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 31 December 2013

Understanding Pope Benedict aright

As we come to the end of the year which saw Pope Benedict XVI's abdication the always thoughtful Fr Blake has an interesting reflection on the Benedictine pontificate which can be read at  Fleeing from the wolves.

Wednesday 25 December 2013

O Come Let Us Adore Him

A Holy, Blessed and Joyful Christmas to you all



My choice of a Christmas image this year is the votive panel of John Ocko of Vlasim, Archbishop of Prague and dated to circa 1370. Not only does it contain an image of the Virgin and Child but seems to capture so many of the themes I have touched upon in my posts over this last year, so it seemed an appropraite image to use. The Virgin and Christ Child are flanked by the kneeling figures of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, sponsored by his Burgundian patron St Sigismund, and his son, King Wenceslas IV of Bohemia and also King of the Romans, sponsored by St Wenceslas. In the lower register the kneeling figure of Archbishop John is surrounded by his patrons. 

Tuesday 17 December 2013

The Great O Antiphons

In previous years I have posted daily about the O Antiphons, which start at Vespers today, and these posts appear to have been popular with readers. This year I am giving the links to these past postings in one post, together with an introduction in The O Antiphons,

The individual links for each day from today are at

I am also including a post I composed about the additional Sarum antiphon for the last day of the series in medieval English practice  O Virgo Virginum.

There is also an online introduction to the Antiphons here from St Gregory's Westerrn Rite Antiochene church in Washington D.C.


Monday 16 December 2013

More on the Franciscans of the Immaculate

Not surprisingly there has been more on the issues around the Franciscans of the Immaculate in the blogosphere. Amongst the blogs I read Fr Hunwicke has posted Franciscans of the Immaculate; more oaths and the always thoughtful Fr Blake has  Volpi's demand. A glance at the comments thereupon shows something of the passions this matter is arousing, or perhaps more accurately, fanning.

Dr Joe Shaw on his LMS Chairman's blog looks at the more technical issues around the Liturgical issues in Is the Novus Ordo an authentic expression of the Tradition?
Rorate Coeli has Associated Press picks up Rorate Franciscan Friar Crackdown Story and  Advice for the Franciscans of the Immaculate, with links to more reports about the current problems.

Whatever the truth of the situation this looks to be a story that is going to run and run.

Saturday 14 December 2013

King Charles III of Spain

Today is the 225th anniversary of the death of King Charles III of Spain, who had previously been Duke of Parma and then the first Bourbon King of Naples and Sicily. There is a good online life of the King here.

Posted Image 

King Charles III of Spain


As that biography makes clear as a ruler he embodied many of the best ideals of late eighteenth century European monarchy. Often described as the Enlightened Despots I would favour a term something more like pragmatic reforming monarchs - only perhaps the Empress Catherine II was an actual despot and she was, coincidentally, probably the one who most completeely took on the ideals of the Enlightenment - and was one of the less succesful in terms of actual a chievements in that field.

King Charles was perhaps unlucky in that theevents in Spain under his son King Charles IV and the French invasion led to the country slipping further out of the European mainstream and to the loss of virtually all of its overseas Empire before the death of his grandson King Ferdinand VII in 1833. Nonetheless he is still remembered as a conscientous ruler who sought pratical improvements in this capital - he was nicknamed the Mayor of Madrid - and his country.

Fr Saward's Tenth Anniversary

Yesterday evening I was at SS Gregory and Augustine here in Oxford to act as thurifer at the Extraordinary Form Solemn High Mass celebrated for St Lucy's Day by Fr John Saward to mark the tenth anniversary of his Ordination as a Catholic priest. Although I am sure he would disclaim such publicity there is an online account of his academic career here.
Ready in the Sacristy was the best red set of vestments from Blackfriars - a splendid set heavily embroidered in gold, together with apparelled amices lent for the occasion. Fr Saward was assisted by a Deacon fom the Ordinariate and a Dominican Sub-Deacon, reflecting his teaching role at Blackfriars. This aspect was one that was highlighted by Fr Lawrence Lew O.P. in his homily, in which he paid tribute to Fr Saward's career as theologian, tutor and lecturer as well as parish priest and husband and father.

The Mass was well attended by parishioners and friends, and we heard of others who were unavoidably unable to be present. Afterwards in the Parish Hall there was mulled wine and wince pies and an opportunity to drink Fr John's health when a presentation was made to him in behalf of the parish by Mgr Vaughan Morgan, who assists in the celebrations of Mass at SS Gregory and Augustine.

Fr Saward has done a great deal to enhance the church through redecoration and improvements, and has been a leading local exponent of the use of the Extraordinary Form alongside the Novus Ordo, and this has all been combined with both his continuing academic work and also being a faithful parish priest.

Friday 13 December 2013

The Franciscans of the Immaculate

The war of words around the Franciscans of the Immaculate has noticeably hotted up in recent days as can be seen from the recent post by Augustinus on Rorate Coeli which can be read at For the record: Franciscans of the Immaculate under severe Vatican persecution.RORATE brings you all texts:* Apostolic Commissioner: FI problem is its "crypto-lefebvrian and definitely traditionalist drift"* Seminary closed: no ordinations for one year* Ordinands must take unprecedented oath on Novus Ordo* Ordered "by the Vicar of Christ"

Fr Finigan has commented on these reports in Oath to be administered to Franciscans of the Immaculate and there have been other blog posts such as  The Franciscans of the Immaculate and now Oaths Galore from Fr Hunwicke and A Petition for the Franciscans of the Immaculate originating with the Eponymous Flower and passed on by Lawrence "The Bones" in Brighton.

I have at least one friend who sees the situation with the Franciscans of the Immaculate as just the beginning of an assault on all things traditional in the Church, whilst others have seen it as a situation entirely confined to tensions within the one specific Institute. Another view might be that the Commissioner has, on his own initiative, taken on more than was called for or expected.

