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.

Monday 29 February 2016

The Navy Lark

In The Times today there is an opinion piece by Rear Admiral Chris Parry about the importance of NATO rather than the EU to the defence of the UK. Fair enough, but then we come to his concluding paragraph:

" Britain ( as England ) last achieved Brexit under Henry VIII. In declaring itself a sovereign nation, it threw off a corrupt, alien jurisdiction and faced down the military superpowers of the time. Our ancestors did not fear a " leap into the dark". Nor need we."

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear me...

Where does one begin to deal with that little bundle of assumptions, and how long would it take?

Any jobs advertised for teaching History at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth?

St Oswald of Worcester

Today, February 29th, is the feast day of St Oswald of Worcester - it must be a bit disappointing to be a saint and then find you only get observed on your proper day every four days - but I assume, indeed believe, that Saints are above such human foibles.

John Dillon has posted a piece about him on the Medieval Religion discussion group [slightly adapted] :

A leading figure of the tenth-century Benedictine reform in England, Oswald of Worcester (d. 992) was a nephew of St. Oda the Severe, Archbishop of Canterbury, from whom he received some of his early training, and a more distant relative of Oscytel, archbishop of York, who became his patron after Oda's death.  Oswald made his monastic profession at Fleury-sur-Loire and was a monk there until the very early 960s when he was named bishop of Worcester.

At Worcester, though Oswald founded a monastery next to the cathedral he seems not to have converted his chapter into a monastic one (as was alleged in the twelfth century).  He also founded Ramsey Abbey on an island in the fens in Huntingdonshire and re-founded Winchcombe Abbey in his own diocese.  In late 971 or in the first half of 972 Oswald was elevated to the archbishopric of York but kept the much wealthier see of Worcester in plurality, which is where he died.  A cult sprang up almost immediately; its centres were at Worcester and at Ramsey.  Oswald has an early Vita ascribed to Byrhtferth of Ramsey (BHL 6374; between 997 and 1002) and a fuller Vita et Miracula by Eadmer (BHL 6375-76; ca. 1115), who was asked to write it by the monks of Worcester.  His _dies natalis_ is 29. February, as is also his day of commemoration in the Roman Martyrology.

The fifth item here is an expandable view of a page in the later tenth-century so-called Ramsey Psalter (London, BL, Harley MS 2904), said by Nicholas Brooks in his Oxford DNB entry on Oswald (v. 42, pp. 79-84) "likely to have been made for Oswald's own use at York or Worcester":

Harley 2904, f.144

This imposing copy of the Psalms in Jerome’s Gallican version may have been intended for the personal use of Oswald (d. 992), bishop of Worcester and archbishop of York, who profoundly influenced the development of the English church during the second half of the tenth century. It certainly contains liturgical evidence linking it with one of Oswald’s foundations, the Benedictine monastery of Ramsey in Huntingdonshire. The beginning of Psalm 110 (109 in the Vulgate’s numbering) is illustrated with a gold letter D(ixit) (He said) with acanthus plant ornamentation. The decoration of the initial of the first words of certain Psalms became standard in English Psalters, and here is a fine example of the ‘Winchester School’ style of illumination. 

The manuscript in full:


A page of views of the present Worcester Cathedral, which has a Norman crypt and
 is very largely a twelfth- and thirteenth-century building, restored in the nineteenth century :

A view of the remains of Ramsey Abbey's fifteenth-century gatehouse - one of the few fragments surviving of this once famous abbey:

Oswald (at right; at left, an unidentified archbishop) as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century Great West Window in York Minster (c. 1338-1339; photograph courtesy of Gordon Plumb):

Subsequently Gordon Plumb added a picture on the site of a 15th century glass panel at Great Malvern Priory, NIII, with St Oswald shown as Bishop of Worcester:

Friday 26 February 2016

Novena for the canonization of Bl.Dominic Barberi

Today I have started the Novena requested by Archbishop Longley of Birmingham for the canonization of Bl. Dominic Barberi. Bl Dominic is most famous for his reception into the Church of Bl. John Henry Newman in 1845, but that was but one part of a remarkable ministry.

