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, 30 January 2015

Secondary relics of King Charles I

Today is the anniversary of the regicide of the Royal Martyr, King Charles I, in 1649.
 Image: The Mad Monarchist
My previous posts about this anniversary can be seen at The Royal Martyr , at Post Mortem Patris Pro Filio , at "Remember" and at  Commemorating the Royal Martyr
It seems therefore an appropriate day on which to share the news published last month by the Bodleian Library who have recently acquired the travelling library owned by the King when he was Prince of Wales. It is a fascinating insight into his intellectual formation as heir to the throne. The announcement of this acquisition can be read at the illustrated post  Bodleian receives Charles I's travelling library

The Suppression of Evesham abbey

Today is the 475th anniversary of the dissolution of the great Benedictine abbey of Evesham, the last monastic house to be suppressed under King Henry VIII.

There is an online history of the abbey which can be viewed at Evesham Abbey.

The detailed Victoria County History for Worcestershire account of the monastery can be read at Abbey of Evesham  and the Catholic Encyclopaedia article can be seen at Evesham Abbey

Two posts on the blog A Clerk of Oxford  give a good idea of the charm of the town, the remains of the abbey, the two historic churches and the museum, and many illustrations, notably of the fine nineteenth and twentieth century stained glass in the churches. They can be seen at A Trip to Evesham: Pigs, Fish, Angels, and the Dissolution of the Monasteries and at Medieval People in Modern Stained Glass: Evesham Edition

In the Almonry museum at Evesham - one of the few buildings to survive from the complex - there is a model showing what the abbey may have looked like in 1540.

 Evesham Abbey as it may have appeared in 1540
The bell tower is centre right, adjacent to the two surviving parish churches


Model of Abbey

The abbey from the south-west


The bell tower of Evesham Abbey. 
Completed on the eve of the dissolution it is, apart from the doorway of the chapter house and some very low walling, all that survives above ground of the central buildings of the complex.

Image: railbus.co.uk

“The sufferings of history, for example, are dulled by repetition and time, but personal accounts bring such events to life. The Dissolution of the Monasteries has become to many yet another ‘statistic’ to be absorbed in a study of a larger-than-life Henry VIII, yet it was an agonising period for the men who devoted their lives to the Church.

“In the first of the STC (short title catalogue) sales in 1973, for example, one item was a 1537 first edition of Matthew’s version of the Bible which belonged to John Alcetur (Alcester), a monk at the great Benedictine Abbey of Evesham. The Abbey, partly owing to its size and partly to the resistance of Abbot Lichfield, was one of the last to be suppressed. Only about twenty Benedictine abbeys and priories survived into the year 1540, and by the end of that year not one remained. Alcester had made extensive annotations in Latin and English, and had covered three blank pages with a musical score, probably of his own composition.

“However, it is his personal record, at the end of the Book of Maccabees, of Henry’s tough measures that makes poignant reading today. He wrote:
. . . the monastery of Evesham was suppressed by Kyng Henry the viii the xxxi yere of his raygne the xxx day of Januer at Evensong tyme the convent beyng in the quere [choir] at thys verse [in the Magnificat] Deposuit potentes and wold not suffur them to make an ende. Phillypp Ballard beyng Abbot at that tyme and xxxv Relygius men at that day alyre in the seyde monastry . . .
“It is thought that within two months of the suppression of the Abbey, Alcester’s Bible was taken from him.” — Roy Hartley Lewis, Antiquarian books: an insider’s account, pp.138-9.

Source: roger-pearse.com

There is more about John Alcester's Bible in M.D.Knowles: 'Notes on a Bible of Evesham Abbey' The English Historical Review 79, No. 313 (1964), 775-778. The Bible itself can be seen in the Almonry Museum at Evesham. 

Dom Richard Lyttleton was sub-sexton at the time of the dissolution, and was, presumably, a member of the family which has played a major part in the history of the county. He lived on through all the successive changes of religious practice of the sixteenth century. Eventually in 1603, Father Augustine Bradshaw reconciled to the Benedictine order 'one Lyttleton, who had formerly been a monk of Evesham, and was now best known by the nickname of 'parson-tinker.' Being reclaimed he went home and 'presently fell blind and so remained almost two years deprived of his benefice and had he not been bedridden had been imprisoned for his conscience and so died with great repentance being near 100 years old.'