I am in no position to comment on the situation, but this looks as if it is becoming a cause célèbre of the present Pontificate.

Thursday 12 December 2013

The Order of the Dragon and its curious legacy

Today is the 605th anniversary of the foundation by King Sigismund of Hungary and his Queen Barbara of Cilli of the Order of the Dragon, a chivalric order designed to unite the King's supporters both to his cause and to the defence of Christendom against the Ottoman advance in south-eastern Europe.

Pisanello 024b.jpg 

King Sigismund, about 1418
 A portrait traditionally attributed to Pisanello


There is a good illustrated and referenced online account of the Order here, and there is a short article about it here. There are also online biographies of King Sigismund and Queen Barbara.

When King Sigismund, King of the Romans and Emperor-Elect as well as King of Hungary, came on a state visit to King Henry V in 1416 he was admitted as a Knight of the Garter, and in return made King Henry a Knight of the Dragon - as well as giving a major relic of St George to the chapel at Windsor. This exchange of diplomatic courtesies is still recalled in the Sword of State of the City of York, which is the one which hung over King Sigismund's stall in St George's chapel Windsor, and is ornamented with the emblem of the Order of the Dragon; I posted about this and its history, with illustrations, this time last year in Emperor Sigismund.

Emblem of the Order


Unlike the Garter, the Annunziata and the Golden Fleece, the Order of the dragon was not to have a continuous history, and seems to have declined in significance after the Emperor-King's death in 1437, and whilst surviving as Hungarian mark of distinction for the rest of the century until perhaps the disatrous battle of Mohacs in 1526, whenit became merely a memory. No attempt to revive it, as happened with some other monarchical Orders of Chivalry, such as the Order of the Elephant in denmark occurred until apparently, a refoundation at the time of the coronation of King Charle sIV in 1916.

There is, however, one curious legacy of the Order. One of the early recipients was Prince Vlad of Wallachia, whose adoption of the device led to his people referring to him in Romanaian as Dracul  (The Dragon), and yes, his son, also called Vlad, acquired the diminutive form of ... Dracula.

I found in the online article on the Order I mentioned above links to two articles about the Order and the origins of the Dracula story from the Journal of Dracula Studies - a publication to get one's teeth into - and they can be viewed and read by clicking of the highlighted numbers in the following references:

  • Rezachevici, Constantin. "From the Order of the Dragon to Dracula." Journal of Dracula Studies 1 (1999): pp 3–7. Transcriptions available online: [2] (RTF-document), [3] (Barcelona-Esoterismo-Esoterisme-Magia).
  • McNally, Raymond T. "In Search of the Lesbian Vampire: Barbara von Cilli, Le Fanu’s “Carmilla” and the Dragon Order." Journal of Dracula Studies 3 (2001). [4]

Tuesday 10 December 2013

Liberal Christianity

This last term one of the American students I have been teaching did a course with me on the history and development of Anglicanism. At the end I came to the conclusion, and in a way that had never struck me quite so clearly before, that Anglicanism in its official expressions and practice - never mind what individual groups within may do or have done over the centuries - is quintessentially Liberal Christianity. 

By that I mean not just the idea of the via media, but that Henrician Caesaro-papalism embraced quite a bit of the Liberal agenda of the age, that Cranmer's system was somehow a Liberal alternative to pre- or post-Tridentine Catholicism and to the claims of Calvinism or radical Protestantism, that this was reinvented in the Liberal Catholicism that was Laudianism (too High for many of course, but not Roman Catholicism), in the latitudinarian response to the era of the Enlightenment, and in the growth of a world wide Anglican Communion that retains links between disparate groups yet never seeks to push anyone too far. Lambeth Conferences and Anglican Consultative Councils that pass fudged resolutions that never successfully bind, but do quite a bit of loosing. That Liberal brand has succeeded for over 450 years, the Civil War not withstanding, in holding a great number of English people in spiritual fellowship one with another and with people with whom they may well profoundly disagree. No mean achievement. It is Catholic and it is Protesrtant, yet it is properly neither, and likes Orthodox icons and Celtic spirituality (but not too much of either) and somehow seems to believe that one day the world will wake up and decide it has been Anglican all along.

However, and it is a very big, indeed fundamental, reservation the price of such Liberalism is high. Everything becomes a matter of opinion - to which, sooner or later, everyone becomes entitled about just about anything and everything. Dogma dies, truth is relativised, preferences prevail.

Bl. John Henry Newman's biglietto speech about his opposition for half a century to Liberalism and his lectures on The Current State of Anglicans appears ever more prescient to anyone who shares his view that there is such a thing as Truth in religious matters.

I had wondered whether to post this thought, but considering it nothing new, merely a further clarification in my mind, until I happened yesterday to be reading The Times (once a newspaper, now a tabloid). Here was further proof . The paper had an article, which can be read at Times claims Church of England 'on the brink of appointing its first openly gay bishop' (courtesy of Pink News, which will have an interest in the matter) by their well known Religious Correspondent, Ruth Gledhill, about the reported fact that the Dean of St Albans, the Very Rev. Dr Jeffrey John, had missed out by one vote on being nominated for the vacant bishopric of Exeter. Now Dr John, a distinguished figure in many ways, famously missed out on the suffragen bishopric of Reading in 2003 when he had to withdraw his acceptance following pressure on the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican hierarchy because of Dr John's alleged homosexuality. He was, in effect, compendated with the Deanery. Now, in the wake of Civil Partnerships being accepted by the Church of England as no bar to clerical promotion if the partners remain chaste, and he now has a civil partner, Grant Holmes, who is also a clergyman, there seems no reason why he has not received a mitre. He has been long-listed for Southwark and Durham, and short-listed for Exeter. It is apparently only a matter of time before he gets a diocesan see it would appear.

