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 30 July 2014

Drawing attention to the plight of Iraqi Christians

Further to my post about the need to express support for the Christians of Iraq - indeed for all Christians in the Middle East - there is a piece on the Oxford Oratory website about the situation which can be read at Pray for the Christians of Iraq

Rorate Caeli has a report about a statement made by a number of public figures in France about the situation. This can be read at "An Appeal for the Christians of the Middle East"French elected officials lead the way: will those elsewhere follow suit, or remain silent?

One does rather wait to hear or read on anything being said by Western governments or opinion makers about this situation.

Tuesday 29 July 2014

A new Oratorian Novice

Yesterday evening a new Novice began his formal life as an Oratorian here at the Oxford Oratory.


Br Adam and the Provost, Fr Daniel

Brother Adam Fairbairn, was clothed in the habit of Our Holy Father St Philip. He comes from near York and previously studied at the English College in Valladolid.


 The community who were present in the Oratory House.
From left, Br Oliver, Fr Jerome, Fr Nicholas, Br Adam, Fr Daniel, Fr Richard, who is the parish priest at St Wilfrid's in York

Br Adam has just completed a month's postulancy here in Oxford. Before that he was working in York at St Wilfrid's as a pastoral assistant from last December. He will now return to York as the first novice of the community there, but he will be making regular visits to Oxford over the course of the next year.


Br Adam Fairbairn

Please pray for Br Adam and the Oratorian community in York, and ask that God may bless both the house in Oxford and the house in York with many good vocations in the years to come.

Images and text adapted from Oxford Oratory website

Motet for St James

The other day Rorate Caeli had a post about a motet written in 1426-28 by Guillaume Dufay in honour of St James the Great and dedicated to one of his friends, then working as chaplain in Bologna. The post, with the text and avideo link can be viewed at In honor of Saint James.

This caught my eye not only as I had written about the cult of St James in my post about the cathedral at Santiago last Friday but because this is music from the world which Bishop Fleming would have known on his visits to the continent and to the Councils of Constance and Pavia-Siena, and at the Papal court.

St Olav

In addition to today being the feast of St Martha it is also the feast day of St Olav, King of Norway, who was killed in battle on this day in 1029. He is the patron saint of Norway, and in medieval constitutional theory the eternal or perpetual King of Norway. Thus it is his crown which is the crown of the kingdom - although it is in actual fact a handsome nineteenth century piece - and Trondheim, the burial place of St Olav, became the traditional place for the crown to be kept and for the King's coronation.

There is an illustrated online account of St Olav here. I have posted about him before in St Olaf's day in 2011 and in St Eystein, in 2012. 

Here is a picture of  the striking life sizestatue of St Olav in the entrance to the church dedicated to him and which is the Norwegian church in London:

Norwegian Church and Seamen's Mission 


 I posted about the church in Rotherhithe in A corner of London that is forever Norway earlier this year.

 This is therefore a day upon which to remember and pray for my own Norwegian friends, and for the King and people of Norway. May St Olav continue to intercede for them.

Monday 28 July 2014

The Austro-Hungarian case for war

To mark the centenary today of the commencement of hostilities in 1914 with the Austro-Hungarian attack on Serbia the blog Rorate Caeli reproduces the text of the manifesto addressed by the Emperor Francis Joseph to his people that day. This outlines the arguments of the Imperial and Royal government for the atatck on Serbia. It can be viewed at  He left, never to return.

Rorate Caeli in a second post reproduces one of the telegrams sent to the Serbian government from Vienna, with a commentary on what it unleashed. This can be seen in The Telegram.

Sunday 27 July 2014

Battle of Bouvines

Today is the 800th anniversary of one of the most important battles in west European history, certainly in the medieval period, and one whose consequences continue to shape the map of western Europe. Yet the battle of Bouvines is little known in England, which was undoubtedly affected by the result. The defeat by King Philip II of the Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV and his allies secured the French King's position and his consolidation of the monarchy in his realm. For the Emperor it meant flight, rejection by his subjects and the displacement of his dynasty from the Imperial throne. For his uncle and ally King John of England it meant that his hopes of regaining his territories in France were dashed, and he was in a weakened position in dealing with his nobles at home. Planned as a great pincer attack to destroy King Philip II its manifest failure left the coalition opposing him shattered and under attack, whilst the French celebrated what has come to be seen as a key event in the formation of a unified France. 

