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, 6 October 2011

Carthusian reflections

Today being the feast of St Bruno, founder of the Carthusians makes one's mind turn to thoughts and things Carthusian.

File:Sebastiano Ricci 024.jpg

The founder of the Carthusians, Bruno of Cologne (c1030-1101), adoring the Virgin and Child with Hugh of Lincoln (1135-1200) looking on in the background.
A painting by Sebastiano Ricci (1659-1734)


It was only when I read some of the writings of John Cassian (c.360-435) that I realised the extent to which St Bruno, following St Benedict's advice, had looked to that description of primitive Egyptian monasticism as a source for his monastic rule. That point is not, I think, one which is brought out adequately in the usual books on monastic life in the middle ages.

On the New Liturgical Movement there is a post
on The Sources and Shape of the Carthusian Liturgy which links to another piece by him from three years ago about the same subject - both are worth looking at.

The carthusians loom fairly large in the life of Bishop Richard Fleming. Not that that was unusual for a late-medieval member of the elite - this was one of the high points of Carthusian influence, when a Charterhouse was becoming a "must-have" for Kings and princes. There is, inter alia, King Henry V's foundation at Sheen, King James I of Scots foundation at Perth, the Castilian royal necropolis of King Juan II at Miraflores near Burgos and the Burgundian ducal one at Champmol in Dijon, and Thomas Duke of Surrey's Mount Grace here in England.

Fleming had links with at least three of the English houses. In his episcopal register
there are references to at least two stays at the house at Beauvale in Nottinghamshire. There is the VCH Nottinghamshire account of the house here, and one from Wikipedia here. There is also the website of the Beauvale Society, which has an excellent slide show of photographs of the existing remains of this tranquil and holy place. I have added that website to the sidebar for future reference.

The remains of Beauvale Priory
Image: Wikipedia

As Bishop of Lincoln Fleming was invited to consecrate a bell at the London Charterhouse, wjhich was not that far from his episcopal residence in the city, but it is a further indication of his links to the Carthusians.

Following his death in 1431 a Carthusian at Sheen, John Stone, wrote his Metrificatio around the lines Fleming wrote for his tomb at Lincoln. Stone clearly knew Fleming and this appears to confirm the presence of something of Carthusian spirituality in Fleming. Given his family connections and diocesan position I would not be surpised were I to discover a link with the house at Axholme, or indeed with the Yorkshire house at Mount Grace.

The house at Sheen - now Richmond in Surrey - is described by the VCH Surrey here and by Wikipedia here. The community was re-established in 1557 and went into exile inthe Netherlands following the death of Queen Mary I. There as Sheen Anglorum it survived until it was suppressed in 1783 by the Emperor Joseph II as part of his excess of zeal to regulate and interfere in church matters. Relics from it are held at Parkminster. There is an account of its history here.

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