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.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

St Modwen and Burton on Trent Abbey

The town of Burton on Trent is well known for brewing, but once was better known as a place of prayer and pilgrimage, as it housed the shrine of St Modwen, whose feast day falls today. This post can also be seen as carrying on a theme I considered in the series I posted on English iconoclasm.

There are a series of detailed online accounts from a really excellent website about the history of the town. That about St Modwen and her cult can be viewed here, and the history of the Benedictine abbey founded in 1002 by Wulfric Spot which housed her relics can be seen here. The series of links it gives are well worth following up.

In the middle ages Burton did not have a seperate parish church, and the townspeople used the nave for worship. This was one reason why the abbey church survived the dissolution. Firstly this was as Burton College - I think this was an unfulfilled Henrician plan to make the abbey church a cathedral for a potential Derbyshire diocese - but the college was dissolved in 1545, and no new diocese created, and then it survived as the parish church.  

Burton Abbey 

Burton on Trent Abbey

The most famous image of the abbey is this 1661 engraving from the river by Wenceslas Hollar. The writer of the website point sout that it does not entirely agree with known records, and suggests it uses ‘artistic license’ and is therefore, a partly speculative reconstruction drawing upon other Benedictine abbeys. However it does appear to agree with much of what is known about the abbey, and is a valuable source.


The webite explains how St. Modwen’s Old Church, predecessor of the current parish church, was part of the former monastic church which was reserved to the parish when the Crown granted the possessions of the dissolved Burton college, which had been temporarily establishedin the former abbey, to Sir William Paget in 1546. It comprised the aisled nave of seven bays, west tower, west porch, crossing with tower and spire, and the transepts. By 1603 the eastern arm, which had been granted to Paget, was in ruins and the arch separating it from the crossing was walled up. 

However the building became dilapidated and in 1719-28 was rebuilt as the present handsome Georgian church. There is a section about this, including a plan indicating the size of the abbey church on the same website and it can be viewed here

The abbey buildings now lie under the adjacent market hall in the town centre.

Fine as the present church is I cannot but lament the loss of what looks to have been a very interesting monastic church.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Discussing a Restoration in Romania

The Mad Monarchist had an informative and reflective post recently about discussions of a possible restoration of King Michael and his family to their legitimate throne in Romania.

This arises from the topic, either in principle or as a matter to be put to a referendum, of restoring the Romanian monarchy having been taken up by quite a few politicians in the current electoral process to elect a President of the republic.

King Michael I of Romania and Crown Princess Margarita of Romania.

 Image: erhj.blogspot
The Mad Monarchist is, I think, wise to be cautious and to wonder as to the political integrity of some of those speaking up for the Royalist cause or at least for a referendum on the issue. Talk can be cheap, especially at election times,a nd actions speak louder than words. However, like him, I would naturally  hope and wish for such a restoration and recognition of King Michael's rights. Something to renew in one's prayers.

The post can be read at Royalist Restoration in Romania?

File:Kingdom of Romania - Big CoA.svg

The arms of the Kingdom of Romania since 1922

Image: Wikipedia

Monday, 27 October 2014

Bl.Emperor Karl commemorated by Juventutum in Washington

On The New Liturgical Movement website there is a post about the recent celebration on October 21st of an EF Mass at St. Mary, Mother of God Catholic Church in honour of Bl.Karl of Austria in Washington D.C.

The text is that of a talk given after the  Mass by Juventutem DC leader Daniela Petchik. This was delivered at a reception which followed the Mass, with speeches from H.I.R.H. Prince Bertrand of Orleans-Braganza, the Prince Imperial of Brazil (Vassouras Line), Raymond de Souza and by Daniela Petchik. Miss Petchik was kind enough to provide NLM with her own remarks, which serve as a thoughtful meditation not only on the life and witness of the Emperor but also about the traditional spirituality that Juventutum encourages amongst the young faithful.

The blog post with the speech can be read at Blessed Karl of Austria — Sanctity and Perfection in his Footsteps

Celebrating the Feast of Christ the King

Yesterday was the feast of Christ the King in the Extraordinary Form, but in the Ordinary Form we have to wait for another month to celebrate the same feast. 

On The New Liturgical Movement blog and on Rorate Caeli Peter Kwasniewski has posted an interesting and carefully considered piece about the significance of moving this feast, itself instituted in 1925, in the 1970 Missal to the Sunday preceding Advent. 

His argument is that this is not just a matter of tidying up the Church year but that it fundamentally alters the significance of the feast, moving its essence from the temporal to the eschatological. He makes an impressive argument, and one that, as he points out, is topical in the life of the Church. His linked articles can be accessed at Why is the Feast of Christ the King Celebrated on Different Sundays in the OF & EF Calendars?

Leaves from a Book of Hours

Last Friday evening I was invited to a private view of an exhibition of watercolours by Rebecca Hind at St John's College Barn Gallery here in Oxford. Rebecca Hind is an Exhibiting Artist and Tutor in Painting and Drawing at the Ruskin School in Oxford and at Arts in Provence.

My invitation and contact with her comes from a long-standing friendship with her parents from my days in Yorkshire, where her late father was an Anglican priest, and her mother a resourceful vicar's wife and local historian, and it was a great pleasure to actually meet up with her again after more than twenty years of contact only by e-mail.

I have seen a previous exhibition of Rececca's paintings in 2008 at the Museum of the History of Science, which were watercolours of the moon, and they can be seen at MHS | Moonscope Lunar watercolours by Rebecca Hind

She is the author of Sacred Places, Sacred Journeys and The 1000 Faces of God, books which link spiritualiity, art and architecture.

Her latest exhibition at St John's she has entitled Leaves from a Book of Hours.