There is an online illustrated account of the battle here, and a more detailed version in German here.The whole background and campaign are covered in "The 'War' of Bouvines (1202–1214)"

There is an online life of King Philip II here. As King he consolidated the Capetian monarchy and realm to inaugurate the era of French ascendancy in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, and established the practical administration of the kingdom. His sobriquet of Augustus, as founder of the polity, is a legacy of Bouvines . A few years ago I read James Bradbury's sympathetic and well reserarched biography of the King Philip Augustis King of France 1180-1223

File:Sceau de Philippe Auguste. - Archives Nationales - SC-D157.jpg

The seal of King Philip II

Image: Wikipedia 

There is a life of the Emperor Otto IV here. A  more detailed version in German can be viewed at Otto IV. For him the battle led to his family, the Guelfs, losing the Imperial title and the definitive re-emergence of the Hohenstaufen in the person of the young Emperor Frederick II. That was to have enormous consequences for the future  history of Europe.

The seal of Emperor Otto IV

Image: harzburger-wanderseite.de


Modern glass commemorating the battle in the church of Saint-Pierre at Bouvines
Image:greentool2002 on Flickr 

The other loser was King John, who was not present at the battle with any troops. His campaign in Poitou was unsuccessful in the aftermath of the French victory at Bouvines and the King returned to England. Whether victory by him, let alone his allies at Bouvines,would have quelled the rising dissent of many of the political nation in England as studied bu J.C.Holt in The Northerners may be questionable. King John was reaping the consequences of his policies and those of his father and brother before him, but victory in France might well have redressed the balance of advantage. How direct the route is from Bouvines to Runnymead may be unclear, but there is certainly a link.

Effigy of King John on his tomb in Worcester Cathedral


Friday 25 July 2014

The wedding of King Philip and Queen Mary

460 years ago, on St James' day 1554 Queen Mary I married King Philip of Naples, who from 1556 was King Philip II of Spain*, in Winchester cathedral. The choice of the feast day of the patron saint of Spain was doubtless seen as auspicious.

For the Queen this must have been a day of triumph. Just over a year earlier from her position as a spinster elder half sister of the deceased King Edward VI, marginalised as a Catholic and with the practise of her faith under threat, and then excluded from the succession altogether,  she staged the only successful uprising in Tudor England against the central government, saw off her opponents, set in motion the restoration of Catholicism and now married the most eligible young man in Europe. Not bad going.

Queen Mary I in 1554
A painting by Hans Eworth now at the Society of Antiquaries
The Queen is wearing the pearl La Peregrina given to her by King Philip
Image: Wikipedia

The basis for the wedding was the treaty negotiated earlier on in the year and made into English law by an  Act of Parliament, about which there is an article here. The background can be read in the illustrated online life of the Queen here.
The wedding ceremony itself is worthy of note in that apart from her mother's lavish wedding to Prince Arthur in St Paul's in 1501 Tudor royal weddings were not great public events, and indeed the great public royal wedding we expect today is something from the twentieth century. From 1554 until the 1920s England saw nothing comparable.

There is a detailed account of the wedding in my friend John Edward's recent biography of the Queen, published by Yale UP in their English Monarchs series.

One of the sources for our knowledge of the day is the official Herald's account, transcribed and published in the eighteenth century, and which can be read at The Marriage of Queen Mary and King Philip

King Philip and Queen Mary

Image: Wikipedia 

The blog Mary Tudor - Renaissance Queen has an account of the events of the day and of surviving buildings and other remains today here and from another blog there is also an account of the wedding which can be seen here.

A reconstruction of Queen Mary's wedding dress, created by Tanya Elliott, which was displayed at the Exhibition The Marriage of England and Spain - the 450th Anniversary of the Marriage of Philip and Mary  held from June 20-September 30, 2004 at Winchester Cathedral

(photo courtesy of Winchester Cathedral)

Queen Mary's dress was described as consisting of a mantle of brocaded cloth of gold, bordered with pearls and diamonds of great size, and lined with ermine. The dress was also gold smothered with the same precious stones, and the underskirt of white satin embroidered of silver. The French hood  - that is a headress of rounded shape is worn over a coif, and with a black veil attached to the back, that is very like a modern tiara in shape - in black velvet was surmounted by a double row of large diamonds.


The Queen had a noted fondness for jewellery, and one of the King'swedding gifts to her was the pearl La Peregrina, of which there is a history here. In most of her portraits the Queen is depicted wearing it. 
On her death it was returned to the King. 

