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 31 May 2011

Norbury church - heraldry and history

The lecture at last Tuesday evening's meeting of the Oxford University Heraldry Society was given by John Titterton FSA and was about the heraldic glass and the building of the chancel at Norbury church in south west Derbyshire. In recent years the glass has been cleaned and conserved at a cost of £250,000.

St Mary and St Barlok Norbury is one of those medieval churches I have long wanted to visit but not manages to do so far. There are online articles about the church here and here, and two more about St Barlok's cross, an Anglo-Saxon piece preserved in the church and the relatively little known saint himself here and here.

As it stands today the church has an early decorated chancel and a perpendicualr nave with its distinctive tower porch, and adjacent to it the medieval manor house of the Fitzherbert family. The two stand . along with the jacobean manor house, by themselves at the centre of a dispersed settlement.

St. Mary and St. Barlok church, Norbury, Norbury and Roston

Parts of the church and the medieval Hall, Norbury, Roston and Norbury

Photos: Copyright Alan Walker


The chancel of St Mary & St Barlok at Norbury, Derbyshire.

Photo: Aidan Macrae Thompson

Basing his explanation not only on the glass but also the architectural evidence and record evidence he attributed the construction of the chancel to Sir Henry Fitzherbert, who died c. 1315, and to whom one of the tombs in the church is ascribed.

The 'box-like' structure and design of the chancel bears striking resemblances to those of Chartham church in Kent, Checkley church in Staffordshire and to the choir of Merton College Chapel in Oxford, all of which are attributed to the 1290s, as well as the episcopal chapels of St Etheldreda in Holborn (1290) and that at Wells (1292). The presence of ogee arches in the tracery would seem to place it after they frst appear in England on the Queen Eleanor crosses of c.1295.

The design of the window tracery bears strong resemblences in its use of a boss within the tracery to the windows at Chartham, Checkley and Merton.

The original scheme of glazing survives in the north and south set of windows, although the tracery lights have lost their original glass. The east window contains later glass of about a century later. Each light of the windows has grisaille glass according to four different patterns, with an heraldic shield at the top. Some of the lights appear to have been transposed over the centuries, but the scheme is essentially complete. Details of the glass are virtually indistinguishable from other work at Chartham and Merton, both in the grisaille leaf patterns and inserted coloured motifs and in the heraldry, especially the arms of the Clare family.

The arms would suggest a date between 1298-9 (the betrothal and marriage of King Edward I to Margaret of France) and 1305-6 (the arms of Robert the Bruce are included - unlikely to have been done after he had himself crowned as King of Scots in the latter year).

Surviving records refer to building work at Sir Henry's "court" and plans to divert the road from outside it in 1292, 1300 and 1304, which also suggests a majorprogramme of building.

Sir Henry was not an especially prominent man - not in royal service, or important in county matters, yet was employing a team who worked for episcopal or corporate patrons (the Bishops of Ely and Wells, Canterbury cathedral priory, Merton college) and had commissioned a piece of high quality and in the latest style. The glass records contacts with the great and the good of the era, and the suggestion was made that he was remembering comrades in arms and administration from military campaigns.

John Titterton has produced a handsome booklet on the windows in aid of the continuing restoration of the fabric.

This was a remarkable insight into the world of artistic patronage and social networks at the turn of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and I am all the more keen to go and see Norbury church for myself.

Monday 30 May 2011

Catching up

I hope to have a bit more time in the coming days to catch up on some incomplete posts, including further reflections on the Royal Wedding and on The Queen's visit to Ireland, as well as other topics. If only there were more hours in the day...

Sunday 29 May 2011

Oak Apple Day

Today is Oak Apple Day, commemorationg the Restoration of King Charles II to the throne in 1660.

Parliament had ordered the 29th of May, the King’s birthday, to be forever kept as a day of thanksgiving for our redemption from tyranny and the King’s return to his Government, he returning to London that day.

— Samuel Pepys’s Diary 1st June 1660

King Charles II in Coronation robes
Quotation and image from The Monarchist blogspot

Next time there is talk or rearranging Bank Holidays we should remind Parliament of this decision and get Oak Apple day re-established as a national day.

It is certainly a day upon which to give thanks for the Monarchy and to pray for it and the Royal Family

Friday 27 May 2011

What would St Augustine say?

Today, according to the modern calendar, is the feast of St Augustine of Canterbury . He died on May 26th 605.

The throne of St Augustine in Canterbury Cathedral

I am tempted to ask the rhetorical question as to what St Augustine would have said about the Ordinariate. Well, the answer is, I think, clear. More particularly I raise the point because of the story of St Augustine's meeting with the British bishops. In adavnce they decided that they would respond positively to what Augustine said if he stood up to receive them, negatively if he did not. Augustine remained seated, and dialogue did not happen. The British bishops, whose community had been formed in large part by reaction to pagan Anglo-Saxons invadors, whom they appear not to have tried to convert, left and headed back to the ever more remote west.

Fourteen centuries later Rome has again made advances to the British clergy of their day, and, metaphorically at least, has stood up to be welcoming. Notwithstanding that I fear that too many clergy and laity may be making the same mistake as those British bishops they sometimes invoke as their patrimony, and not responding positively.

Pre-Augustinian British Christianity was Roman in orgin, and here was a man with a message sent from Rome. Pre-Reformation, pre-Laudian, pre-Tractarian and pre- Ordinariate English and British Christianity was and is Roman in origin, and here are men with a message sent from Rome. Are not the inevitable inferences to be drawn?

St Philip's Day at the Oxford Oratory

Last night at the Oxford Oratory the Solemn Mass for St Philip's Day was celebrated by His Excellency Archbishop Antonio Mennini, the Apostolic Nuncio. Here are the photographs of the evening posted by the Oratory on their website.





