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.


Sunday, 30 December 2012

St Egwin and Evesham


Today is, inter alia, the feast day of St Egwin of Evesham, who died circa 717. Also known as Ecgwine and also Egwine (In Latin, Ecgwinus and Egwinus) he was recorded as Bishop of Worcester from the years 692 to 717 in rewritten charters whose degree of fidelity to their lost originals is hard to gauge. There is also a largely fictional, early eleventh-century Vita by Byrhtferth, a monk of Ramsey (BHL 2432; the ancestor of a varied hagiographic progeny over the next several centuries), and also in the twelfth-century chronicle of John of Worcester.

St Egwin is considered the founder of the abbey at Evesham in Worcestershire, where his miracle-working remains were housed in a shrine completed in the later twelfth century by Adam of Evesham (Adam de Senlis). Liturgical calendars from the eleventh century onward give today as that of his laying to rest.

St Egwin is always associated with the story of the vision revealed to him and previously to the swineherd Eoves of Our Lady of Evesham  - centuries before that at Walsingham to Richeldis and to so many subsequent visons.

Michael Lapidge's biography of the saint, of whom very little is known with any certainty, in the Oxford DNB can be read here.


http://www.richardiiiworcs.co.uk/images/worcester/1003202.jpg

This statue of a bishop on the early sixteenth-century (1502-1504) chantry of Prince Arthur in Worcester cathedral is thought to represent Ecgwine (standing above the swine of Evesham's legendary etymon, the swineherd Eof or Eoves).


Image: richardiiiworcs.co.uk 


The Victoria County History account of the abbey of St Mary the Virgin and St Egwin at Evesham can be read here.

Amongst the manuscripts which survive from the abbey there is the mid-thirteenth-century Evesham Psalter of circa 1246 (London, British Library, MS Addit. 44874, fol. 6r). Here is a view of the Crucifixion illumination in the volume:


 http://campus.udayton.edu/mary/images/lent51.jpg

Image: campus.udayton.edu.com




There is, alas, not much left of the abbey buildings other than its early sixteenth-century detached belltower, the doorway of the chapter house, and from the enclosure, part of a Norman gateway and the originally early fifteenth-century abbey almonry which is now the very interesting museum for the abbey site and the town.


The mostly nineteenth-century church of St Egwin at Norton near Evesham preserves a lectern said to have been unearthed in 1813 in the churchyard of Evesham Abbey:


http://www.richardiiiworcs.co.uk/images/lectern.jpg

Image; richardiiiworcs.co.uk


There is a detailed account of the lectern, with more illustrations of the sculpture, which can be read here.


Adapted and extended from a post by John Dillon on the Medieval Religion discussion group.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

The cult of St Thomas in art


Today is the feast day of St Thomas of Canterbury, the anniversary of his murder in his cathedral in 1170. Last year I posted about some images of St Thomas in art - notably a statue at Chartres.
This year I am illustrating some of the images listed by John Dillon in his post for today on the Medieval Religion discussion group. This is only a personal selection from the great number of extremely interesting examples which he gave.

In part they illustrate, as did my post last year, the spread of his cult from Spain and Sicily to Sweden and Iceland - which produced an important source for his life in a Saga.  Devotion to him spread rapidly in the generation after his death and it remained widespread throughout the middle ages.

Kay Brainerd Slocum's Liturgies in Honour of Thomas Becket (University of Toronto Press, 2004) has a useful chapter (pp. 98-126) on the spread of Thomas' cult.

The chiesa di San Giorgio in Como has a reliquary case housing what is said to be part of Thomas' chin and some bones said to be those of St. Eutichius of Como. The reliquary and the relics can he seen here, here and here. The certificate from 1777 of a recognition of these relics can be seen here.