King Philip
A potrait by Iitian of 1551, now in the Prado

Image: Wikipedia

King Philip, eleven years younger than his wife, may indeed have married her out of Habsburg familial duty to his father, and have been irke dby the restrictions the marriage treaty placed upon his exercise of power, but in both public and private he appears to have been attentive to the Queen who became fdeeply enamoured of him. Contemporaries quoted in Henry Kamen's excellent biography King Philip considerd that if the English populace hasd more access to him he would have won their regard as well. A reserved man, who appears to have disliked much of the outward display called upon for European monarchs at the time, he does not appear to have been a natural linguist and spoke little English, nor, and this was to be a problem for him later in ruling the Netherlands, Flemish or Dutch. He nad his wife communicated in Spanish, French and Latin. His youthful high spirits, clerly described by Kamen were kept under control, and the punctuillious, reserved monarch of the future was being formed.

One formal consequence of the wedding was a change in the Royal Arms. Few instances of these now survive. One can be seen in Trinity College here in Oxford. This was founded in 1554 and teha rms are painted over the fireplac ein the hall, but in their present form appear to be entirely nineteenth century. At Windsor Castle on the outside of the lodgings of the Military Knights of Windsor there is a restored version of the arms carved in stone, as can be seen in the article College of St George - Windsor Castle - Royal Arms of Philip and Mary

File:Coat of Arms of England (1554-1558).svg 

A modern rendering of the arms of King Philip and Queen Mary


* Strictly speaking the King's titles were more complex than that simple description. The modern form King of Spain was not used before the 1870s. King Philip would have been styled variously King of Spains and the Indies or King of Castile, Leon, Aragon, Navarre, and all the other subsidiary titles of the Spanish crown. On this see List of titles and honours of the Spanish Crown and  Many titles of King Philip II of Spain 

Santiago de Compostela

Today is the feast of St James the Great, whose great shrine church is, of course, the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.

Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Santiago de Compostela cathedral


Recently, with the help of a friend, I acquired a very handsome glossy handbook - it is more than the usual guide book - to this remarkable and majestic building.

There is a detailed, illustrated online account of the building and its complex history at Santiago de Compostela Cathedral.

An article from the Financial Times travel pages writes about the current conservation of the twelfth century sculpture of the Portico de la Gloria in the west front at Santiago de Compostela's sacred sculptures.


The Portico de la Gloria



Statues of Prophets on the Portico 



The late medieval cloisters


On this his feast day may we entreat St James to ever pray for Spain, its King and people, and for the Church in that realm and for all pilgrims to Compostela

Thursday 24 July 2014

Godspeed the Dominicans

Yesterday evening after Mass at Blackfriars here in Oxford I was talking to one of the young Dominicans who is setting out today on their coast-to-coast fund raising walk in aid of the Order's appeal fund, and about which I wrote last month in Sponsoring the Dominicans. This is then an opportunity to wish them Godspeed on their journey and remind readers of this worthwhile appeal.

Please stand in Solidarity with Christians in Iraq

The other day I received this e-message from Aid to the Church in Need, and I am sharing it with readers.

URGENT PLEA FOR PRAYER – as more Christians in the Middle East face exodus and exile, join with Iraqi Christians outside the Houses of Parliament this Saturday (26 July), at 12 midday.

We at ACN appeal for your prayers and solidarity, particularly for our brothers and sisters in Mosul, Iraq. The Islamic State (formerly ISIS), which seized the city of Mosul, ordered Christians to convert to Islam or pay the 'jizya' Islamic tax. They were told failure to comply would mean "death by the sword". 

More than 1,500 people have fled in the last few days – having left almost all their possessions behind. For the first time in 1,600 years, there have been no Masses or Liturgies in Mosul, and reports have come in that an 1,800-year-old Syriac Catholic Church was desecrated and burnt to the ground. Neville Kyrke-Smith, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need UK, said "This is an exodus in anguish as Christians flee terror into exile from their ancient homelands – where for centuries they have built understanding and trust between different communities. Just as in Biblical times, we cry with them 'by the waters of Babylon' in tears and prayer."

Please join us in front of the Houses of Parliament this Saturday (26 July) at 12 noon and take part in a demonstration with Iraqi Christian communities, in support of those suffering so much at this time. Neville writes: "If you cannot join us in person then please join us in prayer at 12 midday by saying the Angelus or the Rosary for all those who are suffering in the Middle East."

In a message to all people of goodwill, Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, Iraq’s most senior Catholic leader, said: "It is truly unjust to treat Christians by rejecting them and throwing them away, considering them as nothing."
As a Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, Aid to the Church in Need invites you to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ. ACN is already offering emergency support – food, shelter and medicine – to Christians in Nineveh who fled Mosul in the days that followed the capture of the city and stands ready to do more. We are in regular contact with both Patriarch Sako and Archbishop Amel Nona of Mosul. 

