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.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Episcopal consecration by the Pope

Whilst preparing my post last Saturday on Pope Pius X I found this photograph in the Wikipedia biography of the Pope.

Pope Pius X consecrates Giacomo Paolo Giovanni Battista della Chiesa, the future Pope Benedict XV, as a Bishop in the Vatican in 1907.

Quite apart from its intrinsic interest this photograph took my eye as Richard Fleming was also consecrated as a bishop by the then Pope, Martin V, in 1420 when the curia was in Florence. The consecration probably took place somewhere in the Dominican house of Sta Maria Novella. Such consecrations did not always take place in a church or chapel - I have seen at least one reference to a room in the Vatican palace being fitted up as a temporary chapel for such a consecration in the early sixteenth century. Following the consecration Fleming can be seen to have received various papal grants on behalf of his family and friends.

In the verses he wrote for his tomb he specifically referred to having been consecrated by the Pope himself and the wonderful piety the Holy Father had displayed.

Although the setting and vestments would have been somewhat different - fashions do, after all, change - photographs such as this are a reminder of the continuity of liturgical tradition and practice, and help one to envisage Fleming's consecration.

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