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.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

A Royal wedding in 1137

Today has been the 875th anniversary of the marriage of King Louis VII of France to Eleanor Duchess of Aquitaine in 1137.

Louis VII, born in 1120, had been junior King since his coronation in 1131, during the lifetime of his father King Louis VI and was a man of a rather monastic frame of mind, pious and devout, who had spent much of his upbringing at St Denis, which had received the extensive patronage of his father. King Louis VI was presumably dying when his son married - and died a week later on August 1st . Louis and Eleanor were to be crowned again as King and Queen on the following Christmas Day. 

The seal of King Louis VII
Image: his.nicolas.free.fr

Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right, and ruling the extensive territories that the Duchy comprised stretching across south-west France had been born in 1122 or 24. She was a high spirited young woman, a product of the southern culture that was in some contrast to that of the northern Capetian heartland. On a purely personal level it is perhaps not surprising that the marriage was unhappy, and the fact that their two children were both daughters did not help in an age when male primogeniture was vital for the unity of the realm. 


The effigies of Queen Eleanor and King Henry II at Fontevrault Abbey

Image: Wikimedia commons

As a result the marriage of Louis and Eleanor was dissolved in March 1152, and Eleanor promptly married the nineteen year old Henry Count of Anjou, who in 1154 became King Henry II of England, and ruler of a vast netweork of territories from Scotland to the Pyrennes. Her new husband was very different in temperament and achievement to King Louis. The marriage was stormy at times but they were to have a large family of both sons and daughters, including three crowned Kings of England - Henry The Young King, Richard I and John, and their daughters included Queens of Castile and Sicily.

For King Louis the consequences dominated the rest of his reign until his death in 1180, when the French crown passed to his son by his third marriage, who became King Philip II, and who was to manage to break up the Angevin Empire in 1202-4.  Had the marriage of Louis VII and Eleanor provided the vital male heir, let alone been happy, the unification of the kingdom as royal domain would have been advanced far more speedily than otherwise happened - the last parts of Gascony did not fall to the French Crown until 1453-4. Although the Anglo-French conflicts of the later middle ages might still have occurred due to the dynastic claim after 1328, but the political realities on the ground would have been very different, with no English base in the south-west from which to threaten the French monarchy with a military and political pincer movement.  


Image: skyscrapercity.com


St James in England

Although both the pilgrimage to Compostella itself was very popular and the presence of a major relic of St James the Great at Reading Abbey - about which I posted in The Hand of St James  and More on the Holy Hand of Reading last year, medieval parish church dedications to St James are relatively rare in England. I wonder if some urban examples - Bury St Edmunds,Great Grimsby, Louth - being slightly later in date, do indeed reflect twelfth century devotion to him arising from the Pilgrimage.

Probably the best known, and the most striking, is the great parish church of Louth in north east Lincolnshire.

Louth church from the west


The chancel and nave were re-built between 1430 and 1440. Work began on the spire in 1501 and it was completed, with great local ceelebrations for which the accounts survive, in 1515. The cost of the work was £305-7s-4d, and it is the tallest Anglican parish church spire at 295 feet high.

In itself it is evidence of the vitality of the English church at that time, so close to the catastrophic tragedies of the next few decades. It was in the church in the autumn of 1536 that there began that courageous but unsuccessful resistance to the changes being imposed  upon them known as the Lincolnshire Rising, the precursor of the Pilgrimage of Grace.

Amongst modern churches I aways enjoy my visits to St James Spanish Place in London, which originated as the Spanish Embassy Chapel, and was thus one of the few Catholic churche sopen to the public in the period before the 1791 legislation. Although rebuilt in the style of the English thirteenth century its many associations with the Spanish Church and crown make it alittle bit of Spain in the West End - a beautiful and stylish church.

St James Spanish Place as designed in 1885


The interior of St James Spanish Place


St James at Santiago

To continue the theme of St James here a picture of the votive statue of St James above the High Altar in the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela. I understand from reading Edwin Mullins' book on the Pilgrimage  that is the custom for pilgrims who have walked the Camino to embrace the statue and to briefly place their hats on the saint's head.

The statue of St James


The interior of the cathedral

... and here is the great thurible of Santiago in action

Vigo 29, Santiago de Compostela, Spain and Canary Islands


There are pictures of the visit of the King and Queen of Spain to Santiago for the Jubilee Year in 2010 in the post Jubilee of St James the Greater from the New Liturgical Movement.

St James the Great at Amiens

Today is the feast of St James the Great and gives me an opportunity to share some pictures of some fine examples of late medieval French sculpture.

Made in 1511 these four polychromtic scenes are mounted in the west wall of the south transept of Amiens Cathedral. They tell the story of St James the Greater's conversion of Philetus and Hermogenes to Christianity. St James is, as common in the medieval period, shown as a pilgrim to his shrine at Compostella, and the sculpture and its polychrome gives an idea of the type of devotional material available to late medieval worshippers.

Philetus listens to St. James Amiens Cathedral

Philatus is sent by the enchanter Hermogenes to confound Saint James and prove his teaching to be false, but ends up listening to James preach.

Philetus cast under a Spell, Amiens Cathedral

When he returns he tells Hermogenes that he wants to become a disciple of St. James and advises Hermogenes to do likewise. In anger Herogenes casts a spell on Philetus so that he couldn't move. Philetus's child then goes to St. James who send Philetus a kerchief which unbinds him from the spell of Hermogenes.

Devils Bind  Hermogenes

In response Hermogenes summons devils to bind and fetch St. James. However, James turns the devils so that instead they bind and fetch Hermogenes to St. James.

Hermogenes  Bound

When Hermogenes is brought to St. James he is unbound and converted to Christianity.

With acknowledgements to professor-moriaty.com, and thanks to Christopher Crockett of the Medieval Religion discussion groups for the link

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Christians in the Middle East

Today's feast of the nineteenth century Maronite monk St Shabel Makhluf  is a reminder to us, if we need it, to keep in our prayers, and lend whatever support we can to Christians in the Middle East. The Iraq war and the Arab Spring have placed many of these communities in an extremely difficult position - hitherto protected or tolerated by relatively secular regimes they now face the risk of attack from supporters of more militant branches of Islam or from those who have overthrown governments that enjoyed the relative support of the Christian communities. From Egypt to Syria and into Iraq their future is uncertain, and support from Western governments often appears to be only routine expressions of vague concern.

These communities are not only Christian brethren but part of the continuing witness to the faith from Apostolic and post apostolic timesin the region. They need and deserve our prayers and support.  

Monday 23 July 2012

The Scottish Prayer Book 1637

It was 375 years ago today, on July 23 1637, that the new Scottish Prayer Book was introduced, an event which led to the Solemn League and Covenant, the Bishops Wars between England and Scotland, the calling of the Short Parliament and then of the Long Parliament, and the descent into Civil War of all three of King Charles I's realms.
the most famous protest was of course in St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh when Jenny Geddes threw her three lefgged stool at the head of the Dean when he was saying the service, as she yelled " Are you saying Mass at ma lug?" Trouble was clearly expected - the Bishop of Brechin carried a pair of loaded pistols with him into the pulpit. The type of religious settlement favoured by the King, building on his father's Articles of Perth, had been indicated by his coronation service at Holyrood in 1633, but it failed, tragically, to find favour with many of his subjects in Scotland.


Feast of St Bridget of Sweden

Today is the feast of St Bridget of Sweden, the fourteenth century mystic and foundress of the Bridgettine Order, who has also been co-patroness of Europe since 1999.
An introduction to the life of this remarkable woman can be found in the short account, with illustrations and links, here and the Catholic Encyclopedia biography is here 
In recent years there has been an upsurge in interest in her and her Order, both from historians of the later middle ages and the reformation, and from the promotion of devotion to her through the work of the new Bridgettine Order established or re-established by Bl. Elisabeth Hesselblad in the twentieth century.
My previous posts from past years can be read at St Bridget of Sweden  and  St Bridget of Sweden and Syon Abbey
St. Bridget of Sweden

St. Bridget of Sweden
A late medieval statue at her shrine church at Vadstena


Image: sim1.se

St Bridget.
As in the previous picture she is correctly shown as a vowess and not in the habit of the Order she founded, but which she would never have worn, not being herself a member of it.


My interest in her, indeed devotion to her, as my previous posts indicate, arises from the fact that she is one of the great figures of the alte medieval church - my particular period of academic interest - and from the fact that relics of her wwere once in osney abbey close to where I live, and that I once briefly, visited Syon Abbey, the Bridgettine house founded by King Henry V in 1415-20 at the community's home in Devon - the last surviving pre-reformation community in the English Church.