The Archbishop has designated Bl.Dominic as one of the patrons of the Year of Mercy in the Archdiocese and will celebrate Mass for the intention of the canonization at SS John and Paul, the Passionist church in Rome, on Saturday March 5th. 

There is more about it, and also about a relic of Bl Dominic in the form of a letter, on the website of the Oxford Ortaory and which can be seen at Novena for the Canonization of Blessed Dominic Barberi

Thursday 25 February 2016

Academic Dress

The Special Correspondent sent me some information about the journal of the Burgon Society which is now available online. He writes as follows:

The Burgon Society has put many of its journals online, and they’re an excellent resource. Here’s a list of articles I’ve read that I think will interest you as well:

Who may wear the 'Literate's Hood'? Nicholas Groves
Oxford Blues: The Search for the Origins of the Lay Bachelors' Hood. Bruce Christianson
The Regulation of Undergraduate Dress at Oxford and Cambridge, 1660-1832. William Gibson
In the Pink: The Strange Case of Trinity College Dublin. Bruce Christianson
Academic Dress in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. William Gibson
Lambeth Degree Academic Dress. Noel Cox
Doctors' Greens. Bruce Christianson
Masters of Grammar: A Forgotten Degree. Nicholas Groves
Lambeth Academic Dress and the University of London. Graham Zellick

No doubt many other articles will be of interest to you as well.

He followed this up with an additional link to an interesting article from 2010 by William Gibson on how Walter Pope of Wadham remembered helping to save academic dress in Oxford from being abolished by a Puritan Vice-Chacellor in 1658, and which can be read at the link:

Compline with Bishop Schneider at the Oxford Oratory

Last night the Oxford Oratory welcomed Bishop Athanasius Schneider O.R.C., titular bishop of Celerina and auxiliary bishop of the Archbishopric of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Astana, Kazakhstan.


Bishop Schneider at the Oxford Oratory house

Image: Oxford Oratory website

The Bishop, who is well known as a writer and speaker concerned to recall the Church to the beauty and reverence of holiness in life and liturgy, is visiting various churches here during his visit. At the Oratory her presided at Sung Compline and Solemn Benediction, as well as preaching on the centrality of the Cross, its folly and its manifestation of Divine Love. the text of his sermon can be read at Visit of Bishop Schneider

This was a beautiful, austere Lenten celebration of the Office for the end of the day, an occasion to nourish the soul as the season progresses.

 Schneider Compline Poster

Image: Oxford Oratory website

Wednesday 24 February 2016

St John the Baptist

John Dillon posted on the Medieval Religion discussion group about the Orthodox feast of the First and Second Finding of the Head of St John the Baptist, which falls today. I posted about it previously in The First and Second Findings of the Head of St John the Baptist last year, but this year there is an interesting further post from Paul Chandler O, Carm. about a recent discovery that is pertinent to the feast:

Guibert de Nogent (1053-1121) already noted in his Treatise on Relics the existence of several "heads of John the Baptist", one in Constantinople and another in Angers. At the time of composition he did not know of another nearby head of the Baptist which was given to the bishop of Amiens in 1206 and was the occasion for the construction of the cathedral <http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/the-head-of-st-john-the-baptist-at-amiens-cathedral>. There is another in San Silvestro in Capite in Rome, and another in the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, and various others. 

Interestingly, recent archaeological work at the ancient church site of Sveti Ivan (Saint John) near Sozopol in Bulgaria turned up bone fragments in a 5/6th-century marble casket from Constantinople. Surprisingly, carbon-dating assigned a 1st-century date to the bones, and DNA testing a Middle Eastern origin. That does not prove a connection to John the Baptist, of course, but is intriguing. Some non-credulous reports:

    Science Daily:


    Oxford News&Events:

    Archaeology In Bulgaria (illustrations):

Tuesday 23 February 2016


So it's Referendum time again, and the national discussion has already started, and manifested itself  amongst friends at church and in the Oxford Union.

