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, 17 September 2021

Has King John’s Treasure been located?


My search engine flagged up a report from Spalding Today about a metal detectorist who believes he has located King John’s hoard of treasure which was lost with his baggage train in the mud and shifting sands of a tributary of the Wash on the borders of Lincolnshire and Norfolk on October 12th 1216. 

The article can be read at King John's hoard has been found says treasure hunter and there is a previous one from the same journal with a bit more about the story at Has King John's treasure been found at last?

The Daily Mail also reports the apparent identification at Metal detectorist believes he has uncovered King John's lost treasureOddly for them they do not say whether it would affect house prices in the area of Sutton Bridge.

There are online articles about the story of the loss of the baggage train and treasure at ‘Bad’ King John’s Lost Treasure! and from the Eastern Daily Press at WEIRD NORFOLK: Searching for the crown jewels dropped by King John in King’s Lynn

An article about the story from a blogger at 
King John, his treasure and the Wash. has some good illustrations, a useful map of the coastline in 1216 and the author has included an impressive inventory of the royal treasures that may have been lost in the catastrophe - but then again might not.

If the site is correctly identified and if items can be excavated - assuming that centuries of tides have not dispersed them so that they are irretrievably lost - then this would indeed be a remarkable discovery, or perhaps one should say recovery after 805 years.

We must see what happens, and one can hope that maybe the remains of the treasure really can be found.


Kissing the Pax


Few things have been, ironically, more contentious with the man or woman in the pew in the Novus Ordo and its derivatives than the Sign of Peace. 

I recall in my heyday at Pusey House the then Sacristan produced a small but strategically situated poster outside the chapel based on a traffic sign with a pair of clasped hands enclosed in a red circle and cancelled with a diagonal red line .,,. this was a Peace Free Zone.

The medieval custom followed until relatively recently was that of the server offering the osculatorium for the lips of those present at the Peace. Shawn Tribe on the Liturgical Arts Journal has an article about these items, with a splendid series of pictures of examples. Unfortunately beyond their date he adds nothing about their origin or present location. Those who follow this blog or know me will not, I think, be surprised that far and away my favourite is the first one, from 1434.

The article can be viewed at The Pax (Osculatorium or Tabula Pacis)


Another commentary on Piero della Francesca’s Legend of the True Cross


I forgot when I wrote my recent post for the Feast of the Holy Cross on The Legend of the True Cross to include a link to another good article about the cycle from the New Liturgical Movement earlier this year which has some fine photographs of the paintings. It can be seen at The Story of the True Cross, by Piero della Francesca


Thursday, 16 September 2021

More on Roman villas


Having posted earlier today about the villa discovered at Bedale in Yorkshire the algorithm on my system proceeded to serve up two more interesting websites for me to look at and share.

The first is from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales and is an account of the excavation of a villa at Abermagwr in Ceredigion ( Cardiganshire ) which is the most westerly in the Principality. It was not a particularly grand house, and was used from the early third to the early fourth century when it was destroyed by fire. Parltly built from reused stone from an abandoned military station it boasted a slate roof that shows clear continuity with techniques that were or are still used. The pentagonal slates would have formed a decorative pattern on the roof. The interior did include fragments which indicated a sophisticated taste in glassware from the continent. The illustrated article can be read at The Roman villa that made history: Abermagwr Villa, Ceredigion

The second is a more technical article from the Theoretical Roman Archaeology Journal which seeks to synthesise and interpret the evidence for the transformation of villas in Britain and Western Europe in the last decades of the Empire and the ways in which they adapted to changing circumstances. Although somewhat technical it is a useful guide and gives a valuable bibliography as well as various plans of excavations. It can be seen at Assessing Late Antique villa transformation at individual sites: towards a spatial approach


A Roman Villa in Wensleydale


The discovery of a portion of a substantial Roman villa at Aiskew, part of the town of Bedale in lower Wensleydale in the North Riding of Yorkshire came to my attention through the Internet. The excavation of a small part of the villa, revealed during the building of a by-pass - which has been realigned to preserve most of the site - is described in an article in the Yorkshire Post. This draws upon a publication from North Yorkshire County Council about what has been discovered and which also indicates the potential of the other 95% of the whole site were it ever to be fully investigated. What has been found are the remains of a bathhouse and all the features one would expect to find therein.


