Tuesday, 30 November 2010
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.
Star Diameter: 9.2 cm.
Collar Length: 107.5 cm.
The Star of the Order set with diamonds and pearls.
Dress of the Herald of the Order of St Andrew
Russia (St Petersburg)
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
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.
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.
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'.
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.
Photo from Scottishramparts.com
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.
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
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
Tuesday, 23 November 2010
Saturday 27th November- Oxford Pro-Life Witness
Monday, 22 November 2010
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...
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?
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.
The accession ceremony in 1975
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!
The King of Spain
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.
The High Altar of St Cecilia's Parson Cross.
Suitable, I think, as a picture for the day after Christ the King.
Saturday, 20 November 2010
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.
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.
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.
Today is the feast of St Edmund King and Martyr.
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.
Saxlingham Nethergate, St Mary, Norfolk
Holy Trinity, Long Melford, Suffolk
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.
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.
Friday, 19 November 2010
Issued by the Catholic Communications Network
Implementation of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus
The Establishment of a Personal Ordinariate in England and Wales
Much has been achieved over many years as a result of the dialogue and the fruitful ecumenical relations which have developed between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. Obedient to the prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ to His Heavenly Father, the unity of the Church remains a constant desire in the vision and life of Anglicans and Catholics. The prayer for Christian Unity is the prayer for the gift of full communion with each other. We must never tire of praying and working for this goal.
During his visit to the United Kingdom in September, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI was therefore keen to stress that the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus: "...should be seen as a prophetic gesture that can contribute positively to the developing relations between Anglicans and Catholics. It helps us to set our sights on the ultimate goal of all ecumenical activity: the restoration of full ecclesial communion in the context of which the mutual exchange of gifts from our respective spiritual patrimonies serves as an enrichment to us all."i
It is now just over one year since the Apostolic Constitution was published. The Pope's initiative provided for the establishment of personal Ordinariates as one of the ways in which members of the Anglican tradition may seek to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. As the Holy Father stated at that time, he was responding to petitions received "repeatedly and insistently"ii by him from groups of Anglicans wishing "to be received into full communion individually as well as corporately."iii Since then, it has become clear that a number of Anglican clergy and their faithful do indeed wish to bring their desire for full ecclesial communion with the Catholic Church to realisation within an Ordinariate structure.
In collaboration with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome, the Bishops of England and Wales have been preparing for the establishment of an Ordinariate early in January 2011. Although there may be practical difficulties in the months ahead, the Bishops are working to address these at a national and local level.
Five Anglican Bishops who currently intend to enter the Ordinariate have already announced their decision to resign from pastoral ministry in the Church of England with effect from 31 December 2010. They will enter into full communion with the Catholic Church early in January 2011. During the same month, it is expected that the Decree establishing the Ordinariate will be issued and the name of the Ordinary to be appointed announced. Soon afterwards, those non-retired former Anglican Bishops whose petitions to be ordained are accepted by the CDF, will be ordained to the Catholic Diaconate and Priesthood for service in the Ordinariate.
It is expected that the retired former Anglican Bishops whose petitions to be ordained are accepted by the CDF, will be ordained to the Catholic Diaconate and Priesthood prior to Lent. This will enable them, together with the Ordinary and the other former Anglican Bishops, to assist with the preparation and reception of former Anglican clergy and their faithful into full communion with the Catholic Church during Holy Week.
Before the beginning of Lent, those Anglican clergy with groups of faithful who have decided to enter the Ordinariate will then begin a period of intense formation for ordination as Catholic priests.
At the beginning of Lent, the groups of faithful together with their pastors will be enrolled as candidates for the Ordinariate. Then, at a date to be agreed between the Ordinary and the local diocesan Bishop, they will be received into the Catholic Church and confirmed. This will probably take place either during Holy Week, at the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday or during the Easter Vigil. The period of formation for the faithful and their pastors will continue to Pentecost. Until then, these communities will be cared for sacramentally by local clergy as arranged by the diocesan Bishop and the Ordinary.
Around Pentecost, those former Anglican priests whose petitions for ordination have been accepted by the CDF will be ordained to the Catholic Priesthood. Ordination to the Diaconate will precede this at some point during Eastertide. Formation in Catholic theology and pastoral practice will continue for an appropriate amount of time after ordination.
In responding generously and offering a warm welcome to those seeking full ecclesial communion with the Catholic Church within the Ordinariate, the Bishops know that the clergy and faithful who are on that journey of faith will bring their own spiritual treasures which will further enrich the spiritual life of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. The Bishops will do all they can to ensure that there is effective and close collaboration with the Ordinariate both at diocesan and parish levels.
Finally, with the blessings and encouragement they have received from Pope Benedict's recent Visit, the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales are resolved to continue their dialogue with other Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities on that journey towards the communion in faith and the fullness of unity for which Christ prayed.
Thursday, 18 November 2010
Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Today is the feast of St Hugh of Lincoln, Carthusian saint and Bishop of Lincoln 1186-1200. There is a biography here.
His other, better known attribute is the swan. This was a fierce swan which lived at the episcopal manor at Stow in Lindsey but which was a docile pet to the saint, followed him around and watched over him when he was asleep.
November 17th is the anniversary of the deaths on the same day in 1558 of Queen Mary I and of her cousin and Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Reginald Pole.
Queen Mary I and King Philip II
Cardinal Reginald Pole
For many years Pole was awaiting an academic biographer; this gap has been filled to a considerable extent with the publication of Thomas F. Mayer's Reginald Pole: Prince and Prophet (Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History), although it is not always the easiest book to read.
The Queen and Pole's considerable efforts to re-establish Catholicism in England have most recently been studied in Eamonn Duffy's Fires of Faith.
Two years ago, on the 450th anniversary of the Cardinal's death, and long before I started blogging I served as thurifer at a Requiem Mass in the Extraordinary Form for Cardinal Pole in the chapel of his college, Magdalen here in Oxford. These photographs, taken by Br Lawrence Lew, O.P., appeared, together with the link to his Flickr set of the Mass, on the NLM site.
Image from Yahoo
Several thoughts occur to me at this time.
Firstly this engagement again appears to confirm the trend not only in this country but also elsewhere amongst European royal houses away from dynastic marriages.
Secondly, from what I have managed to see and read, the Prince and his bride-to-be appeared more confident and assured than his parents did when they were interviewed in 1981 at the time of their engagement. It is surely something of an ordeal for any couple to be interviewed, however discreetly, about their choice of spouse.
Thirdly before the wedding some of the media coverage will be such as to make even the most
ardent monarchist like myself begin to cringe.
Fourthly, sooner or later the usual suspects will be whining and complaining about cost or whatever, and betraying their fundamentally mean spirited nature - but no surprise in that.
Fifthly, when the wedding takes place the overwhelming majority here, and in the Queen's other realm will rejoice with the happy couple and wish them well. There will be a national feeling of celebration and renewed hope in the future. It is something to look forward to, a real investment in a living and continuing tradition.
Tuesday, 16 November 2010
Today is the feast of both St Margaret of Scotland and of St Edmund of Abingdon, both of whose relics are now preserved on the continent. I have based this post in part on John Dillon's post on the Medieval Church History discussion group site.
In 1057 Edward returned to England, bringing his family with them, but died before he could meet his half-uncle Edward the Confessor. His son Edgar Aetheling was involved in the Anglo-Saxon resistance to the Norman Conquest and in 1068 he fled with Margaret and with other members of the family fromNorthumbria and ended up in Scotland, where Margaret soon married king Malcolm III. Their marriage took place in Dunfermline at the church of the Holy Trinity at which Margaret soon established a priory (it became an abbey in 1128) and in which she was buried opposite the altar. The abbey website is here , the history section of which brings out the abbey's role as a centre of royal devotion and burial down to the early fifteenth century and beyond. The twelfth century nave of the abbey survives and shows very much the influence of the cathedral at Durham, as can be seen here.It is a reminder of a medieval Catholic Scotland of which so little survives.
My reaction is, I think, to quote the immortal words of Mandy Rice-Davies "Well he would say that would n't he? "
I would merely add to that the point that if that is how their fellow Anglicans view Anglo-Catholics you can hardly blame the latter for seeking the full ecclesial unity that their position is predicated upon. The problem surely is for those who want to stay in a communion where they are not wanted.
Fortunately many, on both banks of the Tiber are praying for the success of the Ordinariate and those planning to avail themselves of it.
At the time of the Papal visit I posted about the image of the Pope standing on the wonderful thirteenth century cosmati sanctuary pavement of Westminster abbey. Now David Clayton, whom I knew when he was here in Oxford, has drawn attention on NLM to a post by another friend, Stratford Caldecott, and a post he has produced about the pavement. It includes a short documentary and can be found here.
The abbey's own site about the pavement can be read here, and there is another account here , and there is also a newspaper article about its restoration here.
Image: Westminster Abbey
If you would like to read more about the pavement there is Richard Foster Patterns of Thought: (1991), and the pavement is also discussed in J.D.North The Ambassadors' Secret. Professor North's book is a fascinating exploration of the themes and symbolism in Holbein's painting, now in the National Gallery, of the French ambassadors to King Henry VIII in 1533, and it is a book well worth reading on its own account.
Monday, 15 November 2010
November 15th is the anniversary of the martyrdom in 1539 of Richard Whiting, Abbot of Glastonbury and of his companions, Dom Roger James and Dom John Thorne.
I have edited together several accounts of his life, notably from the Catholic Encyclpedia and an article by Fr Dwight Longenecker in Catholic Life, as well as the work of Geoffret Ashe, and the revised entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography by Nicholas Doggett :
Click on each of the figures to learn more about them.
Click on the foot of the tapestry to learn more of the history of the Shrine
and about the tapestry itself.
Blessed Richard Whiting
Richard Whiting was born around 1460. Traditionally he is said to have been born at Wrington in Somerset, where his family were tenant farmers on land owned by the Glastonbury Abbey, but this cannot be substantiated. He was probably educated in the claustral school at Glastonbury, proceeding to Cambridge - presumably the monastic Buckingham College, now Magdalen - and graduated as M.A. in 1483 and D.D. in 1505. If, as is probable, he was already a monk when he went to Cambridge he must have received the habit from John Selwood, Abbot of Glastonbury from 1456 to 1493. He was ordained acolyte in 1498, sub-deacon the next year, deacon in 1500 and priest in March 1501 at Wells, and held for some years the office of chamberlain of the monastery.
In February, 1525, Richard Bere,Abbot of Glastonbury, died, and the community, after deciding to elect his successor per formam compromissi, which places the selection in the hands of some one person of note, agreed to request Cardinal Wolsey to make the choice of an abbot for them. After obtaining the king's permission to act and giving a fortnight's inquiry to the circumstances of the case Wolsey, possibly advised by Abbot John Islip of Westminster, on 3 March 1525, nominated Richard Whiting to the vacant post. The first ten years of Whiting's rule were prosperous and peaceful, and he appears in the State papers as a careful overseer of his abbey alike in spirituals and temporals. During these years the Edgar Chapel at the eastern end of the abbey church was completed.
In these years the number of monks in the abbey at Glastonbury increased from forty-six to fifty-four. Furthermore,during the 1530s there was an increase in the number of monks who went from Glastonbury to Gloucester College at Oxford. Whiting himself seems to have been more interested in music than scholarship, making arrangements in 1534 for the instruction of the choirboys. A visitation in 1538 suggests that there were divisions among the monks, especially between the older and younger ones, and that the abbot had his favourites in the community.
Whiting was also prone to reside away from the monastery, especially at his manors of Sturminster Newton in Dorset and Ashbury in Berkshire. Some of his apparent shortcomings were probably due to ill health, however, and he appears to have had few critics before the events of 1539. John Leland, whom he entertained generously, decribed him as ‘homo sane candidissimus, et amicus meus singularis’ (‘a most upright man and my particular friend’; De rebus Britannicis collectanea, 6.70) .
