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, 24 May 2020

Our Lady of Lincoln

Whilst we are still in Lincolnshire it seems a pity not to take in, though it is not on Canon Stevenson’s list a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Lincoln. That also gives the opportunity to reflect a little further on the depredations of the reformers upon the spiritual and artistic heritage of the country. In 1536 the Lincolnshire Rising was the precursor to the better known Pilgrimage of Grace in Yorkshire and further north. It was when the Rising had occupied Lincoln and had based itself in and around the Cathedral Close that King Henry VIII’s message in response to their uprising was delivered to them in the Chapter House. It told them in no uncertain terms to disperse and saying that they were the rude commons of a county "one of the most brute and beastly of the whole realm," So unlike, so very unlike royal messsges to the regions these days....

In his great history of medieval Lincoln Sir Francis Hill refers to devotion to Our Lady. She was chosen as patroness of the city on the occasion of the victory of the citizens over the forces of the Earl of Chester in 1147 during a bout in the civil war between the followers of King Stephen and the supporters of the Empress Matilda. 

The City of Lincoln itself, like the cathedral, was under the patronage of Our Lady, and the arms of the Citysre a gold fleur de lys superimposed on the cross of St George. The Annunciation is also depicted on The Stonebow, the historic late medieval seat of the city’s government and with an arched entry across the High Street. Viewed from the south side, the figure of the Archangel Gabriel stands on the right of the Gate, bearing a rolled scroll (originally inscribed 'Ave, gratia plena, Dominus tecum") while on the left the Virgin Mary, with hands joined, stands in an attitude of prayer, her feet treading on a dragon, symbol of evil. 

In Lincoln Cathedral by the High Altar was the devotional statue of Our Lady, it’s patroness. A description from the early sixteenth century is as follows:

A great image of Our Lady, sitting in a chair of silver and gilt with four polls, two of them having arms in the front, having upon her head a crown, silver and gilt, set with stones and pearls; and one bee [metal torque] with stones and pearls about her neck, and an ouche [brooch] depending thereby, having in her hand a sceptre with one flower, set with stones and pearls and one bird in the top thereof; and her Child sitting upon her knee, with a crown on his head, with a diadem set with pearls and stones, having a ball with a cross of silver and gilt in his left hand and at either of his feet a scutcheon of arms.

One rather wonders how “great” it was in size. I recall seeing a reference to the tradition that Bishops of Lincoln were expected to make a suitable offering of jewellery to the image.

When the statue was removed is not quite clear. Bishop John Longland, diocesan from 1521 to his death in 1546 had the doubtless interesting position of being Henry VIII’s confessor. It was in his time in  1540 that the shrines of two of his predecessors, St Hugh and Bl. or Ven. John of Dalderby, were removed on royal authority. At the end of a "Registre and Inventarye of all Jewell Westimentes and other ornamentes in the yere of owr lorde god m.ccccc.xxxvj," is "A Copye of the Kinges Lettres by force whereof the shrynes and other Jewels were taken" [1540]. Part of the letter reads as follows: 

For as moch as we understand that there ys a certain shryne and di[vers] fayned Reliquyes and Juels in the Cathedrall church of Lyncoln with [which] all the symple people be moch deceaved and broughte into greate su[per]sticion and Idolatrye to the dyshonor of god and greate slander of th(is) realme and peryll of theire own soules,

"We Let you wỹt that (we) beinge mynded to bringe or lovinge subiectes to ye righte knowledge of ye truth by takynge away all occasions of Idolatrye and supersticion. For ye especiall trust (and) confidence we have in yowr fydelytyes, wysdoms and discrec̃ons, have (and) by theis presentes doe aucthorise name assign and appointe you fowre or three of you that immediatelye uppon the sighte here of repairinge to ye sayd Cathedrall church and declaringe unto ye Deane Recydencyaryes and other mynisters there(of) the cause of yowr comynge ys to take downe as well ye sayd shryne and supersticious reliquyes as superfluouse Jueles, plate copes and other suche like as yow shall thinke by yowr wysdoms not mete to contynew (and) remayne there, unto the wych we doubte not but for yeconsiderac̃ons rehersed the sayde Deane and Resydencyaryes wth other wyll be conformable and wyllinge thereunto, and so yow to precede accordingly. And to see the sayd reliquyes, Juels and plate safely and surely to be conveyde to owr towre of London in to owr Jewyll house there chargeing the mr of owr Jewyls wth the same.