His Excellency with the Oxford Oratorian community after Mass

Photographs by Tessa Caldecott

Thursday 26 May 2011

New Papal tiara

The New Liturgical Movement has this piece about the presentation to the Pope of a new tiara:

Just a quick note as some of our readers may be interested in this story published by John Sonnen about a papal tiara that was gifted to Pope Benedict XVI , commissioned by Dieter Philippi and crafted by a Bulgarian Orthodox liturgical firm.

The tiara was presented to the pontiff today by Dieter Philippi and a small delegation of Catholics and Eastern Orthodox.

Comments (33)

Fr Blake has also commented about it here.

Both posts have attracted anumber of comments - including one from myself.

I cannot understand why anyone would not want the Pope to be crowned with the tiara and wear it on appropriate occasions.

The origins of the tiara are complex, and may once have represented temporal authority under the Byzantine Emperor. By the time it became the tiara we recognise it had been spiritualised as a symbol of the Papal monarchy governing the Church. As in medieval representions God the Father is often represented wearing the tiara, it is a reminder that the Papal power is delegated from God, and, as with the decree on Papal Infallibility, refers to that power inherent in the Church itself. The Pope wears the tiara on behalf of the whole Church, and exercises authority on behalf of the whole Church over the Church, as God's vicar. Coronation points out the limitations and responsibilities of the monarchical office, spiritual or secular - it was absolutist monarchies that tended to dispense with or downgrade coronations. Pope Paul VI may have set aside his tiara, but in respect of the liturgy at least he acted in an absolutist manner.

I think this is a very handsome gift, and we must hope the Pope, or, at some distant date in the future, his successor, takes the hint. Whether they will is, of course, an unknowable matterat the moment.

This story reminds me of a plan I had a while ago, which was to publish some posts about the history of the tiara and the examples which exist in the Vatican and elsewhere. Once I can find some more time I will do so.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Prayer to St Philip

This is the text from the prayer card we were given at the blessing with the relic of St Philip Neri at the end of Solemn First Vespers for his feast at the Oxford Oratory this evening:

Philip, my glorious Patron, gain for me a portion of that gift which thou hadst so abundantly.
Alas! Thy heart was burning with love; mine is all frozen towards God, and alive only for creatures. I love the world, which can never make me happy; my highest desire is to well off here below; my highest desire is to be well off here below.
O my God. when I learn to love nothing else but Thee?
Gain for me,O Philip, a pure love, a strong love, and an efficacious love, that, loving God here upon earth, I may enjoy the sight of Him together with thee and all the saints, hereafter in Heaven.

Bl. John Henry Newman (Novena to St Philip, May 18th Meditations and Devotions)

Monday 23 May 2011

Franciscan Art and Spirituality

At teatime I went to a most interesting and enjoyable lectutre by Fr Michael Lasky OFM Conv., who is currently based in New York, on Franciscan Spirituality and Art in the basilica at Assisi. The talk was given to the Oxford Centre for Franciscan Studies, who offer a consistently interesting and stimulating series of lectures.

Fr Lasky has worked as a tour guide in the basilica in the past and spoke with knowledge, enthusiasm and understanding about the church and its great cycles of paintings by the Master of St Francis, Cimabue, Giotto and other artists. His aim was to show the way in which the paintings expounded in visual form Franciscan thought and spirituality, an aim in which, despite the limitations of time, he succeeded.


The basilica with the entrance to the lower church

The basilica is used by the Franciscans, but owned by the Pope ( and hence the recent intervention in its administration by the present Holy Father). The foundation stone was laid by Pope Gregory IX in 1228, and the building consecrated by Pope Innocent IV in 1253. The cycles of paintings extend in date into the fourteenth century and beyond. The link above gives details.


The upper church of the basilica

Amongst the examples he spoke about were the paintings in the lower church from 1260-65 by the Master of St Francis. Following Thomas of Celano's Vita secunda of St Francis they pair the lives of Christ and and of Francis with complex and rich symbolism. Thus when Francis strips off the clothes his natural father had given him he is freed to say the Pater noster to his heavenly father as never before - now he truly is God's child. This parallels the image of Christ being stripped at the Crucifixion. This typology is pursued through the church. The scenes showing Christ at Emmaus and the post mortem validation of St Francis' stigmata are significantly placed within the grill which encloses the sanctuary - both events take palce when the subject has passed through death to eternal life.

Fr Michael siad he wanted to rescue St Francis from the bird bath, and his exposition of the famous image of St Francis preaching to the birds did that - what it is is an image of preaching the news of salvation to all the nations and to the created order.

Sermon to the Birds, by Giotto

St Francis preaching to the birds.

Attributed to Giotto,1297-99

The account of the preaching to the birds from The Little Flowers of St Francis is here, and there is an exposition of it here.

In the paintings from 1305-11 of the lower church vault, attributed to Giotto the symbolic pairing occurs again - this time Francis is presented as the new St Martin.

The possibility that the upper church may have been designed, or used, as a chapter room initially, with consequent changes in its decorative scheme was raised, as were such points as the way in which in the scene at San Damiano the crucifix leans forward so as to speak to the figure of Francis.

It is now doubted if St Francis actually was ordained as a Deacon, and the scenes in whivh he is shown vested as such - the first Christmas crib, and his depiction on the lower cchurch vault in majesty - was in Fr Michale's opinion a decision to clericalise his image to avoid the problem of the perception of lay movements which were not under the control of the contemporary Church. The activities of groups such as the Spirituals and the Fratticelli posed very real problems to the Franciscan mainstream.

The lecture pointed out something of the richness of image and typology in the period. Fr Lasky conclued with the point that he had had students who queried the fact of the subtleties of medieval thought yet never queried the intricacies of the micro-chip.