May St Bridget continue to pray for us 

Sunday 22 July 2012

The patronage of St Mary Magdalen

Were today not a Sunday it would be the feast of St Mary Magdalen. For churches dedicated to her it is, of course, still their patronal feast, and gives me an opportunity to say my prayers for as well as sending my greetings to the splendid Fr Ray Blake and his people at St Mary Magdalen's in Brighton, a church which this year is celebrating its 150th anniversary, and about which I have posted beforehand.
St Mary Magdalen Brighton.
The phortograph was taken befiore the present restoration programme started
Image: Flickr.com
If St Mary Magdalen Brighton is one of my favourite Catholic churches of today then there are others from the middle ages of which I am also very fond. St Mary Magdalen was a popular medieval patron saint in England, particularly after the development of her great shrine at Vezeley in France during the twelfth century. Here are three of my favourite medieval churches dedicated to her:
Campsall church is a few miles from my home town and has some fine Norman work as well as later alterations, and a fine rood screen:
Campsall church
The parish church at Newark is justly famous, not only for its architecture - notably the tower and spire, which was copied for Salford cathedral in the nineteenth century - but also for its medieval glass, woodwork and brasses:
Newark parish church
Image: Flickr.com
Gedney church in south Lincolnshire stands out as exceptional even in an area rich in medieval churches as a result of the wealth of the area in the later middle ages. it sails like a great ship across the Fenland landscape:
Gedney church

All four churches are very well worth visiting if you are in the area - if you have not already done so, discover the joys of church crawling!

Friday 20 July 2012

The first accession of King Michael

Today is the eighty-fifth anniversary of the death of King Ferdinand I of Romania at Peleş Castle near Sinaia and the first accession to the Romanian throne of his grandson, King Michael I.
There is a  biography of King Ferdinand I here.   There are some very interesting archive photographs of his life and reign here  and there are other portraits of the King from his first visit to the country as a Prince of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen and heir to his uncle King Carol I until the end of his life here.
There are also a fine series of photographs of the funeral of King Ferdinand and the accession of King Michael which can be viewed here.

The accession of the child King Michael I (Mihai), was a consequence of his father's affair with Magda Lupescu. Crown Prince Carol  had 
renounced his right to the throne on 28 December 1925 in favour of his son by Crown Princess Helen,who thus now became King in July 1927. Princess Helen divorced the exiled Carol in 1928.
 A regency, composed of the new King's uncle, Prince Nicolae, Patriarch Miron Cristea, and the country's Chief Justice (Gheorghe Buzdugan, from October 1929 on Constantin Sărăţeanu) functioned on his behalf during the years 1927–1930.  However on 6 June 1930,his father returned to the country at the invitation of politicians dissatisfied with the Regency, and on 8 June was proclaimed King Carol II by the Parliament, and designated Michael as Crown Prince with the title "Grand Voievod of Alba-Iulia". In a somewhat curious inversion of King Henry VIII's proceedings King Carol then sought to have his divorce annulled, but refused to grant his (former) wife the title of Queen - she was to be addressed as Her Majesty Helen.


Monday 16 July 2012

Las Navas de Tolosa

Today is the eighth centenary of the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa when, on July 16th 1212, the coalition of the Iberian Christian Kings decisively defeated the Almohads and opened the south of the peninsula to the Reconquista. That process was to take another 280 years until 1492 and the conquest of Granada. There is an online account of this significant battle here .

The battle of Los Navas together with the battles of Muret on 12 Sept 1213 and Bouvines on 27 July 1214 and such contemporary events as Lateran IV and the issuing of Magna Carta in 1215 established in a short period the contours of thirteenth century, and indeed of subsequent developments in European history - so these events are not as remote and far away as modern people might be tempted to think. Through the wonders of the Internet I have found a video about the battle which I am including in this post:

Our Lady of Doncaster

Sunday 15 July 2012

Quarr and Ryde

This morning I did make it to Vigils at 5.30, as well as the rest of the round of Offices and the Conventual Mass at 10 here at Quarr, at which there was clearly a regular congregation drawn from the area round about, as well as visitors such as ourselves.
We have continued our conferences from Fr Jerome, as well as keeping silence and reading in the guest house, and also visiting the monastery bookshop, walking around the grounds, and observing the monastery's herd of swine - Gloucester Old Spots in a variety of sizes from piglets upwards.
This afternoon we travelled into Ryde, passing on the way a very handsome Anglican church by Sir George Gilbert Scott, with a spire which is a real landmark and with a nave elevation clearly derived from Merton chapel in Oxford, and other elements from fourteenth century Lincolnshire churches. 
Our objective in Ryde was St Cecilia's Abbey, where we were welcomed by the Extern Sister and provided with tea and biscuits before going to Vespers sung by this enclosed Benedictine community of Nuns. From the north trnasept we had a good view through the grill into the dignified chapel as the sisters processed in and sang the Office with really great beauty. We were able to follow in the excellent Office books produced by Solesmes for their Congregation. In addition we had the particular interest that one of the Sisters is a former member of the congregation at the Oxford Oratory.
The Abbey's website is here  and there is an online account of the community here. Afterwards we had time to walk along the seafront, looking across the Solent towards Portsmouth before retrning to Quarr.
The retreat has been, I think, extremely beneficial. We have had interesting and insightful conferences from Fr Jerome, enjoyed one another's company, but also enjoyed real monastic silence, had time to reflect on our own lives, and participated in the life of Benedictine monastery. It has also been a break in the normal routine of life for all of us, and that is refreshing and renewing. Tomorrow we are returning to Oxford and the usual routines, but I do think we shall take something with us in our minds that will work as a leaven within us.

Saturday 14 July 2012

Quarr Abbey - new and old

Today has been our first full day on retreat as Brothers at Quarr Abbey.

The abbey was founded as a refuge from the French Third Republic by the monks of Solesmes in 1901, and used by them until their return to France in 1922. There is an illustrated account of the history of the abbey here.
The buildings were designed in 1908 by one of the monks, Dom Paul Bellot, and the church was built in 1911-12 as part of the second phase of construction. Dom paul was influenced by Moorish architecture in Cordoba, and his brick church is strikingly original. The low, attenuated nave leads into a large choir, and with the sanctuary placed under a short tower with transeptal chapels to north and south. The effect of the ever taller building - enhanced when incense rises from the altar at Vespers - is very dramatic indeed.
Today there are eight monks in residence, but a full observance of the monastic offices is maintained, using both Latin and English. I did not get to Vigils at 5.30 this morning, but I did attend Lauds at 7, and  Terce before the Conventual Mass at 9, as well as Sext, Nones, Vespers and Compline.

In 1963 the installation of a new abbot was the first occasion in this country that concelebration, other than for an Ordination, occurred at Mass here - so Quarr has a place in modern liturgical history.

This morning as retreatants we had our own Latin novus ordo Mass after the Conventual Mass. It was celebrated by Fr Jerome for the admission of Daniel Nicholls, an Oxford undergraduate, as our latest Brother.

After lunch - taken with the monks in the very impressive refrectory - and Nones we went for a walk in the drizzle to view the nearby remains of the medieval abbey. This was founded by Baldwin de Redvers in 1132, and was originally Savignac - a community which merged later on in the twelfth century with the Cistercians. In addition to Baldwin as founder the abbey also contained the grave of King Edward IV's second daugher Cicely, who was married off by her brother-in-law King Henry VII to his mother's half brother, John Viscount  Welles, about whose father, Lionel, who is buried in my home area, I have posted before. So here lies King Henry VIII's aunt. 

The abbey was excavated in 1891 and the plan recovered, but the site invites further exploration and conservation - and this is clearly a concern to the present monks of Quarr.

Further along the path, which runs across the site of the monastic church, we came to Binstead, whose church preserves its medieval chancel and bell, but the remainder is a mid-nineteenth century rebuilding. In the graveyard is the recently cleaned and restored grave slab of Thomas Sivell who, at the age of 64,was shot on board his sloop in 1785 by Portsmouth Customs officers. The text of the inscription and old photographs of both abbeys at Quarr can be seen here.

Friday 13 July 2012

An inhabitant of the Isle of Wight

On the brief journey from the car ferry terminal at Fishbourne up to Quarr Abbey I espied through the car window a red squirrel in a suburban garden. This was the first time I had ever seen a red squirrel, and remembered that the Isle is one of  the few parts of lowland Bitain where the red squirrel has not been deprived of its habitat by the uincreasingly ubiquitous North American grey squirrel - a late nineteenth century import. I was, however, surprised ro see it in a garden - I had assumed they would have retreated to the wooded areas of the island.

