Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

A bell for Blackfriars

Yesterday evening, after Mass and the Novena to St Philip at the Oratory, I was back at Blackfriars for Solemn Vespers, which was presided over by Bishop Mark Jabalé OSB, formerly Abbot of Belmont, Bishop of Menevia, and now the parish priest at Chipping Norton in this archdiocese.

The reason for this special celebration was the installation of a bell in the bell tower of the church and its blessing by the Bishop. In his sermon my longstanding friend the Prior, John O'Connor, linked the history since 1221 of the Order in Oxford to its continuing witness and ministry today, and to continuing prayers for the souls of benefactors, both in the middle ages and of the present era.

The bell itaelf had been presented to the Dominicans by the President and Fellows Corpus Christi college. In 1936  Robert Mowat, a former Fellow, and Paul Patrick, a former scholar, gave the bell to hang in the gatetower, but, I understand, it was never installed due to its weight, and was thus unused when the college offered it to Blackfriars. In its new home it has been named Bede in honour of Fr Bede Jarrett OP.

Father Bede Jarrett (1881—1934), revered by his fellow Preachers as an administrator  - he served as  Provincial from 1916- 32 and founded what is now the magazine  New Blackfriars - author, preacher, friend, and above all, as a man who gave a distinct stamp to the English Dominican Province. Probably his most important single achievement was to bring the Dominicans back to Oxford after an absence of nearly 400 years. 

The foundation stone of the present Priory was laid on 15 August 1921, the seventh centenary of the first Dominican foundation in Oxford. Dedicated to the Holy Spirit, it was founded by Fr Bede, himself the first Dominican friar to study at Oxford since the Reformation. In bringing the Order back to the university and to the city he was helped by an American donor, Mrs Charlotte Jefferson Tytus, who purchased the site, then partly occupied by three houses on St Giles'.
The new Priory was designed by the architect Doran Webb and construction stopped in 1929. The full community arrived on 17 May 1929, and the church was consecrated three days later. A tower was added in the 1950s, but not all the envisaged building was completed and, in some respects, remains essentially unfinished.

Fr Bede Jarrett OP

Fr Bede Jarrett OP

Image: bfriars.ox.ac.uk 

At the appropriate point the Bishop, Prior and other officers of the friary, together with the lady Chaplain of Corpus Christi in her Anglican choir dress, depaerted to the blessing of the bell before returning to the choir. Afterwards as the procession moved out of the church the rich tone of the bell was heard as it was tolled, leading in to the strains of Vierne's  Carillon de Westminster on the organ.

This was a fine and dignified occasion, with a real sense of the continuing, living history of the Dominicans in Oxford. May that long continue, enhanced by the chimes of Bede in the bell tower.

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