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 30 April 2015

An Epitaph for King Richard III

The Special Correspondent has forwarded to me the latest online Newsletter from the College of Arms, which had the following article about what appears to be the epitaph from the King's original tomb in the Greyfriars. The links about the recent service of reburial at Leicester cathedral are also well worth looking at as they put it in the context of recent research on such reinterrments in the late middle ages :

On 26 March 2015 King Richard III was reinterred in a specially-constructed tomb in Leicester Cathedral, in a service in the presence of Their Royal Highnesses the Countess of Wessex and the Duke of Gloucester, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor and other distinguished guests. The College of Arms, founded by Richard III in 1484, was represented in the procession and service by Thomas Woodcock, Garter King of Arms, and Peter O'Donoghue, York Herald. Some information about the reburial service can be had here and here.

Illustrated is an image from a College of Arms manuscript, showing an epitaph for Richard III. It is in the hand of Thomas Hawley, Clarenceux King of Arms, a herald between 1509 and his death in 1557. The epitaph would seem to come from the original tomb of Richard in the Franciscan Priory in Leicester, erected by Henry VII. It makes reference to the latter's piety and generosity, whilst hoping that the reader will pray for Richard on account of his offences and thus lessen his punishment.

 Image and text: College of Arms

The last sentence is particularly interesting, being further evidence of King Henry VII's Christian charity - which may not be the traditional image of him, but one that needs to be considered.

Wednesday 29 April 2015

More on the Two Sicilies

Following my post The House of Bourbon Two Sicilies further research on the Internet led me to the online article House of Bourbon-Two Sicilies

This has very useful information on the dynasty and their marriages and children. It also outlines the two lines of claimants to headship of the House, and thus to the crown of the Two Sicilies, since 1960.

It also gives links to the official websites of both claimants.

That of the Duke of Calabria and his line can be seen at www.borbone-due-sicilie.org/

That of the Duke of Castro and his line can be seen at  www.realcasadiborbone.it/en/

I do not feel qualified (at present anyway) to pronounce on the respective validity of the claims, and in the interests of equity and fairness commend both to readers.

The dispute between the two branches of the House is not clarified by the fact that both are currently headed by a Bourbon (Borbon/Borbone) who would claim to be the de jure King Carlo I.

The blog Royal Musings had this illustrated report of signs of rerconciliation between the two branches and a detailed account of the 1900 marriage and Act of Cannes that lies behind the split which happened in 1960 and can be read at RECONCILIATION IN THE HOUSE OF BOURBON-TWO SICILIES

Monday 27 April 2015

The Patronage of St Philip

Today the Oxford Oratory has been celebrating the Patronage of St Philip - a feast particular to each Oratory. Oxford keeps it today as the anniversary of the decree establishing it as an independent Oratory in 1993.

Following the 6pm Mass there was Solemn Benediction to mark the feast.

File:Conca, Sebastiano - The Madonna Appearing to St. Philip Neri - Google Art Project.jpg 

The Madonna appearing to St Philip Neri
Sebastiano Conca, 1740
Indianapolis Museum of Art

Image: Wikimedia

The House of Bourbon Two Sicilies

The Special Correspondent sent me the following link to the website of the Duke of Castro and his branch of the House of Bourbon Two Sicilies  - as opposed to that of the Duke of Calabria - and added that there are some rather good interactive stuff if you click on the shield on the website. The site itself is http://www.realcasadiborbone.it/en/history-documents/royal-symbols/royal-house-coat-of-arms/

For some background on the history of the monarchy see the online article Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and on and more specifically on the disputed succession since 1900 look at the section

Heads of the Royal House of the Two Sicilies, 1861–present

I have added the website to to the sidebar as House of Bourbon Two Sicilies - Castro line.

File:Coat of arms of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.svg

The Royal Arms of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies

Image: Wilkimedia Commons

Manning Conference - May 9th

My friend Dr Peter Nockles has asked me to publicise this forthcoming conference, which looks likely to be very interesting indeed.