"And further we wyll that you charge and com̃ande in owr name the sayd Deane there to take downe such monumentes as may geve any occasioñ of memorye of such supersticion and Idolatrye hereafter...."

Underneath is the following "memorandum” proving how great was the treasure possessed at that time by the authorities of the minster

Memorandum that by force of the above wrytten comyssyoñ there was taken owt of ye sayd Cathedrall church of Lyncoln at that tyme in gold ijmvjcxxj oz (2621 oz.), in sylver iiijmijciiijxx.v oz (4285 oz.); Besyde a greate nombre of Pearles & preciouse stones wych were of greate valewe, as Dyamondes, Saphires Rubyes, turkyes, Carbuncles etc. There were at that tyme twoe shrynes in the sayd Cath. churche; the one of pure gold called St Hughes Shryne standinge on the backe syde of the highe aulter neare unto Dalysons tombe, the other called St John of Dalderby his shryne was of pure sylver standinge in ye south ende of the greate crosse Ile not farre from the dore where ye gallyley courte ys used to be kepte."

Harry Lytherland was the last Treasurer of Lincoln. His responsibilities were care of the treasures, not the finances, of the cathedral. As he saw the last of the treasures carried away, he cried "ceasing the Treasure, so ceaseth the office of the Treasurer," and flinging down the keys on the pavement of the choir, he walked out of the church. This occurred on the 6th June 1540. The office of Treasurer in the Chapter, which was part of the foundation, has not been filled since.

Bishop Longland was a conservative in religious matters. His successor, Henry Holbeach, whom we encountered at Worcester last week, was a keen reformer.  He was appointed in August 1547 by the government of Protector Somerset. 

In An Historical Account of the Antiquities in the Cathedral Church of St. Mary, Lincoln  published in that city in 1771 it records : "A second Plunder was committed in this Church Anno 1548, during the Presidence of Bishop Holbech, who being a zealous Reformist, gave up all the remaining Treasure which Henry had thought proper to leave behind; this Bishop together with George Henage Dean of Lincoln, pulled down and defaced most of the beautiful Tombs in this Church; and broke all the Figures of the Saints round about this Building; and pulled down those [of] our Saviour, the Virgin, and the Crucifix; so that at the End of the Year 1548, there was scarcely a whole Figure or Tomb remaining."

Henry Holbeach having become Bishop of Lincoln in the August after Henry VIII's death, did what was expected of newly appointed bishops under Henry VIII in his time as Supreme Head and under both Edward VI and Elizabeth I: soon after taking possession of the See he surrendered to the Crown twenty-six (or according to Strype thirty-four) rich manors belonging to the see. He died at one of the remaining episcopal manors at Nettleham, just outside Lincoln in 1551.

What had survived that onslaught then had to endure the Parliamentarian trips in the Civil War - they accounted for most of the stained glass that had survived as well as the monumental brasses.

With thanks to A.F. Kendrick The Cathedral Church of Lincoln  (Bell’s Cathedral series) 1898.

In 1943 a new Catholic parish was created for the area to the north of the city centre and that has the title of Our Lady of Lincoln.

2014 witnessed the installation of a very impressive new statue in the cathedral of Our Lady. The life size work is by the sculptor Aidan Hart, who is Orthodox, and funded partly by Catholics it has been sited in the south-east chapel of the Angel Choir.

There is a good illustrated article by Aidan Hart about the commissioning, design, creation and completion of the statue which can be seen at Our Lady of Lincoln Sculpture.

The new statue was dedicated by the Bishop of Lincoln on May 31 2014.

                    Our Lady of Lincoln, Lincoln Cathedral, England. Completed May 2014. Carved from a single block of Great Ponton limestone. Total height, about 2.3 metres (7'-6"). Polychromed with egg tempera and casein, using azurite and ochre pigments, and gilded with 23 1/2 carat gold leaf.

 Our Lady of Lincoln, Lincoln Cathedral   

Image: orthodox arts journal        

Our Lady of Lincoln Pray for us    

Our Lady in the Wood in Axholme

Today’s virtual Marian pilgrimage destination is quite close to both my native area and to others areas my ancestors were associated with, so I feel I am in home territory. I sense that all the more so because the history of the shrine of Our Lady in the Wood in Axholme is bound up with the world of the political and spiritual elites of the 1390s and beyond, which is very much in my historical sphere of interest.

Before 1389 Thomas Mowbray (1366-99) Earl Marshal and Earl of Nottingham, and later first Duke of Norfolk, of whom there is a biography at Thomas de Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk conceived a plan to convert the alien priory at Monks Kirby in Leicestershire into a Carthusian house for a Prior and twelve monks. At this time Carthusian houses were perceived as being the ideal foundation by monarchs and nobles across much of Western Europe. Elite piety was supported by the political elite. Although the Earl initiated the process with a petition to Pope Urban VI nothing further seems to have been done. 

King Richard II creating Thomas Mowbray Earl Marshal in 1385-6. The King is handing the letters patent to the Earl who holds in his right hand the gold, black tipped, baton of the Earl Marshal.

Image: Luminarium

However the Earl Marshal had not abandoned the idea. In 1396, possibly after consulting the Carthusian priors in England, he started anew, and had chosen the isle of Axholme,  where he had family estates and where he had been born, as a suitable site for a Charterhouse, and he then petitioned Pope Boniface IX for leave to appropriate the priory of Monks Kirby as part of its endowment. Archbishop Robert Waldby of York was commissioned to investigate the matter, and comply with the Earl’s request.

On the proposed site of the monastery at Low Melwood, in Epworth, stood a chapel dedicated to the Virgin which had long been called the Priory in the Wood. It had apparently been established by the Premonstratensians ( Norbertines ). There the Earl has an ambitious plan to erect a new church in honour of the Visitation of the Virgin, St. John the Evangelist, and St. Edward king and confessor - a saint to whom devotion was very popular at the court of King Richard II - together with cloisters, monastic buildings and cells for a prior and thirty monks. With the King’s licence he endowed the house in frankalmoigne with 100 acres in the manor of Epworth, a rent of 20 marks, and such rights of common of pasture, of turbary, and of fishery as other free tenants held within the Isle of Axholme, the advowsons of Epworth and Belton, and the priory of Monks Kirby. John Moreby was chosen as Prior of the new foundation.

In June 1398, by which time the founder had been created Duke of Norfolk, to aid of the building of the church and charterhouse, Pope Boniface IX granted the very liberal indulgence known as that of St. Mary of the Angels at Assisi. This today is better known as that of the Porziuncula (or Portiuncula) and which over later centuries was to be much more widely available, indeed now universally, on the day of August 1 to 2. The history of this famous indulgence can be read at PortiunculaPenitents who visited the house at Axholme on the feast of the Visitation of the Virgin, and gave alms towards the fabric, received remission for all sins committed from their baptism to that day. 

Only three months later, as the result of his quarrel with Henry of Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford, the Duke of Norfolk was banished for life by King Richard II - see the beginning of Shakespeare’s play about the King and his downfall for that -  and Norfolk died and was buried at Venice in September 1399, at the very time that in England Hereford took the throne as King Henry IV. Just before the end of the year the government removed Monks Kirby from the new monastery, and it was not restored to it until King Henry V granted it to the monks of Axholme following the final confiscation and reassignment of the alien priories in 1415.  The Portiuncula indulgence may therefore have been all more more valuable in these years as a source of donations.