Another monk who was doubtless present at that last saying of the Office in the abbey church was Dom John Feckenham (c.1510-1584). Born John Howman he took the name of his home town on entering the abbey. After the dispersal of the community he became rector of Solihull, was imprisoned under King Edward VI, released under Queen Mary I, becoming Dean of St Pauls and in 1556 returned to the Benedictine life as Abbot of the refounded Westminster Abbey. As such he participated in the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth I in 1559. Following the second dissolution of the abbey later that year his life alternated between imprisonment and parole until his death at Wisbech in 1584.

The life of him by C.S.Knighton in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography can be read here.

Feckenham's Westminster refoundation's last survivor, Dom Siegebert Buckley, transferred in the early years of the seventeenth century, his rights as representative of the whole community to two English benedictine who sought to establish in exile a specifically English house. Armed with his grant they did so, at Dieulard. that community, forced into exile by the French revolution returned to England and established Ampleforth, which in consequence useds the arms of the medieval abbey of Westminster.

Thus a link, tenuous but real, binds the great abbey of Evesham, and all it represented, to the modern Benedictines in Yorkshire and beyond.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

O radiosum lilium

Yesterday evening I went to the Mass for the feast of St Thomas Aquinas at Blackfriars here in Oxford - it seemed an appropriate homage to the Angelic Doctor.

The liturgy was the combination of Mass and Vespers they use on such feastdays- sometimes it is referred to as "Masspers".

Although I would not personally combine Mass and Office in such a way this was a dignified celebration, with Fr Richard Conrad OP as celebrant and preacher, and had an enhanced liturgical solemnity to commemorate the Order's greatest theologian.

The occasion was prayerful and reflective, inviting the congregation to ponder the philosophical and theological achievements as well as the mystical and Eucharistic insights of the saint described in the Alleluia as the Radiant Lily.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Prince Philip AK

The announcement today by the Australian Prime Minister, on Australia Day, that Prince Philip has been appointed as a Knight of the Order of Australia (AK), has produced a number of critical comments that indicate the nasty petty mean-mindedness of republicans down under.

Insignia of a Knight and of a Dame of the Order

Knight or Dame: Star

Star of the Order


What is worthy of remark is the fact that the Consort of the Queen of Australia has not been made a Knight of the Order hitherto - I am surprised he was not a recipient of its highest rank when it was instituted. Until today the Prince held a lesser class of the Order, unlike the Prince of Wales who has always held its highest rank.

There is more about the Order and its insignia in my post What will Dame Edna say?

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Greek General Election

Tomorrow the Greek electorate will go to the polls in a their latest General Election. The choice appears to be between the centre-right New Democracy party, who agreed to the EU financial package that committed the country to retrenchment and austerity and the left wing Syriza party, which is pledged to renegotiate it. They appear to be in the lead in polling surveys. If that is not possible then Greece may well leave the Euro. I do not claim to be able to say how the Greeks should vote on these matters. Clearly austerity, which seems to be improving the situation, has made life very hard for many Greeks.

My interest lies in the constitution. This election was called because the old Parliament could not agree on the election of a new President, ultimately forcing a dissolution at the end of December. So a fresh election and more potential uncertainty for a troubled country.

As far as I am concerned this is all unnecessary as Greece has - or should have - a head of state in the King of the Hellenes, King Constantine II, who , following years of exile, now lived again in Athens as a private individual.

Restoring the monarchy would not, of course, solve in itself Greece's economic woes, but it should provide stability, and prevent unnecessary elections and the risk of further uncertainty.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Pope Paul II

The other day the Mad Monarchist blog had a post about one of the lesser known Renaissance holders of the papacy, Pope Paul II, who reigned from 1464-71. The Supreme Pontiffs of the period are often traduced in the popular imagination, and the article seeks to redress the balance in the case of Pope Paul. Despite a typo which confuses his dates of election and death, this makes for interesting reading, and reproduces a photograph of a bust of the Pope, showing him as a striking looking man.

Proud of these good looks he was said to have wanted to take Formosus as his papal name when elected, as it means beautiful, but was persuaded to adopt the safer name of Paul - but is that story a bit of fifteenth century calumny or tittle-tattle?

Pope Paul II 
The victim of his good looks and his tiara?
Image; Mad Monarchist

The Mad Monarchist refers to rumours about the cause of the Pope's death - the version I have seen is that he suffered a stroke as a result of wearing a new and heavy Papal tiara - what a way to go! Again - is that true or is it gossip?

The post can be read at Papal Profile: Pope Paul II

A Monstrance from Milan

The New Liturgical Movement recemtly had an intersting post about an item in the treasury of Milan cathedral - a late medieval monstrance apparently made from a crystal cup. The article, with a photograph, can be seen at An Antique Monstrance from the Duomo of Milan