Profile of a red squirrel

Image; 2009photolibrary.com / BBC

Portchester Castle

Today two carloads of Brothers from the External Oratory here in Oxford travelled down to Quarr Abbey on the Isle of Wight for a retreat to be conducted by our Prefect, Fr Jerome Bertram C.O.

We broke our journey for lunch at Portchester, and had time to have a brief look at the outside of the castle, but not, unfortunately time to go in. I have visited Portchester before, in 1985, and it is a remarkable site.

File:Porchester castle keep 2011.JPG

The Norman keep of the castle in the angle of the Roman fort
As a fortification it orginated as a Roman fort to defend the coast in the late fourth century, and, with a Norman castle built into the north-west corner in the twelfth century, and fine residential buildings within that part built by King Richard II in the 1390s, it remained in repair and use until the seventeenth century. It must have one of the longest records of use as a defensive complex. There is a good account of it here. It was at Portchester that King Henry V stayed in advance of embarkation for what became the Agincourt campaign in 1415, so it ties in very much with my own period of research.

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Visiting the Norbertines in Chelmsford

Yesterday evening I travelled over to Chelmsford - England's newest city  - to attend the simple profession as a Norbertine (Premonstratesisan) of Br Pius Collins. I knew him and others of his community, the Canonry of Our Lady of Sorrows and St Philip Benizi, when they were students in Oxford.
This was my first visit to the area, so there was a sense of a journey of discovery. This was ,possibly, enhanced by the difficulties afforded by the London Underground - they had run out of drivers temporarily, so it was with a sense of relief that I boarded the train at Liverpool Street. Already thinking once again that I shall be glad not to be in London during the Olympics, I was carried past the main Olympic Park, complete with what looks like abad bit of  meccano as its central ornament...
I met up with friends at Chelmsford station adn we walked round to the church of the parish the Norbertines serve, Our Lady Immaculate, for the Mass and Profession. It was the feast of   SS Adrian Jansen and James Lacops, the two Premonstratensians amongst the nineteen Gorkum martyrs, killed by Dutch Calvinists in 1572.
The liturgy was a very dignified novus ordo celebration with Premonstratensian features to it, with an excellent homily by Fr Hugh Allen, the Prior, and the church was packed - this is clearly a thriving parish
Afterwards at the generous reception in the parish hall I was able to congrtaulate Br Pius, meet up with the other friends from the community was well as a Nottingham diocesan seminarian whom I had also known in Oxford. In addition I had the very pleasnt surprise of meeting up again with Dom Aelred Niespolo OSB from the abbey at Valyermo in California. I had also met Dom Aelred when he was studying in Oxford and he is back in England for a sabbatical at the priory in Chelmsford. 
After that it was back to the station, back to London and on to Oxford, getting back by 1.15 am - which did not seem bad going.
An enjoyable and heartening occasion, and I was impressed by what I saw at the church. I wish them all well in their future plans, and will keep them in my prayers.

Monday 9 July 2012

Bishop Rifan celebrates Mass at Southwark cathedral

On Saturday I went up to London to attend the Pontifical Mass celebrated by Bishop Rifan in St George's Cathedral Southwark for the Latin Mass Society's AGM.

This was my first visit inside the cathedral, which is more impressive inside than it is outside - very unfortunately the upper stages of the tower and the spire designed by Pugin were never built - a project for the future perhaps? In recent years we have witnessed the construction of the central tower of St Edmundsbury cathedral and, in Australia, the completion of the spires on the western towers of the Catholic cathedral in Sydney, not to mention Sagrada familia in Barcelona.

Inside the design of the cathedral appears strongly influenced by the choir of York Minster - designed in the late fourteenth century - and the interior of the cathedral has a grandeur worthy of its status.

I managed to meet up by chance with an old friend who once lived in Oxford and sat with him and another aquaintance for the Mass.



Bishop Rifan enters the cathedral in procession

Image: LMS Chairman's Blog

There are more photographs taken by Dr Shaw, the Chairman of the LMS, on his post LMS AGM 2012.

After Mass I went off to meet another friend and we had an enjoyable time exploring parts of the South Bank, having lunch and then walking across the Millenium Bridge to the area round St Pauls, before making our way westwards, and, in my case, back to Oxford. Given a summer Saturday in London one thing struck me - I am glad I shall not be there when the Olympics are on, as the city is already crowded to near bursting.