In 1449 the Axholme charterhouse was very flourishing, the numbers had increased, but there were not enough cells for the monks, and buildings begun 'with wondrous skill and great cost' were still unfinished. The Prior and convent desired to add to their endowment, and this they managed to do in future years.

The full history of the house, including that of the penultimate Prior, Augustine Webster, one of the martyred Carthusians of 1535, can be read from the Victoria County History of Lincolnshire ii at The priory of Axholme

Our Lady of the Wood at Axholme Pray for us

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Our Lady of the Park at Liskeard

The spiritual Marian pilgrimage having been to the extreme south east of the country yesterday now travels to almost the extreme south west to the shrine of Our Lady of the Park at Liskeard in Cornwall.

I have adapted and extended the following account from the website of the present Catholic church of Our Lady and St Neot in Liskeard, supplemented from the website about the Pilgrimage linked to below.

From the earliest days of Christianity in Cornwall, Our Lady was revered in Liskeard under the title ‘Our Lady of the Park’. A shrine to her had been established over a well, in a valley below the town, close to a tributary of the East Looe River.  A chapel was subsequently built and became a flourishing place of pilgrimage. This appears to have been well established by April 1266 when Richard Earl of Cornwall and King of the Romans granted an annual fair on the eve, feast and morrow of the Assumption to the town. 
Pilgrims travelled to the chapel and well, arriving down the Mass Path, from what is now Old Road. It is claimed people were baptised using the flowing waters in the baptistery, the remains of which can still be seen.
Following the Reformation in common with other traditional places of pilgrimage the shrine was destroyed and little remained to show that it had ever existed. 
In 1955 the original site was identified and in 1979 the first modern pilgrimage held. This was last held in 2007. The 1998 Liskeard mural in Pig Meadow Lane was painted featuring the key events in the history of the town and surrounding area. Our Lady of the Park features on the mural, holding a cross, in front of a shrine, containing a chalice, with the inscription Unity. The shrine is marked Ladye Park and deer are alongside the shrine, reflecting the long established deer park.  The Virgin Mary is the earliest recognisable figure on the mural, reflecting the antiquity of the shrine.
Ladye Park is now a private residence on the edge of town. The Catholic church of Our Lady and St Neot has an icon that was specially commissioed to honour Our Lady of Liskeard.
Image: liskeardcatholicchurch.org

For more about the revival of pilgrimage to the site see The Lost Shrine of Ladyepark at Liskeard in Cornwall

Our Lady of the Park at Liskeard Pray for us

Friday, 22 May 2020

Our Lady of Pity in the Rock at Dover

Today the Marian spiritual pilgrimage reaches Dover. There stood the Chapel of St Mary or Our Lady of Pity (also recorded as Our Lady of the Rock in 1532), which was on “a piece of chalky cliff, at the extremity of the pier” or the shore to the east of Archcliffe or Arcliffe Fort. It is said to have been built by a northern nobleman on the place where he had been shipwrecked or at least in danger of so being. The dedication would suggest a late fourteenth or fifteenth century foundation at the time devotion to Our Lady of Pity became widespread. It is apparently first mentioned in 1530 when it was repaired by Joachim de Vaux, the French Ambassador, after he had survived being shipwrecked. 

A record exists that on the outside of the building over the steps was the badge of a rose and crown and over the door the impaled arms of England and France. 

When King Henry VIII landed at Dover in 1532 after his visit to Calais with Anne Boleyn to meet King Francis I he made an offering of 6s 8d at the chapel; his return had been delayed for several days by stormy seas and as it was the royal ship apparently took twenty eight hours to make the journey. The King may well have been very thankful to be back safe and sound.

The chapel was served in 1535 by John de Ponte, a Friar, who sought appointment as Master of the town’s Domus Dei from Thomas Cromwell that year. In 1538 he was imprisoned by the Mayor of Dover, Ralph Buffkyn, because he was said to communicate with the French during the war by keeping lights burning in the chapel at night. 

I find the idea of the Mayor acting as a sixteenth century equivalent of an ARP warden rather endearing.

At the suppression of the chapel it was valued at £50pa and the vestments and plate valued at 200marks (£133 6s 8d), so it was not an inconsequential foundation and presumably reflected the offerings in anticipation or gratitude for seaborne travellers for a safe crossing of the Straits.

Work at the harbour undermined the rock, and the chapel was probably carried away in a storm of 1576. The place where it stood was still called in 1798 Old Chapel and Chapel Plain but by 1828 nothing remained save the bare rock on which had once stood.. The burying ground was still extant in 1819.

With thanks to Arthur Hussey ‘Chapels in Kent’ in Archaeologia Cantiana - online

Our Lady of Pity in the Rock at Dover Pray for us

Our Lady of the Four Tapers St Albans

The altar of Our Lady of the Four Tapers in the abbey at St Albans, yesterday’s destination on the spiritual Marian pilgrimage, is one of the few such shrines to have been reinstated in modern times.

According to the VIctoria County History of Hertfordshire in the time of Abbot William of Trumpington 1214-35, the most important work, however, was the fitting up of the altar of our Lady and St. Blaise in the south aisle of the presbytery as it then was for the newly introduced Lady Mass ad notamThis entailed the repair of the surrounding walls which had been damaged by some fall of masonry not clearly specified, and the insertion of two wide windows near the newly fitted altar, which, when complete, was hallowed in honour of Our Lady by John bishop of Ardfert. 

As a consequence the old Lady altar in the south transept became of secondary importance by this change but it received at this time an endowment for two candles in addition to the two it already possessed from the time of Adam the Cellarer (temp. Abbot Symon, 1167–83), and for this reason eventually became known as 'the altar of the Four Tapers.' 

A beautiful image of Our Lady in the south transept, set up by Abbot Robert 1151–66, was now replaced by a still more beautiful work by Walter of Colchester. The old image was moved to the new Lady altar in the south aisle of the presbytery, but was, as it seems, very soon moved once more, this time to the north side of the church, in company with the old Rood, perhaps dating from the consecration of the Rood Altar in 1163, which had been taken down at the building of the pulpitum. The old altar beam made by Adam the Cellarer was removed and set up over the new image of Our Lady in the south transept, and at the same time the roof above the image was ceiled or panelled to hide the old blackened beams of the roof. As the transept chapels were almost certainly vaulted this roof must be that of the main south transept, a conclusion which agrees with the other evidence as to the position of the image. This was probably on the pier between the western arches of the transept chapels. This was certainly the position of the later image, which at some time after the completion of the eastern Lady Chapel, and the removal of the altar of the 'Four Tapers' to its vestibule, at the end of the south aisle of the presbytery,  was set up in a chapel on the south side of the nave, and as the ‘Fair Mary’ became an object of special veneration to the townspeople. The altar beam of Adam. the Cellarer accompanied it thither.

The work rebuilding and extending the east end of the abbey church began in 1257, but the new eastern Lady Chapel was not completed until 1308-10. The Four Tapers altar lay just outside it.

It was before the important altar of our Lady of the Four Tapers in its new home that the heart of Abbot Roger Norton was buried in 1290. Part of a box of oriental origin was found here in 1872 in a stone hollowed out to contain it, and may have been the case in which the heart was inclosed. His body was interred in the presbytery alongside other abbots.

In the twentieth century the chapel has once more had the Four Tapers to augment it. The first time I saw it they were quite impressive but on a more recent visit the tapers were less striking. 

It serves as the Mothers Union chapel for the diocese and there are now plans to fully restore the shrine base of St Amphibalus the priest that St Alban rescued, but who was later martyred in Redbourn. He also had a shrine in the middle aged but since its discovery during Victorian restoration works until now it has not been properly rebuilt and has remained a heap of stones, languishing in the corner of the north Ambulatory. The plan is to reconstruct it in the Four Tapers Chapel, and also to commission a painted reredos there telling the story of Alban and Amphibalus in medieval style.