From Wiseman to Manning: Fresh Perspectives

A Day Conference, 9th May 2015
Our Lady of Victories Parish Centre, Kensington

10.30am Registration and Teas/Coffee

11am Welcome (Fr Nicholas Schofield)

11.15am Lecture 1: ‘The Long Farewell: Henry Manning's Conversion to Roman Catholicism’, Professor Kenneth Parker (St Louis University)

12 noon Lecture 2: ‘Henry Edward Manning - The People’s Cardinal’, Dr Jacqueline Clais-Girard (Université d’Angers)

12.45pm Lunch Break

1.45pm Short Communications on Manning’s relationship with W. E. Gladstone (Dr Peter Erb, Wilfrid Laurier University) and Blessed John Henry Newman (Rev. Stephen Morgan, Diocese of Portsmouth)

2.15pm Lecture 3: ‘Cardinal Manning and W. T. Stead: a curious friendship’, Professor Stewart Brown (University of Edinburgh)

3pm Teas/Coffee

3.15pm Lecture 4: ‘Manning, Errington, Wiseman and the Oblates of St Charles’, Dr Serenhedd James (St Stephen’s House, Oxford)

4pm Conclusion of the Conference

I understand there is no fee as such but participants are requested to make a donation of £5.00, which seems eminently reasonable.

Colouring in at St Albans

Prof Madeleine Grey alerted the Medieval Religion discussion group to this recent installation at St Albans cathedral. As she points out it is not exactly medieval, but it appears to me that it does accord with the intentions of the medieval builders.

The report is from the BBC News website and can be viewed here.

Friday 24 April 2015

Exploring in Buckinghamshire

Last Saturday I had a day out visiting friends in Buckinghamshire. It was a splendid spring day on which to travel out on the bus from Oxford, with the trees and hedgerows displaying an increasing and varied range of greenery in the bright sunshine.

The route took me through Thame, an historic town and with a handsome medieval parish church and a striking collection of old buildings. I keep promising myself whenever I am passing through the town to have aday exploering it.

I had arranged to meet my friend in Stone, which lies just west of Aylesbury. He was armed with Pevsner's Buckinghamshire and we went to have a look in the village church of St John the Baptist, where several parishioners were doing cleaning and gardening tasks. The church is medieval, though obviously restored in the nineteenth century, but with an attractive twelfth century north nave arcade.


 St John the Baptist Stone


The great feature is the twelfth century font, originally at the church of St Mary the Virgin Hampstead Norreys near Newbury in Berkshire, from whence it was thrown out in 1767. Having been spotted by an FSA it was moved in about 1845 to Stone and restored.

Stone, Buckinghamshire, Church of St John the Baptist, Font 

The font in Stone Church
The stem is nineteenth century

Image: Eric Hardy on Flikriver.com

There is a technical description of it, and the other carvings of the same era in the church, at St John the Baptist, Stone, Buckinghamshire · The Corpus of Romanesque Sculpture in Britain and Ireland

The real questiuon that arises is that of how to interpret the sculpture. This is set out  at the following site, with links to both of the alternatives set out by scholars, at Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society - Font at Stone

Carving on the font at Stone
The panel with figures - Heracles or Christ?

Image: Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society

Ellen Ettinger's article from 1964, arguing that the image originates with the story of Heracles, can also be read at THE FONT AT STONE* - Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society

However the information on display in the church follows the interpretation of the late Mary Curtis Webb in her study Ideas and Images in 12th century sculpture, and which is linked to from the first site.

I am much more inclined to accept her interpretation, which can be summarised as follows. She dates the font to 1140-50 and produced under the influence of Reading Abbey, founded by King Henry I  with Hugh of Boves as its first Abbot from 1123. A Cluniac monk he had studied under Anselm of Laon - for whom see Sir Richard Southern's first volume on Medieval Humanism and Christian culture - and was especially indebted to the ideas of High of St Victor of whose De Sacramentis Christianae Fidei there were three copies at Reading and one at its daughter house at Leominster. This states that "There are two works under which all things may be subsumed: these are the Work of Foundation (or Creation) and the Work of Restoration ( or Salvation)." 

The interlace patterns represent the Cosmic harmony of macrocosm and microcosm, and ideas deriving from Boethius' translation of the Introduction to Arithmetic of Nicomachus of Gerasa and Plato's Timaeus

The panel with figures derives from St Gregory's Moralia in Job  and the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus. This is the ransom theory of Salvation whereby God deceived Satan with the bait of mortal flesh, whereby the Evil One was caught on the " Hook of Divinity." Each detail on the font is to be found in early versions of the Gospel of Nicodemus.