I do not doubt his abilities - though of the one time I heard him preach in Oriel chapel I can recall nothing - and I am not taking particular sides in the internal debate in Anglicanism about "Gay clergy". I would add as a historian he would not be the first homosexual Anglican bishop in these islands - it is just that the Anglican Church has not hitherto approved of such a situation. 

No, what really struck me was arose from the point made by Ms Gledhill, that of the six Anglican dioceses that are or are about to be vacant, those of Europe, Guildford and Hereford were the most likely, having "liberal" traditions to accept an openly homosexual bishop. Her insider source then really gave the game away by saying that Europe was probably the ideal for Jeffrey and Gavin. After all they have no children to worry about putting through University - not, I think, very likely unless they seek to emulate Sir Elton John and Mr David Furniss in these matters, and I should add that I was struck by the remarkably close resemblance in the photograph accompanying the piece between Dr Jeffrey and Sir Elton - and how they would love all the food and wine to be sampled on episcopal visits across a diocese that stretches from Madeira to the Urals.

There you have it - never mind scripture or tradition, St Paul or Cranmer, the unity or disunity of the ecclesia - what really matters is that everyone has a fair chance to sample the cuisine of Europe whilst wearing a purple frock.

Monday 9 December 2013

The Howard tombs at Thetford and Framlingham

The blog Supremacy and Survival has an interesting piece today about work being undertaken to reconstruct the original setting of the Howard tombs in the Cluniac priory church at Thetford before their removal to Framlingham by the third Duke of Norfolk. It can be read at Tudor Tombs: Henry VIII's Son, the Duke of Richmond.

The story of the removal of the bones and tombs represnts an intersting example of family piety by that remarkable and skillful political survivor Thomas, third Duke of Norfolk (1473-1554). 

File:Thomas Howard, third Duke of Norfolk by Hans Holbein the Younger.jpg

Thomas, Third Duke of Norfolk K.G.
Hans Holbein, 1539-40
The Duke holds in his right hand his ceremonial baton as Earl Marshal  and in his left the wand of office the Lord Treasurer

Image: Wikipedia from the Royal Collection

Thetford priory is now, alas, little more than foundations and low walls, although when I visited it in 1986 I was struck by the similarity of its layout and remains to what must once had existed at the Cluniac priory in Pontefract and has been recovered by excavation.

The family necropolis created by the third Duke of Norfolk at Framlingham in Suffolk is very fine indeed, with some of the earliest English Renaissance tombs in the breathtaking pair constructed for the Duke, his two wives, and the matching tomb for the second and third wives of his grandson the fourth Duke. With their Renaissance features, including the shell topped niches for the surviving statues of the Apostles, they are a fascinating glimpse of what was, and might yet have been, in the Catholic court culture of Queen Mary I. In addition there are the tombs moved from Thetford of the second Duke, the victor of Flodden, and of Henry Fitzroy Duke of Richmond, the illegitimate son of King Henry VIII, who was married to a Howard, and also the Jacobean monument to Henry Howard Earl of Surrey.

St Michael's Framlingham should be very high on anyone's list of historic English churches to visit.

Framlingham, St Michael's Church photo, Thomas Howard tomb

The tomb of the third Duke of Norfolk and his two wives
Framlingham church 

Celebrating the Immaculate Conception


  The Immaculate Conception
Jose Antolinez, 1650

Image:Catholicism Pure& Simple

The New Liturgical Movement has a very interersting article today by Gregory Di Pippo about the history of the liturgical observation of the Immaculate Conception by the Church, both in the West and in the East, about monastic customs and significantly, how the observance of the feast in a year such as this, when the calendar date falls on a Sunday has varied. It can be read at Liturgical Notes on the Immaculate Conception.

St Anselm on the Immaculate Conception

I was struck by the beauty and by the especially rich theological nature of the second Reading at the Office of Readings for today's transferred Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and I thought I would share it with readers who do not perhaps follow the Divine Office.

From a sermon by St Anselm:

O Virgin, by whose blessing all nature is blessed!
Blessed Lady, sky and stars, earth and rivers, day and night – everything that is subject to the power or use of man – rejoice that through you they are in some sense restored to their lost beauty and are endowed with inexpressible new grace. All creatures were dead, as it were, useless for men or for the praise of God, who made them. The world, contrary to its true destiny, was corrupted and tainted by the acts of men who served idols. Now all creation has been restored to life and rejoices that it is controlled and given splendour by men who believe in God.
The universe rejoices with new and indefinable loveliness. Not only does it feel the unseen presence of God himself, its Creator, it sees him openly, working and making it holy. These great blessings spring from the blessed fruit of Mary’s womb.
Through the fullness of the grace that was given you, dead things rejoice in their freedom, and those in heaven are glad to be made new. Through the Son who was the glorious fruit of your virgin womb, just souls who died before his life-giving death rejoice as they are freed from captivity, and the angels are glad at the restoration of their shattered domain.
Lady, full and overflowing with grace, all creation receives new life from your abundance. Virgin, blessed above all creatures, through your blessing all creation is blessed, not only creation from its Creator, but the Creator himself has been blessed by creation.
To Mary God gave his only-begotten Son, whom he loved as himself. Through Mary God made himself a Son, not different but the same, by nature Son of God and Son of Mary. The whole universe was created by God, and God was born of Mary. God created all things, and Mary gave birth to God. The God who made all things gave himself form through Mary, and thus he made his own creation. He who could create all things from nothing would not remake his ruined creation without Mary.
God, then, is the Father of the created world and Mary the mother of the re-created world. God is the Father by whom all things were given life, and Mary the mother through whom all things were given new life. For God begot the Son, through whom all things were made, and Mary gave birth to him as the Saviour of the world. Without God’s Son, nothing could exist; without Mary’s Son, nothing could be redeemed.
Truly the Lord is with you, to whom the Lord granted that all nature should owe as much to you as to himself.

