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.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Statues at St Wilfrid's in York

The website of St Wilfrid's in York, now in the care of the Oxford Oratorians recently reported a gift of statues to the church from the Poor Clares in the city:

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Visitors to the church will have noticed the new statues in the baptistery and on the altar steps. At least, they are new to St Wilfrid's. They have been in the Poor Clares' monastery in Lawrence Street for 140 years and have been given to us by the nuns now they have moved to their new house at Askham Bryan. We are very grateful to the sisters for their generosity.

The altar of the Sacred Heart was in the church and may be familiar to some people. The statues of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and the Pietà are probably less well-known as they were in the cloister of the monastic enclosure.

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The statues have already attracted a lot of prayerful devotion. We will use the Immaculate Conception statue in May and in December.

If these devotional images seem to fit very well here we should not be surprised. The plinth, altar and niches were designed by George Goldie, the architect of St Wilfrid's, only a few years after St Wilfrid's was opened in 1864. Goldie built a number of other churches in the diocese, including the old cathedral, and a number of churches in Ireland. His practice was in York; he was a parishioner here; and his daughter was one of the first nuns in Lawrence Street. So perhaps these statues were a labour of love. It is right that they should be kept in York.

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Text and images: stwilfridsyork.org.uk

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