Her watercolours can be seen as being at the interface of representational and non representational forms, executed in large format and depicting cosmic forces and features in a striking combination of precise detail and broad swathes of subtle colour.

the word. watercolour by Rebecca Hind 152 x 102 cmd

The Word


When I was bidding my farewells to Rebecca I said that I assumed everybody was pointing to the reference to the final line of T.S.Eliot's Little Gidding, "And the fire and the rose are one", in respect of her painting "The Word", but she told me I was the first to make that connection. To me it seemed an obvious image of what Eliot was writing about, and I am surprised no-one lese was struck by the parallel.

The exhibition is open on weekends from 25th October until 9th November 2014 and by appointment. Please visit http://bit.ly/1DEnc9Q for further information.

Oxford LMS Pilgrimage

Last Saturday the Latin Mass Society held its annual Oxford Pilgrimage. This year it commemorated Bl.George Napier, or Napper, a local man, born in the city in 1550, who suffered martyrdom at Oxford Castle for being a priest on November 9th 1610. He was beatified in 1929. The account of his life from the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia can be read at Ven. George Napper

We had a Solemn Mass in the traditional Dominican Rite celebrated in the church at Blackfriars. It was rather a pity that the numbers were not, I think, as good as in previous years for this rare occasion to see the Dominican liturgy being celebrated. This is a form of Mass with close similarities to the Use of Sarum, and certainly would have been celebrated in medieval English Dominican houses. I know some regular attenders had other commitments, but such an event should draw in new recruits if the ideals of the LMS are to be diffused more widely.

The Chairman of the LMS was not only organising and singing as part of the schola but was also busy photographing the Mass and the other events of the day.



Images: Joseph Shaw on Flickr

His complete set of pictures are available on Flickr at:

Oxford LMS Pilgrimage 2014

After a break for lunch we reassembled at Carfax with a processional cross, a statue of Our Lady of Walsingham and the Banner of the LMS to go to the remains of the castle and the site of Bl. George's imprisonment and martyrdom. As we went along through the Saturday afternoon shoppers we sang the Great Litany. At the plaque, itself unveiled on a previous Pilgrimage in 2010 by Archbishop Longley, marking the site of the martyrdom, we sang the Te Deum.

On the way back from the castle along Worcester Street (negotiating the roadworks as we went along) we sang Faith of Our Fathers and the Song of the English Zouaves ("Aniraa mia, anima mia, Ama Dio e tira via.") from the 1860s. As this is less well known I have retrieved the text from the Internet and will reproduce it:

Saint George and old England for ever!
Once more her sons arm for the fight,
With the cross on their breasts, to do battle
For God, Holy Church, and the right.
Twine your swords with the palm branch, brave comrades,
For as Pilgrims we march forth to-day ; —
Love God, O my soul, love Him only,
And then with light heart go thy way.

We come from the blue shores of England,
From the mountains of Scotia we come.
From the green, faithful island of Erin, —
Far, far, from our wild northern home.
Place Saint Andrew's red cross in your bonnets.
Saint Patrick's green shamrock display ; —
Love God, O my soul, love Him only.
And then with light heart go thy way.

Dishonour our swords shall not tarnish.
We draw them for Rome and the Pope ;
Victors still, whether living or dying.
For the Martyr's bright crown is our hope ;
If 'tis sweet for our country to perish.
Sweeter far for the cause of to-day ; —
Love God, my soul, love Him only.
And then with light heart go thy way.

Though the odds be against us, what matter ?
While God and Our Lady look down.
And the Saints of our country are near us.
And Angels are holding the crown.
March, march to the combat and fear not,
A light round our weapons will play ; —
Love God, O my soul, love Him only,
And then with light heart go thy way.

From Joseph Powell Two Years in the Pontifical Zouaves 1871

Note: I do not know why this speaks of St Andrew's cross as red - red for martyrdom of course, but the saltire is normally depicted white.

We sang the Litany of Loretto as we processed along Beaumont Street past the Ashmolean and so back to Blackfriars for Benediction.


Image: Joseph Shaw on Flickr

Sunday, 26 October 2014

King Alfred

Today is the 1115th anniversary of the death in 899 of King Alfred the Great. The only English King to be consistently so described he was born at Wantage in 849 and ruled Wessex from 871, and began the effective unification of England under the house of Cerdic.

Not only a capable military leader and administrator the King was also, famously, a patron of letters and learning, not least in his translation of St Gregory the Great's Pastoral Care, which can be accessed at Alfred. Preface to His Translation of Gregory's Pastoral Care. That is in itself a powerful indicator of what this ninth century King thought important for the lives and welfare of his people

Bishop Asser of Sherborne's biography of the King, dated to circa 888, can be read online by following the links given in the site at Asser's The Life Of King Alfred

There is an online modern account of his life and reign here, and the the most recent academic, and excellent, survey of his life by the late Patrick Wormold from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography can be read at Alfred [Ælfred] .

Penny issued by King Alfred
Minted 875-885
Found at Cathedral Green Winchester


Here in Oxford there are not only the links to King Alfred of his birth nearby at Wantage and the layout of the plan of the city streets by his immediate descendants but, of course, what is probably both the best known link to the King and the best known object in the Ashmolean Museum, the Alfred Jewel. This was discovered in 1693 at North Petherton near Athelney in Somerset, and given to the University in the early eighteenth century.

This is now considered to be the remains of an aestel - indeed the most impressive one of several to survive - which was a pointer used in public and liturgical readings. This links to the translation of the Pastoral Care, copies of which were sent out with aestels by the King.

Alfred Jewel (Click to enlarge)

The Alfred Jewel


The Ashmolean has an illustrated and informative online piece about the Alfred Jewel and its context here, and there is another online account of this remarkable treasure and its function here. This has useful links to material and illustration relatings to other aestels from the period.