Saturday 7 July 2012

Relics of St Thomas of Canterbury

Today is the feast of the Translation of St Thomas of Canterbury, an event which occured in 1220, and led to the tradition of the Jubilee of St Thomas every fifty years at Canterbury - in 1420 the claims associated with it caused a few riased Papal eyebrows on the part of Martin V in respect of Archbishop Chichele.
The bones of the martyr Archbishop may have been destroyed in 1538, but, as is documented in the recent book The Quest for Becket's Bones, they may have survived at Canterbury. In the arguable absenc eof primary relics there are some remarkable secondary relics of St Thomas Becket.

At Sens cathedral, where St Thomas spent part of his time in exile in the 1160s there are preserved vestments which are believed to be those of St Thomas.

In May the New Liturgical Movement editor Shawn Tribe posted this piece about them:

" I came across the very interesting website of Dr. Genevra Kornbluth which, amongst other treasures, contains her photographs of vestments which are said to have been used by the 12th century saint, Thomas à Becket, and which are housed in the Treasury of the Cathedral of Sens.

Some of you will have no doubt seen some images of a reproduction of this particular chasuble, but these are the first high quality images I have seen of the original itself -- not to mention photographs of other period medieval vestural elements as well.

I am pleased to reprint them here with the kind permission of Dr. Kornbluth. (Please click each image to enlarge them for more detail.)
The chasuble with its famous orphrey pattern

A more detailed view of the orphrey

Alb. Take note of the ornamental apparel as well as the ornamental cuffs. 

The apparel which would have attached to the amice.

Maniple and stole. The cuffs and apparels on the alb are also more visible here.

Pontifical Sandals

You can see more details here.

Photos reprinted with permission. www.KornbluthPhoto.com "

The New Liturgical Movement followed this up more recently with this post by Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.:

"This mitre, belonging to the treasury of Westminster Cathedral, is currently on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum. It dates to c.1160-1220, and so, is contemporaneous with the life of St Thomas Becket.

Since the 19th century it has been associated with the relics and mitre of St Thomas Becket at Sens Cathedral, although this association is now disputed. The lappets do not match because the one embroidered with an apostle was formerly attached to another mitre, c.1180-1210 also at Sens Cathedral; the floriate lappet is original.

In form and decoration, this mitre does resemble the famed Becket Mitre. The scrolls and floriate embroidery are silver-gilt thread worked on padded white silk. The circular compartments in the embroidery and the red band of silk would have been ornamented with jewels and enamels but these have been removed.

The mitre is 27cm x 23.5cm with a 3cm-wide lappet (extending to 6.5cm at the base) that is 44cm long."

Friday 6 July 2012

Pictures of the Holywell Pilgrimage

There are some pictures of the Latin Mass Society's Holywell Pilgrimage, about which I posted recently, on the LMS Chairman's blog at the following two posts Bishop Rifan in Holywell and Bishop Rifan in Holywell: more pictures.

Prince William Earl of Strathearn KT

Yesterday the Queen presided at the service of the Order of the Thistle in St Giles's Cathedral in Edinburgh and installed Prince William as a Knight of the Order in the Thistle Chapel.

   Prince William attends the  Thistle Ceremony at St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh
Prince William in the green and purple robes of the Order of the Thistle

Image: Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph has a report on the events of the day at Queen makes Prince William Knight of the Thistle  and there is a series of photographs of the procession and the Knights which can be viewed at Knight of the Thistle.
This was, I think, the first official occasion in Scotland where teh Prince has appeared in his capacity of Earl of Strathearn.

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Alice at 150

Today is the 150th anniversary of the boat trip and picnic on a ""golden afternoon" from Oxford to Godstow on July 4th 1862 which inspired Charles Dodgson, othewise known as Lewis Carroll, to tell the stories to Alice Liddell which he published in 1865 as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and followed in 1871 with  Through the Looking Glass.They are stories I was brought up on as a child and which retain their appeal to adults because of their depth and sheer delight and quirkiness. How often do we not refer to images that derive from these two childeren's stories in commenting on the world around us?The inspiration Dodgson found in his life in and around Christ Church as a mathematics don and in the life of the Liddell family and their friends and contacts can be discerned and give both books their continuing appeal to different age groups - the have become part of our wider heritage across the English speaking world.


The Mad Hatter's Tea Party
Sir John Tenniel's illustration


Mind you, although I am sure the Rev. Mr Dodgson's interest in childen  was entirely innocent I fear that in today's Nanny State he would run the risk of a visit from the Thames Valley Police, the Child Proterction Agency and Social Services.