First thing's first - I do not believe in referenda. To say an electorate can make a more or less irrevocable decision on a particular day and enforce that on succeeding generations is very undemocratic. Such constitutional referenda are very different from the direct democracy of Swiss confederal or cantonal votes or Californians propositions. The logic of the binding referendum could extend to saying " Well you elected a Parliament once - why should you change it every five years? " Sorry, we know the line about many newer nations and "Free elections - once ", and referenda are somewhat in that category. Furthermore they are open to manipulation and also to people voting not on the issue on the ballot paper but on something related or possibly vaguely influencing them. by implication there is not going to be a re-run. Yes, I know this one is in a way, but there have been no re-runs of the referenda which abolished the Italian monarchy in 1946 ( and widely recognised as highly dubious to say the very least) or the Greek monarchy in 1974 ( and strictly against the provision sof the 1952 Constitution)

I have always tended to be somewhat Eurosceptic, and certainly sceptical as to the way the EEC and EU were and are run, and I was very much against Eurofederalism. I recall the line of a friend who now works as an advisor in Downing Street to those he suspected to be unsound on such points, "Are you a Eurofederast?", in the Oxford Union in the late 1990s.

That all said I appreciate the vision, based on a common heritage and the notion of Christendom, or even of the post-1815 Congress system of Europe acting in concert.

That and the state of the world today inclines me to vote to remain within the EU. 

In some ways the situation is similar to that of the high medieval church - if the Euro was its Unam Sanctam, then was the Euro crisis its Anagni?  ( I assume all readers appreciate those references...)

The Prime Minister does look to have failed to get very much in his negotiations that makes a significant change, and thos eof his Cabinet who say they back his line but without enthusiasm for the EU are, I suspect, about right.

We hear talk of possible new domestic legislation on sovereignty, but that pass was sold in the 1972 Act of Accession; it may well be too late now to do anything about that on an individual basis within the EU

There seems to me to have been a serious and continuing failure to build up alliances within the EU and to have worked for an evolving process of reform and decentralisation. Being the Awkward Man of Europe has not helped the UK's image, and failing to respond as positively as we should have done to the post-1989 situation in central Europe was a major mistake. We should have played a founding part in the process, not, as Churchill and Eden seem to have thought, telling Europe to unite as though the landmass twenty miles from Dover had nothing to do with us. Fog in the Channel does not cut Europe off.

Some European commentators see what is being offered as bad if the EU then get others doing the same, and worse if it leads to a break-up, initiated by a Brexit.

So my instinct is to stay - not least because it is a cold world out there, and we should huddle with our friends. There is also the crucial question regarding Scotland, and the threat of the ris eof seperatism there if they vote to remain and the English vote to leave and take the rest of the UK out of the EU. That is, of course, the fault of having the 2014 Scottish referendum.

Those who urge one to vote Leave need to show what positive alternative they can offer that is not merely a romantic return to the 1950s and the remains of Imperial Preference or that will make us too close to Uncle Sam.

The whole thing makes the political future uncertain in many ways whatever result. Could this do for the Conservatives what Tarriff Reform did in 1903-5?And a final thought harking back once again to the 1950s - is this going to be David Cameron's Suez?


Ever since I first heard its story on television as a small boy I have been interested by the history and fate of Dunwich, the once sizeable Suffolk town which has been inexorably washed away by the North Sea.

Last Monday The Times had a report on the latest survey of the engulfed areas of the town. that I cannot link to, being unavailable without a subscription. However I have found a report on the latest work at http://www.touchingthetide.org.uk/our-projects/underwater-dunwich/ and there is a website devoted to the town and its history at Dunwich - The search for Britain's Atlantis

The Wikipedia article Dunwich is also a useful account, and like the others illustrated.

dunwich map 
The present village and the lost town of Dunwich

Image: dunwich.org

All Saints Church 1736 All Saints Church 1750 All Saints Church 1780 All Saints Church 1903 All Saints Church 1905 All Saints Church 1910 All Saints Church 1912 All Saints Church 1930
The demise of All Saints church Dunwich. The decay and collapse of this the last of the town churches, epitomizes the decay of Dunwich in the late 18th to early 20th centuries. The ruins
attracted the attention of artists (including Turner), writers and poets. The ruins of All Saints now lie covered by the inner sand bank with some exposed in the gully that lies between the beach and the bank.