The naked figure of Christ descends alone to Hades, where He encounters two aspects of Hell - Death as a Wolf and Satan as a Dragon. Christ offers His left hand as bait to the jaws of the dragon whilst He points with his knife at Leviathan rising for the triple bait. Leviathan is fated to have his flesh sold  as meat in the streets of Jerusalem at the coming of the Messiah.

A salamander representing the powere of Christ to withstand teh fires of temptation nestles against teh leg of the Redeemerv who tramples the serpent (the Tempter) underfoot. Meanwhile the "Dear Bird from Heaven" - from the Anglo-Saxon poem of Cynewulf  - pecks at the monster.

Adam, wearing the "Helmet of Salvation" stands on aleaf between God Incarnate and the Devil - a frerence to St Gregory's comment in the Moralia "What is man but a leaf who fell from Paradise from the Tree (of Life)"

The large bread roll being regurgitated by the Wolf, the jaws of Death, is a reference to afourth century  hymn of St Ephraim " To others he multiplied bread but my bread from my mouth  he steals it " There was avolume of St Ephraim's writings in the Reading Abbey library.

In the second half of the twelfth century the Cur Deus Homo of St Anselm (d. 1109) and the rising interest in Aristotle displaced the thought of Plato and Number theory, and theology moved in new fditrections, other than those of the makers of this font.

On this approach the font does indicate the complex level of theology that was being made available to rural parishes in the mid-twelfth century through the patronage and influence of monastic houses. I presume that it was painted originally, which would have enabled teh ideass to be brought out more distictly.

Being abear of small brain I am having difficulty transferring the photographs I took with my mobile phone to the blog - if I can do so I will post again about this remarkable font.

From Stone we went through Wendover and Hale, the birthplace of John Colet, to my friend's house for lunch with him and his wife and children - which was very agreeable indeed.

On the way back to drop me off for the Oxford bus we stopped to look at the church of St Mary in Haddenham. This has an impressive thirteenth century tower and work of several succeeding centuries. This may in part reflect the fact that the manor belonged to the cathedral priory at Rochester in the middle ages.

St. Mary the Virgin, Haddenham

St mary the Virgin Haddenham


The church is adjacent to - indeed rises above - a duck pond which is, as I understood it, home to a flock of true Aylesbury ducks.

Image: myblog.uk.co

There are also some fine examples of both timberframing and of the local building material wychert, a type of cob construction. It is one of only three wychert (or whitchet) villages. Wychert describes a method of construction using a white clay mixed with straw to make walls and buildings, which are then thatched or topped with red clay tiles.

A fifteenth century house next to the church


This was a most enjoyable day out, seeing friends I value and places of historic interest in pleasant countryside illuminated by the spring sunshine.

The Queen and the Order of Australia

Both the Special Correspondent and the BBC News website had picked up the story of H.M. The Queen investing Prince Philip with his Knighthood of the Order of Australia the other day. The illustrated BBC report can be seen at Queen presents Prince Philip with Australian knighthood.

This - typically one might add - efers to the controversy the appointment raised in Australia. I cannot see why such an award should do so - it is, after all, the norm for the Monarch or head of state and their family to hold or be awarded national honours. I wonder if the furore has more to do not only with the rather languishing (as I understand it) Australian republican tradition but also with political rivalries and kealousies arounf Tony Abbott who as Australian Prime minister make no secret of his strong support for the monarchy.

The insignia of a Knight of the Order of Australia
Images:twitter.com/British Monarchy/ & Press Association

Thursday 23 April 2015

St George in Yorkshire wall paintings

If my previous post indicated something of the surviving glass images of St George - and as the national patron saint he would have been a very popular subject in the later middle ages - this post is to point to two sizeable paintigs which survive - with some restoration - in my home county of Yorkshire. As a way of depicting St George they were no doubt again two amongst many.

Both are is very intersting churches in small, historic towns in the North Riding.

At St Gregory's in Bedale is this fine painting on the wall of the north aisle. Somewhat unusually St George is depicted left handed. I wonder if the cartoon, if that was how the painting was prepared, had been reversed for some reason.




