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, 29 August 2014

The Decollation of St John the Baptist

Today is the feast of the Decollation or Beheading of St John the Baptist. There is an online history of the feast here. In the later middle ages at least devotion to St John was very considerable,and in addition to statues and paintings there was a sizeable market in alabaster plaques, often showing his severed head on the platter. These were the work of the alabasterers of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire in particular. Here is an example in a different style: 

St John the Baptist 1470-90 alabaster V&A

Alabaster head of St. John the Baptist, 1470-90

 Victoria and Albert Museum


Such images travelled widely. I am told that one was found on the ship of the Turkish commander at Lepanto in 1571. I assume it must have been captured from an English Knight of Rhodes or of Malta. Sent to Rome to be prsented to the Pope it was shown to St Philip Neri, who insisted on keeping it. It can, I understand, still be seen in his room at the Chiesa Nuova 

No comments: