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, 3 December 2020

Medieval Cookery Column

My previous post was about fish and fishing and by coincidence I came across a collection of posts about medieval cookery from Medieval Histories which may appeal to readers. Drawn from across Europe there are several about great feasts, and about Christmas fare - including several ways to cook your own goose (sic) - not to mention mulled wine, Irish ‘bog butter’, and boiled Sturgeon. I will reassure Scottish readers this is not an intended assault on the person of the First Minister.

The posts, with recipes, can be found at Medieval Food Archives — Medieval Histories

I will add that during ‘lockdown’ I have discovered the pleasures of watching various YouTube programmes about medieval, as well as ancient and more recent recipes. I will post about those in coming days.

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Fishing in the Middle Ages

Fishing, the fishing industry, and the regulation and management thereof is in the news as a remaining unresolved topic in the Brexit negotiations. The importance of fishing as a food source and as a means of employment and income generation is long-standing. 

By chance I came across a post from the Medievalists.net site which looks at fishing in the medieval centuries, and the variety of ways in which it was carried out. It brings out both its importance to daily life and also the way in which it attracted government regulation from at least the thirteenth century. 

This interesting and informative article can be read at Sustainable and Innovative: The Medieval Art of Fishing

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Introducing John of Sacrobosco and his world view

I came across this on the Literary Hub website and thought it worth sharing with readers. It is an extract from Seb Falk’s The Light Ages: The Surprising Story of Medieval Science ( W.W. Norton and Co., 2020 ) and discusses the work of the thirteenth century English academic John of Sacrobosco. In the sixteenth century Leland assigned his birthplace to Halifax, although Falk is doubtful as to that.

Sacrobosco is cited as a lucid expositor - along with the ancients and other medieval writers - of the truth that the world is a sphere, in contradistinction to the modern idea that people thought the world was flat until the Renaissance or later. This piece provides ample evidence to show the falsity of such assertions.

The Light Ages: The Surprising Story of Medieval Science by Seb Falk

I have not so far seen Falk’s book but it appears, along with God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World laid the Foundations of Modern Science by James Hannam ( Icon Books,2010 ) to be part of a trend to make available to the modern era the remarkable understanding of the the natural world and universe attained in the Middle Ages. Both would be excellent Christmas gifts I would imagine.

Monday, 30 November 2020

St Andrew and Scotland

Today is the Feast of St Andrew the Apostle.

There is a useful introduction to the scriptural material about him, the early legends and the diffusion of his cult in the Wikipedia article Andrew the ApostleThis has useful sections about his patronage and the growth of devotion to him in Scotland.

Customs linked to today as his feast are outlined in St. Andrew's Day

James III was reportedly murdered by a rebellious subject disguised as a priest

St Andrew crowns King James III of Scots (1460-88). The future King James IV kneels behind his father.
From the Trinity Panels by Hugo van der Goes (d. 1482)

Image: Royal Collection/National Galley of Scotland/History Answers

The Wikipedia article suggests the cult of St Andrew in Scotland began in the mid-eighth century when relics arrived there from northern England, and linked to St Wilfrid, who was, of course, noted for his links and visits to Rome. A century or so later it appears St Andrew was seen as their patron by the Scots from the battle of Athelstaneford. At the end of the thirteenth century the figure of the crucified St Andrew was used as the design for the seal of the Guardians of Scotland during the interregnum of 1290-94 and the Declaration of Arbroath of 1320 refers to him as patron. His relics gave prestige to the church which enshrined them and to its primatial bishop, and from 1472, Archbishop, of St Andrew’s, together with its attendant University.

The Most Noble and Most Ancient Order of the Thistle is under the patronage of St Andrew. The claims to its antiquity before 1687 are at times clearly pious fictions, but it may be that Scottish monarchs from the time of King James III did attempt to establish a chivalric Order to match those of their contemporaries. The inventory of the possessions of King James IiI made after his death in 1488 does record a collar and badge much like that of the present Order, and it, or a similar one, is shown encircling the Royal Arms in the image of King James IV from his Book of Hous and being worn by King James V in paintings.