Our Lady of the Four Tapers of St Albans Pray for us

Thursday, 21 May 2020

The Obsequies of Anne of Brittany Queen of France

By chance I came across a detailed online account of the funeral ceremonies of Anne of Brittany in January and February 1514. Duchess of Brittany in her own right as heiress of her father Duke Francis II she was to have the unique distinction of being Queen Consort of France twice, marrying King Charles VIII and then his successor King Louis XII. There is an illustrated online life of her which can be read at Anne of Brittany.

The comprehensive account of the ceremonies of her lying in state, the transport of her body and her final interment can be seen here.

Our Lady of Worcester

Whilst we are still in Worcestershire on the Marian spiritual pilgrimage it seems appropriate to take in another Marian shrine not included in the Stephenson booklet. That was the important one in the cathedral at Worcester and its destruction in 1538 is better recorded than that of many other such shrines.

The Catholic Encyclopaedia states that the celebrated image of Our Lady and the Holy Child was carved of wood and of a large size, and that it stood over the high altar and could be seen from all parts of the church. The narrative below would however suggest that it was in the Lady Chapel, east of the choir.

The excellent study by Diarmuid MacCulloch of ‘Worcester: A Cathedral City in the Reformation’ in Collinson and Craig (eds) The Reformation in English Towns 1500-1640  provides much of the context for these events.

In 1535 the enthusiastic reformer Hugh Latimer was appointed Bishop of Worcester and by the summer of 1536 he was inveighing against some local saints’ cults. He worked with the newly appointed Prior of Worcester, another enthusiastic Cambridge educated evangelical, Henry Holbeach, a protege of Cranmer, and later bishop of Rochester and Lincoln, to undermine the cult of Our Lady of Worcester. A year before the national assault on shrines, in August 1537, before the feast of the Assumption, they removed the draperies and adornments which decorated the statue. This provoked a bitter outcry and a defiantly ostentatious display of devotion on the eve of the Assumption by one Worcester man, Thomas Emans, when he saw the statue denuded of its rich trappings. He was denounced to the magistrates and hence to Cromwell by Latimer, Holbeach and the bailiffs of Worcester.

This can be read in Letters and Papers Henry VIII which is now very conveniently accessible online.

Thus on August 27 it is recorded as follows:
“ The saying of the witnesses against Thos. Emans, servant to Mr. Evans. That he said, leaning upon Roger Crompe's shoulder, "Lady, art thon stripped now? I have seen the day that as clean men hath been stripped at a pair of gallows as were they that stripped thee." Then he entered the chapel, said his prayers, and kissed the image, and turned to the people, and said "Ye that be disposed to offer, the figure is no worse than it was before, and the lucre and profit of this town is decayed through this." Presten, the keeper of Our Lady, saith that he heard Thomas Emans say to the people, "This lady is now stripped, I trust to see the day that they shall be stripped as naked that stripped her."

This is followed by the confession of Thomas Emans, of the parish of All Saints, Worcester, made on August 19:
“That he entered the Lady chapel in the monastery of Worcester, on Our Lady even the Assumption, 1537, and said a Paternoster and an Ave, and kissed the image's feet, and then turned and said to the people: "Though our Lady's coat and her jewels be taken away from her, the similitude of this is no worse to pray unto, having a remors unto her above, then it was before." Spoke with the intent that the people should resort to her at Worcester as they had done before. Witnesses:—Hugh bp. of Worcester, Hen. Holbaghe, prior of St. Mary's Worcester, Walter Walshe, Robt. Acton, and Humfrey Burneforde and Wm. Mercer, bailiffs of Worcester.”
L&P Henry VIII xii (2) 587

‘What happened to Thomas Emans is not recorded beyond that he was committed to ward, but it does indicate genuine dissent at the episcopal action. Letters and Papers xii(2) 530 also indicates considerable hostility to Latimer in the diocese: one man was reported as saying he would walk seven miles carrying a faggot to burn Latimer at the stake. As it turned out he would have had to wait seventeen years and travel to Oxford for that particular pleasure.