Image: dunwich.org

Like the lost towns and villages of the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire coasts the story of Dunwich is a reminder of how the coastline has changed in historic time.

Ember Saturday at Caversham

Last Saturday I went with a friend to the Mass for the Saturday in the Ember Week at the Catholic church in Caversham. This is the present shrine church for devotion to Our Lady of Caversham, a revived and restored place of pilgrimage, which appears to have originated as such soon after the Norman Conquest.

I went in 2013 to this liturgy and it was a pleasure to be able to do so again. On this occasion the celebrant of the High Mass was Fr Anthony Conlon, assisted by Fr Ian Verrier FSSP as Deacon and Rev. Keith Crocker as Sub-Deacon.

Dr Joe Shaw's LMS Chairman blog has an illustrated account of the Mass at Pilgrimage to Caversham

The journey to and from Caversham as well as the Mass itself and the opportunity to pray at the Shrine of Our Lady madce this a most enjoyable way to spend part of Saturday.

The previous Wednesday I had been able to attend the Ember Day Mass at SS Gregory and Augustine in north Oxford.

There are online articles about the Ember Days and their historyfrom Wikipedia at Ember days
and from the Catholic Encyclopedia at Ember Days - New Advent

Such quarterly days of prayer and fasting, one for each of the seasons, and originating in the harvests of the Mediterranean world seem an eminently laudable practice.  The loss from the modern calendar of such ancient custom, a casualty of liturgical change, seems pointless. One might well ask why they were not retained as seasonal fasting days of prayer, and why they should not br reintroduced, rather than left to the EF Missal and groups such as the Ordinariate.

Friday 19 February 2016


Fr Blake has a thoughtful post on his blog about the Pope and the way the Vatican behaves which has a topical beginning and which can be read at Walls

Thursday 18 February 2016

The Pope and the Patriarch

New Catholic at RORATE CÆLI, not known for his enthusiasm for the present Pontificate, has a post today about the meeting last week between the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow which gives a good historical background to the relationships between the See of Rome and the Orthodox Patriarchates.

The article can be read at "The 'historical' meeting between Francis and Kirill"

Tuesday 16 February 2016

Timely observations from St Bede

I was struck by how apposite to church life today are some of the comments in the following extract from a homily by St Bede, who died in 735. It might suggest that early eighth century Northumbrian churchmen and congregations were as fallible as their twenty-first century descendants and successors.

Here is what St Bede had to say - I have highlighted the passage which struck me.

" When the Lord first shewed forth in a figure by cursing the barren fig tree, he afterwards put before us in action even more plainly by casting the profaners out of the temple. The tree was not guilty because of her fruitlessness at this time when the Lord was hungry, for the time of figs was not yet come. But those priests were guilty because they carried on worldly business in the Lord's house, and thereby neglected to bring forth that fruit of godliness which was due, and which the Lord was hungry to find in them. The Lord made the fig tree to wither away under his curse, that all men who saw it, and all men who hear of it, might know that they will be condemned by the judgment of God, if they content themselves with the sound of good works, without the solid fruit of good works, after the fashion of that barren fig tree which gave pleasant shade and the rustle of green leaves, without the solid fruit, of which those leaves were wont to be an evidence.

But because the buyers and sellers heeded not the parable of the barren fig tree, the Lord visited them with the righteous indignation which they deserved, and cast out the traffickers in earthly things from that house. For it had been commanded that nothing should be done therein save the work of God, to wit, the offering to him of sacrifices and prayers, and the reading, teaching, and singing of his Word. Yet we may well believe that nothing was sold or bought in the temple save things needful to the service thereof, as we read in another place, that when Jesus went into the temple he found them that sold oxen and sheep and doves. For we are certainly given to understand that it was the worshippers from afar who, from the inhabitants of the place, bought such things as were needful for sacrifice in the Lord's house.

