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, 30 July 2021

A gold mancus of King Ecgberht

The MailOnline has an article about the discovery by a metal defector and forthcoming sale of a unique Anglo-Saxon gold coin. It is a mancus, originally worth 30 silver pennies and only minted for special purposes such as gifts to churches. Found in Wiltshire it was struck in the reign of King Ecgberht, who ruled from 802 until 839, and who was the first King of Wessex to assert his authority over other kingdoms in the Heptarchy. He was the grandfather of King Alfred. Because of its special donative nature the coin was produced to a high quality and is apparently in mint condition. 

The article which explains the purpose and value of a mancus, and has photographs of the coin, can be seen at Metal detectorist finds £200,000 gold coin in Wiltshire field

I think it is very much to be hoped that the coin will be purchased for a museum so that others can see and enjoy this survival from the  Anglo-Saxon age and a key stage in the creation of a united realm.

The Stavelot Reliquary

I have sometimes posted in the past about surviving medieval reliquaries, and realised I have not done so for a while when I saw the following piece.

The Liturgical Arts Journal has a post about the mid-twelfth century Stavelot Reliquary of the True Cross and which is now in New York. This has recently been restored and is now back on display.

The article, which has some fine photographs as well as a history and description of this wonderful devotional object, can be seen at The Stavelot Reliquary in New York

Parish life in the past

Christopher Howse has an article in the Daily Telegraph about parish life in the later middle ages which draws upon the work of Professor Nicholas Orme, the distinguished historian of medieval childhood and education, and also of parish life in south west England, in his new book Going to Church in Medieval England.

This is not so much a review article as a taster of the good things that surely await the reader, and indeed it looks to be a feast of good things  or of good measure pressed down and overflowing.

Christopher Howse’s article can be read at Sacred Mysteries: Why the drinkers got up early to go to church

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

‘Traditionis Custodes’ - the continuing debate

Following my previous posts on the motu proprio I thought the flurry of posted commentaries and views on the Internet such that I could not hope to keep up with them all.  Dr Peter Kwasniewski on the New Liturgical Movement implies that he perhaps feels similarly but he has drawn together a whole series of posts - some by people I know - and linked to them on the NLM site. 

The selection can be accessed from his post at 
I do urge readers to read about the motu proprio and the responses to it so as to be informed and equipped to state the case for tradition and for the freedom to offer and attend the historic Latin Rite.

Thomas Cromwell’s house at Austin Friars

Last month I posted in Thomas and Gregory Cromwell and the suppression of Lewes Priory about Sir Diarmuid MacCulloch’s excellent lecture about Thomas Cromwell’s attempt to establish his son Gregory as a landed figure in Sussex by taking over the assets of Lewes Priory. Not long before that I came across some details online about Cromwell’s London residence at Austin Friars when I was looking into the history of that monastic house. Today the MailOnline has a report about recent research into that house of Cromwell’s and a reconstruction of its plan and appearance.

Due to the constraints imposed upon the site Cromwell had to acquire more land and the houde he created was a mixture of what he found there and what he did to extend and rebuild it. 

Having become the hall of the Drapers Company in 1543 the whole complex was swept away by the Great Fire in 1666. However plans and some pictures survive alongside the papers and records the ever meticulous Cromwell left behind him, as well as the archives of the Drapers. The result is an impressive evocation of his splendid house and we are thereby provided with a good idea of the setting for his life and actions.

Thomas Cromwell may not be a likeable figure but he was an important one. To be able to envisage him at home does add to our understanding of his personal world and tells us more of the context within which he operated.

The illustrated article can be viewed at Historians recreate Thomas Cromwell's Tudor mansion

Des Res in Roman Peterborough

I came across a report from Peterborough Archaeology about the excavation of a substantial and once clearly handsome villa in what is now Fane Road in Peterborough.

This building had replaced an earlier timber villa on the site, which had previously had an Iron Age house on the site. The substantial stone villa indicates the quality of life its owner and their household could have enjoyed in the later period of Roman rule before decline set in during the later fourth century.

The report, complete with a plan and reconstruction drawing as well as pictures of finds can be accessed at Evidence for the Roman Villa

An early ring from Yorkshire

Trawling the internet is rather like metal detecting - you never know what you are going to find. The other day I came across a good example of this with a report from the MailOnline from 2013 about an apparently early Anglian or Anglo-Saxon sapphire ring that had been found by a metal detector at Escrick, south of York, in 2009.

The ring is currently assigned to the fifth or sixth century and may have originally been a brooch. The suggestion is that it was made on the continent rather than in Britain. What is especially striking is the quality and delicate detail of the design and craftsmanship of an item without parallel for that date in this country.

The ring can now be seen on display at the Yorkshire Museun in the grounds of St Mary’s Abbey in York.

The illustrated report about its discovery can be read here

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Windows into the past

There were reports online yesterday about work at Canterbury Cathedral which has re-dated four panels of stained glass to the period 1130-1160, making them probably the oldest such pieces in the country. York Minster has a re-set panel from a Jesse Tree which is currently assigned a date of 1154. The Canterbury panels are on making a similar theological and historical point about the regal ancestors of Christ.

This combination of art history and cutting edge scientific work has revealed once again what a treasury of historic art Canterbury is as a cathedral. It gives one pause for thought that these four panels admitted the twilight to the Vespers at which St Thomas was slain, the penance of Kingswood Henry II, survived the fire that ravaged the cathedral a few years later, were saved and re-inserted into its successor, witnessed the translation of St Thomas’ relics and the visits of pilgrims. Light streamed through them for the funerals of Edward Prince of Wales and King Henry IV, for the visits of Kings and Queens from King Henry II and King Louis VII onwards, of Emperors - Sigismund and Charles V - of Pope John Paul II, and survived the varied impacts of reformation, civil war, neglect, re-location and twentieth century bombs.

The BBC News website illustrated account of the research is available to view at Canterbury Cathedral stained glass is among world's oldest

The Independent has a very good report, again with fine photographs, and including the suggestion that the twelfth century glass itself was made from re-cycling Roman glass. It can be seen at Revealed: Britain’s oldest stained glass windows – hiding in plain sight for 900 years