The chronicler Edward Hall claims that to the delight of Latimer and his supporters at discovering that the statue itself, minus its draperies, was actually of a bishop rather than of the Virgin. Whatever the background to that story it seems to conflict with Emans’ deposition. What the account does show is that at least some late medieval English devotional images were dressed in fabrics and not just carved figures.

Latimer wrote to Thomas Cromwell from Hartlebury castle on June 13 1538 on various matters including his hope that 
“ I trust your lordship will bestow our great Sibyll to some good purpose ut pereat memoria cum sonitu. She hath been the Devil’s instrument to bring many (I fear) to eternal fire: now she herself with her old sister of Walsingham, her young sister of Ipswich, with their other two sisters of Doncaster and Penrice, would make a jolly muster in Smithfield; they would not be all day in burning.”
Sermons and Remains of Hugh Latimer (1845), p395

The ‘Protestant work ethic’ was brought into play in a second letter from Latimer to Cromwell after the statue had been removed, on October 6th of the same year,

“Now Worcester is behind, an ancient and a poor city, and yet replenished with men of honesty, though not most wealthy; for years reason of their lady they have been given to much idleness; but now that she is gone they be turned to labouriouness, and from laziness to goodness.”
ibid, p403

Worcester Cathedral medieval bell tower

Image: Worcester Cathedral Library blog, reproduced there by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral

Our Lady of Worcester Pray for us

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Further thoughts about Pope Celestine V

Further to my post yesterday here are a few further thoughts about Pope Celestine V.

I have now found online the full picture, from which I used the central figure of the saint yesterday. It dates from fifty to seventy years later than his death so it is not a portrait from life so far as we know. It is typical of its genre,
and is similar to the famous one of St Louis of Toulouse. The comparative scale of the figures is interesting, with the sainted Papal founder shown twice the size of his monks. The traditions of the ancient Middle East still had a place in medieval Europe. Hierarchy is stressed very clearly. The very individual faces of the Celestine monks are in themselves noteworthy as being just that, individual. The whole group could be a group of modern novices or seminarians.

Pope Celestine V and the monks of his Order
Niccolo di Tommaso ( active 1346-76 )

Image: stpetercelestine.ca

I found another online account of St Peter Celestine’s life and of his relics. This includes modern research which disproves one at least of the more lurid accusations, that of murder, laid at the door of his successor Pope Boniface VIII. The biography is from the website of a Californian parish under his patronage and can be viewed at Celestine-V

The pontificate of Celestine needs in part to be understood in terms of the Millenarianism of the Italy, especially the south, in the thirteenth century. Ideas deriving from Joachim of Fiore and his prophecies of the Age of the Spirit, seemingly fulfilled within a generation by the appearance of St Francis of Assisi, the expectations that aroused, and the splits about the apostolic life and poverty within the Franciscan community all heightened the expectations of many. This was a turbulent, volatile society and one that was experiencing social and economic change. In the Neapolitan kingdom this was also played out against the background of the end of the Hohenstaufen and the advent of the Angevins. Furthermore the year 1300 was approaching, which generated the idea of mass pilgrimage to Rome - hence the first Papal Jubilee year. The books of Norman Cohn and Marjorie Reeves show the extraordinary expectations that flourished in these years. Add to that a King of Naples who thought his luck was in when one of his subjects, a noted, if simple, holy man was elected Pope... If you were looking for or expecting the Angelic Pope - well, here he appeared to be. It was, of course, going to end badly, or otherwise, or if you were Cardinal Gaetani, who as a consequence became Pope Boniface VIII, very well indeed. Until that is the events at Anagni in 1303....