People led out of the city

Archbishop leads Christian Iraqis

"It is truly unjust to treat Christians by rejecting them and throwing them away, considering them as nothing. Another war would mean the end, especially for us Christians"

Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako

For more information go to

In addition here is a link to a post from Rorate Caeli about the situation Chaldean Patriarch to Christians of Mosul: "We your shepherds will stay with you to the end." "Our suffering will be salvation to us and others."

The FSSP have announced a day of intercession for Iraqi Christians on August 1st as can be seen in this post from NLM Urgent Appeal -- August 1st Day of Prayer, Adoration, and Solidarity for Persecuted Christians

This is an important issue which should command our attention and prayer. It is not commanding that much attention from the political leaders or the media of the West, as has been pointed out by Le Figaro in France as can be seen at  MAJOR NEWSPAPER EDITORIAL BREAKS MEDIA SILENCE: Why the Global Conspiracy of Silence on Persecution of Christians in Iraq?

Countdown to the end of Christian civilisation

Rorate Coeli has a post about a video produced about the outbreak of the First World War and its impact upon western civilisation, which includes interviews with a number of distingushed historians. It can be viewed at 100 years ago, the Dual Monarchy delivered its ultimatum to Serbia - A recommended video on World War I -- and the end of Civilization

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Fr Dominic's anniversary Mass

Yesterday Father Dominic celebrated the evening Mass on the feast of St Mary Magdalene, wearing the same vestment in which he was ordained on the same day in 1989.


Bishop Robert preached at the Mass, and Fathers also came down from York. Here are the original "Birmingham Three", who arrived in Oxford in 1990. From left to right: Bishop Robert Byrne, Fr Dominic Jacob and Fr Richard Duffield.


Text and images: Oxford Oratory

Monday 21 July 2014

Silver Jubilee of Fr Dominic Jacob

Yesterday the Oxford Oratory celebrated the twenty fifth anniversary of the Ordination to the priesthood of Fr Dominic Jacob.

I have reproduced, with some emendations, the post from the Oratory website. It is quite long, but it includes pictures of the 1989 Ordination, of yesterday's Mass and of the parish party afterwards. For those readers who have not had an opportunity to visit the Oratory it gives a good idea of life at St Aloysius.

Here is Fr Dominic giving first blessings on that day:

Fr Dominic1

A first blessing for Fr Michael Napier, then Provost of the London Oratory and Apostolic Delegate of the Holy See to the Confederation of the Oratory:

Fr D5

And a first blessing for the youthful Br Richard Duffield:

Fr D3

The sign of peace during the ordination Mass from Fr Ignatius Harrison, now Provost of the Birmingham Oratory:

Fr D7

Fr Dominic was ordained by Bishop Joseph Cleary, Bishop of Cresima and auxiliary in Birmingham:

Fr D6

 Fr D2

 Here is his first Mass, assisted by Father (now Bishop) Robert Byrne:

Fr D10

Fr D9 First Mass

Yesterday, Fr Dominic offered a Votive Mass of Christ the High Priest, in thanksgiving for his Silver Jubilee. The emphasis from Fr Dominic and from Fr Daniel in his sermon was on the exercise over these twenty five years of the Eternal Priesthood of Christ through Fr Dominic.

The entrance procession and the ascent to the altar:

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The very handsome set of vestments is one  that comes from a convent which has now closed and they now belong to the Oxford Oratory.

The Gloria:

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During the Sermon given by Fr Daniel, the Provost of the Oxford Oratory, who was deacon of the Mass:

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The choir sang a specially composed Salve Regina by Edward de Rivera, and a new Mass written by Andrew Knowles: the "Missa Respice de Caelo", which drew upon themes from different pieces in honour of St Philip, such as "This is the Saint", Sewell's "Pangamus Nerio" and "Respice de Caelo", and "O Filippo!".

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Incensing the altar:

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The Canon of the Mass:

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Fr Dominic says a few words at the end of Mass:

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The procession at the end of Mass:

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 The return to the sacristy:

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Afterwards there was a party in the Parish Centre. Here it is being prepared:

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Our parishioners enjoying themselves in the Parish Centre, which has been created as part of the Oratory Development Appeal. It is an excellent asset:

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Greeting the Silver Jubilarian:

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The cutting of the celebratory cake:

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Then and now:

Fr D4

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 Fr D8

The young Fr Dominic in the Library at the Birmingham Oratory
Ad multos annos!

Images and core text: Oxford Oratory