Translation by Universalis

Saturday 7 December 2013

Medieval Wall paintings uncovered in Wales

There has been quite a lot on the Medieval Religion discussion group today about the rediscovery of a significant series of wall paintings in the church of St Cadoc in Llancarfan in the Vale of Glamorgan in Wales. Dated by those working on the project to the 1480s these very impressive paintings which feature a very striking figure of St George slaying the dragon, as well as depictions of the Seven Deadly Sins can be seen in this BBC news story, with its accompanying video, here

St George and the Dragon from Llancarfan


There is another illustrated recent BBC News post about the figures of the Seven Deadly Sins here.

Medieval painting of Lust at St Cadoc's Church, Llancarfan 

The Devil promotes Lust in one of the uncovered paintings


I understand from a post by Dr Madeleine Gray who has worked as a historian alongside this important conservation scheme that the church has nave and a substantial south aisle with south chapel at the east end. The St George painting occupies most of the south wall, the Deadly Sins go round the west end of the south wall and onto the west wall. There is clearly undamaged paintwork remaining under the limewash on the west wall of the aisle north of the window and round to the north wall of the aisle. At present the view is that these paintings depict the Acts of Mercy. There are traces of paint elsewhere in the church, including over the chancel arch, but the conservator says the smooth plaster elsewhere in the building suggests it has been renewed in the post-medieval period and therefore will not have any surviving decoration. In addition there are also some post-medieval texts ( part of one which has been left covers the castle and princess in the St George painting) which may make it difficult to justify exploring further. However I would imagine it would not be impossible to remove those later layers to presreve them and to reveal the medieval worlk underneath.

In a related story, the fine work of the fifteenth century polychromed altar reredos screen in the church has been restored, and there is an illustrated article about that here. I was somewhat surprised and disappointed to see yet again the idea that such ascreen must have been brought fromelsewhere after the reformation - why do so many people still fail to realise how splendidly even small communities decorated their parish churches in the middle ages? There is a piece by the conservators with illustrations  at St Cadoc’s Church, Llancarfan, Glamorgan: Survey of Reredos

St Cadoc's definitely looks to be a church very well worth visiting - another one to go on the list of visits to make.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Relics of St Francis Xavier

When I arrived at the Oratory for Mass this evening I saw displayed in a frame in on the altar in the Relic Chapel the front portion of the white lining of a chasuble said to have been constantly used by St Francis Xavier (1506-1552), whose feast day it is today. Although I knew the oratory has built up an impressive collection of relics this was one which I had not seen before and of whose existence I was unaware.

File:Franciscus de Xabier.jpg

St Francis Xavier
A seventeenth century portrait in Kobe


At our Brothers meeting this evening Fr Jerome illustrated his talk on St Francis with readings from the saint's letters back to Rome, letters which were eagerly read and heard by St Philip Neri and others, inspiring St Philip to want to go to the Indies. In his case the answer he was given was thnat Rome was to be his Indies.

There is an online account of the remarkable life of St Francis here, which also has pictures of his body, which was taken back to Goa and which has survived remarkably well, although I seem to remember concern last time it was publicly exposed for veneration about the risks of deterioration to it.

Looking on the Internet I found this picture of a vestment which is described as having been used by St Francis and which is still preserved in at the Basilica of Bom Jesus at Velha Goa. I should add that it looks later in date to my mind, and I wonder if it is secondary relic through having been used to clothe St Francis' body. If it really is one he used it indicates the quality of things he used - there was on this evidence clearly no scrimping in the mission field in the mid-sixteenth century:

File:Garments of St. Francis Xavier.jpg


Saturday 30 November 2013

The Ordinariate Use

Earlier this evening I attended the Mass in the Ordinariate use celebrated at Holy Rood here in Oxford. This was the first opportunity I have had to attend this liturgy, and the first time it had been celebrated in Oxford as a Missa cantata.

My first reaction to the liturgy was to see it as a reinvention of the English Missal - I understood a  while ago there was hope that this might, at some future date, be authorised as an Extraordinary Form for the Ordinariate - and others commented afterwards on its resemblances to the Interim Rite of 1965. The source for those aspects doubtless is in Rome itself.

Looked at in these respects the Use should be seen in the context of the Reform of the Reform. It is centred on the Roman Canon, used elevated language and restores the prayers at the foot of altar, the last Gospel and threefold prayers with elements such as the "Lord I am not worthy..."

This was augmented by the liturgical style that former Anglo-Catholics have brought to the Ordinariate that serious concern to offer Mass worthily and with appropriate vesture - the maniple had reappeared on Fr Lloyd's wrist I noticed - and that very real concern, in my opinion, may well be the most important part of Anglican patrimony that the Ordinariate has to offer to the wider Church.

For these reasons I know it appeals to some cradle Catholics who like the return to greater dignity and a more traditional tone. It should on that basis appeal to a considerable number outside the formal; structure of the Ordinariate.

The use of familiar prayers and phrases from the pen of Cranmer did at times seem odd in an emphatically Catholic liturgy - you are somewhat surprised to suddenly have the Comfortable Words addressed to you in a Catholic Mass. Yes they were from Cranmer's better effort with scissors and paste in 1549 rather than 1552, and they certainly are in dignified English (as, of course, Cranmer consciously intended himself) but they can seem like odd interpolations in the adapted/restored Novus Ordo. At times the links seemed awkward, causing jerks in the tempo - yet the texts are, and have been approved as being, theologically eminently orthodox, and the phraseology is very much that of Transubstantiation.

The congregational Confession is before the Offertory - I suspect that most Anglo-Catholics have got used as I did to having that moved to the beginning of the service - and the use of the old General Confession sits a little oddly alongside the introductory prayers for the priest and servers, or if you interpolate yourself the traditional Confiteor immediately before Communion.

Those points made this is a dignified serious liturgy, accessible for former Anglicans and lifelong Catholics alike. It ought to attract, but I suspect many ex-Anglicans have probably become used to the latest version of the current Roman Missal, or have tended towards the Extraordinary Form. I suspect that the Use may prove to be maybe more important in the US or Australia with the Ordinariates there than it will in England.

For Catholics interested in the Reform of the Reform it is an important example, indeed proof of what can be achieved under the auspices of the Holy See. It is, in its significant points of obvious restoration, a heartening example of what can and will be permitted. In that sense it is a real tribute to Pope Benedict XVI's vision both for the liturgy and for the Ordinariates.

One friend, who had not been present, opined that Newman himself would not liked such a mixed rite, and that may indeed be true, but that is not the point about this newly authorised Use

It ought to be sampled by those interested in vernacular liturgical developments in the English speaking world, and judged on its own merits.

The Oxford group are intending to use the Use in Advent at least for the Sunday Vigil Mass  - so if you are interested or intrigued come along to Holy Rood at 6pm on Saturdays and see for yourselves.

Friday 29 November 2013

Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV

Today is the 635th anniversary of the death in 1378 of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, of whom there is an illustrated online biography here. There is another online account here, also with illustrations, but in occasionally quaint English  and a third one, with links to accounts of other aspects of Bohemian history and places of interest, can be accessed here.


Emperor Charles IV kneeling before the Virgin and Child
The Emperor, who is sponsored by St Sigismund, wears the Imperial Crown with the white mitre which was worn with it until the sixteenth century, and inspired the form of the crown of Emperor Rudolf II - the later Austrian crown

From the votive painting of Archbishop Jan Ocko (from the atelier of Master Theodoric), before 1371


As those accounts all show it is with his kingdom of Bohemia that the Emperor Charles and his artistic patronage is always particularly associated. He encouraged the building of St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague, which had been begun in 1344, two years before his accession, with its shrine chapel of the national patron St Wenceslas, to whom Charles, whose own original name was indeed Wenceslas, a name he also gave to at least two of his sons, was devoted. He commisioned the Crown of St Wenceslas  in 1347,  founded the Charles University, the first within the Holy Roman Empire, built the Charles Bridge with its great ceremonial gateway, redolent of Imperial glory, and created the palace fortress of Karlštejn, south west of Prague.Under his influence and encouragement mid-fourteenth century Bohemia had a rich and vibrant court culture, with a wonderful legacy in art and architecture. The religious revival encouraged by the Emperor was to bear fruit in these aspects as well as eventually leading to the rise of Hussitism - a legacy that would no doubt have horrified him.

Within the wider Empire he is best remembered for the Golden Bull of 1356 which regulated the election of subsequent Kings of the Romans and Holy Roman Emperors down to 1806.

One of his daughters by his fourth marriage was Anne of Bohemia, who married King Richard II in 1382, and there were clear and important links between the two courts and countries - one can see obvious parallels between the courts of the Emperor Charles and of King Richard, as well, of course, as the Wyclif-Hus nexus.

Nicolas Wurmser of Strasbourg.Emperor Charles IV and his wife Anne of Swidnica adore the cross.1350s.KarlstejnCastle,Ch. of Relics of Suffering of the Lord.W.wall 

Emperor Charles IV and his third wife Anne of Swidnica (Schweidnitz) - who died in 1362 - adore the Cross 
Karlstejn Castle, on the west wall of the Chapel of Relics of the Suffering of the Lord 
Nicholas Wurmser of Strasbourg, late 1350s.

Image: 'German 1' by arthistory390 on Flickriver 

Thinking and writing about the Emperor and his life and times has inspired me to go and hunt down a copy of Fr Bede Jarrett's biography of him.

Thursday 28 November 2013

Bidding farewell to a Carthusian postulant

Yesterday evening I went up to north Oxford to SS Gregory and Augustine to the celebration of a votive EF Mass of St Bruno, the founder of the Carthusian Order.

The intention of the Mass offered by Fr John Saward was for a young man who has been living in the parish for almost a year and who has been assisting in serving and in the sacristy. A former monk of the Anglican Benedictine house at Alton in Hampshire he was received as a Catholic earlier this year and is going to try his vocation as a Carthusian monk. His clothing as a novice will be on Saturday at Parkminster in Sussex. The website of this, the only functioning Charterhouse in Britain, which was established in 1873, can be viewed at St.Hugh's Charterhouse Parkminster, UK, and it has links to pages about the Order.

In his homily Fr Saward stressed the continuity of the Order, faithful to St Bruno's eleventh century vision. He also held before us the fact that the Carthusians would be praying when we are either  asleep or lying in bed sleepless - and that they would be praying for us and on our behalf.

Following the Mass there was abrng and share parish party and achance to did farewell to the Finnish born candidate and to wish him every belssing in his vocation. it was clear that he was widely respected by the congregation and held in real and genuine affection.

We followed this with fireworks on the lawn outside - Fr Saward in cassock, capa nigra and biretta was to be seen enthusiastically setting off rockets, Roman candles and flower bursts of pyrotechnics, with gunpowder rather than incense as the prevailing scent.

I will preserve the candidate's Carthusian anonymity but will aim to keep him in my prayers, and commend him and his new community to those of my readers. 

St Hugh's Charterhouse, Parkminster


Colouring in the medieval church

A post on the Medieval Religion discussion group pointed me to an article in last weekend's Observer about the use in this country at Norton priory in Cheshire of laser projections to supply the colour to medieval sculpture that time and neglect have destroyed. The article can be read here.

The technology to do these recreations of medieval splendour was developed for the cathedral in Amiens, and I have posted about this before. However I have no scruples about making the point again, that medieval cathedrals were splendidly painted on the outside as well as the inside. At Exeter cathedral you can buy a guide leaflet which indicates with what splendour and sophistication the statues late-fourteenth century screen of the west front were painted. This is the result of careful study of the surviving fragments of pigment.

File:Cathedral of Exeter edit.jpg

The west front of Exeter cathedral

As the Observer article suggest this is not an expensive technique maybe we can hope to see such spectacular effects as are achieved at Amiens this side of the Channel.

The loss of the polychrome decoration of the walls and statues of medieval churches whether romanesque or gothic both in the interior and on the exterior is an impoverishment of the original concept and of our appreciation of what the patrons and builders intended.

These magnificent buildings retain their physical grandeur, but their walls, now usually plain stone, would appear incomplete or "bare ruined choirs" to a medieval worshipper or visitor. Too often even those knowlegeable about the middle ages do not give thought to what is missing, or, if they do, they dismiss it as having been crude and gaudy. There really is no case for that view when you look at surviving examples - such as the restored scheme at Issoire in central France - or at medieval manuscripts or glass, or indeed at serious reconstructions, as by Pugin and others. At the basilica in Maastricht there is an external doorway still painted as it would have been originally:

Image: churchmousewebsite.co

Once you realise the colour should be there you become ever more concious of its absence.

The west front of Amiens cathedral by day

Image: Daniel Mitsui

None of the great thirteenth century French Cathedrals have had their exterior repainted, but Amiens cathedral can offer visitors an idea of its original scheme. On summer nights and special occasions, spotlights and lasers are projected at the façade, bathing the ornaments and statuary in bright colours and creating the illusion of what was once for all to see. 


Amiens cathedral by night - medieval splendour recreated through modern technology

Image:amyinberlin on Flickr

One of the western portals of Amiens at night with the colour projected on to the sculpture

Image:amyinberlin on Flickr

Fr Hunwicke's reflections on Pope Pius XII

My friend Fr John Hunwicke is blogging again, under a slightly new title at Fr Hunwicke's Mutual Enrichment , and he has an interesting post about Pope Pius XII and the revision of the liturgy. This seeks to understand that process not so much in the context of what Vatican II did or did not mandate or think butrather in what was already happeningby the early 1950s. It can be read here.

The idea that it was Pope Pius XII who laid the foundations for radical liturgical reform with the revised Easter liturgy is not, of course, new, but Fr Hunwicke gives a clear exposition of how he thinks the process came about and how it should be understood historically.

Tuesday 26 November 2013

St John's College Oxford vestments on display on November 30th

On Saturday November 30th St John's College here in Oxford is once again holding its termly public exhibition of its remarkable collection of medieval and Laudian vestments. These include two banners used at the dedication of the college chapel at the foundation in the reign of Queen Mary I and the scull cap worn by Archbiship Laud to the scaffold in 1645.

The vestments are on show from 2pm until 5pm. The collection is housed in a display room in the Garden Quadrangle - itself worth seeing as a fine example of skillful and inventive 1990s collegiate architecture - and entrance, free of charge, will be via the Main Lodge on St Giles.

If you are able to go to this exhibition I would recommend it, as the vestments are rare survivals of great historic interest.

Monday 25 November 2013

The Pope on the Council of Trent

Rorate Coeli had an interesting post yesterday where it publishes the text of the letter from the Pope appointing Cardinal Walter Brandmuller as his representitive at the ceremonies to mark the 450th anniversay of the closing of the Council of Trent in 1563. In it the Pope reaffirms for Trent the key point made by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 about the Hermeneutic of Continuity and Conciliar authority. The post can be read at  Francis, writing on the Council of Trent, explicitly affirms the authority of the 'hermeneutic of reform in continuity'.

Blessed by St Peter

Yesterday in Rome to mark the end of the Year of Faith the Pope had the major relics of St Peter displayed for the first time on the High Altar of St Peter's for public veneration.

St Peter

Image: St Peter's Basilica website

"Not to be outdone" as Fr Dominic put it, the Oxford Oratory marked the day by offering to the congregation the blessing of their own, miniscule, relic of St Peter, following the celebration of Mass. Along with many of the congregation I availed myself of this opportunity.

During Mass the relic, was on an altarino on the sanctuary and under the bust of St Peter - all that now remains of the church's copy of the statue in the Vatican basilica of the Apostle attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio (1243-1302) that was regrettably destroyed long before the Oratorians took over the care of the church.

Friday 22 November 2013

Rites of reburial

A friend has very kindly sent me the link to an online BBC article about the rites of reburial used in the later middle ages when bodies of those killed in battle or by the executioner subsequently received an honourable reburial. It concentrates on the work done by Dr Alexandra Buckle from St Anne's and St Hilda's here in Oxford on a seventeenth century copy in the British Library of a fifteenth century liturgy - the only one known to survive.

The specific point of interest is the proposed reburial of the bones of King Richard III following their rediscovery in Leicester. He himself would have been present when his father and brother Edmund's remains were removed from their initial burial place at the Dominican friary at Pontefract and taken to Fotheringhay in 1476. 

The article can be read here.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Oriel College - A History

Yesterday evening I was at a reception in the Senior Library of Oriel to mark the publication of Oriel College - A History. Edited by Jeremy Catto this is a very substantial collaborative work, with a series of studies covering the history of the college since its foundation in 1324-26.

Image: Amazon

The project, similar to thos eundertaken or being undertaken by other Oxford colleges, was initiated under Provost Ernest Nicholson, and formally begun under his successor Sir Derek Morris in 2006. Both were present to hear the new Provost, Moira Wallace, introduce the book and Dr Catto as its editor. In his remarks Jeremy Catto referred to the often fraught relations within the fellowship over the centuries and to the fact that Oriel had produced "One saint, two beati and a member of Hitler's cabinet" - which does rather sum up the varied alumni of the college.

This was an evening which was Oriel at its bext with many familiar faces present and a general agreement as we sipped our champagne and ate our canapes that whatever rows may have plagued the SCR over the centuries Oriel is an essentially happy and friendly college, and one with a rich diversity of members to its credit.

Some years ago there was the possibility that I would have had a behind- the-scenes role in assisting the history project, something I would have been delighted to do. To my very great disappointment that did not come about, but it is good to see so handsome and impressive a book now in print.

Floreat Oriel!

Oriel College - A History. Edited by Jeremy Catto is published by Oxford University Press at £85.00. It is avaialble to Oriel members at the special price of £49.50.

Sunday 17 November 2013

Religious change in 1558

Today marks the 455th anniversary of a set of events in 1558 which shaped the future religious history of England. On that day there occurred the deaths, early in the morning, of Queen Mary I and, later in the same day, that of Cardinal Pole of Canterbury, and the accession of Queen Elizabeth I. With these events the 1559 settlement of the Church of England became possible.

Queen Mary I


If Queen Mary had lived longer her government and bishops might well have been able to continue with further success the work they had carried out to restore Catholic belief and practice to the country, something they can now be seen to have done to a great extent as has been shown by Professor Eamonn Duffy with The Stripping of the Altars and more particularly in Fires of Faith. Given that the majority appear to have favoured traditional religion this made the likelihood of a deeper renewal of the Papal allegiance and acceptance of Tridentine initiatives would follow. For this the Queen needed a  Catholic heir. If she herself did not have child, then Elizabeth was the next heir under the 1544 Succession Act, and Elizabeth played her cards skillfully. The next Catholic heir was Queen Mary of Scots, Dauphine of France and unacceptable on those grounds to both Mary of England and her husband Philip of Spain. King Philip did not possess the crown matrimonial under the 1554 marriage treaty, so he had no continuing rights. He may have offered to marry Elizabeth - with, no  doubt, no likelihood on either side of interest - but what he sought was diplomatic security for hios domains in the Netherlands. Had he and Queen Mary I had a son then he would have joined England and Ireland in a union with the Habsburg lands in the Low Countries- which raises some intersting possibilities of what might, in theory, have happened. The crucial thing was the need for a securely Catholic heir, and that there was not.

  Reginaldus Pole (1500–1558), Cardinal Pole

Cardinal Reginald Pole
Cristoforo Dell' Altissimo
Portrait at Shute Barton

Image: National Trust/BBC My Pictures

Cardinal Pole - royal by descent, Cardinal, papabile in 1550, dangerous liberal or dangerous reactionary depending how you looked at him - by dying when he did removed the leadership of the English hierarchy at a critical time. How he would have dealt with the new Queen Elizabeth is an unknown, and, I think, unknowable. Without Queen Mary's backing he might have had to depend upon King Philip for aid against his old sparring partner Pope Paul IV, who suspected Pole ( and not only Pole of course) of heresy. How he might have got on with Pope Pius IV, elected when Pope Paul died in 1559, and the reconvened Council of Trent, which was yet to complete the restatement of Catholic belief in a time when so much seemed shifting and unsure, again raises imponderables.

Queen Elizabeth I in the 1560s
The portrait stresses the Queen's evangelical credentials, with her restrained dress and the prayer book she is holding

Image: philipmould.com

Queen Elizabeth I was to be both initially cautious in her religious policy and then bold in re-establishing asystem based on her half-brother's settlement. That it may not have been what she herself favoured is likely - David Starkey's interpretation of her as favouring a Henrician style of a Catholic style combined with evangelical reforms, a liturgy with ceremony and certainly the crucifix as well as music appears convincing to me. A Papal settlement was not acceptable - had not the Pope bastardized her in the womb as she herself said, and her legitimacy and right of succession was central to her  being. Unfortunately for the new Queen, and to her surprise, the surviving Marian bishops were not prepared to abandon the barque of Peter - well, all save Bishop Kitchen of Llandaff - and she was forced to deprive them. Finding replacements led her to men less attracted than she was by the more traditional forms of worship. Given an international settlement at Cateau-Cambresis which brought peace to Europe the new Queen had more room to manoeuvre diplomatically, and to play anot especially string hand very skillfully. By not pushing conformity too far, although legislation existed to do that, the Queen and her ministers maintained a consensus that for a few years proved manageable. However both Ctaholic and Puritan opposition remained, and bevcame more assertive as time, and the reign, went on. Nevertheless the curious compromise that is  the 1559 Settlement is one which, for all its cobbling together, has survived for more than 450 years. Not even the Civil War and regicide in the mid-seventeenth century could destroy it. I am somewhat surprised more was not done to mark the 450th anniversary in 2009. The pity of it is that under the second Queen Elizabeth the Church of England seems to be doing to itself what its adversaries have failed to do over the previous four hundred years.

Had Queen Elizabeth died in 1562, as she very nearly did of smallpox, then the country would have faced a real crisis. The Council were divided as to who to approach as the next heir - Lady Catherine Grey or Henry Earl of Huntingdon. The Queen solved the problem by recovering, but had she not done so her legacy would be very unclear. With either of those two candidates on the throne a more Protestant Church of England might well have ensued, as of course might Catholic opposition, not to mention Queen Mary I of Scots, as  yet unbesmirched by scandal...

If for Queen Mary I the succession was a continuing dilemma, then so it was for her half-sister - indeed almost more so. Queen Elizabeth I held out against naming an heir for almost forty five years, and turned the whole matter into  a national concern that dare not really speak its name. Their father's break with the Papacy and Rome had made the nation's religious life a matter for the monarch to determine, and yet there was no way to determine the way a new monarch might take the Supreme Headship or Governorship. Not until 1688-9 and 1701 was a settlement made to limit that range of possibilities.

Saturday 16 November 2013

The Ordinariate Use in Oxford - November 30th

On the vigil of Advent Sunday, November 30th, the Oxford Ordinariate group will hold an Advent Carol Service of music and readings at 4pm in Holy Rood Church, followed by refreshments.

Following this at 6pm their Mass for Advent I will be a Sung Mass in the newly authorised Ordinariate Use. The preacher will be Fr Mark Woodruff, Priest-Director of the Catholic League.

The Ordinariate Use was first publicly celebrated some weeks ago at their Warwick Street church in London. Here in Oxford it has been used on Thursdays by the local group for the celebration of Low Mass, and has been well received by those who have been present, although so far I unfortunately have not been able to attend. However on November 30th there will be this sung celebration, and that will be the pattern for the other Sunday Vigil Masses of Advent so as to present this new Use to the congregation.
For both services music will be provided by the Newman Consort, so it will be a display of patrimony and shared heritage at its musical best.

Thursday 14 November 2013

The Prince of Wales at 65

Today is the birthday of the Prince of Wales, and the day on which at sixty five he reaches what for most men would be the age of retirement. He is now the eldest Heir Apparent in the history of the monarchy.


The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall on their recent visit to india

Image:Daily Telegraph
For the Prince that is certainly not the case, as he remains active both in formal public life and in the many and various causes to which he has devoted so much energy and genuine commitment over many years. Furthermore at some unknown date in the future there lie the still more onerous responsibilities of being King, not just of one realm, but of a series across the world.  In a recent interview he was reported as saying that, quite apart from personal considerations as to succeeding to the throne on the death of his mother, he fears thbat in the position of Sovereign he would not be able to be active in the causes he has worked so hard to publicise and to actually make a real and positive contribution.

I have always had great respect for the Prince not just as Heir Apparent but for the seriousness with which he has tried to make the public aware of a series of fundamental issues facing our society, and for that he deserves very considerable gratitude and support.

Over the last few years with a clearly very happy marriage, a married eldest son and now a grandson the Prince seems again to have the wider approval from the public that he deserves, and long may that continue.

So today is an opportunity to express my good wishes to the Prince, to thank him for his service on behalf of Crown and people, and to wish him well in all his endeavours on all our behalfs.

Watching the RSC's "Richard II" live on screen

Last night I went to the cinema here in Oxford to watch the live broadcast of the Royal Shakespeare Company's  Richard II - the Clever Boy having spotted a poster for this presentation outside the Odeon
last weekend he decided to treat himself to a bit of culture for the evening.


David Tennant and his role


This was the first such broadcast by the RSC worldwide - but there is plan to offer all 36 First Folio plays in this way over the next few years.

Richard II is a play I have seen before both on television - starting with An Age of Kings on BBC in 1960-61 and then the BBC Shakespeare production in 1979 and stage, with Sir Derek Jacobi as the King, as well as a splendid and memorable open air production at Oriel in 1996. It is set in my particular period of historical interest, and, of course, I come from Pontefract where the King died early in 1400.

As the director Gregory Doran pointed out in a pre-broadcast interiew the play does not take sides in the conflict between the King and Bolingbroke - it carefully shifts the emphasis between them as it progresses, leaving the playgoer or reader to reflect upon the themes that are raised and explored.

In this production the King was played by David Tennant, and with established figures such as
Jane Laportaire as the Duchess of Gloucester and Michael Pennington as John of Gaunt. Other cast members are not so well known, but there was a consistency of performance that made for unity. Oliver Rix's excellent eagerly self-serving Duke of Aumerle/Earl of Rutland reminded me not a little of an Oxford acquaintance of former years who has political aspirations - no names, no pack drill, but my observation is not a very complimentary comparison!

The pace was quick, and used the redesigned RSC theatre with its thrust stage very well - I have not visited the theatre since this reordering took place, so that was quite a revelation.

In his pre-broadcast interview Gregory Doran spoke about David Tennant's ability to speak Shakespeare's words as if they were contemporary, and that he did indeed do effectively. The slight hesitation I have about that is that at times the King sounded too shrill, verging on the hysterical even, and in the early scenes his voice perhaps lacked the magisterial tone one might expect from a KIng with so clear an idea of his innate authority. The effect was to make the King sound more lightweight than the subtleties of the play demand.

The production was costumed more or less in the style of the Ricardian period, and clearly a great effort had been made to provide David Tennant with a red wig or hair extensions on the lines of King Richard's appearance in some manuscript illuminations from circa 1390.

David Tennant as Richard II in Richard II. Photo by Kwame Lestrade

The King becomes aware of his power crumbling on his return from Ireland
Bad hair day?

The effect, and whatever its historical accuracy for the years 1398-1400, was perhaps unduly luxurient, if not OTT. Similarly some of the King's ourrfits were somehow lacking the splendour which we know the real King affected, whilst the entirely unhistorical, but theatrically crucial deposition scene, found David Tennant in what looked like a modern cassock-alb and barefoot. The effect was odd more than dramatic to my mind - unless it was somehow a visual reference to depictions of the Passion of Our Lord.

David Tennant as Richard II and the cast of Richard II. Photo by Kwame Lestrade

The deposition scene
Bad heir day?


Perhaps predictably there was one ecclesiastical costume howler - the Bishop of Carlisle was provided with a splendid crozier and mitre, and a vestment that was a combination of cope and chasuble... very curious to the observant eye.

The production ended with a twist that was daring and one which I will not reveal to spoil the effect for anyone who goes to see the play. From Decvember 9th until January 25th it is on at the Barbican in London.

Overall I think I agree very much with the points made in his Daily Telegraph review by Dominic Cavendish which can be read here.

Notwithstanding the points I have made this was nevertheless an excellent production that was very well worth seeing, and which I would recommend to others - and all for £13. I shall definitely avail myself of futurte opportunities to watch the RSC live at the cinema.
One final irony - this , the most poetic of Shakespeare's Histories, is about a King who in reality, according to a contemporary biographer, the monk of Evesham, spoke abruptly and with a stammer.