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, 1 December 2011

St Edmund Campion

Today is the feast of St Edmund Campion and his companions, St Alexander Bryant and St Ralph Sherwin, who were martyred with him on this day in 1581, so this is the 430th anniversary of their deaths. It is also designated as that of the martyrs of Oxford Universityin the Archdiocese of Birmingham.

I have been struck when reading about St Edmund by his bravura and sense of showmanship. He was clearly an immensely effective and moving preacher, and his eloquence in his advocacy of the Catholic case whilst in the Tower of London and at his trial deeply impressive. There is a panache in his leaving unsealed, allowing for its publication, his reasons for his mission - what became known as Campion's Brag but there is also his sense of daring in producing the Decem Rationes and having printed it secretly and then leaving copies in St Mary's, the University Church, in Oxford at the commencement service in July 1581. One can see why the government feared this one man so much.

The surviving portraits often fail to convey what must have been a lively and engaging as well as deeply serious personality. The posthumous painting in Prague seems somewhat lacking in the magnetism one senses St Edmund possessed:


Posthumous portrait of St Edmund Campion in the Klementinum in Prague

Image: www.st-edmundcampion-mh.co.uk

There is perhaps something closer to what made him both attractive and indeed compelling in this picture, although its source is not clear:



1 comment:

Pietru said...

I recently finished Waugh's little biography of Campion and have been devoted to him ever since. Definitely a saint every student should look up to! Though I don't think I'd have been quite so brave as he was.