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, 29 September 2011

St Michael the Archangel


To mark the Feast of St Michael here, courtesy of a post on the Medieval Religion discussion group by that splendid photographer of medieval stained glass the Rev. Gordon Plumb, are three fourteenth century images of the Archangel:

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Eaton Bishop, Herefordshire, Parish Church of St Michael,
East window, St Michael the Archangel


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Tewkesbury Abbey, Choir Clerestory East Window, 3d-4d, St Michael the Archangel


St Michael is in the place normally occupied in Last Judgement scenes by John the Baptist (who has been moved to the far left among a group of Apostles). Here Michael supports a shield, now filled with fragmentsby a restorer but in a seventeenth century account this was clearly then the "Arma Christi" - the shield of the Passion on which the instruments of the Passion were displayed.

Sarah Brown in her summary of her ongoing research into the glass for her CVMA volume on the glass which she presented in the 2003 history of Tewkesbury Abbey volume, speculates that this reordering of the standard iconography of a Last Judgement scene perhaps reflects a personal devotion on the part of one of those involved in the window's creation to the "Arma Christi". The Arma became linked with protection and indulgences were soon attached to it. According to the Golden Legend it is St Michael who will present the cross, nails and spear and crown of thorns at the Last Judgement, so his carrying this shield here is perhaps appropriate.


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Exeter Cathedral, Choir Clerstory, East window,
St Michael the Archangel


This figure of St Michael the archangel was not made originally for the East window. It was painted by an atelier that worked extensively in the West Country, and is best known for the schemes at Doddiscombsleigh and Ashton. This panel was subject to some extensive repairs by Drake, including the lively dragon at St Michael's feet which is entirely his work.



Holy Michael Archangel defend us in the day of battle, be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the Devil, and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down into Hell Satan and all other evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls.


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