In June 1534 the royal Commissioners arrived at Glastonbury and Abbot Whiting and his community took the oath of loyalty to the king.On 1 August the King’s Commissioners returned on their visitation to Glastonbury and reported that the community was run in good order, and that the monks were known for their strict life and holy living. Dr Richard Layton even praised Abbot Whiting personally for his holiness of life.
In spite of this, however, the abbot's jurisdiction over the town of Glastonbury was suspended and minute "injunctions" were given to him about the management of the abbey property; but then and more than once during the next few years he was assured that there was no intention of suppressing the abbey. Like other heads of monastic houses he sought the favour of Thomas Cromwell with presents and the church at Monkton.
The furniture from the house of Glaston
In ready money from Glaston, £1,100 and over
The rich copes from Glaston.
The debts (i.e., owing to the Abbey) £2,000 and above."
Marillac, the French Ambassador, wrote on 25 October : "The Abbot of Glastonbury. . . has lately, been put in the Tower, because, in taking the Abbey treasures, valued at 200,000 crowns, they found a written book of arguments in behalf of queen Katherine." If the charge was high treason, which appears most probable, then, as a member of the House of Peers, Whiting should have been attainted by an Act of Parliament passed for the purpose, but his execution was an accomplished fact, before Parliament even met. In fact it seems clear that his doom was deliberately wrapped in obscurity by Cromwell and Henry, for Marillac, writing to Francis I on 30 November, after mentioning the execution of the Abbots of Reading and Glastonbury, adds: "could learn no particulars of what they were charged with, except that it was the relics of the late lord marquis" - that is referring to the Marquess of Exeter who had been convicted and executed for treason the previous year.This appears to be a case of the government proceeding by smear and association.
Whatever the precise charges, however, Whiting was sent back to Somerset in the care of Pollard and reached Wells on 14 November. The show trial was held in the Bishop’s Hall in Wells on 14 November. Lord Russell (later the first Earl of Bedford) was the judge and made sure the jury was made up of people "very diligent to serve the King." Although his monks had been dispersed, his lands taken and the abbey’s riches seized, Abbot Whiting was charged with robbery by concealing church goods from the commissioners. He was therefore to be hanged as a traitor for robbing his own church. The sacrist Dom Roger James and treasurer of the Abbey Dom John Thorne were to be executed along with him because they assisted in hiding the treasures from the King’s Commissioners. One of them had taken the name arthur in religion, which suggests a clear commitment to the traditions of the abbey
Next day, Saturday, 15 November, he was taken with the two monks to Glastonbury where all three were fastened upon hurdles. From the Abbey gates in the centre of town Richard Whiting was dragged on a hurdle and up Tor Hill. There, by the side of the ancient tower of St Michael's chapel the seventy nine year old man was hung, then cut down and mutilated. After being disembowelled he was beheaded and quartered and his head was fixed on a stake over the great gateway of the Abbey. His quarters were boiled in pitch and displayed at Wells, Bath, Ilchester and Bridgwater. With intentional cruelty the blameless man was even deprived of the company of his two monks in his martyrdom. John Thorne and Roger James were executed individually after Abbot Whiting had died. Eyewitnesses recorded that the abbot and his monks "took their death very patiently, begging forgiveness of all they might have offended."
Richard Whiting and his companions were beatified by Pope Leo XIII in his decree of 13 May, 1895. The abbot's and seal are still preserved in the museum at Glastonbury.
When in the years after 1908 Frederick Bligh Bond was in charge of excavating the abbey at Glastonbury he used a medium and automatic writing to make contact with a long dead monk of Glastonbury, John Alleyne. This is all recorded in The Gate of Remembrance The Story of the Psychological Experiment which resulted in the Discovery of the Edgar Chapel at Glastonbury. (Oxford. B.H.Blackwell. 1920 3rd edition). This highly controversial approach led to his dismissal by Dean Armitage Robinson,and indeed to his being banned from the abbey site.
One of the discoveries he made and identified to his satisfaction were some human bones interred near the site of the High Altar. These Bond decided were part of the remains of Bl.Richard Whiting. Today these relics are preserved at Prinknash Abbey in Gloucestershire, and were shown in a Tony Robinson programme about the paranomal and historical research about a year ago. No one could be certain - but I suppose it is possible that someone rescued part of the Abbot's remains and gave them burial in what had been his church and home.