The second example is perhaps better known. It lies to the east, in SS Peter and Paul pickering, whic is well known for its mural paintings. Again it is the size of the painting which suggests the prominanc eof devotion to the sain in later medieval practice.



St George - some medieval glass images

Rev Gordon Plumb has posted the following selection of medieval English stained glass depictions of St George from his collection of photographs on the Medieval Religion discussion group site:

Leicester, Jewry Wall Museum, very late 15thC.:

Wells Cathedral, nII, 2b-3b:

St Winnow, St Winnow, Cornwall, sII, 5a-7a:

Heydour, St Michael, nII, 2b:

Stanford-on-Avon, St Nicholas, Northamptonshire, sVI, 2a:

Long Sutton, St Mary, Lincs, sVI, 2b-3b:

Doddiscombsleigh, St Michael, Devon, nIV, 2b:

Barton upon Humber, St Peter, formerly in East window, now in store with English Heritage awaiting conservation (when they can afford it!)

Oxford, Merton College, West window:

Fairford, St Mary, Gloucs. nVIII, B2:

Bowness on Windermere, St Martin, East window, 2b-4b:

York Minster, nXVIII, 2a (reconstructed 15thC. figure):

York Minster, nXVII, 2a:

Raising one's hat for St George

My attention was drawn to the existence of this early sixteenth century hat badge with the image of St George by Dr Steve Gunn in his fascinating series of Ford Lectures last term.

Hat badge with St. George and the dragon, Flemish , c. 1520. Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth IISt George, 1520 The Royal, Dragons 1520, Hats Badges, Jewelry, Collection Trust, Royal Collection, C 1520, Flemish

Image;pininterest.com/Royal Collection Trust

The badge is in the Royal Collection, although not recorded there earlier than the reign of King George IV. It is usually presumed to have been made for or owned by King Henry VIII, or possibly one of the Knights of the Garter he created, but the following desdcription from the Royal Collection Trust website offers an alternative theory:

High-relief figure of St. George on horseback, facing right, slaying the dragon. He holds a sword with seed-pearl handle high over his head. 'Crimped' gold ribbons and crescents form a pattern on his opaque blue-grey armour and on the translucent red enamel of the horse's caparison. The dragon below is covered with opaque blue and white enamel and has yellow legs and claws. In the background to the left is a walled town in opaque white and blue. To the right is the Princess, kneeling in prayer and wearing an opaque grey dress. The scene is surrounded by a raised frame with scale-like ornament in black enamel and gold.

The reverse has arabesque-style ornament of 'crimped' gold ribbons inset with stylised gold rosettes on translucent green enamel. There are large areas of loss to the enamel on the surrounding frame; parts of the dragon have been restored with cold enamel.

This jewel has long been identified as belonging to a homogeneous group of small gold reliefs (émail en ronde bosse), distinguished by their style and enamelling technique. The workshop where the pieces were made can be dated c.1500-20 and several hypotheses exist regarding location, ranging from Spain and southern Germany to the Danube region. More recent and convincing are arguments ascribing the group to the Southern Netherlands in the wake of the great Burgundian tradition of enamelling.

The badge reveals an unusual iconography. St George is usually represented as a young beardless knight with helmet. Here he has a full beard and an abundance of richly curled hair. These features correspond almost exactly to those of Frederick Barbarossa (r.1152-90), as shown in the print on the title page of his biography written by Johannes Adelphus and published by Johannes Grunung in Strasburg in 1520. In this book, which was reprinted eight times between 1520 and 1629, Barbarossa is depicted as the epitome of the virtuous knightly warrior-emperor. The book appeared at a moment of Humanist interest in the glories of the Staufer emperors and encouraged by Maximilian I of Habsburg, Holy Roman Emperor (r.1493-1519), to enhance his own political status. After his marriage to Maria of Burgundy in 1477 Maximilian I became ruler of the Southern Netherlands. In the light of this sixteenth century revival, it may be that this representation of St George, with the features of the great emperor, was intentional. Moreover, Maximilian himself was referred to as der letzte Ritter (the last warrior) and was frequently commemorated 'in the guise of the gallant St George in armour'.

Maximilian died in 1519 and it is known that Charles V, his grandson and successor, was in Antwerp in 1520. It is just possible that this badge was executed on this occasion as a means of honouring the Habsburgs by alluding to the virtues of their Staufer predecessors and their imperial ideal.

The link with Maximilian is strengthened by a curious tradition attached to this jewel: it was known as the 'Holbein George' and was traditionally believed to have been worn by Henry VIII. There is no means of verifying the tradition that this was the 'riche brooch with ye image of sainet George' worn by Henry VIII which may have been presented to him by Maximilian. There is, however, no evidence that any of Henry VIII's jewellery has survived in the Royal Collection and the tradition may have become attached to the jewel while in private ownership.

Whilst it is not known when the badge entered the Royal Collection, it is exactly the type of jewel George IV acquired from Rundell, Bridge & Rundell the Royal goldsmiths from 1797 to 1840. It was probably the 'curious ancient enamelled Badge of the Garter, in glass case' listed in an inventory of jewels at Windsor Castle in 1830 and the 'ancient Badge Tudor' recorded there in 1837.

Text adapted from Ancient and Modern Gems and Jewels in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen, London, 2008


Whilst it is not known when the badge entered the Royal Collection, it is exactly the type of jewel George IV acquired from Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, the Royal goldsmiths from 1797 to 1840. Possibly the 'curious ancient enamelled Badge of the Garter, ... in glass case' listed at Windsor Castle in 1830 (WCIJ 1830, f.13) and the 'ancient Badge Tudor' recorded there in 1837 (QVIJ 1837, f. 3).

By tradition Henry VIII; first apparently recorded in the Royal Collection in 1830 (copy list by Rundell, Bridge & Co, 16 September 1830 RCIN 1114749, fig.13)

Image; pinterest.com/Royal Collection Trust website

Whether it was made for King Henry VIII or for one of the Habsburg Emperors, both of whom were Knights of the Garter, it is clear that King Henry VIII was a keen devotee of St George. It was in his reign that the chapel of St Heorge was completed at Windsor in 1528, the same period that the King issued coins bearing the image of St George - the gold George Noble - a device not used again intil the end of the reign of King George III. It is from the King reign that there survives the splendid Black Book of the Order of the Garter, that the King chartered teh Guild of St George that evolve dinto the Honorable Artillery Company, and the King chose to be buried at the chapel of St George in Windsor.

My previous posts about St George and his cult can be viewed at  St George's Day, Orders of the Day, Hymn to St George from 2010, St George from 2011, St George and the Dragon, St George at Fordington from 2012, Praying to St George, St George in art - dragon slaying and martyrdom, Relics of St George, St George Altarpiece, Medieval Wall paintings uncovered in Wales from 2013, The Martyrdom of St George, Devotion to St George and English Iconoclasm II - the fate of the cult of St George from last year.

St George pray for us

Tuesday 21 April 2015

Happy Birthday Ma'am

Today is the 89th birthday of Her Majesty The Queen, and this post is to express my loyal greetings and warmest good wishes for the anniversary.

Monday 20 April 2015

St Alphege

A series of posts on the Medieval Religion discussion group marked the fact that yesterday, April 19th, was, or woulld have been had it not been Sunday, the feast of St Ællfheah or Alphege, born c.953 and martyred by the Danes at Greenwich in 1012. I have a previous post about him and his cult, written for the millennium of his martyrdom in 2012, atSt Alphege. There is an online account of his life and career here.

Matt Heinzelman posted as follows:
Ælfheah was the first Archbishop of Canterbury to die a violent death. A contemporary report tells that Thorkell the Tall attempted to save Ælfheah from the mob about to kill him by offering them everything he owned except for his ship, in exchange for Ælfheah's life; Thorkell's presence is not mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, however. Some sources record that the final blow, with the back of an axe, was delivered as an act of kindness by a Christian convert known as "Thrum."

Jane Stemp Wickendon posted:
This is the Peterborough chronicle variant on the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle:

"And in this year, between the Nativity of St Mary and Michaelmas they besieged Canterbury, and got inside through treachery, because Aelfmaer, whose life Archbishop Aelfheah had earlier saved, betrayed Canterbury to them. And there they seized the archbishop Aelfheah, and Aelfweard the king's reeve, and Abbot Leofwine, and Bishop Godwine - and they let Abbot Aelfmaer go free. And they seized all ordained people, both men and women, in there - and it is impossible for any man to say how much of the people that was - and afterwards were in the town as long as they wanted; and when they had thoroughly searched it, then they turned to the ships, and led the archbishop with them.