Quite apart from the interest of the villa itself this discovery helps fill in a bit more of the map of what was to become Yorkshire in the Roman period. The villa was one of the most northerly examples that is known from the Roman Empire, but appears to have lacked nothing in terms of domestic comforts. It also suggests how Roman or Roman-inspired life existed alongside Iron age culture as indicated on an adjoining site. The central area of the North Riding, the Vale of Mowbray, is known to be good farming land so it should perhaps be no surprise that it did support a villa economy in the Roman period. Nonetheless to have physical evidence is to really begin to populate the landscape of the past.

This is also a further contribution to our knowledge of an area that is particularly rich in historic buildings and links. For those who do not know the area I would urge anyone with an interest in history to visit it if you are in the vicinity armed with a Pevsner and an OS Map.


Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Paris vs Lyons


Shawn Tribe has an interesting article on the Liturgical Arts Journal about the different tradition as to the pattern of orphreys indicating the Cross on chasubles in the Use of Paris and the Rite or Use of Lyons. That this was a well established difference is a point he makes clear.

He has illustrated his post with some fine illustrations of historic vestments from both Uses. The article can be viewed at Paris and Lyon: Orphrey Variations in French Vestment Design



The Care Cloth


Peter Kwasniewski has an interesting article on the New LiturgicalMovement about the “Care Cloth”. This now little known piece of liturgical paraphanalia was, I will admit, new to me but for many centuries it had its special, and significant, place in the liturgy of the Nuptial Mass. 

Dr Kwasniewski explains the history of this cloth held over the newly married couple, or, if in Spanish speaking lands and in the Sarum Use, draped over the head of the bride and the shoulders of the groom at the time of the Nuptial blessing. He also provides a link to a second excellent article on the Canticum Salomonis website which gives more of the history of this practice and some splendid illustrations.

The article and its links can be accessed at The Return of the “Care Cloth” at the Traditional Nuptial Mass

A decade ago I was thurifer at the wedding of two friends who were married according to the forms of the 1962 Missal. Not only was this a happy occasion - and the beginning of a happy and fruitful marriage - but, as I understand, the video of it became something of a liturgical guide and exemplar for those wishing to use that Rite. I thought we had most things that day - not least a superfuity of servers in the sanctuary as well as clergy and the happy couple - but we did miss out on the “Care Cloth”.


The Legend of the True Cross


Today is the Feast of the Exaltstion of the True Cross, and an appropriate day to draw attention to the largest surviving work of one of my favourite painters from mid-fifteenth century Italy, Piero della Francesca. The work is The Legend of the True Cross which he, with his assistants, painted in the Franciscan church in Arezzo between 1447 and 1466 - Piero was noted for taking his time over his commissions.

Piero had - in common with his contemporaries - a keen eye for detail and his figures always display a profound physicality which simultaneously conveys a significant spirituality. The figures appear instantly and intensely immediate to the viewer yet are more than five centuries old and moreover depict the timeless in time.

The cycle of paintings tells the story of the wood of the Cross of Christ from the death of Adam vis King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba and ends with the battle of the Milvian Bridge, St Helena’s discovery of the True Cross and its later recovery by the Emperor Heraclitus from the Persian Chosroes.

Sadly time has taken its toll on this wonderful series but the frescoes received a fine restoration between 1991 and 2000. One result is that the colours glow as they were meant to with the freshness of the Tuscan sunshine.

There are several illustrated articles about them online. Wikipedia has an introduction at The History of the True Cross

The Web Gallery of Art has a much fuller telling of the legend in its account, which can be read at Legend of the True Cross (fresco cycle in Arezzo)

The most detailed account is from Travelling in Tuscany which is rich in detail and can be seen at Piero della Francesca | The Legend of the True Cross | The Frescoes of San Francesco in Arrezzo

There is a short YouTube video of the paintings at Piero della Francesca (Legends of the True Cross fresco cycle)

Hail Holy Cross our hope!