In Italy St Thomas appears in wall paintings such as this  thirteenth-century fresco of his martyrdom in Pavia's chiesa di San Lanfranco - given the connection with Canterbury this is perhaps not surprising:


http://www.sanlanfranco.it/uploads/pics/w_assasinioTomasBecket.png

Image; sanlanfranco.it


A fresco of circa 1260 formerly in the episcopal place at Treviso in the Veneto and now in that see's diocesan museum shows the martuyrdom as well as King Henry II. In the first view, note the domes in the representation of Canterbury cathedral:it is thought that the artist was familiar with St Mark's in Venice.

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3505/3972213586_3e47cd62f1_b.jpg

Image: farm4.static.flickr.com



http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2479/3972215200_10e0d6799a_b.jpg

 Image; farm3.static.flickr.com

The influence of Emglish clergy working in Scandinavia doubtless helps explain the presence of devotion to and commemoration of St Thomas there. Here are two photographs  of reliefs on the late twelfth-century baptismal font (ca. 1190-1200) in the church at Lyngsjö (Skåne län) showing King Henry II, the murderers, and St Thomas of Canterbury's martyrdom:

Lyngsjö kirke, døbefont



Lyngsjö kirke, døbefont

Images: nordenskirker.dk


More views of this font are available here (scroll down to Døbefont):


The cult remained popular in Scandinavia into the later middle ages as is indicated by this  altarpiece statue in Härads kyrka, Härad (Strängnäs kommun), Södermanland:



Image:Someday man on Flickr

The great series of miracle windows at Canterbury - how did they manage to survive the destructive urges of iconocl;asts in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries I wonder - as in the example here of Becket window 4 (circa 1215-1220)

They are closely related in date and style to the early thirteenth-century Becket window in the cathedral at Chartres which can be seen here and to the heavily restored, seemingly early thirteenth-century, Becket window in the north choir of Sens cathedral, which can be seen here.

Sens has close links with St Thomas as his home whilst in exile, and the cathedral preserves vestments which are said to have been his.

There is a link to an article in Vidimus with a discussion of, and some expandable views of, earlier thirteenth-century Becket windows at Sens and elsewhere which can be read here.

St Thomas remained popular with commissions fromn glaziers, and despite King Henry VIII's proceptuion of his image, many examples still survive. Here is a fine early fifteenth century one from York Minster:


http://vidimus.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/issue_32_2009_pom5.jpg

St Thomas of Canterbury as depicted in the north choir aisle of York Minster (panel 5b of window nIX )
Given by Thomas Parker, circa 1415-1420

Image: vidimus.org

Here are two scenes from Meister Francke's  early fifteenth-century Altarpiece of St. Thomas Becket , probably commissioned by the English community in Hamburg and dated to 1424-36, and now in the Kunsthalle in Hamburg:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7d/Meister_Francke_007.jpg

Archbishop Thomas enters into Canterbury - an interesting depiction of how in the fifteenth century a bishop might appear when travelling:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/86/Meister_Francke_011.jpg


The martyrdom of the Archbishop


Images: Wikipedia

There is an article about Meister Francke here.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Holy Innocents



Today is the feast of the Holy Innocents' and I am again using a selection of images posted by John Dillon on the Medieval Religion discussion group site to mark the day.

The story was frequently depicted in medieval churches, and the form often predictable, but the works are also of considerable interest for contemporary details, especially of military dress.



http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/eb/RomaSantaMariaMaggioreArcoTrionfaleSxRegistro3.jpg


Mosaic of the fifth-century on the triumphal arch, Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Image: Wikipedia


http://www.wga.hu/art/zgothic/mural/12c2/03catala.jpg

Fresco of circa 1180, Panteón de los Reyes, Colegiata de San Isidoro, Léon

Image: World Gallery of Art


The earlier thirteenth-century apse mosaic of circa 1220 of Rome's Basilica of San Paolo fuori le Mura has a depiction unusual for the medievalperiod showing the Innocents as nimbed martyrs rather than as children being slaughtered:

[3+-+Detail+2.jpg]

Image: 4.bp.blogspot.com
 
In addition to being unusual this particular part of the mosaic is also seldom seen. Since the basilica's rebuilding in the nineteenth century this section of the mosaic has been hidden from ordinary view by a neo-classical entablature as can be seen in the photographs here  and here

St Paul's is the stational church for today as it held relics of the Holy Innocents, and hence their depiction in the mosaic.  