As at Reading it is perhaps surprising that nothing was done to preserve the abbey at Glastonbury. As the reputed burial place of King Arthur it had been a place of royal pilgrimage and interest, and about 1530 Henry VIII was citing Arthurian claims in his dispute with the Papacy, and a few years previously was proudly showing Arthur's Round Table at Winchester, newly repainted for the occasion, to the Emperor Charles V. In addition the abbey held the remains of several English Kings, notably Edgar (959-975), whose new funerary chapel had been completed by Abbot Whiting.
Here is a view of the superb reconstruction model of the abbey on the eve of the dissolution which can be seen in the information centre at the site.
Photo by Mike Kemble
The Edgar Chapel is on the left, and the Lady Chape, on the site of the `Old Church' of Glastonbury, lost in the 1184 fire, at the right.
Sunday, 14 November 2010
I am not a pacifist, not by nature, not by conviction, not as a historian, not as someone who knows something of human nature - but I increasingly find it difficult to see the case for war and destruction, and certainly not the waste of human life, usually at its most hopeful stage in early adulthood, for causes that are politically and morally wrong or stupid. I had, and have, no doubts about the appropriateness of the Falklands campaign, or the First Iraq war, but subsequent campaigns have, I am inclined to think, been unwise, fooling or plain wrong.
When it comes to the Great War I think I agree with this post from the American Mad Monarchist , though I might be more optimistic than he is that some of the tensions of 1914 would have been resolved bilaterally and peacefully. Basically he says what I have thought for years. The events of the summer of 1914 were a disaster with few parallels in history, and not, by any means, inevitable.
In the wake of the war many sought, and continue to seek, to blame the pre-war establishments, the monarchies and social hierarchies for what happened. My own feeling is that the old order appeared to be in control, but were the facade behind which other forces manipulated events. When defeat came the old symbolic institutions could be jettisoned, but the modern state ploughed on regardless. The two generation s before 1914 had seen a transformation of state institutions that was concealed from both the monarchs and their subjects. In their different ways they paid the price, but the forces that shaped events usually emerged unscathed. Thus monarchs on both sides could lament that Queen Victoria was not around to solve the quarrels of her grandchildren, not realising that they were themselves prisoners of a system that reduced them to cyphers much of the time. So the problem was not and is not the old order, but its initial subversion from within by popular and institutional forces, forces which have in a huge variety of forms been strengthened by the century of total war. Restoring government to its proper place in the human scale, but also the Divine scale, of things is part of the way of correcting that development.
Fr Jerome Bertam in his sermon yesterday morning at the Oxford Oratory spoke of the 1914-19 war medal that described it as the "Great War for Civilisation", and said that rather we should see the end of European civilisation in 1914, and that it was followed by the Peace to End Peace. All this he ascribed to the sin of Pride, pointing out that it affects all systems of government, monarchies and republics alike, display this, the sin of Satan.
This is true. The post-1918 experience makes it very clear that the liberal vision that without monarchs there would be less conflict was fatally flawed, and indeed a very dangerous delusion indeed. Nor is post-1945 liberal democracy, let alone popularist, collectivist, radical or revolutionary democracies more peaceable and less bellicose - but being the voice of the people, or rather the Voice of The People - i.e.what they can be conned into believing - are less constrained by human reason and piety.
The Mad Monarchist follows his post with one about the one temporal ruler amongst the combatants of 1914-18 who tried to stop the war - the Emperor Charles I of Austria, to whom I have, as regular readers will be aware, a devotion.
This was already the month of prayer for the dead before it became the season of Remembrance. I prayed for two, not especially close relatives who died in the Second World War, for friends of my parents and for all the war dead. That is something we can do for them. For ourselves and our contemporaries, and for our successors we should take care not to waste human lives as carelessly as the twentieth century became so used to doing - and that requires thought for the individual, thought for the nation, and thought about ourselves and our fallen nature.
Fr Blake from Brighton has some not dissimilar reflections here, which I would also commend to your thoughts.