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, 1 August 2014


File:Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry aout.jpg


The August illumination in the Très Riches Heures of the Duke of Berry is attributed to Jean Limbourg. In the foreground it depicts an aristocratic falconry party. The young man on the leading horse as well as the huntsman or groom wears a straw hat that looks very contemporary to the modern viewer, and is presumably the type of headgear, "a sorry straw hat", in which Henry Beaufort  Duke of Somerset was recorded as wearing on his head whilst jousting in 1463. Here once again the fashionable members of the aristocratic world of the early fifteenth century are out and about enjoying themselves in traditional country pursuits, and also courtly dalliance. 

In the background are a group of bathers enjoying swimming in the warm weather whilst others gather in the harvest. The mood is relaxed and prosperous, suggesting long lazy days for some, and, for those working, warmth and sunshire, and the promise of plenty for the coming autumn.

In the background is the Château d'Étampes. Today, as the link explains, only the keep remains of the castle. This great tower of Étampes is of particular interest to me as it may have inspired the design of Clifford's Tower at York in the thirteenth century, and that in turn may have influenced, in the fourteenth century, the design of the great tower, the so called Round Tower, of the castle in my home town of Pontefract, and that at the nearby castle at Sandal.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Drawing attention to the plight of Iraqi Christians

Further to my post about the need to express support for the Christians of Iraq - indeed for all Christians in the Middle East - there is a piece on the Oxford Oratory website about the situation which can be read at Pray for the Christians of Iraq

Rorate Caeli has a report about a statement made by a number of public figures in France about the situation. This can be read at "An Appeal for the Christians of the Middle East"French elected officials lead the way: will those elsewhere follow suit, or remain silent?

One does rather wait to hear or read on anything being said by Western governments or opinion makers about this situation.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

A new Oratorian Novice

Yesterday evening a new Novice began his formal life as an Oratorian here at the Oxford Oratory.


Br Adam and the Provost, Fr Daniel

Brother Adam Fairbairn, was clothed in the habit of Our Holy Father St Philip. He comes from near York and previously studied at the English College in Valladolid.


 The community who were present in the Oratory House.
From left, Br Oliver, Fr Jerome, Fr Nicholas, Br Adam, Fr Daniel, Fr Richard, who is the parish priest at St Wilfrid's in York

Br Adam has just completed a month's postulancy here in Oxford. Before that he was working in York at St Wilfrid's as a pastoral assistant from last December. He will now return to York as the first novice of the community there, but he will be making regular visits to Oxford over the course of the next year.


Br Adam Fairbairn

Please pray for Br Adam and the Oratorian community in York, and ask that God may bless both the house in Oxford and the house in York with many good vocations in the years to come.

Images and text adapted from Oxford Oratory website

Motet for St James

The other day Rorate Caeli had a post about a motet written in 1426-28 by Guillaume Dufay in honour of St James the Great and dedicated to one of his friends, then working as chaplain in Bologna. The post, with the text and avideo link can be viewed at In honor of Saint James.

This caught my eye not only as I had written about the cult of St James in my post about the cathedral at Santiago last Friday but because this is music from the world which Bishop Fleming would have known on his visits to the continent and to the Councils of Constance and Pavia-Siena, and at the Papal court.

St Olav

In addition to today being the feast of St Martha it is also the feast day of St Olav, King of Norway, who was killed in battle on this day in 1029. He is the patron saint of Norway, and in medieval constitutional theory the eternal or perpetual King of Norway. Thus it is his crown which is the crown of the kingdom - although it is in actual fact a handsome nineteenth century piece - and Trondheim, the burial place of St Olav, became the traditional place for the crown to be kept and for the King's coronation.

There is an illustrated online account of St Olav here. I have posted about him before in St Olaf's day in 2011 and in St Eystein, in 2012. 

Here is a picture of  the striking life sizestatue of St Olav in the entrance to the church dedicated to him and which is the Norwegian church in London:

Norwegian Church and Seamen's Mission 


 I posted about the church in Rotherhithe in A corner of London that is forever Norway earlier this year.

 This is therefore a day upon which to remember and pray for my own Norwegian freinds, and for the King and people of Norway. May St Olav continue to intercede for them.

Monday, 28 July 2014

The Austro-Hungarian case for war

To mark the centenary today of the commencement of hostilities in 1914 with the Austro-Hungarian attack on Serbia the blog Rorate Caeli reproduces the text of the manifesto addressed by the Emperor Francis Joseph to his people that day. This outlines the arguments of the Imperial and Royal government for the atatck on Serbia. It can be viewed at  He left, never to return.

Rorate Caeli in a second post reproduces one of the telegrams sent to the Serbian government from Vienna, with a commentary on what it unleashed. This can be seen in The Telegram.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Battle of Bouvines

Today is the 800th anniversary of one of the most important battles in west European history, certainly in the medieval period, and one whose consequences continue to shape the map of western Europe. Yet the battle of Bouvines is little known in England, which was undoubtedly affected by the result. The defeat by King Philip II of the Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV and his allies secured the French King's position and his consolidation of the monarchy in his realm. For the Emperor it meant flight, rejection by his subjects and the displacement of his dynasty from the Imperial throne. For his uncle and ally King John of England it meant that his hopes of regaining his territories in France were dashed, and he was in a weakened position in dealing with his nobles at home. Planned as a great pincer attack to destroy King Philip II its manifest failure left the coalition opposing him shattered and under attack, whilst the French celebrated what has come to be seen as a key event in the formation of a unified France. 

There is an online illustrated account of the battle here, and a more detailed version in German here.The whole background and campaign are covered in "The 'War' of Bouvines (1202–1214)"

There is an online life of King Philip II here. As King he consolidated the Capetian monarchy and realm to inaugurate the era of French ascendancy in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, and established the practical administration of the kingdom. His sobriquet of Augustus, as founder of the polity, is a legacy of Bouvines . A few years ago I read James Bradbury's sympathetic and well reserarched biography of the King Philip Augustis King of France 1180-1223

File:Sceau de Philippe Auguste. - Archives Nationales - SC-D157.jpg

The seal of King Philip II

Image: Wikipedia 

There is a life of the Emperor Otto IV here. A  more detailed version in German can be viewed at Otto IV. For him the battle led to his family, the Guelfs, losing the Imperial title and the definitive re-emergence of the Hohenstaufen in the person of the young Emperor Frederick II. That was to have enormous consequences for the future  history of Europe.

The seal of Emperor Otto IV

Image: harzburger-wanderseite.de


Modern glass commemorating the battle in the church of Saint-Pierre at Bouvines
Image:greentool2002 on Flickr 

The other loser was King John, who was not present at the battle with any troops. His campaign in Poitou was unsuccessful in the aftermath of the French victory at Bouvines and the King returned to England. Whether victory by him, let alone his allies at Bouvines,would have quelled the rising dissent of many of the political nation in England as studied bu J.C.Holt in The Northerners may be questionable. King John was reaping the consequences of his policies and those of his father and brother before him, but victory in France might well have redressed the balance of advantage. How direct the route is from Bouvines to Runnymead may be unclear, but there is certainly a link.

Effigy of King John on his tomb in Worcester Cathedral