Relief circa 1220 - 1236, south portal, west facade, Amiens cathedral


Image:medievalart.org.uk


http://www.bluffton.edu/~sullivanm/strasbourg/westntympdet.jpg

Tympanum relief between 1280 and circa 1285, north portal, west facade, Strasbourg cathedral

Image:bluffton.edu.

photo

Glass panel circa 1385 by Jakob Acker the Elder, Ulm Minster

Image:gerfaut.d on Flickr

http://www.burgenseite.com/faschen/terlan_ritter_5.jpg

  
Detail from a wall painting of 1407, 
chiesa parrocchiale di Santa Maria Assunta / Pfarrkirche St. Mariä Himmelfahrt at  Terlano / Terlan (BZ) in the South Tyrol 

Image:burgenseite.com


Hugo van der Goes, c1440-1482, Massacre of the Innocents

Hugo van der Goes circa 1440-1482

Part of a larger work at the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.

Image: fixcas.com

Finally here are two rather lurid versions of the story by Matteo di Giovanni, showing how he re-worked the painting for another comission:

http://www.wga.hu/art/m/matteo/innocent.jpg


Panel painting of 1482  by Matteo di Giovanni, Chiesa di Sant'Agostino, Siena, where he had produced similar images for the mosaics of the cathedral floor. This is considered to be his masterpiece

Image: World  Gallery of Art


File:Matteo di Giovanni 002.jpg 























Panel painting of 1488 by Matteo di Giovanni, Museo nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples

Image: Wikipedia



Thursday, 27 December 2012

St John the Evangelist in Christian Art


Last year on this day I posted in St John the Evangelist  about images of him, and this year, thanks to a post by John Dillon on the Medieval Religion discussion group which gives fifty ancient and medieval images of the saint, I am sharing some of those from the western tradition which struck me as being particularly interesting or noteworthy.


http://www.foxnews.com/static/managed/img/Scitech/Spotlight%20on%20John_slideshow_604x500.jpg 

This figure is thought to be St John
It is late fourth century and in the catacomb of St Tecla in Rome

Image: John Dillon 

Plaque carved in elephant ivory at Aarchen in the early ninth century, now in The Cloisters Collection in New York.

Until 1977, when it appeared at a London auction, this ivory from the Carolingian Renaissance was unknown. Carved in high relief, the frontally enthroned Evangelist displays his Gospel with the opening phrase IN PRINCI / PIO ERAT / VERBVM ("In the beginning was the Word" [John 1:1]). The arch, with its rich acanthus decoration, is supported by elaborate columns and encloses John's symbol, the eagle, which is directly above him. The entire composition is framed by a simple inscribed border. The text of this inscription is based on a line from the "Carmen Paschale," a poem by the fifth-century Christian writer Sedulius. Among the remarkable features of this ivory are John's loose, classical pallium and mantle, whose calligraphic treatment and plasticity verge on pure fantasy. This tendency toward a sumptuous ornamental effect, in which the abundant drapery patterns and textures take on a life of their own, becomes a characteristic of several ivories of the Court School of Charlemagne (r. 768–814). Artistically, these ivories are very close to the manuscripts produced in Aachen for the court of Charlemagne; this resemblance suggests that they probably were carved there. Some scholars have maintained that some of these ivories may date into the reign of his successor, Louis the Pious (814–840).


