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.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

The Translation of St Thomas Becket

Today is the Feast of the Translation of St Thomas Becket, commemorating the removal of his relics into the new shrine in the cathedral at Canterbury in 1220. 

There are posts about that at The Translation of Thomas Becket from the blog Thirteenth century England.and two more from the blog  A Clerk of Oxford, from 2012 A Clerk of Oxford: The Translation of St Thomas Becket and from 2014 A Clerk of Oxford: The Translation of St Thomas Becket. The latter has a good example of the deliberate destruction of the saint's imagery from the roof bosses in the cloisters at Canterbury cathedral.

There is a useful account by J.C.Wall from his Shrines of British Saints, published in 1905, of the shrine and its decoration, with contemporary illustrations and descriptions as well as an account of the Translation of 1220 at  http://www.historyfish.net/shrines/cw_shrines_four4.html#thomas

Shrine of St. Thomas
The Shrine of St. Thomas of Canterbury.   
Cottonian MS., Tib. E. viii. f. 269.

The Translation of 1220 was commemorated later on by the Jubilee of St Thomas, a pilgrimage year every fifty years thereafter - most notably in 1420 when Archbishop Chichele secured it against Papal doubts as to the right of an Archbishop to proclaim a Jubilee year.

The Rev Gordon Plumb posted the following list of images of the saint on the Medieval Religion discussion group last December to mark the feast of St Thomas' martyrdom

York Minster and St Michael-le-Belfrey, York: a series of early 16th century panels, now divided between the Minster and the adjacent church of St Michael, telling the apocryphal life of Thomas Becket, the story doubtless taken from Caxton's translation of the Golden Legend:

York, All Saints' North Street, nV, 1c-2c, sainted Archbishop, probably Becket, 1430-40:

Oxford, Christ Church Cathedral, sVII, B2, Martyrdom of Becket, early 14th century

Yarnton, St Bartholomew, Oxfordshire, nIV, A4, 1400-1420:

Salle, St Peter and St Paul,, Norfolk, sVI, A1 (missing head)  1440--50:

Long Melford, Holy Trinity, Suffolk, nXVII, A3-A4, Becket (with St Edward the Confessor:

Credenhill, St Mary, Herefordshire , sIV alongside St Thomas of Hereford, c.1300:

Warwick, St Mary, Beauchamp Chantry, East window, 2a, 1447-64 b y John Prudde:
detail of head and mitre:

Canterbury Cathedral, Trinity Chapel Ambulatory, nII, image of St Thomas hovering vengefully over the house of Jordan Fitz-Eisulf, post 1213 return from exile of the Canterbury community:
Shot of all the Fitz-Eisulf panels:
These come from the great series of miracle windows depicring the saint's interventions in human affairs, which have survicved in his shrine church despite the odds.

Harpley, St Lawrence, Norfolk, E2, (alongtside St Martin in D3), 15th century.:

And also some in wall paintings:
St Albans, Cathedral and Abbey Church, north nave arcade pier, 3rd quarter of the 14th century 

Pickering, St Peter and St Paul, North Yorkshire, nave north arcade, wall paintings, c.1475 (repainted in 19thC.).:

North Stoke, Oxfordshire, north wall, three knights from martyrdom scene

Given the determined attempt in the 1530s to eradicate the cult of St Thomas it is surprising how many images survived that and later onslaughts and neglect - unless it also shows the ineffectivemess of sixteenth century government at local level. That said the examples which do survive or have been uncovered are moreover an indication of how many more iomage sthere must once have been visible to the eye.

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