fr Philip Endean SJ.


For someone not versed in Garrigou-Lagrange's work the day provided useful sign posts with which to study his very substantial range of work, and indeed a wish so to do. Several of his major works ahve been reprinted by TAN, and some texys are available online.


What would be interesting would be to have another such conference on Garrigou-Lagrange's work and teaching on spirituality, his mystical theology and call for contemplation by the faithful.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Christ as Angel





You can find interesting posts and comments discussing these two Russian icons, blending theology, liturgy and art on  Fr Blake's blog and on Fr Hunwicke's blog.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Oxford Pro-Life Witness



Saturday 27th November- Oxford Pro-Life Witness

3pm - 4pm

Meet at the Church of St Anthony of Padua, Headley Way, where car parking is available.

The witness takes place just in front of the Church along the entrance to the John Radcliffe Hospital - the only abortion provider in the whole of Oxfordshire.

Prayers are offered for all unborn children, their mothers and fathers and all those involved with the sin of abortion.

Refreshments available afterwards in the Church hall.



Please support this event- for more information call Amanda: 01869 600638

Monday, 22 November 2010

Which Pope are you?

A friend told me that he has recently done an online questionnaire as to which, amongst recent Popes, he was most alike. In his case the answer was Pius VII. The questionnaire did not go too far back into Papal history, but if it did...

Well of course you might well turn out to be a saint, but just suppose you turned out to be Paul IV, Julius II, Alexander VI, Urban VI, John XXII, Boniface VIII, Celestine V (who was canonized as St Peter of Morone, of course), Innocent IV, Innocent III, Urban II, Gregory VII, Benedict XI, John XII ( Wikipedia is restrained in its details as to the circumstances of his fatal stroke...) or Stephen VI. That is not to say they were bad men, and in many cases proved to be great Popes, but they were, well, interesting and characterful.

Mind you, you would really worry if you were John XX...

What the Pope actually said

The leaking of extracts from Peter Seewald's new series of interviews with the Pope Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and the Signs of the Times has led to an enormous outpouring of words in print, on air and on the internet.

Here is what the Pope actually said together with a commentary by Dr Janet Smith.

Since I first wrote this the continuing discussion has produced solid responses from Fr Joseph Fessio SJ, bioethicist John Haas and from the newly created Cardinal Burke


As a traditionalist friend said to me the other evening some of the more fervent coverage on the blogosphere reads almost like a debate on: How many homosexuals can dance on the top of a condom?

The King of Spain - thirty five years on


Today is the 35th anniversary of the King of Spain assuming the crown when he took the constitutional oath in front of the Cortes and the Council of the Realm, thus definitively re-establishing and restoring the Spanish monarchy in 1975.

http://www.voicesofthetransition.net/images/coronation.jpg

The accession ceremony in 1975

Now for me that was indeed a time when to be (relatively) young was very Heaven. Here one was witnessing the restoration of a great and historic institution. I remember reading at the time John Evelyn's account of the arrival of King Charles II in London in 1660 to put events in historical context.

Back in 1975 clever people dismissed the King's chances of survival - he was going to be 'Juan Carlos the Brief'...

Thirty five yeas on he and his people can look back over the process whereby the restored monarchy has enabled the various and varied groups which comprise Spanish society to reconcile differences and find means of living together as a society. In a time of constitutional, political and social change the Crown has provided a symbolic and actual centre of unity, and been an enabling force, as in 1981 when the King withstood the attempted coup.

As I posted recently Portugal as a neighbour and as a country with a not dissimilar history is one that I think could profit from the Spanish experience, as could those countries which became free after 1989 - indeed Bulgaria did have the novel experiment of the legitimate King as Prime minister of a republic. The achievement of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, and of their family is considerable, and worthy of emulation. Long may they reign!


King Juan Carlos of Spain undergoes surgery

The King of Spain

St Cecilia's Day


Although St Cecilia is the patron of musicians this post is not about music. As someone with no musical skill - once eloquently addressed by a distinguished Anglican clergyman renowned for his pastoral sensitivity thus "Do n't sing! You have the worst voice I've ever heard" - I leave such matters to others.

However it is a day on which the church and parish of St Cecilia at Parson Cross in Sheffield is in my thoughts and prayers. The parish website is here.

It was originally established as a parish and priory in 1938 by the Society of the Sacred Mission (the Kelham Fathers) for a sprawling re-housing scheme on the northern edge of the city. When I came to know it SSM had left and the vicar was Canon Geoffrey Bostock, a relatively late ordinand who had previously spent about twenty years with the Anglican Franciscans. I responded to an advertisement in the Church Times publicising the parish as a community within which one could explore one's vocation. In the years 1989-91 I stayed on several occasions at St Cecilia's

Life there in the clergy house was cultured and urbane, and somewhat eccentric. It was the nearest thing I ever saw in those Anglican days to an Oratory. Not that it was very Anglican - full modern Roman rite, and Papal blessings to the faithful of the parish at the back of church. Many of the church furnishings were Fr Geoffrey's own property and followed him on his travels. You met interesting people at the clergy house. In part he ran the Priory as a place where clergy who had had difficult experiences could recover and move on to new ministries.

Geoffrey Bostock became a good and valued friend, and we maintained contact when he moved early in 1992 to the Bilham group of parishes - Hooton Pagnell, Brodsworth, Marr and Frickley - and I spent Christmas and New Year 1995-6 and Easter 1997 there. In 1997 he retired to a house-for-duty arrangement at Burghwallis and died the following year. As with some other places where I have been happy I have no wish to go back to visit St Cecilia's - I understand part of the priory buildings have had to be demolished - but I certainly wish it well, and am very thankful for my several visits there.

He was a very kind, generous, humane man, and very much in the best traditions of Catholicism within the Anglican church. I feel sure he would have welcomed the Ordinariate. Staying at St Cecilia's opened up my awareness of what Catholicism is about, and time there and at Bilham helped shape my journey that eventually led me to Rome.


http://4058533369739601169-a-1802744773732722657-s-sites.googlegroups.com/site/saintceciliaparsoncross/history/the-reredos-in-saint-cecilia-s/Reredos-Colour.jpg?attachauth=ANoY7cpzoauuCn1vXhl4MvltID2yTkV4yinSgEK6OoMnYR5NJRJLuDIARmKvHPlZ2hOcojufvdGrp3QpzDYxKLaUI-oE2KZjo907zi69Tb2e2zWRnUtjljOdZQrwq2MJUQyBilf2HXPVaKd7I-bjklO3kWMLl5Qd4VTPhu20i1h6YUZR9IrOj9atpP7cjRMDJu9d02y5NiSM3GmzcXNHGOni6SDYTWpQMFUKxoHfF3UTN_ju0NFizUij5gZ-heDEe_wWDyrAUuHshUihfEdAkkIcIRtMbnQmmg%3D%3D&attredirects=0

The High Altar of St Cecilia's Parson Cross.
Austrian work of 1923, formerly in Holy Trinity Preston.
Suitable, I think, as a picture for the day after Christ the King.

I remembered the parish and Geofrey Bostock in my prayers at Mass and in the Office today.


Saturday, 20 November 2010

King Richard II in a cigar box


Last week there were reports in the Daily Telegraph, on Fox News, which has photographs, and on Yahoo of the discovery in the National Portrait Gallery archives of a cigar box containing drawings done in 1871 when the tomb of King Richard II was opened at Westminster abbey. It was this examination of the King's remains which established that he had not died as a result of a blow to the skull as in Shakespeare's play.My home town is Pontefract and it was in the castle there that the dethroned Richard was imprisoned and died in early 1400 - assuming that he did not escape and another body sent to London - and after initial burial at King's Langley was buried alongside his first wife, Anne of Bohemia, in the tomb he had commissioned for himself at Westminster by King Henry V.

Click!

Effigy of King Richard II at Westminster abbey

Photo: Web Gallery of Art


It is just possibly this event perhaps more than anything else - but it is a case of perhaps - of the story of the downfall of King Richard and his death at Pontefract that first fired my enthusiasm for the later middle ages - but who would not have with any sense of the past and living in a town with castle and history like Pontefract. Alas little of the castle survives today - the demolition of 1649 reduced it essentially to foundations. Here is a picture of what we lost, and indeed not that much different from the castle Richard would have seen in his last months or weeks, although in his time the buildings were doubtless in better repair than they appear to have been in the early Stuart period. By that period the supposed site of his violent death was being shown to visitors.


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Pontefract Castle in the 1630s
A painting probably commissioned by King Charles I, now in Pontefract Museum

Photo Wakefield MDC and Pontefract Heritage Group

Whilst researching this post I found a website Richard II's treasure, which I have also .added to the blogroll. This looks at the court culture which the King created around himself in the 1390s, and is a valuable addition to Ricardian studies.

St Edmund


Today is the feast of St Edmund King and Martyr.

Edmund (d. 869 or 870). was a king of the East Angles slain in battle against invading Danes. He has very brief notices in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (under 870) and in Asser's Vita Alfredi (cap. 33). His veneration as a saint is first documented from coinage of the later ninth and early tenth centuries. Abbo of Fleury's late tenth-centuryPassio of Edmund. (BHL 2392) presents him as a willing victim for his people who sacrifices himself to certain torture and death in order to prevent further bloodshed. Abbo further relates the miraculous Inventio of Edmund's head by Christians who already had his body - the head was found being guarded by a wolf - and his later translation to a splendid church at the royal vill of Beadericesworth which in consequence became known as Bury St Edmunds, with one of the greatest of English Benedictine houses.

In the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York  MS M.736 is a richly illustrated, earlier twelfth-century (ca. 1125-35) miscellany of texts related to Edmund, probably compiled at or for the abbey which held his relics. The catalogue description of the manuscript can be read here. The images can be seen here.

To search the catalogue for descriptions start at http://corsair.themorgan.org/ and click on "Search the catalog". In the next screen enter in the box marked "Find This", limit this search to "Medieval Images only", and click on "Search".

The above paragraphs are adapted and extended from John Dillon's post for today on the Medieval Religion discussion group site.

The Wikipedia entry on St Edmund can be read here.

St Edmund's extensive cult meant that he was a frequent patron of churches and a subject for artists, notably in East Anglia.
The second article on this page is a review of a book on the subject and auseful introduction in itself. Here are two examples in stained glass:

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Saxlingham Nethergate, St Mary, Norfolk

Mid-13th century panel showing the Martyrdom of St Edmund. It may have come from the other church in the village, Saxlingham Thorpe, the parishioners of which were told in 1688 to give up their church and come and worship in this church. Here Edmund offers up to heaven the arrows of his martyrdom.

Photo by Gordon Plumb

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Holy Trinity, Long Melford, Suffolk

Margaret Peyton, St Edmund with Abbot Richard Hengham 1474-79 kneeling at his feet between Margaret and Thomas Peyton.
Photo by Gordon Plumb


Detail from the Wilton Diptych.

The classic depiction of St Edmund as a royal saint for a royal patron, King Richard II



I think it is to be regretted that St Edmund does not appear in the National Calendar for the Catholic Church in England - perhaps that is something the Anglican Patrimony can help to change. Until the fifteenth century he was a national saint, and after St Edward the Confessor the great royal exemplar. The abbey was a frequent host to medieval monarchs.

There is an account of the abbey itself from Wikipedia here , and the Victoria County History account of the monastery can be read here.

There is a tour of the present remains of the great church, once one of the largest in medieval England, here. It concludes with this reconstruction of the abbey on the eve of the dissolution. In some respects it is, I suspect, a little fanciful, but it does give some idea of the scale of the abbey.

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In many ways it would have resembled the surviving cathedrals at Ely, Norwich and Peterborough. The later medeval form of the apse may have been similar to what one still sees at Norwich. The great west front is related to those of Ely, Lincoln and Peterborough, and possibly also the remains at Kelso. The basic design of a western tower flanked by octagonal chapels is repeated in the nineteenth century Upper Basilica at Lourdes - though I know of no link between the two to explain the design reappearing sebveral centuries later in another country .

The church had a great number of treasures. One which appears to survive is an ivory altar cross in the Cloisters Museum in New York. The story of its acquisition and identification is discussed in Thomas Hoving's rather awful King of the Confessors; the Wikipedia article about the cross offers auseful critique of Hoving's work and can be read here. It is a tragedy the cross was not saved for the British Museum in 1963 rather than going abroad. That is also true of the Pierpont Morgan manuscript I linked to above - that went in the 1920s.

Writing of tragedy, the abbey was surrendered in 1539 - the last abbot is said to have died shortly afterwards of a broken heart. There was the possibility of utilising it as the cathedral for anew diocese for Suffolk, but that nevwe happened. the body of Henry VIII's sister Mary, sometime, and briefly, Queen of France, and later Duchess of Suffolk, who had been buried in the abbey in 1533 was removed to St Mary's church and the abbey church destroyed - yet another of the catastrophic artistic and cultural casualties of the English "reformation"

The cathedral of the modern Anglican diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, established in 1914, has been created by extending the late medieval church of St James completed in 1503 immediatedly to the north west of the abbey church. The result, ins in my opinion on eof the best pieces if twentieth century church building. It was designed by Stephen Dykes Bower, whose scholarly gothic-revival style was not always appreciated. When I saw it I was most impressed. Since then, using the bequest made by Dykes-Bower himself, the central tower has been completed to his design and funded in as a Millenium project. It was completed in 2005.


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Photos from Flickr by Cliff Vale and M. Taza

When I stayed with my mother in Bury St Edmunds, which we both thought a particularly attractive and stylish as well as historic town, in 1973 we agreed how much we liked the new work in the cathedral, but she said I would doubtless have wanted to rebuild the abbey church. True.