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.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Restoration work

Regular readers will have noticed that in recent days the masthead and side panels that accompany this blog have disappeared. This was due to some technical or other sinister skulduggery beyond the Clever Boy's skill or competence to remedy. 

However his friend the Eminence grise offered assistance, and the mast head, taken from Andrea di Firenze's Triumph of the Church, has been reinstated. The side panels may take longer. I am very grateful, as always, to the Eminence grise for this restoration work.

Restoration is, readers will not be surprised to learn, an important concept for the Clever Boy, who has been helped in this instance to put his ideas into practice.

Conclusion of the Forty Hours at the Oxford Oratory

The Oxford Oratory website now has a splendid series of photographs of the conclusion of the Forty Hours yesterday. I think it worthwhile reproducing the series, with congratulations to the photographers for taking such excellent pictures unobtrusively, and with a few additional comments of my own.

"So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
                  To see your strength and your glory"  (Ps 62)

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The Forty Hours' prayer before the Blessed Sacrament concluded yesterday evening with Solemn Vespers, sung antiphonally by the clergy and the choir as well as the congregation, a procession around the church and Benediction.

The congregation was sizeable, but I do feel sorry that more people do not come along to join in such a wonderful series of acts of devotion and to celebrate their Faith.

Solemn Vespers of the Blessed Sacrament:

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The Officiant was the Provost Fr Daniel, the Cantors Fr Dominic and Br Oliver.

The Procession took the Blessed Sacrament, the clergy and congregation round the interior of the church - which tends to feel too small on these occasions:

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Br. Gregory Davies O.Praem., a Canon Regular of Prémontré, from St Philip's Priory in Chelmsford, who is studying in Oxford and Br Adam  Fairbairn C.O., from the Oratory at St Wilfrid's in York, established by the Oxford Oratory


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Images: Oxford Oratory

This was a beautiful and moving conclusion to the Forty Hours, the effect of the whole weekend being a reinvigoration of one's sense of devotion to Our Lord in His Sacramental Presence.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Forty Hours at the Oxford Oratory

I have adapted this post from one on the Oxford Oratory website about the Forty Hours Devotion, adding some personal reflections and some additional photographs provided by a friend. This year, we are praying especially for Peace, in union with persecuted Christians throughout the world.

I spent part of yesterday afternoon helping the Fathers and Brothers and Sacristan to set up - so time used profitably, I hope, dusting the throne canopy for the monstrance, squeezing candles into sconces that were too large with the help of paper collars, covering benches with tinfoil to catch wax, and then deciding that the whole process was unnecessary, and helping position candelabra. A satisfying afternoon, becuase one could see at the end what one had helped achieve.

This year we have a new machina to support the monstranc enad its throne as well as the candles and flowers. Painted to resemble marble or alabaster with lapis lazuli inset panels, it is very effective and provides more surface area than the previous arrangement. It was made by the father of Br Oliver.


The altar and machina before adding the gold frontal and the candles

Image: Irim Sarwar


The conclusion of Mass

Image: Irim Sarwar

Our Forty Hours' Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament began with the Solemn Mass of Exposition at 6 pm. Unfortunately this beautiful Mass did not draw as many people as I would have hoped or expected, but it was a fine opening to the Devotion.


The Blessed Sacrament in the Monstrance

Image: Irim Sarwar


A view across the Sanctuary

Image: Irim Sarwar 


The altar from the nave 

Image: Irim Sarwar

I counted 93 candles on the altar plus another 18 in the two free-standing candelabra.


A distant view along the nave

Image: Oxford Oratory

The effect of the candles around the enthroned monstrance made me think of the congregation as suitors to the Court of Heaven, which we are of course, and, as is the intention of the Forty Hours, to give us a glimpse of Heaven on Earth. Not light inaccessible hid from our eyes, but rather Light made visible.

Our own Holy Father St Philip used to attend Compline with the Dominicans of the Minerva so often that the Dominican friars gave him his own key to their church. We are very glad to continue this long-standing friendship by welcoming once the more the Dominicans of Blackfriars in Oxford to sing Compline before the Blessed Sacrament at 11pm. This drew a large congregation.