Then he who was earlier the head of the English race and of Christendom was a roped thing. There wretchedness might be seen where earlier was seen bliss, in that wretched town from where there first came to us Christendom and bliss before God and before the world.

And they kept the archbishop with them up until the time when they martyred him."

Rev. Gordon Plumb posted these images from the windows at Canterbury Cathedral, Nt IX, dedicated to the saint's life [For larger views click on the links at bottom right]:


Three panels illustrating the martyrdom of St Alphege by the Danes. The ornament is extremely well preserved, and the figured panels are the best preserved of these series, with the upper one showing the siege of Canterbury being especially well preserved. The lower right panel of the Massacre by the Danes is heavily restored.

Detail of the Siege of Canterbury:


A wonderful panel of c.1180, showing the siege of Canterbury in 1011 by the Danes. Eventually the city fell and seven months later the Danes killed Alphege the Archbishop when the ransom demanded was not paid.

Detail of Alphege being taken aboard a Danish ship:


Detail of the martyrdom of St Alphege by the Danes:


Friday 17 April 2015

Distrusting the National Trust

The Special Correspondent has forwarded me these two links to posts on Art History News about the latest idiocies that appear to be taking hold over policy makers at the National Trust. The posts can be read at


Whatever its cause - fashion, middle-class cultural guilt, political correctness or simple old-fashioned stupidity - such ideas do no credit to the Trust, and offer no incentive to join it, or even visit it's very fine properties.

Fire in Oxford

My life, and that of many other Oxonians was slightly disturbed this evening by the fire at the Randolph Hotel at teatime. With fortunately no serious injuries the presence of fire engines and other emergency services required road and pavement closures, and for me required a detour on the way to Mass. 

I had seen the smoke belching and billowing from the roof as I walked along Cornmarket and again as I crossed Beaumont Street, where you could smell the fire, reminiscent of an autumn bonfire.

For the record the BBC News report about the fire can be seen at Oxford's five-star Randolph Hotel hit by fire.

Thursday 16 April 2015

The burning of Robert Ferrar

March 30th was the 460th anniversary of the burning at the stake in Carmarthen market place of Robert Ferrar, the Edwardian Bishop of St David's, in 1555. I missed the precise anniversary as it fell in Holy Week.

A posthumous portrait of Robert Ferrar c.1504-1555

Image: tudorplace.org
My interest in Ferrar arises from the fact that he was the last Prior of Nostell in my home area, and as I am writing this in the Oxford Union I am virtually on the site of St Mary's College where he would have studied as an Augustinian canon - St Mary's was their house of study in Oxford. Ferrar's career as a bishop in Wales was troubled - he clearly became entangledin the internecine politics of the chapter and diocese at St Davids in his early years in the diocese under King Edward VI, and ended up being detained in London. His marriage led to his deposition under Queen Mary, his death a result of his views on Transubstantiation.

There is an online introduction to his life at Robert Ferrar and there is another from the website Tudor Place here.

John Foxe's account of Ferrar, citing original texts (something Foxe was very good at doing) in the Book of Martyrs  can be read at Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 276. ROBERT FERRAR

There is a short note about him from John Cannon's Oxford Companion to British History which can be read here.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry about him is the most detailed and modern academic account. It is by Glanmor Williams and can be read here.

Wednesday 15 April 2015

A day in the City of London

Yesterday I joined other members of Oxford University Heraldry Society on a visit to London.

I took the train to Paddington, and was struck once again on the journey by the ugliness of electrification - it does nothing at all for the landscape. The third rail method is far more desirable on visual grounds.