This was a splendidly illustrated talk, which made one yearn to go and see Assisi for oneself - and that no doubt was part of the speaker's intention.

Oxford Pro-Life Witness


SATURDAY, 28TH MAY, 3pm- 4pm

Venue - outside the entrance to the John Radcliffe Hospital, Headley Way, Oxford.

(Parking is available at the Church of St Anthony of Padua, which is directly behind where we stand and pray)

Please come and join us to make reparation for the evil of abortion, and to pray for all mothers, fathers and all those touched by this great and continuing tragedy.

We also pray for all doctors and nurses who work within the abortion industry.

Throughout the hour we stand witnessing, there is Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in the Church just behind us- please come and pray there quietly if you would prefer to.

Refreshments available afterwards in the church hall.

Saturday 21 May 2011

A quiet Saturday in Oxford

Following my perusal of the Gough Map in the Bodleian I went off to meet my good friend The Last Knight The Noise of the Crusade) for a leisurely two stage Italian lunch with plenty of Frascati and Chianti, and a thoroughly enjoyable discussion putting all manner of things in the world to rights. 

We then went on to the Novena at the Oxford Oratory  preparing for the feast of St Philip Neri next Thursday, before going to the Ordinariate Mass at Pusey House (an old haunt of ours), and then with other acquaintances to the Eagle and Child (aka the Bird and Baby) for a drink before he had to depart.  A very civilised way to spend a May Saturday in Oxford. 

The Gough Map on display

Going into the Bodleian this morning I found that the Gough map, the oldest road map of Britain, and dating from 1355-66, is on display in the Proscholium until June 26th. The map depicts Great Britain and its off shore islands, the east coast of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the coast of Europe from Denmark to France.

File:Gough Kaart (hoge resolutie).jpg

The Gough Map
Scotland is to the left, East Anglia and Kent to the top right

The exhibition entitled “Linguistic geographies: three centuries of language, script and cartography in the Gough map of Great Britain” is a rare public display of the map, together with a copy of Richard Gough’s ‘British Topography’ and its engraving of the map that gained his name. It was Gough who bought the map for 2/6 in 1774 and presented it to the Bodleian in 1809.

This display provides visitors with a valuable opportunity to see close-up the fine details of the map, and in particular the writing that appears on it. The map’s script is a key to understanding its making and use, and the exhibition will offer new interpretations based upon the on-going “Linguistic Geographies” research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The evidence indiactes a retouching of the map in the early fifteenth century, suggesting a contemporary awareness of its importance.

The Bodleian map room's illustrated description of the map can be read here, and there is an article about the map from Oxford Today available here which provides a good introduction and discussion as to how it was made. The modern task of conserving it is described here.

The map is a wonderful insight into the world of the mid fourteenth century, of the relative importtance of cities and towns, of the extent of geographical knowledge and miscellaneous information. Thus Brutus' landing at Totnes is recorded, as well as the fact that in the Scottish Highlands "Hic habundant lupes"is written alongside a drawing of a wolf. I remember buying an Ordnance Survey copy as a boy and poring over it, identifying places and appreciating the extent of the knowledge which had created it.

One explanation for the creation of the map is that it was made for the Council chamber at Westminster as a reference work - which once more is a reminder of the sophistication of English medieval government.

Lindsey Warne, Oxford Union bursar

Detail showing the area around Oxford.
Oxford is at the bottom left, with Abingdon to the right.
Wallingford is between and above them, with Reading at the top.
The rivers are shown in green, and roads or distances by the red lines.

If you are in Oxford this display of this great national treasure is well worth seeing - and in the same set of buildings as the major exhibition Manifold Greatness: Oxford and the Making of the King James Bible, which is on until September 4th. I have not got in to see that yet but will post about it whenI have done so. There is meanwhile a way to Visit the exhibition online.

Friday 20 May 2011

Universae Ecclesiae and Friday abstinence

I have now managed to read Universae Ecclesiae rather than just rely, as I had done hitherto, on digests on various blogs. In one way the document is rather bland, being a tidying up of various questions and procedural points. Doing that is good in itself, and underlines the fact that Summorum Pontificum is now part of normative practice - it cannot be dismissed as some tried or would have wanted to do as a concession to tiresome old fuddy-duddies.

The fears about the introduction of restrictions on the use of the Extraordinary Form seem largely to have been unfulfilled, or in the point about ordinations, is at least consistent.

As usual there seems to be a problem with translations from the Latin into the vernacular as in the point about the right of individual members of Orders to celebrate their own traditional rites. This is a not unknown problem of translation which one would think would be attended to before publication, but it is not a serious handicap, just a bit of a time-waster having to explain things with reference to the definitive Latin.

If Universae Ecclesiae reinforces traditional practice, then so too does the decision of the English and Welsh bishops to reinstate Friday abstinence on days other than Solemnities. The rule was, I understand, relaxed in 1985. Now I have observed the traditional Friday discipline for years, long before I became a Catholic, so it is no novelty for me. The argument about marking ourselves out from the rest of the population by so doing I find considerably less appealing that the point about personal discipline - and makes meat-eating on a Solemnity part of one's own participation in the sense of celebration.

So last week was a good one for reinforcing good practice on both the liturgical and personal front. In both cases the important thing now is to use that practice to build up the life of the Church.

Liturgical Notes

In case readers are not aware of the fact the excellent Fr Hunwicke's Liturgical Notes has resumed posting. It is good to have him back online, as well as in full peace and communion.

Thursday 19 May 2011


No, this is not about me.

is the name of the new exhibition at the Museum of the History of Science in Broad Street in Oxford. It is based on eccentric objects in their stored collection - especially those things which lie outside their normal collecting range - and around eccentric scientists, especially in Oxford.

The following is adapted from their website about the exhibition:

Eccentricity Special Exhibition Banner

Science and Oxford are two traditional sources of eccentricity. Eccentric scientists are familiar creations of the media and eccentric Oxford academics inhabit both literary fiction and historical fact.

Charles Daubeny Feeding his Monkeys

Eccentric Oxford scientist Charles Daubeny kept monkeys in a cage in the gate of the Botanic Garden - until someone released the monkeys as a prank.

(Drawing by Francis Mosley)

Over the years the Museum has taken a broad approach to collecting, and contains many unexpected objects, often hidden away in the store. This special exhibition shows some of the most intriguing of these, telling their stories, and the stories of their eccentric owners. Who would have thought that a museum of science would have a large collection of typewriters, a Japanese mechanical fly-trap, a 19th-century clockwork bird-scarer or an astrolabe belonging to Nostradamus?

Having looked around the exhibition I would recommend it to anyone in Oxford this summer.

Amongst the objects on show which I would comment on are prototypes of the computer, including parts of Charles Babbage's calculating engine, and the aforementioned astrolabe and equitorium which it is believed may well have been owned by Nostradamus. Now with that and the Holy Table of his English equivalent Dr John Dee on permanent display in the Museum what more could you want to foresee...?

Eccentricity continues until October 16th. The Museum is open Tuesday-Friday 12-5, Saturday 10-5 and Sunday 2-5. Admission is free.

The Queen's speech in Dublin Castle

Here is the text of The Queen's speech at the state dinner in Dublin Castle last night.

The Queen in Ireland: Dublin Castle speech in full

The Queen speaks during the state dinner,
watched by Ireland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny, at Dublin Castle


''A hUachtarain agus a chairde (President and friends).

Madam President, Prince Philip and I are delighted to be here, and to experience at first hand Ireland’s world-famous hospitality.

Together we have much to celebrate: the ties between our people, the shared values, and the economic, business and cultural links that make us so much more than just neighbours, that make us firm friends and equal partners.

Madam President, speaking here in Dublin Castle it is impossible to ignore the weight of history, as it was yesterday when you and I laid wreaths at the Garden of Remembrance.

Indeed, so much of this visit reminds us of the complexity of our history, its many layers and traditions, but also the importance of forbearance and conciliation. Of being able to bow to the past, but not be bound by it.

Of course, the relationship has not always been straightforward; nor has the record over the centuries been entirely benign. It is a sad and regrettable reality that through history our islands have experienced more than their fair share of heartache, turbulence and loss.

These events have touched us all, many of us personally, and are a painful legacy. We can never forget those who have died or been injured, and their families. To all those who have suffered as a consequence of our troubled past I extend my sincere thoughts and deep sympathy. With the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all.

But it is also true that no-one who looked to the future over the past centuries could have imagined the strength of the bonds that are now in place between the governments and the people of our two nations, the spirit of partnership that we now enjoy, and the lasting rapport between us. No-one here this evening could doubt that heartfelt desire of our two nations.

Madam President, you have done a great deal to promote this understanding and reconciliation. You set out to build bridges. And I have seen at first hand your success in bringing together different communities and traditions on this island.

You have also shed new light on the sacrifice of those who served in the First World War. Even as we jointly opened the Messines Peace Park in 1998, it was difficult to look ahead to the time when you and I would be standing together at Islandbridge as we were today.

That transformation is also evident in the establishment of a successful power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland. A knot of history that was painstakingly loosened by the British and Irish Governments together with the strength, vision and determination of the political parties in Northern Ireland.

What were once only hopes for the future have now come to pass; it is almost exactly 13 years since the overwhelming majority of people in Ireland and Northern Ireland voted in favour of the agreement signed on Good Friday 1998, paving the way for Northern Ireland to become the exciting and inspirational place that it is today.

I applaud the work of all those involved in the peace process, and of all those who support and nurture peace, including members of the police, the gardai, and the other emergency services, and those who work in the communities, the churches and charitable bodies like Co-operation Ireland.

Taken together, their work not only serves as a basis for reconciliation between our people and communities, but it gives hope to other peacemakers across the world that through sustained effort, peace can and will prevail.

For the world moves on quickly. The challenges of the past have been replaced by new economic challenges which will demand the same imagination and courage.

The lessons from the peace process are clear; whatever life throws at us, our individual responses will be all the stronger for working together and sharing the load.

There are other stories written daily across these islands which do not find their voice in solemn pages of history books, or newspaper headlines, but which are at the heart of our shared narrative. Many British families have members who live in this country, as many Irish families have close relatives in the United Kingdom.

These families share the two islands; they have visited each other and have come home to each other over the years. They are the ordinary people who yearned for the peace and understanding we now have between our two nations and between the communities within those two nations; a living testament to how much in common we have.

These ties of family, friendship and affection are our most precious resource. They are the lifeblood of the partnership across these islands, a golden thread that runs through all our joint successes so far, and all we will go on to achieve.

They are a reminder that we have much to do together to build a future for all our grandchildren: the kind of future our grandparents could only dream of.

So we celebrate together the widespread spirit of goodwill and deep mutual understanding that has served to make the relationship more harmonious, close as good neighbours should always be."

The response appears to have been overwhelmingly favourable far beyond the walls of the castle from the reports I read. It is a gracious and balanced address, with a strong sense of historical reality underlying it - something which is not always the case in Irish matters.

Two points strike me about the reporting and comment on the speech. Firstly some want to make it an "apology" or tantamount to that. It has in fact a far richer tone than a politically inspired "apology" for something in the past over which one has no control today, and it avoids that trap. The modern enthusiasm for an "apology"is glib - such words, ultimately, come cheap. This was a speech carefully prepared to address the fact of past centuries and their failings, but not destined to deny historical fact or what was, or is, legitimate.

What Her Majesty said is that which is obvious to anyone of human sympathies - that people have suffered on all sides, and that is to be regretted. The fact that it is striking is that political leaders on all sides of the conflicts in Ireland for so long have failed to articulate that point, even if they were aware of it. As with King George V's Belfast speech in 1921 it takes the Monarch to reach out - and the times for that are rarely possible once violent events get in the way.

The other point I noted may seem trivial, but it is not, I think, unimportant. A report I saw referred to Dublin castle as once the seat of "British colonial power" in Ireland. Ireland was never a"British colony." There was once a 'colony' in the more loose sense of a settlement of non-indigenous people from England in the late twelfth century, but the use of "colonial" to decribe the institutions of medieval, post- Reformation, or of pre- or post-Union Ireland before 1922 is to fall into using loaded language. Ireland was not a colony, save perhaps being analagous at the time to the pre 1776 self-governing colonies in North America. It was an extension of the Crown's domains. Dublin Castle was the seat of government of a Kingdom of Ireland with its own parliament until 1801, and after that of an Ireland with representation in the parliament of the new United Kingdom.

If, as this very important visit is intended to enable people to do, people are to move forward then being honest about the past, and our use of language in describing it, is part of the process. That is what The Queen was saying in part last night.

St Dunstan

Today is the feast of that great tenth century Englishman Saint Dunstan (909-988) - Abbot of Glastonbury and Archbishop of Canterbury. Here are two posts I wrote about him last year - St Dunstan and St Dunstan addenda.

I am adding a photograph of the whole page with the self-portrait of St Dunstan prostrate at the feet of Christ from the Glastonbury classbook which is now in the Bodleian Library:


Note the later inscription at the top of the page about it being in the "proper hand"of St Dunstan.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

The Order of SS Cyril and Methodius

In February when I wrote about St Cyril and St Methodius I said I hoped to post something about the Bulgarian monarchy's Order of Chivalry under their patronage. The following piece is largely based upon an online article in connection with the offer for sale of a set of the insignia of the Order.

Today is the anniversary of the foundation of that Order by King Ferdinand I in 1909, following his proclamation of the Kingdom or Tsardom of the Bulgarians the previous year. In February 1910 it was approved by a special act of the 14th Common National Assemby. It was the highest ranking Order of the Kingdom and was conferred on high-ranking Bulgarian statesmen who had already received decorations, and also on foreign Sovereigns or Christian statesmen for services to Bulgaria.

Under its statutes the number of living Bulgarian recipients was not to exceed 15 members. Early members were Ivan Geshov, Vassil Radolavov, Ivan Vasov and there were apparently some 52 foreign members, including Tsar Nicholas II.

The badge of the Order is a 75 mm cross with quatrefoil terminals, enamelled light blue with gold edges. Between the arms of the cross are red enamelled flames each charged with a silver Bourbon fleur-de-lys. The gold circle at the centre bears the motto in blue: Ex Oriente Lux. Beneath the motto is a five-pointed star and two stylised decorations. The two patrons SS Cyril and Methodius are depicted on the central medallion.

On the reverse a similar gold circle bears in blue lettering the date of the Order's foundation: XVIII Majus MDCCCCIX/18 May 1909 and the cypher of King Ferdinand.

The star of the Order derived its design from that of the French The Orderof the Saint-Esprit, and consisted of a silver faceted Maltese cross with arms 75mm long.

Between the arms are flames charged with the silver fleur-de-lys, and in the centre a Seraph, its six wings enamelled in red.

The Order had both a Grand Collar and a Lesser Collar.

The riband of the Order was light orange and 103 mm wide, and worn over the left shoulder.

With the example illustrated is a photograph of King Boris III (1918-43), and this award of the Order dates from his reign.

The insignia was designed by Heyer von Rosenfeld of Rhote and Neffe in Vienna, and was made by Tzermann in Germany.

Newman in Germany

Oriel College Newman Lecture 2011

View Image

From Dollinger to Ratzinger:

The reception of John Henry Newman in Germany”

A lecture by

Prof. Dr. Claus Arnold

Professur für Kirchengeschichte
Fachbereich Katholische Theologie
Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität,
Frankfurt am Main

Wednesday June 1st

Harris Lecture Theatre, Oriel College at 5pm

Tuesday 17 May 2011

The Queen in Ireland

Police held back noisy demonstrators as the Queen took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin

Today The Queen is beginning her state visit to Ireland. By common consent this is one of the most important visits she has paid during her reign. Indeed it may be the most important, and will probably rank alongside that of King Edward VII to France in 1903, of King George VI to the US in 1939 and of the Queen herself to West Germany in 1965 in terms of national rapprochment. The presence of the Prime Minister as minister in attendance emphasies its importance to relations at the highest levels of constitutional and political relations.

When the possibility of such a visit as this was raised in the past I was always sceptical as to it happening - there are so many ambiguities in relations between the two countries, which have not gone away, and indeed recent accords between them have, arguably, compounded them. However it is now taking place, and it must be hoped that it can help in the process of genuine peacemaking and reconciliation between different traditions. The concerns for the safety of the royal visitors and the public opposition of some elements in Irish life show how sensitive a task The Queen is addressing.

As with the Royal wedding I will post further reflections over the next few days about the Crown and Ireland.

King Umberto II

The Mad Monarchist has had three posts recently about King Umberto II and his family to mark the sixty-fifth anniversary of the King's accession to the Italian throne and his dethronement in May-June 1946. They can be read at Monarch Profile: King Umberto II of Italy, Favorite Royal Images: A May King and Queen and The Faithful of the House of Savoy.

The posts not only recount the King's life and the fate of the Italian monarchy, but also look in the third one at the complex relationship between the House of Savoy and the Catholic Church during and after the process of Italian unification. As I have written before the difficulty the Savoys had was a consequence of the dangerous pact with forces that were often unsympathetic and at times openly hostile, to traditional values, whether of the Church or the Crown itself. It was King Umberto's misfortune to be forced with his family into exile as scapegoats by a political class who had failed in the past and who have failed to deliver stability or good government in Italy since 1946.

The Austrailan Radical Royalist blog has this post about the King 9th May 1946: Accession of King Umberto II of Ital...

Monday 16 May 2011

Lewes Priory

Following on from my post referring to Lewes Priory in my piece about St Pancras Stephanie Mann of Supremacy and Survival has posted about the Priory, with links to the website of Lewes Priory Trust:

More on Lewes Priory


The post on St. Pancras led me to this site for the Lewes Priory Trust, which includes the illustration above (Illustration © Andy Gammon 2010) which depicts what it might have looked like. According to the site:

Lewes Priory was founded by William de Warenne and his wife Gundrada between 1078 and 1082 on the site of a Saxon church dedicated, like the Priory, to St Pancras. William was a leading Norman baron with extensive lands in Sussex and elsewhere in England. He also founded Castle Acre Priory in Norfolk. Lewes was the first Priory in England belonging to the reformed Benedictine Order of Cluny, based in France. It became one of the wealthiest monasteries in England. However, in spite of its wealth it played little role in national affairs, except at the time of the Battle of Lewes in 1264 when it was occupied by the troops of King Henry III.

The main buildings, including the great Priory church, were put up in Quarr limestone in the Romanesque style between c1082 to c1100 and in Caen limestone from c.1145 to the 13th century. Repairs and additions continued up to the monastery's dissolution in November 1537. At this time it owned over 20,000 acres in Sussex with other lands elsewhere, was the patron of 19 parish churches in the county and owned two houses for the poor in Lewes. A number of daughter priories were dependent on Lewes. There were only 24 monks at the time of its dissolution, compared with as many as 100 in the 12th and 13th centuries.

The site also includes links and information about Cluny and the religious houses that were dependent upon Lewes in England.

To Stephanie's post I would add I have always been fascinated by reconstructon drawings that evoke what was once in existence, and this is the first I have seen of the great church and priory at Lewes.

In the light of what the post says about there already being a church dedicated to St Pancras which was taken over to establish the priory might suggest I was going beyond the historical evidence in suggesting that William and Gundrada were referring to Harold Godwinson's oathbreaking in their foundation, but the possibility is intruiging. St Pancras may well have seemed a very suitable patron, and here was a church dedicated to him ready to be expanded into amonastic house

My interest in Lewes Priory comes from three things - as a Cluniac foundation it was of the same family as the priory in my home town of Pontefract, the Warrenne family held the neighbouring lordship of Wakefield (where I was born) from the Conquest until the mid-fourteenth century, and some of my ancestors lived near Lewes - although whether they were there when the priory was in existence I do not know.

Saturday 14 May 2011

Royal Wedding - further thoughts on Christian marriage

In my post Royal Wedding - Christian marriage I commented on the fact that this was very obviously a statement of Christian belief and commitment, and could be seen as an emphatic response to the secularising trends of recent years. Ina few short sentences the vast watching public heard the essentials of Christian teaching on marriage enunciated and proclaimed in word and ceremony.

I am not I see the only person to be struck by this. Stephanie Mann of Supremacy and Survival has an excellent post Reflections on the Royal Wedding on this and other aspects of the wedding, and has links to Elena Maria Vidal' s Tea at Trianon post The Royal Wedding: Killjoys Be Gone!. Both stressing the very clear emphasis on the Christian nature of the marriage of the Duke and Duchess, and citing an article by Melanie Phillips which forcefully underlines the point, and expounds reasons as to why so many people can and do relate to the institution on monarchy.

The Use (or Misuse) of Rheims

Last Monday the excellent Rorate Caeli blog had this post about the octocentenary of the consecration of Rheims cathedral
(being traditionally English I am inclined to spell the place name with an h):

No Pater, please: we're secular

News of the celebration of the 800th anniversary of the dedication of the Cathedral of Reims, which took place last Friday:
According to the cultural assistant of the Mayor of Reims, Jacques Cohen, "we had to discuss with the archbishop [Abp. Thierry Jordan] so that the Our Father would not be sung or recited" during the ceremony for the eighth centennial of Reims Cathedral. "We [the staff of Socialist mayor Adeline Hazan] are secular [laïques]." They finally won their struggle. And if the Ave-Maria was tolerated, it was because the Cathedral is called Notre-Dame... "We had to negotiate, that took place directly between city hall and the archbishop. It was not simple," confirmed, outside the ceremony, auxiliary Bishop Joseph Boishu.




I am inclined to say what do you expect, or indeed what should we expect here were we to go down the same path in such matters as the French. 

It is all the result of those dreadul events in France in 1789, and even when thing were more or less put right in 1815, they still wrecked tham again in 1830, and have consistently compounded the situation ever since with revolutions, republics, disestablishment, pseudo-philosophies that embrace everythig and amount to nothing, aggressive secularism and such like. Thus we see what has happened to the eldest daughter of the Church in the place where Clovis was baptised in 496. 

It is enough to make an angel weep, or, perhaps, laugh...

Royal Wedding - Westminster Abbey

Watching the Royal Wedding on television I was struck by the thought that King Henry III might well be pleased with the fact that his great creation of Westminster abbey looked so splendid on the occasion - despite the damage inflicted upon the fabric over the centuries in the name, at least, of some of his descendants. What he would have made of the trees in the nave I am not so sure - they were, well, different, and one up on the average flower arranger.

Westminster was a far more suitable choice than St Pauls, quite apart from the risk of evoking memories or comparisons with the Prince's parents' marriage there. Westminster abbey speaks of the sacral nature of English and British monarchy, and it is a potent, living link with and reminder of past generations of the royal house since the death of St Edward. As was pointed out in the television commentary it is there that the Duke and Duchess will, in the fullness of time, be crowned. It is also a very beautiful building, which, in my opinion, for all its architectural importance, St Paul's is not. As a medievalist I know I regret the loss of the previous St Paul's in 1666 (not withstanding the fairly bizarre Carolean attempts to modernise it by Inigo Jones or proposed by Christopher Wren), and the present cathedral, despite all its historic and iconic associations, remains, to my mind, cold and lifeless. It was said that the Duke and Duchess chose Westminster because of its beauty, and for the wedding the abbey church displayed both that and was in itself a reminder of the historic dimension of the occasion.

The practice at the abbey of displaying their spectacular altar plate on these occasions either on the altar or on the side of the sanctuary appears reminiscent of the way in which medieval nobles showed off their plate on grand occasions on sideboards - as in the picture of the Duke of Berry at table in the Tres Riches Heures. However I wondered if the origin of the practice at the abbey is not so much a desire to show off their treasures or wealth as such, but a memory of the pre-Reformation practice of displaying relics and statues of the saints on festal occasions. Thus at York in 1483 when King Richard III created his son as Prince of Wales in the Minster the altar was decorated with silver gilt figures of the Twelve Apostles. I do not know, but thought it possible, that, after the loss of such reliquaries and votive figures, the memory lingered that on great occasions the altar should be decorated with something in silver or gold, and in default the alms dishes and such like were displayed.

Friday 13 May 2011

Our Lady of Fatima

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Fátima, celebrating the first apparition of Our Lady there to the three shepherd children on this day in 1917. These continued on the 13th of each month until the 'Miracle of the Sun' on October 13th that year.

There is an online account of the apparitions and history of the shrine here.

The story of Fatima is one that is truly extraordinary, and one which confronts so many prevailing preconceptions in our society. In itself it is call to faith, and one that is challenging and demanding. What the children of Fatima saw and relayed was no easy religious option, no easy comfort, but an awareness of spiritual and indeed physical combat with dark and dreadful forces.

Thursday 12 May 2011

Robert Hardy at the Oxford Union

Last night the guest speaker at the Oxford Union was the actor Robert Hardy, who spoke about his career from acting as an undergraduate at Magdalen through to his extensive career on television and in film. He also spoke about his interest in the history of medieval warfare, a subject to which he has contributed published work on the longbow, and such enterprises as the raising of the Mary Rose.

His interest in medieval combat developed from playing King Henry V in Shakespeare's history plays, most famously in the 1960 BBC television series An Age of Kings. This was the first major television presentation of Shakespeare's history plays as a cycle, and had a cast of great distinction. Many of the images it created remain vivid in the memory of those of us who saw it. It is now available on DVD.

Whilst speaking about how to be a successful actor he said it required conviction, the ability to promote oneself and to commit a few 'murders' along the way. Listening to this I thought that sounded like a pretty good description of how to be a successful late medieval monarch. Shortly afterwards when discussing the dramatic role of King Henry V as created by Shakespeare, having made the point that the play is a superb depiction of late medieval kingship, he reflected that that also required conviction, the ability to promote oneself and to commit a few murders along the way... Great minds clearly think alike.

After his talk I was able to speak to him and say that I was probably the only person present who remembered watching An Age of Kings as a child, and that the series, combined with the fact of coming from a town whose castle features in the plays ( "O thou bloody prison... fatal and ominous alike to Englan's peers... "), had fuelled my own passion for the late middle ages.

Long may she reign

Today HM The Queen becomes the second longest reigning monarch in British history, as outlined in these articles in the Daily Telegraph, one a news story The Queen to become second-longest reigning monarch and the other The Queen's longest reigning predecessors gives statistics for her predecessors.

She has now overtaken King George III in the length of time she has served as monarch, and only Queen Victoria has reigned longer.

Jacobites can of course advance the claim of King James III and VIII, who would have reigned almost a year longer than Queen Victoria, but even that achievement of longevity must be in Her Majesty's sights.

Long may she reign!

Wednesday 11 May 2011

St Pancras

Today is the feast of, amongst others, St Pancras.

Of course to most people in Britain St Pancras means a great Victorian railway station - now restored and re designated St Pancras International. The station opened in 1868, the great station hotel front being completed to the designs of Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1873.


In the 1960s there were plans to demolish it, as had happened to the Euston Arch. Campaigners, led by Sir John Betjeman, succeeded here in saving this stupendous piece of Victorian exhuberance, and now, in the restored station, Sir John is commorated by a statue. That is a recognition of how far we have come from those years when anything old was considered fair game for destruction - buildings, institutions, liturgies...

Which last brings me neatly to the saint himself. St Pancras of Rome (d. circa 304, supposedly) is a Roman martyr of the Via Aurelia. Pope St. Symmachus (498-514) erected a basilica over his grave in the cemetery of Octavilla. This was rebuilt by Pope Honorius I (625-38), who added a confessio and placed the altar directly over Pancras' tomb.

In the sixth or early seventh century Pancras received a legendary Passio that made him a wealthy orphan from Phrygia born in the time of Valerian and Gallienus (254-60) and brought to Rome by his uncle and, at the age of fourteen, martyred by beheading under the Emperor Diocletian ( 284-305; started his persecution in 303). His corpse was left for the dogs to eat, but a Christian woman secretly buried it in the nearby catacombs.

Gregory of Tours records that Pancras was considered especially vigilant in punishing those who had broken their word and that oaths were therefore often taken at his tomb. His basilica is included in the seventh-century pilgrim itineraries for Rome; it was rebuilt in the late eighth and early ninth centuries and again in the seventeenth century. Pancras' cult spread widely across Europe. Probably because he has the same feast day as SS. Nereus and Achilleus, he too came to be considered a military saint. There are numerous castle chapel dedications to him from the twelfth century onward. In the later Middle Ages he was one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

He is depicted as a youthful knight in stained glass of 1245-60 in the west choir of Naumburg cathedral in Saxony-Anhalt. In this picture he is the figure on the left.