Click on the link below:


King James IV (1488-1513) with St James the Great from his Book of Hours. After 1503.

Image: Oesterreiches National Staatsbibliotek

The green mantle of St Andrew in the Trinity Panel and the hangings of the entrance to the chapel in the Book of Hours may both be seen as a reference to the mantle of the Order of the Thistle.

 It may be that the frequent royal minorities of the Stewart monarchy prevented earlier forms of the Order achieving stability like that of the Garter. There is a history and description of the Order which records and evaluates this early evidence at Order of the Thistle

St Andrew Pray for us


Know your Antipopes

Readers might - might - be forgiven for thinking that Antipopes are a feature of Papal history from the latter part of the first millennium, or from the clash of Papacy and Empire over the matter of Investiture, or from the Great Schism and the Conciliar era. The conventional historical case would point to ‘Felix V’ of the House of Savoy - elected by the Council of Basle - as the last Antipope, and that was in the mid-fifteenth century.

However this is not case. I recall a discussion in my early days in Oxford about the several claimants to the Papal throne we could then call to mind. A conversation yesterday led me to a Wikipedia article which catalogues the recent and current Antipopes - or if you are a follower of one or other of them, the true Pope - and here I was surprised to find just how many there are or have been in recent decades.

The plurality of ‘Peter II’ does not make for clarity, nor potentially perhaps for peace of mind, as Peter II is the name in the St Malachy prophetic tradition for the Pope of the End Times... Here too are Peter III, several Gregory XVIIs and Leo XIVs plus Alexander IX, Adrian VII, Clement XV, Linus II, Pius XIII, plus other names, some without precedent, in Papal history. All useful Catholic conversational trivia when passing the port...

The listings, divided between Concalvists and Mysticalists, can be seen at Conclavism

Lace in a Penitential Season

The Liturgical Arts Journal has a valuable discussion from Shawn Tribe as to whether it is appropriate, or indeed permissible, for clergy and servers to wear lace albs and trimming at the altar in the penitential seasons or at Masses for the Dead.

If to some this might appear abstruse, it is actually a fit topic in itself as to how appropriate honour is to be paid to the Sacrament and to the occasion in such seasons. It is also part of the wider topic of the extent to which due dignity is lent to public worship. It might be seen as an appropriate reflection for Advent - how should we ceremonially mark Advent? How do we understand the importance of how liturgy is performed and presented?

The carefully researched post can be read at The Use (Or Not) of Lace in Penitential Times

Minor Orders and the Subdiaconate

The distinguished liturgical scholar Peter Kwasniewski has an interesting post on the New Liturgical Movement website today about the current status of Minor Orders and of the Subdiaconate. The canonical uncertainty - not to mention the liturgical uncertainty - that has surrounded their status since 1973 is brought out well by the author and he indicates the conflicting lines of thought as to them, and maybe points to a way of resolving the ambiguity.

In recent years I - and many others - have attended Masses at which the Minor Orders were duly conferred on candidates who subsequently proceeded to Major Orders. The tradition of the Minor Orders is certainly alive and well. 

This useful article can be read at On the Status of Minor Orders and the Subdiaconate

Sunday, 29 November 2020

The Consecration of Buckfast Abbey

In my recent post The Consecration of Downside Abbey in 1935 I referred to the consecration of Buckfast Abbey in 1932 following its rebuilding by the monks. I have now found online some film of the procession on that occasion with Cardinal Bourne as the Papal Legate and consecrator. At the time the abbey church was complete although the tower was not to be completed until 1938. The church had not yet received its distinctive stained glass made by one of the monks, nor the rather doubtful addition of an eastern chapel in the 1960s. In recent years work has been done installing cosmat-style flooring beyond the original sanctuary area. 

As with both the images and commentary from Downside three years later one is struck by the seeming strength and confidence of the Benedictines at that time. 

The film, from British Pathe can be viewed at A Dream Comes True! (1932).