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.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

St Maurice and the Theban Legion

Today is the feast, inter alia, of St Maurice and of his companions in the Theban legion. There is an account of the story of their martyrdom and a discussion as to its historical veracity in this online article which can be read here.
As a saint he was not an especial object of veneration in England - the one ancient church I recall dedicated to him was a small one outside Monk Bar in York which was rebuilt in the nineteenth century and demolished in the 1960s. On the continent however his cult was extensive within the Holy Roman Empire - where he was a patron of the Emperors - and in Switzerland, the scene of the martyrdom of the Legion, Italy, France and Spain. 
In the middle ages his African origins were often shown in representations of him, perhaps most famously in the thirteenth century statue in Magdeburg Cathedral in Germany:


Image: Wikipedia

El Greco's painting of the scene, itself from 1580-82 and also at the Escorial, places St Maurice and his immediate companions in the foreground, and the executions in the background: 


Image: Wikipedia

The result is, dare one say it, one which suggests an incredibly polite occasion, almost a garden party of elegant young men politely waiting to be decapitated and engaged in edifying conversation whilst others of their group are martyred.

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