Incidentally Naumburg is yet another of those wonderful German romanesque and gothic cathedrals and churches with marvellous treasures of which we seem so little aware in this country.

In England the cult of St Pancras appears to have begun with the Roman mission of 597 - that is just as his Passio was being written and disseminated. St Augustine dedicated in his honour the first church he erected in Canterbury - later incorporated in what became St Augustine's Abbey. Fifty years later Pope St Vitalian (657-672 ) sent to King Oswy of Northumbria (d.670), in addition to filings from St Peter's Chains, a portion of the martyr's relics, the distribution of which seems to have propagated his cult in England.

Relics of St Pancras that ended up at Waltham Cross could well be those in the portable shrine Harold Godwinson is depicted as swearing on in the Bayeux Tapestry. Pancras as one who punished oath-breakers would clearly fit very well into such an account from the Norman standpoint.

In 1077 William de Warenne established the first Cluniac priory in England at Lewes in Sussex, and dediacted it to St Pancras. Given the relative proximity to Hastings this may reflect an awareness of gratitude to the saint for his intercession in 1066. If that is so, maybe we should take St Pancras more seriously in England than as just the name of a railway terminus.

The priory church, modelled on the great new church of Cluny itself, was larger than Chichester cathedral. The history and remains of the priory can be studied on the excellent and well researched website Lewes Priory.

There was alas no sixteenth century Betjeman to save Lewes Priory from the destructive urges of the sixteenth century, nor to protect its remains from further damage in the nineteenth century when the railway came to the town and cut through the site. Writing this I am beginning to think that in England at least one of the attributes of St Pancras should be a railway engine.

Today, apart from his eponymous parish in London, for which a late Roman origin has been suggested - and if so than the a dedication may point to an early renovation in the years around 604 when the diocese of London was restablished - probably the most famous English church under his patronage is that at Widecome-in-the-Moor in Devon.

Tuesday 10 May 2011


Walking down the High in Oxford this morning I noticed that the window of a shop selling beauty products was dominated by a display of "Frankincense." Now being a not inexperienced thurifer I looked further and found that this was a product which was being marketed as the thing to care for the skin, with a range of creams and potions, not to mention publicity material, telling the potential purchaser that Frankincense is the way to keep wrinkles at bay and maintain youthful looking skin.

I have no wish or desire to express doubts about the veracity of such claims, but did just wonder if wielding a smoking thurible accounts for my own extraordinarily youthful appearance (sic) - and you can take that with a pinch of Prinknash's best or even some Rosa Mystica.....


Could such claims lead to an increase amongst the vain (or the wrinkled) who will seek to become servers at Mass? Will sacristy suppliers become the means to remain young and beautiful?

At least it's a change from the Health and Safety mafia claiming it is carcinogenic.

Monday 9 May 2011

Pious exercises

This past weekend gave me several opportunities for acts of liturgical supererogation.

On Saturday afternoon I was thurifer at the Juventutem Oxford Mass celebrated at SS Edmund and Frideswide, better known as Oxford Greyfriars, and sitruated in Iffley Road. The celebrant was Fr Anthony Conlan.

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The Mass in the Church of SS Edmund and Frideswide, the parish church which is also the chapel of the Fransiscan Priory, Greyfriars, was celebrated for us by Fr Anthony Conlon, Chaplain of the Oratory School outside Oxford. Fr Mark Elvins OFM Cap, the Guardian of Greyfriars, was present (see below, sitting on the left of the picture). 

2011 05 07_9414

Photographs from Joseph Shaw's Flickr account

This was only the second time I had been into the church, which is a handsome building in a neo-romanesque style.

This was the first time the Mass had been celebrated in the usus antiquior there for very many years and the occasion received enthusiastic support from Juventutem members and others. There is now a blog site for the group which can be read at Juventutem Oxford.

In the early evening I went to the Ordinariate Mass at Pusey House. Here the celebrant was Mgr Burnham and the preacher Fr Richard Conrad OP. Once agian we saw the possibilities the Ordinariate offers for dignified liturgy and the integration of an Anglican patrimony - the wording of prayers, the choice and style of hymns and motets and a general cultural ambiance that in no way impedes the fullness of catholic unity. As last week I had the vital liturgical functions of handing out service sheets and taking the collection. The local group now has a blog of its own which can be viewed at Oxford Ordinariate group.

Afterwards over supper with a friend who is a longer term convert than myself we discussed not only these liturgical aspects of the Ordinariate - the most obvious signs so far - but alsq how the integration of the Anglican spiritual heritage of devotional writing can be shared and of the need to demonstrate that the Ordinariate is, and should be much more than just another parish group. We agreed that it is early days yet, and that as ordinations and, hopefully, more receptions follow, the pace will pick up. Nonetheless encouraging people to think about these aspects and helping them along is something we can do as individuals now.

On Sunday, following the Solemn Mass at the Oratory, I went up to north Oxford to SS Gregory and Augustine to help with the celebration of their May Devotion and procession in honour of Our Lady. Once again I was thurifer and we started with a reading of Bl. John Henry Newman's exposition of the practice of the May Devotion in the church grounds, followed by the procession into the church, the crowning of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima in the Lady Chapel and the recitation of the litany of Our Lady. The children brought their flowers to place before the statue and we concluded with Benediction at the High Altar.

The weather being kind it was possible to conclude the afternoon with the promised tea and cakes in the Presbytery garden before getting a lift back into the city centre for the regular Vespers and Benediction at the Oratory.