Therefore, if the Lord would not suffer even so much as the buying and selling in the temple of those things which he willed to be offered in sacrifice therein (and this, no doubt, on account of the greed and cheating which so often accompany buying and selling), with what severity, suppose ye, would he visit such as he might find idling away the time of worship in laughter, or in gossip, or in any other sin? If the Lord will not suffer to be carried on in his house such worldly business as may be freely done elsewhere, how much more shall such things as ought never to be done anywhere, draw down the anger of God if they be done in his own holy house? The words: Them that sold doves: do remind us that the Holy Ghost was given unto the Lord in the shape of a dove, and by doves therefore we are reminded of the gifts of the Holy Ghost. They, then, to this day sell doves in the temple of God, who take money in the Church for the laying on of their hands, whereby the Holy Ghost is given from heaven."

Friday 12 February 2016

Three Years Later

Lawrence England of the blog That the Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill, and Chairman of the Guild of St Titus Brandsma, has a thoughtful piece on the blog of the latter organisation to mark the third anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI announcing his abdication, and providing Lawrence's interpretation of what has happened in the ensuing period.

It can be read at  http://guildofblessedtitus.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/three-years-later.html

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Traditional Rule of Fasting and Abstinence

As we begin Lent a friend has forwarded to me, as part of the answer to another friend's enquiry, the traditional rules on Fasting and Abstinence as well as the current ones. They are taken from the website of the SSPX in the US and can be read at http://sspx.org/en/rules-fast-and-abstinence

Almost at the same time yet another friend sent me from the same website the following comments from Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre on the same subject: http://sspx.org/en/archbishop-lefebvre-on-fasting-and-abstinence-1982

A while ago an Oratorian friend made the good point that dietary practices have changed with the times. In an age of central heating and better domestic insulation and similar conveniences, together with far less in the way of demanding physical work, we eat less because we no longer need to ingest so much fuel to keep warm. Add to that our concern to be healthy, to diet and to lose weight, and we end up eating normally what was formerly seen as being a fasting meal.The age of three substantial cooked meals a day, not untypical a century ago, would seem like gross over-indulgence to many today. Even where it survives in a modified form - such as an Oxford college - it is there to cater to and for young people burning up calories on the river or sports field.

Whilist thinking of how to observe Lent last Momday Peter Kwasniewski at New Liturgical Movement had a good post which is well worth looking at and entitled Things That Remit Venial Sins — The Traditional Liturgy Is Full of Them

Saturday 6 February 2016

St Dorothea

Today is the feast day of St Dorothea of Caesarea.

There is an  article with a section on her veneration and cult together with illustrations at Dorothea of Caesarea

John Dillon posted as follows on the Medieval religion discussion group:

Though her legend is reasonably well known (it was widely popular in the later Middle Ages), the historical Dorothea of Caesarea in Cappadocia is a cipher.  Her earliest mention occurs under today's date in the late sixth- or early seventh-century (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology, where of course no details are provided and where even her association with Caesarea in Cappadocia is found only in the martyrology's later Recension B.  The details first appear in St. Aldhelm's late seventh- or very early eighth-century prose De virginitate and are in essence a retelling of the legend of the earlier attested Dorothea of Alexandria in Egypt (not celebrated liturgically as a saint), about whom one first hears in Rufinus' early fifth-century additions to Eusebius' Historia ecclesiastica.  On the other hand, Dorothea of Caesarea in Cappadocia's entry in the (ps.-)HM seems to have furnished the legend with its secondary martyr Theophilus Scholasticus, as he's present there in the names immediately following hers (Epternach version: dorotae teofili scolastici) but absent from Rufinus' account of Dorothea of Alexandria.  The apples and the roses (later and more generically, flowers) that become Dorothea's characteristic attribute make their first appearance in the ninth-century martyrology of St. Rabanus Maurus and the six-year-old boy whom brings them to Theophilus makes his first appearance in the also ninth-century martyrology of St. Ado of Vienne. The basket containing these gifts is an even later development. The basket containing the dog Toto belongs to another Dorothy altogether. 