Tuesday 3 July 2012

A heretic abroad

Christopher Howse's article in last Saturday's Daily Telegraph featured the sad story of Richard Atkins from Ross on Wye and his fairly single-minded determination to come to a sticky end for his heretical ideas in 1581. You can read the story at The man of Ross cheerful to burn.

It is interesting in that it shows the reluctance of the authorities to proceed against a man who appears to have been deranged, and that he was shown kindness by those whose ideas he so clearly rejected.

The author of the book which Christopher Howse is reviewing is Michael Tavinor, the Dean of Hereford, whom I knew slightly when he was Vicar of Tewkesbury. In both of those great churches he has done much to enhanc the appearance of the buildings and their worship, and to reconnect them with their Catholic origins and practices

Hugh Capet and the establishment of his dynasty

Today is the 1025th anniversary of the coronation of Hugh Capet as King of the Franks - Rex Francorum - at Noyon following his election to the throne. With his accession and coronation his family, the Capetians, became the rulers of France, and all the subsequent Kings have been his descendants, whether designated as Capetian, Valois or Bourbon by historians and genealogists.

A 12th century portrayal of Hugh Capet

Image: Wikipedia

The success of the family in transmitting the Crown directly in the male line from father to son until 1316 is no mean achievement in terms of human biology: in political terms it ensured the creation and maintenance of the French monarchy and nation. The events of 987 were to prove crucial to the later history of France.

There is an online biography of King Hugh here.

Monday 2 July 2012

Pilgrimage to Holywell

Yesterday I travelled with my friend David Forster to attend the Latin Mass Society's Pilgrimage to St Winefride's Well at Holywell in Flintshire.

Last time I visited Holywell it was as child  in 1958, when the reigning Sovereign Pontiff was Pope Pius XII, and all I have as memory of that occasion is of standing by the well in what seemed a somewhat dank chamber. Other than that I know the shrine from photographs and by its historical significance as the one continuous place of pilgrinmage to survive from before the reformation, and as a remarkable piece of late medieval architecture.

There is an introduction to the history of the shrine here  and there is both pilgrimage information and more pictures from the Shrine's own website here.

Thomas Charles-Edwards life of St Winefride from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography can be read here.

Pilgrims over the centuries have included King Henry V, King Edward IV, Fr Garnett and the wive sof the Gunpowder Plotters and King James II and Queen Mary Beatrice. An early nineteenth century visitor, if not actually apilgrim, was the future Queen Victoria. The beautiful shrine chapel and well chamber dates from the years afrter 1500 and is ascribed to either, or both, Lady Margaret Beaufort, who had estates in the area, and to Abbot Thomas Pennant of Basingwerk abbey, which controlled the shrine, and was a Cistercian house just below the shrine on the coast.


The shrine chapel and well with the ancient parish church above and to the left.
The buildings to the left and on the right of the foreground are nineteenth century

Image: holywell-town.gov.uk

St Winefride's Well and the vaulted chamber

Image : Wikipedia


The Holy Well, looking towards the outer pool

Image:northwales today.comhttp://andybullmultimedia.webs.com/winefride1.JPG

A pilgim bathes her feet in the pool in front of the well

Image: andybullmultimedia.webs.com
We made good speed on the journey and had plenty of time before the Pilgrinage Mass to visit the Well, light candles, look at the excellent Shrine information display and at the shop befre walking up the hill to the nineteenth century Catholic church to begin our formal devotions. The celebrant at the Mass was Bishop Rifan from Campos in Brazil, and the Mass itself was that of the Precious Blood.

There was a large congregation which filled the church - devotion to St Winefride is clearly still strong in the area and region - and there were several familiar faces from Oxford amongst the schola.


The Catholic church in Holywell where the Pilgrimage Mass was celebrated

Image: maggieclitheroe-dontknowwhatimdoing.blogspot .com

After the Mass we formed up as a Rosary procession to walk dowm to the Shrine for the hymn and prayers to St Winefride, to venerate her surviving relic - part of a finger bone -and to be blessed by it, and to be individually greeted by Bishop Rifan.

St Winefride's Well

The Relic of St Winefride in its silver monstrance.

I am very grateful to David for suggesting our Pilgrimage, and for driving us both there and back safely. I think we both hope to return to this really quite remarkable place. If you have not visited, or still better, been as a pilgrim to Holywell, may I urge you to do so.

May St Winefride continue to pray for us.