Having got that off my chest, back to the day in London. We met at All Hallows-by-the-Tower (sometimes known in the past as All Hallows Barking because the advowson belonged to the Essex abbey)


All Hallows-by-the-Tower

Image: lqg.org.uk

It is one of eight City churches that survived the Great Fire of 1666, but it was bombed in the Second World War and subsequently restored in that somewhat peculiar way that was adopted for many of the City churches in that instead of reconstructing the church as it had been the architects were given something of a free hand and allowed in part to produce an adaptation of the previous work. The spire is, for example, a post WWII addition - and works well. I am less sure about the design of the east window. Nevertheless it is a handsome building, rich in historic associations.

It is claimed as the oldest church in London, and in the crypt, is a pavement of Roman date from the second century:

Roman pavement in the crypt


The crypt has a fascinating display of Roman and Anglo-Saxon remains from the site and others in the City as well as a model of Roman London.


At the west end is the oldest surviving piece of church building in London, a Saxon arch dated to about 675 or possibly a bit later. Built of stone and Roman tiles it is an impressive link to the early history of Christian London.

Richard II altar in the crypt

An altar in the crypt from the Holy Land from the Crusader era

Under the patronage of King Edward I it became a noted Marian shrine, and particularly enjoyed the patronage of the Yorkist kings, and was rebuilt in the reign of King Edward IV, and hence the style adopted for the modern rebuilding.

Evyngar memorial brass, 1533

Evyngar brass 1533


Being close to the site of the scaffold on Tower Hill it was occasionally the burial place of victims of the headsman, including, briefly, St John Fisher and until his removal to Oxford at the Restoration of Archbishop William Laud. It has strong American associations being the place of baptism of William
Penn and where John Quincy Adams was married whilst serving as US Ambassador to the Court of St James.

The Grinling Gibbons font cover

 The font cover by Grinling Gibbons


The modern stained glass is rich in armorials - hence our visit from the  OU Heraldry Society.

There is more about the church and its history at the online article All Hallows-by-the-Tower

A short taxi ride took us to Armoury House, the home of the Honourable Artillery Company. Their website can be seen at Honourable Artillery Company and there is another history and account of them at  Honourable Artillery Company

They are the oldest Regiment in the British Army, originating as Guild of St George, and apparently drawing upon earlier antecedents, chartered by King Henry VIII in August 1537. Because of their similar date of foundation they maintain fraternal links with the Papal Swiss Guard.
In addition to being a Territorial or Reserve Regiment, who also who fire gun salutes at the Tower of London on appropriate occasions, and a force of Special Constables in the City of London, they also maintain the ceremonial Company of Pikemen and Musketeers, established in 1925  who parade in seventeenth century style armour and uniform on appropriate occasions and a Light Cavalry who provide ceremonial escorts at events such as the Lord Mayor's parade.

HAC shortarms crest.gif

Crest and Motto of the Honourable Artillery Company

Image: Wikipedia

We lunched in the Long Room, part of the oldest part of the complex and built in 1735. After lunch we toured other rooms and the museum and some of us were shown the armoury with the Pikemen and Musketeers armour hanging up ready for their next appearance.

Having finished our tout i walked with another OUHS member back into the City. I had thought of exploring places I had not visited hitherto and he kindly guided me, the country mouse, so to speak. Working our way past the Bank of England, Royal Exchange and Mansion House we went through the impressive Victorian survival of Leadenhall Market to look at the remains of the church of
All Saints or All Hallows Staining. The parish was amalgamated with St Olave Hart Street and the church other than the medieval tower demolished in 1870.

File:City parish churches, All Hallows Staining (remains of) - geograph.org.uk - 559736.jpg

All Hallows Staining

Image: Wikimedia Commons 

The suffix means that the church was built of stone and is apparently a record of the time when other churches with the same dedication were still constructed of timber. There is a history of the church at All Hallows Staining , and there is another one here.


 The church in 1831

Image: ashrare.com 

My friend then took me on to St Olave Hart Street

File:St Olave's Church, Hart Street - City Of London..jpg

The tower of St Olave Hart Street

Image: Wikimedia commons

The is another of the medieval churches that survived the Great Fire, but not the aerial bombardment of 1941. The church of the Clothworkers it has been handsomely, and not too drastically restored. It contains the grave and monument of Samuel Pepys, whose burial took place there in 1703. The striking gateway through which he and Mrs Pepys went to church dates from 1658 and leads into Seething Lane where the Pepys' lived.

