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, 29 December 2011

St Thomas of Canterbury at Chartres

Today is the feast of the martyrdom of St Thomas of Canterbury in 1170.

Quite apart from my work as a medieval historian as a former churchwarden at St Thomas the Martyr in Oxford he is a saint who interests me. My post about both the saint and the church from last year can be read at St Thomas of Canterbury.

As a consequence of the shock engendered by his death and the cult that developed around him St Thomas was widely depicted in art. Many of these representations in England were casualties of King Henry VIII's fulminations against veneration of St Thomas - "that traitor Becket."

Thanks to some posts on the Medieval religion discussion group by Christopher Crockett, that veteran enthusiast for all things Chartrain, I am reproducing some images from Chartres Cathedral, where Becket's supporter John of Salisbury was Bishop from 1176 until his death in 1180.

Clark Maines in an article 'A Figure of St. Thomas Becket at Chartres' in Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte XXXVI, 1973), pp. 163-173, identifies one of the figures on the south portal of Chartres cathedral as St Thomas. This can be read on JSTOR if you have access at http://www.jstor.org/stable/1481845 The figure on the right is, in this reading, St Thomas, trampling on King Henry II.




Also at Chartres in the ambulatory is a window telling the story of St Thomas, and given by the Guild of Tanners. It can be viewed, with some explanatory notes, here.

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