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.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

St Thérèse of Lisieux

Today has been the feast of  Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, O.C.D., probably better known as St Thérèse of Lisieux, or the Little Flower.

This evening after Mass for her feast at the Oxford Oratory we had Solemn Benediction to mark the occasion - she was adopted as a patron of the parish following the visit of her relics here in 2009.

Afterwards I went for supper to a friend's house and we watched his DVD of the film Thérèse with Lindsay Younce playing the saint. Although it told the basic story of Thérèse Martin I personally found it rather too sentimental and too glossy - as do others judging from comments on the Amazon website in their 163 customer reviews. They indeed query some of the details as depicted in the film.

Having read the Autobiography, which is not to everyone's taste, and more significantly, some of her letters and advice as Novice Mistress I think St Thérèse was a much more substantial figure than depicted in this film and in so many other ways. She needs to be seen both as a saint for future generations to look to and as a product of a church and a church-going section of society that was increasingly under threat in the France of her lifetime.  In many ways her sister's photographs of her are the most revealing insight into her - her very simple yet utterly profound idea, her great insight into how one should approach God is too big an idea for sentimentality.

St Thérèse of Lisieux


May St Thérèse continue to pray for us


Image: Wikipedia

This calendar page in the Très Riches Heures of John Duke of Berry is attributed to Paul Limbourg, with possible additions by Jean Colombe in the 1480s

The scene in the foreground is winter sowing and harrowing, with crows and magpies eating some of the seeds. The harrow is shown as horse drawn rather than by oxen. Beyond there is an archer in the middle ground with pollarded willows on the river bank. Meanwhile in the background people walk by the Seine, across which small boats ply. Once again this is a tranquil, reassuring scene of agricultural harmony. This is an idealised view as the building which dominates the scene is the palace of the Louvre, then at the western end of Paris, but the foreground would have been built up as it would be part of the Ile de la Cite or the left bank of the Seine.

The Louvre was originally built by King Philip II (1180-1223)  - the impressive foundations of his fortress are once again visible in the basement of the museum complex - but the Louvre as depicted was the result of its  remodelling as a residence by Duke John's elder brother, King Charles V, after his accession to the throne in 1364. As at Saumur in last month's illustration the palace fortress is decorated with elaborate finials and the chimneys point to domestic comfort inside the royal residence.

October 1415 was to see the English army make its doubtless in many ways weary way north-eastwards on the route towards Calais, with King Henry V seeking, it would appear, to avoid engagement with the French. That was not to be and the road to Calais was the road to the battle of Agincourt.... 

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Oxford Oratory Silver Jubilee celebration

On Sunday September 27th the Oxford Oratory was delighted to welcome His Grace the Archbishop of Birmingham, and two of his assistants - Bishop William Kenney, C.P., the area bishop for this part of the diocese, and Bishop Robert Byrne, Cong. Orat., and many friends to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the arrival of the Oratorians in Oxford.

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The Archbishop is received at the door of the church with a crucifix and holy water:

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He processed to the Sacred Heart Chapel, where he prayed before the Blessed Sacrament:
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A Solemn Pontifical Mass, in honour of Our Lady, Queen of the Oratory, was celebrated:
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During the Mass Bishop Robert, the Founding Provost of the Oxford Oratory. preached, and his sermon can be read at  Bishop Robert Byrne's Sermon for the Twenty-fifth anniversary of the arrival of the Oratory in Oxford

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After Mass, there was a fine party in the Parish Centre - something the parishioners are very good at organising:

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A splendidly decorated cake was cut by the Archbishop - who expressed his admiration for the rosary in icing sugar - and said he did not want to be photographed cutting a rosary! :

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The anniversary cake was a great success and very good to eat

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A parishioner catches the camera's eye; the Clever Boy was caught on the right

Photographs by Hannah Chegwyn.

Images: Oxford Oratory website

This was a wonderful occasion upon which to give thanks for all that has been achieved by the Fathers of the Oratory over a quarter of a century. This is to be found in the sacramental and spiritual life of the parish, the pastoral care and the liturgical round  as well as in the restoration of the church building and the development of the parish centre.

St Jerome and friends

Today is the feast of St Jerome.

He was born in Strido, in Dalmatia. He studied in Rome and was baptized there. He was attracted by the ascetic life and travelled to the East, where he was (unwillingly) ordained a priest. He was recalled to Rome to act as secretary to Pope Damasus, but on the Pope’s death he returned to the East, to Bethlehem, where (with the aid of St Paula and others) he founded a monastery, a hospice, and a school, and settled down to the most important work of his life, the translation of the Bible into Latin, a translation which, with some revisions, is still in use today. He wrote many works of his own, including letters and commentaries on Holy Scripture. When a time of troubles came upon the world, through barbarian invasions, and to the Church, through internal dissension, he helped the refugees and those in need. He died at Bethlehem.
( Source:Dome of Home )

John Dillon posted the following on the Medieval religion discussion group for September 28th the feast day of St Paula's daughter St Eustochium, and which includes images of SS Paula Eustochium and Jerome :

We know about Eustochium (d. 418 or 419) chiefly from the correspondence of St. Jerome. A younger daughter of St. Paula of Rome and her husband, the senator Toxotius, after her father's death in 379 she took part in her widowed mother's newly adopted ascetic lifestyle. A few years later, when both had come under Jerome's influence, Eustochium was in constant attendance at his lectures on Holy Scripture at the house of the matron Marcella. Jerome's Letter 22, on virginity, is addressed to her. In 385-386 Eustochium accompanied her mother on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land; for much of this tour they were accompanied by Jerome. In 386 the party settled in Bethlehem, where Paula founded a monastery for women plus a smaller men's house for Jerome and where she and Eustochium learned Hebrew and supported Jerome. The latter's translation of Kings is dedicated to both of them; his prefaces to Isaiah and to Ezechiel are addressed to Eustochium alone.

After Paula's death in 404 Eustochium took charge of the women's monastery in Bethlehem and continued to collaborate with Jerome until her own passing. In one of three letters in which Jerome recounts his sorrow at Eustochium's death, he calls her a "holy and venerable virgin of Christ" (Letter 151); in another (Letter 154) he again calls her "holy and venerable". Eustochium's cult is apparently late medieval in origin: absent from the martyrologies of the ninth century, she is included in Pietro de Natalibus' Catalogus sanctorum (ca. 1375) and is entered under today in an expanded Usuard written at Haguenau in 1412.

A view of what are shown as the tombs of Paula and Eustochium in the Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem:

A few period-pertinent images of Eustochium of Bethlehem (the geographical suffix distinguishes her from Bl. Eustochium of Padua and from St. Eustochia Calafati, whose name in religion was Eustochium):

a) Eustochium and Paula as depicted (centre panel; receiving instruction from Jerome) in a full-page illumination in the ninth-century First Bible of Charles the Bald (Paris, BnF, ms. Latin 1, fol. 3v):

The inscription underneath is said to read (abbreviations expanded): _eustochio nec non paulae divina salutis / jura dat altithrono fultus ubique deo_.

b) Eustochium as depicted (at right, receiving from Jerome, at left, a scroll bearing the incipit of Letter 273, addressed to her) in a late eleventh-century copy, from the abbey of Jumièges, of Jerome's commentary on Isaiah (to which this letter serves as preface) (c. 1090; Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodl 717, fol. 6r):

Letter 273 (in English and in Latin):

c) Eustochium as depicted by the Master of the Strauss Madonna in a late fourteenth- or early fifteenth-century panel painting (c. 1390-1420) in the Pinacoteca Vaticana:

Her scroll reads: Audi, filia, et vide et inclina aurem tuam et obliviscere populum tuum et domum patris tui. Et concupiscet rex decorem tuum (Ps. 44 [45], 11-12 _ad init._).

d) Eustochium (at left, flanking Jerome's vision of the Trinity; at right, Paula) as depicted by Andrea del Castagno in an earlier fifteenth-century fresco (c. 1444-1445) in the chapel of Girolamo Corboli in Florence's chiesa della Santissima Annunziata:

e) Eustochium (at far right, with a lily and standing next to Paula) as depicted by Francesco Botticini in his late fifteenth-century panel painting of St. Jerome in Penitence with Saints and Donors (1490) in the National Gallery, London:
Detail view (Paula and Eustochium):