As the only surviving church in London dedicated to the patron saint of Norway King Haakon VII laid one of the foundation stones of the rebuilding, and this forms part of the low screen separating the chancel from the nave.

There is an illustrated account of this delightful church with links at St Olave Hart Street and there are more pictures of details and features here.

Before I got the tube back to Paddington from Tower Hill I looked at the subsantial piece of Roman city wall that stands by the entrance to the station, complete with a statue of the Emperor Trajan. This has endured for upwards of nineteen centuries close to the heart of the City - an amazing survival and one that has witnessed so much of the history of London and of England. 

Emporer Trajan and the Old Roman Wall, Tower Hill, London, England

The Emperor Trajan and London Wall


Saturday 11 April 2015

Images of the Resurrection

Following on from my use of paintings by Piero della Francesca in Christ is Risen! Alleluia! and Raffaellino del Gabo in Easter in Oxford   this week two further images of the Resurrection in the Easter edition of the Catholic Herald caught my eye. Both use the same concept as the first two of Christ stepping or arising out of a table tomb.

Andrea Mantegna(c.1431-1506) produced his painting in 1457-59 as a commission as part of an altarpiece for the abbey of San Zeno in Verona, where the main part remains, with portions in Paris and Tours.

Andrea Mantegna Resurrection

Andrea Mantegna The Resurrection 1457-59


  produces a dynamic depiction of the event, but his historicism is evident - he was an assiduous reseacher for the architecvturala nd other features of his paintings. His depiction is slightly earlier than Piero, by about five years.

I am inclined to add that Mantegna's palette seems so often to suggest the menacing light as a thunder storm approaches - the effect is awesome, but not always very comfortable.


Pinturicchio - Bernardo di Betto 1454-1513
In the Borgia apartments of the Vatican, painted for Pope Alexander VI in 1492-1494.

Image; ganino.com

Bernardo di Betto, knoewn as Pinturicchio (1454-1513) was commissioned by Pope Alexander VI to decorate what are now known as the Borgia Apartments in 1492-4. As the link explains recent cleaning of Pinturicchio's fresco "The Resurrection" has revealed a scene which is believed to be the earliest known European depiction of Native Americans, 

This splendid image lacks the physicality of Piero or Mantegna, but is wonderfully joyous and positive. Perhaps best known for the portrait of Pope Alexander VI, who looks very much of the flesh indeed, its rendering of the Resurrection itself does, maybe, make that event perhaps too etherial, too lacking in the gritty realism of Mantegna or Piero.

Friday 10 April 2015

More on the reburial of King Richard III

Whilst we are on the subject of the reburial of King Richard III the Special Correspondent, who has a knack of getting everywhere, received one of the balloted seats for the service in Leicester Cathedral.

He has forwarded to me this tweet about the day from King Richard III (clearly he is in a grave with all mod cons) (@KRIIILeicester)26/03/2015 9:50 am Guests starting to arrive #richardreburied pic.twitter.com/fVtz5zMp0s

He also sent me this link to an article in the New York Times about the events in Leicester, giving an external observer's view of the ceremonies, and which can be read here.

Finally he has sent me this link about the reinterment which can be viewed here.

Requiem Mass for King Richard III in York

Whilst researching the Easter liturgies of the Oratorians in York for a previous post I found the following piece, which I thought I would copy and paste, about their recent commemoration of King Richard III:


There were good numbers of people in St Wilfrid's for the Requiem Mass for King Richard III celebrated by the Rt Rev. Terence Drainey, Bishop of Middlesbrough, on Thursday, 26th March, the day of the reburial of the King's remains in Leicester Cathedral.

The choir sang the Plainchant Requiem Mass very beautifully, words that the King himself would have known and sung. It was his wish that this Mass should be celebrated for him in York and now that request has been fulfilled.


We borrowed a replica of King Richard's Standard of the White Boar to place on the catafalque where the Bishop said the prayers for the dead at the end of the Mass. Many people brought white roses.
Our bells rang fully muffled before and after Mass. This is a privilege reserved to the death of a monarch, and so is rarely heard.

The sermon preached by Fr Richard can be read here.

There are also some excellent photographs taken by a member of the congregation who has kindly agreed to share them in this post.


Images:Graham Tebby/stwilfridsyork.org