Image and notes : Metropolitan Museum New York


[Iluminura.+São+João+Evangelista,+do+Evangelho+do+Abade+Wedricus.+1147..jpg]

St John as depicted on the surviving leaf of the mid-twelfth-century (ca. 1147) Wedricus Gospels
Societé Archéologique et Historique, Avesnes-sur-Helpe (Nord) France

Image: John Dillon

At Chartres cathedral in the souith aisle of the nave there is an early thirteenth century window illustrating stories about him from the Golden LegendThe Sacred Destinations page about it, with expandable images, can be viewed here. St John is also featured in the sculptured figures of the Apostles at Chartres:

photo

Chartres Cathedral Earlier thirteenth century central portal of the south transept

From left to right: SS Paul, John, James the Great, James the Less and Bartholomew

Image: Gordon Plumb on Flickr

Slightly later in date, and showing significant stylistic development are the statues of Apostles and Prophets at Amiens cathedral on the Last Judgment portal of 1220 - 1236.  These include this figure of St John, carrying his emblem of a chalice with a serpent:

Amiens Cathedral: Last Judgment Portal: St. John the Evangelist

Image: © 2008 Holly Hayes/Art History Images. All rights reserved.


There are pictures of all these portal statues here and here.


http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5b/Saint_John_on_Patmos.jpg

St John on Patmos as depicted in the  Très Riches Heures of the Duc de Berry of 1412 and 1416
(Chantilly, Musée Condé, ms. 65)

I like the way the Evangelist's eagle obediently holds his pen case and ink well.

Image: Wikipedia

By this early fifteenth century date one of the conventions was well established whereby St John was depicted with long, often ringletted, hair, as by Jan van Eyck in this grisaille figure on the outer side of the St Bavon Altarpiece of 1432 in Ghent:


http://www.wga.hu/art/e/eyck_van/jan/09ghent/2closed2/l3johne.jpg

Image: World Gallery of Art

This type of depiction was very common during the Renaissance, both in Italy and in northern Europe. Here is one example from Bavaria:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/50/Riemenschneider_Evangelisten_Johannes.jpg


Limewood statue of 1490-1492 by Tilman Riemenschneider
From the predella of the high altar of the St. Magdalenenkirche in Münnerstadt (Lkr. Unterfranken) in Bavaria, now in the Bode-Museum in Berlin

Image: Wikipedia


There is more about the wonderful work of the sculptor here.

In Italy there was also a continuing tradition of depicting him as an older man, and indeed as a very old man, as in this marble sculpture by Donatello from 1410-11:

http://www.wga.hu/art/d/donatell/1_early/duomo/3john_1.jpg


Statue in Museo dell'Opera del duomo, Florence

Image: World Gallery of Art
These are, of course, only a sample of depictions of a figure who has attracted a lot of attention and inspired varied images from artists in many mediums over the centuries




St John the Evangelist at Ephesus


Today is the feast of St John, Apostle and Evangelist who supposedly died circa 100. 

Traditionally in depictions of the events of the Gospels St John is usually depicted as a youth. I was struck by the point made by a commentator on my post from last year that he considered it possible that John was only in his early teens, very much still a boy in our terms. Thinking about it that seems psychologically reasonable in the accounts we have of him and his family. A youth like that might well manage to slip into the High Priest's palace, and have the lack of adult nerves to make his way to the foot of the Cross. His very youthfulness makes the Virgin's desolation all the more poignant - she is given, and given to, a mere teenager.

When James and John's mother pressed Our Lord for places of honour on their behalf or their reputations as Sons of Thunder do we again see the stresses and certainties of youthful zeal and a mother anxious for her still young sons to do well - especially if, as long standing tradition would have it, she is Our Lord's maternal aunt and they His cousins?

I am inclined to think of all the Apostles, or at least most of them as young men. Artists have often shown them as older than Our Lord, but both the evidence of their later lives, and the written accounts of their actions when given the choice of following Christ suggest men who were young, eager, but still constrained by the enthusiasms and uncertainties of youth or early manhood. Seeing them in such a
light makes their recorded reactions more readily understandable and the account in the Gospels more credible.

The rest of this post is based on a piece by John Dillon on the Medieval Religion discussion group, with a few adaptations of my own.

John, "the beloved disciple", was brother to the apostle James son of Zebedee (James the Great). In the (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology and in the Latin Calendar of Sinai (ca. 800) both are celebrated on this date. In late antiquity and throughout the Middle Ages it was believed that John the Apostle, John the Evangelist, and John the Divine (John the Theologian), the author of the Apocalypse, were one and the same person. Despite some modern doubts, this is also the position of the Roman Martyrology. All the Johannine writings other than 2 and 3 John were usually ascribed to this one John.

Many legends of John go back to an origin in a probably later second-century aprocryphal Acts of John that circulated in Greek and in other languages and that was condemned by the Second Council of Nicaea in 787. A fifth- or sixth-century Acts of the Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian supposedly written by his disciple St. Prochorus (BHG 916-917; Latin translation, BHL 4323) was likewise very influential. Somewhat similar in approach but substantively rather different is a legendary Account of John in Syriac (BHO 468). Legendary anecdotes of John occur in many other locations.

Apart from a period of exile on Patmos (preceded by arrest and transportation to Rome for interrogation, as in the story of St John before the Latin Gate, celebrated in the Calendar in May), John's legendary apostolate was conducted from Ephesus - where, of course, he lived with Our Lady. He is also said to have died there and a legend grew up that once he had been buried his body disappeared into the surrounding earth (John's metastasis). The sands over his grave were said to move; the tomb that was built above it gave forth on his feast day a healing, dust-like manna collected by numerous pilgrims. 

Here is a view of his tomb at Ephesus in the ruins of the remains of the Justinianic basilica that replaced an earlier chapel at the site and that lasted until late in the fourteenth century:


http://www.todayscatholicworld.com/st-john-tomb-ephesus-turkey.jpg

The tomb of St John in the ruins of the Basilica at Ephesus

Image:todayscatholicworld.com


The Sacred Destinations illustrated page on the history of this great church can be read here.



http://www.sacred-destinations.com/turkey/images/ephesus/basilica-john-model-nc-sterlingbear-com-200h.jpg 

Another view of the reconstruction model of the Basilica at Ephesus

Image: John Dillon


Wednesday, 26 December 2012

St Stephen at Bourges


Despite his importance as the first Christian martyr St Stephen is not the patron of many cathedrals or other great churches. Amongst those which are under his patronage, apart from Vienna and the abbey at Caen - and the onetime chapel of the royal palace at Westminster - probably the most famous is Bourges, the seat of an archbishopric, and often described as one of the finest of all French cathedrals - it suffered less during the Wars of Religion and the French revolution than others. There is an illustrated online introduction to the cathedral here.

Not surprisingly one of the western portals depicts the story of the patron saint:


photo

 
The St Stephen Portal of Bourges of 1260-75 

The typanum reads from bottom left - the ordination of the first seven deacons, then, I assume, to the right Stephen's dispute with the Jews. In the middle register he is stoned, whilst Saul looks after the garments of the killers on the left, and Stephen's soul taken up to God in the top

Image: Stan Parry on Flickr


Inside the cathedral his martyrdom is depicted in medieval stained glass in the ambulatory. The window is partly medieval, partly nineteenth century restoration, as is explained in this schematic account of the window as whole, with hyperlinks to views of the panels.

Here are the two medieval panels showing the stoning and martyrdom:





 



Panels 17 and 18 from the St Stephen window

Image :medievalart.uk


 

St Stephen by Rubens


Today is the feast of St Stephen the protomartyr. I posted about him, his cult and some of his depictions in art, with appropriate links, last year in St Stephen.
.
This year here is another depiction of his death - again very much in the most dramatic Baroque style:

Fichier:Peter Paul Rubens - The Martyrdom of St Stephen - WGA20224.jpg

The Martyrdom of St Stephen

Peter Paul Rubens
1616/17
Musee des Beaux Arts, Valenciennes

Image: fr.wikipedia



Tuesday, 25 December 2012

O Come Let Us Adore Him



A Holy, Blessed and Joyful Christmas to you all


Madonna of the Rose Bower

c. 1440

Stefan Lochner c.1400-1451

Oil on panel, 51 x 40 cm
Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne


This small panel which employs several iconographic models is an especially charming remnant of Cologne Gothic.

It depicts the "humble Madonna" (Madonna dell' Umiltà) as Mary is sitting on the ground or on a pillow placed on the ground, gently holding an infant in her lap. Their figures are surrounded by adoring angels who offer flowers and fruits to the baby Jesus. To create a backdrop for the scene, two diligent angels stretch out a golden brocade curtain which reminds the viewer of the reigning, victorious Madonna. At the same time, this curtain insures separation from the rest of the world and the intimacy of the holy family. Above, surrounded by light-rays, we can see God the Father and the dove of the Holy Spirit. This intimates the Immaculate Conception; thus the painting includes the depiction of the Holy Trinity. This is the picture of completeness with the Divine Mother as its centre.

The image of being enclosed is reinforced by another motif: the low stone wall around Mary, which recalls the "hortus conclusus" (enclosed garden), the symbol of Mary's purity and innocence.

The spectacular carpet of flowers covering the ground intimates the earthly Garden of Eden, as does the bower of roses. Roses were often connected with the Madonna; such a simile appears in several medieval Latin hymns to the Virgin.

The musical child angels in the foreground play an important part in the creation of an idyllic atmosphere. Their instruments - two different sized lutes, a harp and a portative organ - are realistically rendered, and their small hands reveal their musical expertise.

Notes from the Web Galley of Art
This is, in effect a republication of the post I produced for Christmas Day for the last two years, but I particularly like this image of Our Lady and the Christ Child and I have used it to decorate my Christmas letter to friends this year. As an image it combines great beauty and delicacy, the tenderness of the mother-child relatiomship, the joy and delight of the angel musicians, and the references in the rose bower to the rich biblical and liturgical horticultural images of new life and renewal. The notes accompanying the picture draw out the symbolism further. It is also a painting from a period of history which is of particular interest to me.

I hope it conveys some of the joy and delight of Christmas, and I wish that to all my readers.



Sunday, 23 December 2012

O Virgo Virginum


The commentary on the Sarum Antiphon for today can be read at O Virgo Virginum


O Emmanuel


The commentary on the Antiphon for today can be read at O Emmanuel 


Saturday, 22 December 2012

O Rex gentium


The commentary on the Antiphon for today can be read at O Rex gentium





Friday, 21 December 2012

O Oriens


The commentary on the Antiphon for today can be read at O Oriens





Thursday, 20 December 2012

O Clavis David


The commentary on the Antiphon for today can be read at O Clavis David

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Radcot Bridge 1387


Today is the 625th anniversary of the battle of Radcot Bridge - although I see some modern books give December 20th as the date; I am not sure as to the reason for this. Radcot Bridge lies on the upper Thames, between Chipping Norton and Faringdon.

In the battle the Royalist troops led by 25 year old Robert de Vere, ninth Earl of Oxford, who had been created Marquess of Dublin in 1385 and Duke of Ireland in 1386 by his friend King Richard II were defeated and scattered at Radcot Bridge by the forces commanded by the 21 year old Earl of Derby, the future King Henry IV, on behalf of the Lords Appellant. The Duke, who fled by swimming the Thames and taking refuge in France and then at Louvain, had been attempting to bring troops from Cheshire to the aid of the King who, as a result, was left without support against the demands of the Lords Appellant. The result was to be the Merciless Parliament of 1388 and the execution or exile of many of the King's closest allies and agents in his household. The Duke of Ireland died at Louvain, still in exile. in 1392.


A late fifteenth century depiction of the battle

Image: David Nash Ford

There is an online article about the battle here, which could do with a bit of editorial tidying, and one about the history of the bridge itself and its surroundings here

http://www.thamespathway.com/images/chapter3/radcot-bridge.JPG

Radcot Bridge

Image: Thamespath.com

Radcot Bridge is still substantially the one which was at the centre of the battle, although considerably repaired following damage sustained in the fighting, and in 1393 was given a memorial cross to those who died.

There is an online account, with links, of the life of the Duke of Ireland here  and the recent biography of him by Anthony Tuck from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography can be read here


http://images.nypl.org/index.php?id=1806200&t=w

Robert de Vere Duke of Ireland

I am not aware of the source for this print - Horace Walpole's collection was extensive and important, but the attributions not always certain.

Image: images.nypl.org

O Radix Jesse


The commentary on the Antiphon for today can be read at  O Radix Jesse


Tuesday, 18 December 2012

O Adonai


The commentary on the Antiphon for today can be read at O Adonai

Monday, 17 December 2012

O Sapientia


The commentary on the Antiphon for today can be read at O Sapientia.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

The O Antiphons


Last year I posted a series of articles about the Great Antiphons which precede Christmas - the Great O's  - and which in the Roman usage begin today. These ancient prayers encapsulate Salvation history down to the Incarnation.

I understand these proved popular so I am re-posting a link to them each day. I am also posting links to the introduction I wrote last year and to the eighth antiphon from the Sarum Use - O Virgo virginum - which was used on December 23rd, Sarum usage having begun singing the antiphons on December 16th.

My introductory post can be read at O Antiphons .

In addition, thanks to the Liturgia latina blog run by a friend here is an introduction to the O Antiphons written by the great Dom Gueranger in The Liturgical Year :

The Church enters to-day on the seven days, which precede the Vigil of Christmas, and which are known in the Liturgy under the name of the Greater Ferias. The ordinary of the Advent Office becomes more solemn; the Antiphons of the Psalms, both for Lauds and the Hours of the day, are proper, and allude expressly to the great Coming. Every day, at Vespers, is sung a solemn Antiphon, which consists of a fervent prayer to the Messias, whom it addresses by one of the titles given him by the sacred Scriptures.

In the Roman Church, there are seven of these Antiphons, one for each of the Greater Ferias, They are commonly called the O's of Advent, because they all begin with that interjection. In other Churches, during the Middle Ages, two more were added to these seven; one to our Blessed Lady, O Virgo Virginum; and the other to the Angel Gabriel, O Gabriel; or to St. Thomas the Apostle, whose feast comes during the Greater Ferias; it began O Thoma Didyme [It is more modern than the O Gabriel; but dating from the 13th century, it was almost universally used in its stead.] There were even Churches, where twelve Great Antiphons were sung; that is, besides the nine we have just mentioned, there was Rex Pacifice to our Lord, O mundi Domina to our Lady, and O Hierusalem to the city of the people of God.

The canonical Hour of Vespers has been selected as the most appropriate time for this solemn supplication to our Saviour, because, as the Church sings in one of her hymns, it was in the Evening of the world (vergente mundi vespere) that the Messias came amongst us. These Antiphons are sung at the Magnificat, to show us that the Saviour, whom we expect, is to come to us by Mary. They are sung twice; once before and once after the Canticle, as on Double Feasts, and this to show their great solemnity. In some Churches it was formerly the practice to sing them thrice; that is, before the Canticle, before the Gloria Patri, and after the Sicut erat. Lastly, these admirable Antiphons, which contain the whole pith of the Advent Liturgy, are accompanied by a chant replete with melodious gravity, and by ceremonies of great expressiveness, though, in these latter, there is no uniform practice followed. Let us enter into the spirit of the Church; let us reflect on the great Day which is coming; that thus we may take oar share in these the last and most earnest solicitations of the Church imploring her Spouse to come, and to which He at length yields.