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.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Mass in York Minster

The New Liturgical Movement has a report by Br Lawrence Lew OP about a celebration of Mass in the Extraordinary Form at the High Altar of York Minster on March 26th which can be read here.

As the comments on the post point out this is not the first time Mass has been celebrated according to the Roman Rite has been celebrated in the Minster since 1559, but it is the first occasion for the High Altar to be used, or for the Mass to be in the usus antiquior. I attended a similar Mass at High Altar of Winchester Cathedral in 2008.


The present High Altar of York Minster

Image: pko6390 on Flickr

This year is the 650th anniversary of the beginning of the rebuilding by Archbishop John Thoresby of the choir arm of the Minster in 1361. In the later middle ages and indeed until the eighteenth century the High Altar was a bay to the west of where it is today, and was therefore lit by the two vestigial choir transepts with their great windows telling the stories of St Cuthbert and St William. Behind the altar was a wooden reredos, like that of Westminster Abbey, and what is now the sanctuary formed the shrine chapel of St William (d.1154), with the open stone screen closing it off from the Lady Chapel and the great east window of 1405-8 beyond.

The prospect of this Mass in the Minster reminds me of a story my parents and I were told when I was very young. There always appears to be some scaffolding on the Minster due to the continuous need to maintain and repair so vast and complex a building. However we were told that if there was not scaffolding on the Minster "the Catholics could claim it back." Perhaps someone had better check on a week on Saturday as to the presence or otherwise of scaffolding on the building.

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