The Dominicans in choir
Image: Oxford Oratory


The prayers at Benediction
Image: Oxford Oratory

Benediction followed Compline, and so the all-night vigil began. As in previous years I stayed right through - with breaks for refreshments in the parish centre next door - on the basis that it is easier for me to help sustain the vigil than for those with families, and also because one can find deeper silence in the small hours.

The keen eyed amongst my readers can see  the back of my head and my light jacket in this photograph:


The congregation keeps vigil

Image: Oxford Oratory

We prayed the Rosary and at 5am had sung Matins and Lauds of the Blessed Sacrament in the presence of the Exposed Body of Our Lord. Singing - well, saying in my case - the psalmody in the Divine Presence brought home to me afresh Whom it is we are addressing when we say the Divine Office.

At 6 am we had a Mass in the Extrordinary Form for the feast of St Luke.

At breakfasttime I left to freshen up and indeed have breakfast with afriend at a nearby restaurant

The Blessed Sacrament will continue to be exposed until midnight today. There will be a Mass for Peace with hymns at 6:30pm.

Masses on Sunday are at the usual times. The Solemn Mass will be a votive Mass of the Sacred Heart, at the end of which exposition will resume until Solemn Vespers, Procession and Benediction at 5pm.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Cardinal William Allen

Reading Fr Hunwicke's blog has reminded me that today is the 420th anniversary of the death in 1594 of the other Oriel Cardinal, and sometime head of its dependent academic Hall, St Mary's, Cardinal William Allen. He was to become the founder of the English College at Douai and later at Rheims, and a key figure in ensuring the survival of Catholicism in Elizabethan England through the missiopnary priest trained there. He was also a not very successful political intriguer in the English Catholic cause in his long years of exile on the continent. Fr Hunwicke's thoughts can be read at Two Williams, one cardinal's hat, one primatial cross

I should add to what Fr Hunwicke says that the scaffolding and polythene have now gone from the front of Oriel and the statue of Cardinal Allen can once more be seen looking out across the High towards St Mary's.


Cardinal William Allen

Image: community.dur.ac.uk

There is an online introduction to his career here, and the life of him by Eamon Duffy in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography can be read at William Allen

The old Dictionary of National Biography account of his life can be accessed at William Allen,(1532-1594),  and the Catholic Encyclopaedia entry on him is at William Allen.

He is commemorated in the name of Allen Hall, the Westminster Seminary, and their website introduction to him can be read at Cardinal William Allen

  View Image

The arms of Cardinal Allen as depicted in the glass in Oriel Hall

Image: Lawrence Lew on Flickr

Viking hoard found in Dumfries and Galloway

Last weekend there was the announcement of a major archaeological discovery on land belonging to the Church of Scotland in Galloway and Dumfries. The find, last September, was of a Viking hoard of very considerable importance.

Treasure hunter - Viking Hoards in Scotland

The largest silver alloy Carolingian pot ever found, and which still retains its lid, and a 9th - 10th century silver cross with unusual enamels from the Dumfriesshire hoard


Many newspapers and other media have picked up the story - the facts are the same, but some give fuller coverage or better illustrations:

It is already written up on Wikipedia at Dumfriesshire Hoard, and another report of the discovery, Treasure hunter uncovers one of the most significant Viking hoards  gives more historical background to Scandinavian raids on Scotland in the ninth century

All of which points to our continuing fascination with the past, and to the fact that discoveries such as this continue to both add to our knowledge and to re-shape our understanding of the appropriate period of history.


Wednesday, 15 October 2014

750th Anniversary Mass at Merton

Yesterday evening I attended a Solemn Mass celebrated by the
Archbishop of Birmingham, The Most Rev. Bernard Longley, in 
the chapel of Merton College to mark the 750th anniversary of 
the foundation in 1264 of the College - more properly termed 
The House or College of Scholars of Merton in the University 
of Oxford.


                         King Edward I and Bishop Merton
                    Fifteenth century statues from the gatehouse of Merton
                 built by Warden Thomas Rudbourne circa 1417

Merton College

Merton Chapel

Image: tripadvisor.co.uk

The Chapel, the choir of which was completed by 1294, is one of 
greatest buildings in Oxford - and arguably the greatest. I cannot 
exactly say why, but it just is. It retains much of its original late
thirteenth or early fourteenth century glazing, and the open space
necessary for the proper celebration of the Sarum liturgy and offices.

Merton College Chapel, Oxford

Wide-angle view of the chapel

Image; Theo Jacobs on photo.net  

The Mass was concelebrated at aforward altar, which I regret
given the very fine high altar the chapel possesses. In his sermon
the  rchbishop made reference to the first Mass celebratedin the 
Chapel since the Reformation, which was in 1967, and to the
continuous tradition of reciting the psalter in the chapel since 
the foundation of the college.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

English Iconoclasm IX

Nothing so encapsulates English iconoclasm in the Reformation period and in subsequent centuries than the attack on the cult, on the veneration, on almost even the name, of the Blesed Virgin Mary. Mary's Dowry appeared more tha anxious to expunger her from its collective life and worship.

I have already mentioned the 1538 burning of several famous statues of her as well as other devotional imagess, and in the first years of the Elizabethan settlement there were similar scenes - what I wonder did the good people of Sleaford in Lincolnshire think in 1560 when the Crucifix was taken out from their parish church of St Denys and burned in the market place outside?

Lady Chapels in churches attracted the attention of zealous reformers. At Ely cathedral the wondrous fourteenth century Lady Chapel lost all its glass and every statue in the canopy work around the arcades was meticulously decapitated.

 The Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral

Image: paradoxplace.com

As I heard Eamonn Duffy point out in a lecture here in Oxford folk-memory and shifting blame comes into play here: on a visit to Ely he heard a guide explain that this was all due to Oliver Cromwell (a local boy made bad on emight add), and ignoring the fact that the damage is the responsibility of the Bishop of Ely under King Edward VI... a case of blaming "the other".

(I will not comment on the rather bizarre figure of the Virgin which has been placed there in recent years and can be seen above the altar in the photograph - I am not sure who is to "blame " for that.)

In other case the church might survive, but the Lady Chapel was deemed extraneous and pulled doem to save on repairs or to provide stonework as at Tewkesbury abbey, saved by the townspeople at a scrap value of £453. Nonetheless the chapel, which contained tombs of fifteenth century lords of the manor and patrons of the abbey, was later demolished.

The site of the Lady Chapel at Tewkesbury Abbey

The line of the vault can be seen, and the foundations are marked out in the turf in the foreground


At Norwich cathedral the Lady Chapel was demolished and only partially rebuilt in the twentieth century as a memorial to the Great War, whilst at Peterborough the Lady Chapel, situated rather like that of Ely cathedral to the north-east of the main church, and free standing on three sides was demolished for its stone in the 1650s and a country house, Thorpe Park, built with the materials.

Peterborough Cathedral - First Burial, Mary Queen of Scots - Preview Image

Peterborough Cathedral from the north in the seventeenth century by Daniel King 

The Lady Chapel can be seen to the left of the north transept, and flanking the presbytery, whils the north-west tower still has a spire


The English liturgy was purged of virtually all Marian devotions in 1548, and little survived beyond the feasts of her birth and, surprisingly perhaps, conception. In Oxford University the feast of the Assumption survived as a lesser commemoration, and as it still exists in the University Calendar.

In Oxford the University Church of St Mary the Virgin had a new porch built in 1636-37 by the mason Nicholas Stone at a cost of £230. This was adorned with a statue of the Virgin and Child, and in 1644 this was one of the capital charges  brought against Archbishop Laud by the Parliamentarians, on the basis that Laud as Chancellor of the University had sanctioned this. The statue had attracted the respect and indeed devotion of some University students and was blasted by a Parliamentarian musket when the army left the city at the beginning of the Civil War. A modern replacement now occupies the niche.


The South porch of St Mary the Virgin Oxford, with the statue of the Virgin and Child

 Image:David Nicholls on Flickr

Medieval statues which survived often did so in exile. Thus the statue now designated Our Lady of Westminster was, as the link explains, rediscovered and on sale in France in 1954, and acquired for Westminster Cathedral. A copy of it is now a replacement for the statue of Our Lady of Pew in Westminster Abbey, which appears to have been the original focus of King Richard II's vow of England to Our Lady as her Dowry in 1381.


Our Lady of Westminster

Image: Wikipedia

In the link about the statue it is worth noting the reference to exports from 1550, with three ships loads heading for French cities. There is also the reference to a near identical figure, but headless, which was found in 1863 buried in the churchyard at Broughton in Craven. That was a recusant area, with the Tempest family as local lords. Maybe they decided decent burial was the appropriate thing for a vandalised statue.

Near Oxford at Sandford on Thames a fine carving of the Assumption was found upside down and being used as a step in the church porch in the eighteenth century. I have posted about it and illustrated it in Assumption at Sandford on Thames.

In the crypt of York Minster is the statue now known as Our Lady of York. I think this was rediscovered during the restoration of the choir after the arson of 1829, and that it was found buried in the east wall. I wonder if, as an already old sculpture that was venerated, it had been re-enthtoned in Archbishop Thoresby's Lady Chapel in the late fourteenth century, vandalised in the sixteenth century and buried in the wall behind where it once was honoured?

  The statue of Our Lady of York

Image: carmelite.org

Vandalising statues in churches in your own country is one thing, but going abroad to do so is adding to the fault, and leads to the story of Our Lady Vulnerata at Vallodolid, which is as follows on the English College website :

In the great reredos of the Chapel of the English College, Valladolid, is the statue of Our Lady Vulnerata. The story of this statue begins in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England, in 1596. Spain had recovered from the defeat of the Invincible Armada and was gathering another fleet in the port of Cadiz, on the Atlantic coast of southern Spain. The Earl of Essex, together with Sir Walter Raleigh, led an English fleet into the harbour, destroyed the Spanish fleet and took possession of the city.

Some of the English troops ran riot and dragged a statue of the Virgin Mary and Child from a church to the market square where they desecrated it. They hacked at the face and cut off both arms. All that remained of the Child were parts of his tiny feet on His Mother's knee.

Our Lady Vulnerata

The mutilated statue was given greater honour than ever and the Countess of Santa Gadea, wife of the Governor of Castille, gave it place of honour in her chapel in Madrid.
The staff and students of the English College in Valladolid asked the Countess for the right to make reparation for the behaviour of their fellow countrymen who had desecrated the statue. Reluctantly she agreed and the statue was brought to Valladolid and installed with great solemnity in the College Chapel in 1600. Queen Margaret of Austria, wife of King Philip III of Spain, who was present when the statue was installed, had asked for a novena in honour of Our Lady. On the last day of the novena the Bishop of Palencia gave the statue the title of Our Lady Vulnerata (which means wounded and insulted).

The Chapel was renovated in 1979 to mark its third centenary. More recently the façade was restored and the main doors renewed at the end of 1985; and the Chapel was opened to the public.

Every week, to this day, special prayers are offered in reparation for the insults to Our Lady and the Child Jesus and to implore the intercession of Our Lady Vulnerata for the conversion of the people of England and Wales. 

Every year during Holy Week the statue is processed along the street, where it is met by a huge 'paso' or float, which has a large depiction of the Crucified Christ resting on top of it. The two images meet, and dance to each other for a brief period,  - then the Vulnerata comes back to the College.
The story of the statue is depicted in eight paintings around the walls of the College Chapel.
The Mass of Our Lady Vulnerata is celebrated in the College by special indult on the Sunday following the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
In the year 2000, the fourth Centenary of the arrival of the statue of Our Lady Vulnerata, after further renovation of the College Chapel, the statue was given a new crown, a gift from the old boys of the College, at a solemn ceremony on the Feast of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.

Text adapted from: sanalbano.org 

Prayer to Our Lady Vulnerata

Dear Mother, as I gaze on your wounded and mutilated image, I humbly beg your pardon for the grievous insults to you, great Mother of God. Help me to notice the wounded children of the world, and see your beauty in the faces of the poor and disfranchised. Let me love them better, as your Son commanded. I praise you through the faith, loyalty and blood of the missionaries who prayed for courage before your image, and I ask you to keep today’s missionaries in your loving care as they, too, carry the Good News throughout the world. Amen

Image and text: whitesmokeahoy.blogspot.co.uk