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

St Michael the Archangel in art

John Dillon posted as follows on the Medieval Religion discussion group for today's feast of St Michael:

A few further period-pertinent images of St. Michael the Archangel (with some corresponding images of fellow archangels):

a) as portrayed in relief on an earlier sixth-century ivory panel (c. 525-550) from a dismembered diptych of Constantinopolitan origin in the British Museum, London:

b) as depicted (at right; at left, the Theotokos) in an enameled plaque in the central portion of the upper cover of the mid-tenth-century Limburger Staurothek (betw. 945 and 959; reliquary of the True Cross) in the Domschatz- und Diözesanmuseum in Limburg an der Lahn:
In a corresponding plaque on the other side of the cover's central figure of the Pantocrator, Gabriel is at left and John the Forerunner is at right:
The upper cover as a whole:

c) as depicted in a later tenth- or earlier eleventh-century portable icon (fourteenth- and nineteenth-century reworking and restorations) in the treasury of the basilica cattedrale patriarcale di San Marco in Venice:

d) as portrayed in an earlier eleventh-century bronze gilt ex-voto in the Lapidarium e Museo devozionale di San Michele arcangelo at Monte Sant'Angelo (FG) in Apulia:

e) as depicted (at left) in an earlier eleventh-century vault mosaic (restored between 1953 and 1962) in the narthex of the church of the Theotokos in the monastery of Hosios Loukas near Distomo in Phokis:
Detail view (Michael):
The angel in the vault field opposite Michael is the archangel Gabriel. A detail view: http://tinyurl.com/p2ajxuj

f) as depicted (at left, sharing a labarum with an Emperor Michael at right) on the reverse of an earlier eleventh-century histamenon (early 1040s) struck by either Emperor Michael IV or Emperor Michael V:

g) as depicted in an earlier to mid-eleventh-century fresco (1040s or 1050s) in the cathedral of St. Sophia in Kyiv / Kiev:

The Archangel Michael

h) as depicted (at right) in the presentation illumination of a later eleventh-century copy of Constantinopolitan origin of the sermons of St. John Chrysostom (Paris, BnF, ms. Coislin 79, fol. 2b):

i) as depicted in the later eleventh-century apse fresco (between 1058 and 1073; restoration work in the 1980s) in the basilica di Sant'Angelo in Formis on Monte Tifata in today's Capua:

j) as depicted in a twelfth-century portable icon in the Holy Monastery of the God-trodden Mount Sinai, St. Catherine (South Sinai governorate), Egypt:

k) as depicted in a twelfth-century fresco (photographed before 1974) in the katholikon of the Antiphonitis monastery near Kalogrea (Girne [Kyrenia] dist.) in Turkish-dominated northern Cyprus:

Archangel Gabriel in another twelfth-century fresco (also photographed before 1974) in the same church:

Frescoes in this church, including that of Michael linked to above, have since been defaced, with others plundered outright.

l) as depicted in an early twelfth-century enamelled plaque (between 1102 and 1118) on the lower portion of the Pala d'oro in the basilica cattedrale patriarcale di San Marco in Venice:

m) as depicted (lower register at left; at right, the archangel Gabriel) in the mid-twelfth-century apse mosaics (betw. 1145 and 1148) in the basilica cattedrale della Trasfigurazione in Cefalù:

Detail view (Michael):

Detail view (Gabriel):

Not appearing in those views, and barely visible here, are the archangels Raphael (at far left) and Uriel (at far right):

n) as depicted in a mid-twelfth-century mosaic (between 1146 and 1151) on an intrados in the chiesa di Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio (a.k.a. chiesa della Martorana) in Palermo:

A detail view in better light:


The archangel Gabriel on the same intrados:

o) as depicted (at upper left) in a mid-twelfth-century dome mosaic (between 1146 and 1151) in the chiesa di Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio (a.k.a. chiesa della Martorana) in Palermo:

The other angels in this circle are the archangels Raphael (upper right), Uriel (lower right), and Gabriel (lower left).

p) as depicted (third from left, wearing a loros) in the mid- to slightly later twelfth-century mosaics in the Cappella Palatina in Palermo:

Detail view (Michael):

The other angels holding orbs are, from left to right, are Michael's fellow archangels Raphael, Gabriel, and Uriel.

