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, 8 November 2011

Shrine of St Monulph and St Gondulph

In my post Treasures of Heaven I mentioned that one of the most appealing exhibits at the exhibition in the British Museum on relics and reliquaries were the end panels from the chasse of St Monulph (d. late 6th cent.) and St Gondulph (d. early 7th cent.). I have now found some photographs of the pieces, although they do not convey fully the charm of the delightful figures of the two saints leaning out in response to the angelic message they are receiving almost as if to say "Who, me?" I described them in my previous post as looking "as if responding to a polite request to put in an appearance or perform some act of intercession."

Monulph and Gondulph are poorly attested bishops of the diocese of Tongeren (Tongres), whose seat from the sixth century onward was in Maastricht. Monulph has several Vitae (BHL 6012-6018) derived from a Vita of the perhaps fourth-century St. Servatius (Servais, Servaas; Feast day 13. May). These ascribe to him, rather than to his predecessor St. Domitian, the moving of the episcopal seat to Maastricht and the building there of a church over St Servatius's grave. Other building projects are ascribed to Monulph, as is also the founding of the church of Liège. Gondulph, if he really existed, is thought to have been Monulph's immediate successor. In 1039 bodies said to be those of Monulph. and Gondulph. were accorded an Elevatio in Maastricht's church of St. Servatius in the presence of the Emperor Henry III. July 16th is their Feast day (Acknowledgements to www.learn.columbia.edu)

These remains of their reliquary, made in the period 1180-1200, were in the church of St. Servais, Maastricht, until 1847.Acquired by a Mr. Horn, they were in Prince Soltykoff's collection until 1861, when they were acquired by the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire in Brussels

The pieces are made of copper gilt (cast, engraved, and embossed) over wood, and decorated with vernis brun and champlevé enamel.

Reliquary of St. Monulph

St. Monulph

hec nostris manibus dat vobis premia christus
(Through our hands Christ gives you this crown)

Reliquary of St. Gondulph

St Gondulph

surgite xristus adest vocat vos ipse coronat
(Arise! Behold, Christ is calling you and he himself is crowning you)

As artworks they are an example of the versitility and vitality of medieval craftsmen, both heavenly and sublime as well as humane and delightful. Looking at such pieces one appreciates the skill, and bewails the loss of so much of the same nature which has been lost.

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