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.
Thinking of visiting Oxford?
Allow me to be your guide... and discover the history of Oxford with an Oxford historian.
I offer a wide range of guided walks around the city and university. These can be a general introduction to the history and architecture or looking at specific themes and subjects.
I am a Catholic and a historian based in Oxford, where I am a member of Oriel College. My research, for a long delayed D.Phil., is a study of Richard Fleming, Bishop of Lincoln in the second decade of the fifteenth century. I also work as a freelance tutor in History and as an independent tour guide.
I was received into the Church in 2005 and am a Brother of the External Oratory of St Philip Neri at the Oxford Oratory.
As Easter Monday was a free day I went up to London. It was very pleasant to stroll past Buckingham Palace and through Friary Court by St James' Palace to meet a friend at the Army and Navy Club for a drink. Together with another Oxford friend we headed off for a late and leisurely lunch off Piccadilly. Over a most enjoyable meal we talked about how we had spent the Triduum, about mutual acquaintances and about the blogosphere.
The friends I was with had spent much of the Triduum at Corpus Christi Maiden Lane, and as I had not visited the church before - shame upon me, I know - we went on to visit it, taking in a tour of Covent Garden en-route. We were able to attend the 6.30 Sung Mass in the Extraordinary Form at Corpus Christi and to look around.
The church has recently had an act of sacreligious vandalism when someone smashed the figure of Our Lord on a crucifix at the west end - the pieces were still there to show what had happened. There was also a notice saying , quite rightly, that the church would not give in to the Devil and close other than for services. You can see a picture of what has been done here.
There was much else that was positive - the porch is about to be restored, and the paint which covers the walls removed, and there is clearly the hope that similar work can be done in the body of the church, which has pieces of the underlying brickwork and stone visible as a result of test cleaning. It rather looks as though a generation or two ago, when Victorian workmanship was out of fashion, someone had the unfortunate idea of painting the patterned brickwork and the pillars in cream paint. However it looks as though there is the wish to remedy that.
Whar particularly struck me was that although the church only dates from 1874 it felt much older. Its numerous devotional shrines to the saints reminded me of a type of Anglo-Catholic church I have come across, or at least came across. They were usually medieval buildings in themselves, which also had statues and candle stands around the building - I am thinking of All Saints North Street and St Mary Bishophill Junior in York or St Giles in Norwich amongst city churches, or the numinous St Helen at Burghwallis in Yorkshire. There a real sense of late medieval devotion had been recreated - long before The Stripping of the Altars and The Voices of Morebath told modern secular man what his ancestors had done. At Corpus Christi one sensed the same small, intimate church interior, surrounded by the prayers of the faithful and of the saints, and with the ancient prayers of the Roman liturgy ascending from the altar. Here was a glimpse, I think, of what the Church in England might have been had it not been for the disasters of the sixteenth century.
Corpus Christi is definitely a church I shall go back to, one to tell others about and to support in whatever ways one can.