Detail view (Raphael):

Detail view (Michael, Gabriel and, in part, Uriel):

q) as depicted in a later twelfth-century fresco (between 1176 and 1200) in St. George's Church, Staraya Ladoga in Russia:

r) as depicted (at centre left, flanking the BVM; at centre right, the archangel Gabriel) in the late twelfth-century frescoes (1180s) of the central apse in the basilica cattedrale di Santa Maria nuova in Monreale (image greatly expandable):

In different light:

s) as depicted in a late twelfth-century fresco (1191) in the church of St. George at Kurbinovo (Resen municipality) in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia:

t) as depicted in a late twelfth-century fresco (1199; damaged in World War II) in the church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour on Nereditsa near Veliky Novgorod:

u) as depicted in a thirteenth-century Yaroslavl School icon in the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow:

v) as portrayed in a later thirteenth-century marble capital (between 1250 and 1300) from Constantinople in the Metropolitan Museum of art, New York:

w) as depicted in a later thirteenth-century fresco (between 1250 and 1300) in the rupestrian chiesa di Santa Lucia alle Malve in Matera:

x) as portrayed (seated, holding an image of the Crucifixion) by Nicola Pisano in a statue placed just below the Last Judgment panel on his later thirteenth-century pulpit (1257-1260) in the baptistery of Pisa:

y) as depicted in the later thirteenth-century frescoes (either ca. 1263-1270 or slightly later) of the monastery church of the Holy Trinity at Sopoćani (Raška dist.) in Serbia:

z) as depicted in a late thirteenth- or very early fourteenth-century Yaroslavl School icon in the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow:

aa) as depicted in a late thirteenth- or earlier fourteenth-century fresco in the rupestrian chiesa di Santa Margherita in Melfi:

bb) as depicted in a fourteenth-century icon of Constantinopolitan origin in the Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens:

cc) as depicted (at left, flanking the Theotokos; at right, the archangel Gabriel) in the earlier fourteenth-century frescoes (between c. 1311 and c. 1322) in the church of St. Nicholas Orphanos in Thessaloniki:

dd) as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century frescoes (between 1313 and 1318; conservation work in 1968) by Michael Astrapas and Eutychios in the church of St. George in Staro Nagoričane in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia:

ee) as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century frescoes (between c. 1314 and c. 1320) by Michael Astrapas and Eutychios in the church of St. Nikita at Čučer in today's Čučer-Sandevo in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia:

ff) as depicted in an earlier fourteenth-century fresco (between 1315 and 1321) on an intrados in the parecclesion of the Chora church (Kariye Camii) in Istanbul:

gg) as depicted (at left, flanking the Theotokos; at right the archangel Gabriel) in an earlier fourteenth-century fresco (1330s) in the calotte of the apse in the church of the Hodegetria in the Patriarchate of Peć:

Detail view (Michael):

Detail view (Gabriel):

hh) as depicted in an earlier fourteenth-century fresco (1330s) in the diakonikon of the church of the Hodegetria in the Patriarchate of Peć:
The matching figure of the archangel Gabriel at the other end of the same wall is better preserved:

ii) as depicted (at right; at left, and slightly larger, the despotes Jovan Oliver with a model of the church) in the mid-fourteenth-century frescoes (1340s) of the monastery church of St. Michael the Archangel at Lesnovo (Probištip municipality) in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia:

jj) as depicted in an earlier fifteenth-century Tver School icon in the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow:

kk) as depicted in an early fifteenth-century panel painting (ca. 1408; previously attributed to Andrej Rublev) from the iconostasis of the Dormition cathedral in Vladimir and now in the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow:
The matching painting of the archangel Gabriel (also in the Tretyakov):

ll) as depicted by Andrej Rublev (attrib.) in an early fifteenth-century panel painting (early 1410s) from the Deesis range in the Dormition cathedral in Zvenigorod and now in the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow:

mm) as depicted by Dionisy and sons in the early sixteenth-century frescoes (1502) in the Virgin Nativity cathedral of the St. Ferapont Belozero (Ferapontov Belozersky) monastery at Ferapontovo in Russia's Vologda oblast:
The corresponding depiction of the archangel Gabriel:
The corresponding depiction of the archangel Uriel: