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.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Votive objects from Exeter cathedral

A post on the Medieval religion discussion group by John Shinners led me to these photographs of fifteenth century votive offerings found in Exeter cathedral following bomb damage in 1942.  I had read of them beforehand, but not seen photographs.

The ex votos had been offered at the tomb of Bishop Edmund Lacy, who was diocesan from 1420-55, and who had a posthumous popular following of those who sought his intercession. The cult seems to have been suppressed by the Dean of Exeter in 1538. The Oxford DNB life of Bishop Lacy by Nicholas Orme can be read online here, and it gives more details as to the background of these offerings - the Bishop suffered from a condition affecting his shin bones, and the ex votos appear to emphasise a concern with limbs.

Exeter was a cathedral without the shrine of a saint, and at an earlier time the cause of Edmund Lacy might have progressed to fulfill that function but it was not to be.

These are remarkable survivals of medieval piety, and were, presumably, to be found in all pilgrimage churches of medieval England and indeed Europe.

Wax figures 1
Wax figures 2
Wax figures 3

Parts of votive wax figures, animal and human, found above the tomb of Bishop Edmund Lacy in Exeter Cathedral in 1942.


The tomb of Bishop Lacy
Originally the tomb chest bore a brass of the bishop

Image: churchmonumentssociety.com

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