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, 3 October 2011

St Thomas of Hereford

Today is the feast of St Thomas Canteloupe, Bishop of Hereford, and a former Chancellor of both Oxford University and of the realm. He died in 1282, and whose eventual canonization in 1320 was the last of an English confessor, as opposed to martyrs, before the beatification of John Henry Newman last year. In recent years he has attracted more attention from historians and from his cathedral church.

R. C. Finucane's life from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography can be read here.

The present Dean of Hereford, whom I knew slightly when he was Vicar of Tewkesbury, initiated a scheme to commemorate in the cathedral St Ethelbert the Martyr King and its co-patron with Our Lady, St Thomas and Thomas Traherne, the seventeenth century Anglican devotional writer.

In the case of St Thomas his original tomb base from the 1280s in the north transept has been given a new freretory in medieval style, and it now houses a relic of St Thomas lent by Stonyhurst College. After 1320 his relics were moved to a new shrine in the retrochoir, which was destroyed at the reformation. Since 1881 his skull, which somone had safeguarded, has been housed as a relic at Downside Abbey in Somerset.


The west gable of the new shrine
St Thomas of Hereford is on the left, with St Thomas of Canterbury on the right.
Behind are St John the Baptist and St Ethelbert flanking Our Lady and the Christ Child.

Image: petermurphyicons.co.uk


The new shrine on the original base

Image: hereford cathedral.org

There is an article which links the Mappa Mundi to the shrine which is discussed in this article
which has this reconstruction of how the ghrine and Mappa might have appeared c.1300 - alas the loss of painted decoration from our historic churches.


There appears to be no contemporary depiction of St Thomas but he is depicted in some glass now in the church at Ross on Wye and commissioned by a later Bishop of Hereford, Thomas Spofford OSB, c.1430 for the chapel at his manor house at Stretton Sugwas, north-west of Hereford. The chapel was destroyed by fire in the late eighteenth century but the glass survived and was eventually inserted in the window at Ross.

On the left is, I assume, St Ethelbert holding the cathedral and on the right St Thomas of Hereford. In the middle lights are St Anne holding the Virgin Mary and St Joachim, with the kneeling figure of Bishop Spofford, a friend and patron of Bishop Fleming. Bishop Spofford appears to have had a considerable devotion to St Anne from his time as abbot of St Mary's York.


Image: mysite.verizon.net/gamelbarbthomas1.html

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