Some medieval images of Dorothea of Caesarea in Cappadocia:

a) Dorothea as depicted in the early twelfth-century mosaics of Grado's four female saints in the cupola di San Leonardo of the basilica cattedrale di San Marco in Venice:

b) Dorothea as depicted (at right; on the wing at left, St. Mary Magdalene) by Ambrogio Lorenzetti on a wing of an earlier fourteenth-century triptych (c. 1325) in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena:

c) Dorothea as depicted in the late fourteenth- or early fifteenth-century frescoes of the rupestrian chiesa / cripta di Santa Croce ai Lagnoni in Andria (BT) in Apulia:

d) Dorothea's hand holding a basket as portrayed on a fifteenth-century arm reliquary in the treasury of the Catedral Primada Santa María in Toledo:

e) Dorothea as portrayed in an early fifteenth-century limewood statue with traces of polychrome (c. 1410-1420) in the Magyar Nemzeti Galéria in Budapest:

f) Dorothea as depicted (at upper left in the central panel) by the Elder Master of the Holy Kinship in an early fifteenth-century triptych of the BVM and female saints (c. 1410-1420) in the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin:

Detail view:

g) Dorothea as portrayed by Francesco di Valdambrino in an earlier fifteenth-century polychromed wood statue (1420s) in the Szépmûvészeti Múzeum in Budapest:

h) Dorothea as depicted in a full-page miniature by the Master of Zweder van Culemborg in an earlier fifteenth-century book of hours for the Use of Utrecht (c. 1430-1435; Amsterdam, KB, ms. 79 K 2, fol. 130v):

i) Dorothea as portrayed in a silver and silver gilt statuette in an earlier fifteenth-century silver monstrance (c. 1430-1440), set with precious stones, in the Historisches Museum Basel:

j) Dorothea as depicted in the earlier fifteenth-century prayer book of Bishop Leonhard von Laymingen of Passau (c. 1440; Baltimore, Walters Art Museum, ms. W.163, fol. 170r):

k) Dorothea at left (at right, St. Catherine of Alexandria) as depicted by the Master of the Darmstadt Passion in an earlier fifteenth-century panel painting (c. 1440) in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon (in a late medieval interpretation reflected here the boy who serves as Dorothy's messenger is the young Jesus):

l) Dorothea as depicted in the earlier fifteenth-century Hours of Catherine of Cleves (c. 1440; New York, The Morgan Library and Museum, Morgan MS M.917, p. 302):

m) Dorothea as depicted (second from right) in a set of mid-fifteenth-century glass window lancets (c. 1440-1446; from the former Carmelite church in Boppard am Rhein) in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York [for much higher resolution click on the image]:
Detail view (Dorothea):

Saint Dorothea with a basket of roses

The Metropolitan Museum's page on these lancets:

n) Dorothea as depicted in a mid-fifteenth-century glass window of upper Rhine origin in the Musée national du Moyen Age (Musée de Cluny) in Paris:

o) Dorothea as depicted in a later fifteenth-century fresco in the now deconsecrated church of San Pietro at Carpignano Sesia (NO) in Piedmont:

p) Dorothea as depicted in a later fifteenth-century fresco (1470s) on the apsidal arch of the chiesa di San Giacomo in Ortisei / Urtijëi / St. Ulrich (BZ) in the South Tirol's Val Gardena:

q) Dorothea as depicted in a late fifteenth-century tapestry of the BVM and female saints from the former Carmelite church in Boppard am Rhein, now in the Burrell Collection in Glasgow:
The tapestry as a whole:

r) Dorothea as depicted (at right) on a shutter (closed position) of a late fifteenth-century private devotional shrine of Swabian origin (c. 1490) in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York:

The object as a whole [for much higher resolution click on the image]:

s) Dorothea as depicted in a fifteenth- or sixteenth-century book of hours for the Use of Sarum (Riom, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 76, fol. 37v):

t) Dorothea as portrayed in a late fifteenth- or early sixteenth-century originally polychromed limewood statue from Arlesheim (Kanton Basel) now in the Historisches Museum Basel:

Hl. Dorothea

u) Dorothea as portrayed by Andrea della Robbia in a late fifteenth- or early sixteenth-century terra cotta statue in the Bode Museum in Berlin:

v) Dorothea as depicted (second from right) on the earlier sixteenth-century chancel screen in the church of St. Mary, North Tuddenham in Norfolk:

Detail view (Dorothea):

w) Dorothea as depicted (at right; at left, St. Peter) by the Master of the Saint Bartholomew Altarpiece in a fragment of that work (c. 1505-1510; central panel in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich) in the National Gallery in London:

Fixed size image

Detail view (Dorothea):

x) Dorothea as depicted in an early sixteenth-century wall painting (c. 1510) in Nibe kirke, Nibe (Aalborg Kommune) in Nordjylland:

Friday 5 February 2016

The Prince of Liechtenstein at the Oxford Union

This evening I went to hear the Prince of Liechtenstein speak at the Oxford Union. H.S.H Prince Hans-Adam II was speaking about his view of how government worked in the Principality and how that might be employed elsewhere.

He began by making the point that if we look at the state model we need to look to the past to plan for the future. Globalisation and science offer ways for that future. For that there is a need to ensure peace, to have a system that serves all the people with maximum democracy and the rule of law

The State has therefore to be a service company, and emigration by those who feel disenfranchised or disengaged is not the answer. There are he considers groups in free countries who feel oppressed - in Northern Ireland, the Basques, the people of South Tyrol, the aborigines of Australia, the indigenous natives of North and South America.

For the Prince the splitting of the Swiss canton of Berne in 1974 to create a separate canton of Jura was an inspiring example of self determination at local level.

Under the Liechtenstein constitution all 11 units of locall administration have the right to secede if they wish. People have indeed questioned the case for the Principality to exist.

The risk of minorities resorting to violence has been seen in Yugoslavia, Russia, and in the break- up of Austria-Hungary. In any community, minorities may want to leave.

He proposes the service model - the state will not waste taxpayers money on defence.
What will remain to the state ould be law and order, foreign policy and education, and the rest is for the to decide at the local level.

The fear of anarchy leads to dictatorship, so maintaining law and order are the key to keeping a democratic system in place. Laws must be written in an understandable way and to inform subjects. Should not this be taught in schools and the text given to people?

Regulation can be a burden for business firms. If the tax laws are unclear it is the fault of the government that enacted them.

Direct democracyis not popular with politicians, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein are in contrast to  other countries. In 1990 the latter rejected a tax law. There remains the danger that the population may vote against minority rights.

 Current personal standard of the Prince of Liechtenstein, adopted in 1982.

Personal standard of H.S.H. The Prince of Liechtenstein
Adopted in 1982

Image: Wikipedia 

Under the Liechtenstein constitution the Prince has a veto.
With representative democracy, voters cannot choose candidates in the way they might like, but rather vote for a programme, and have to wait until the next election to change the direction of policy.
Today education has levelled up the electorate, but all have to put up with bad decisions

Education is a state right, but should the state run schools or should they be privatised, run by local communities or by business? He favoured a voucher system, which gives the choice to parents and indeed children, and could be used to support home schooling. The Teachers unions are against such schemes, but people feel the state system not adequate.

Indirect taxation saves money for the State; the local community is funded by direct taxation. A social policy of differing rates does not help the poor. A minimalist state would require less cash. It should be possible to sell state property if it is not needed, and to sell off assets. this could help to pay off the national debt. Liechtenstein has done this although possessing few natural assets, but has paid off that debt. This raises the question as to whether taxpayers want to do so.

In answer to questions from the audiencewhen asked why as monarch did he have the idea of direct democracy he said that he considered that today there was need for more than religious validation for the monarchy. A clause in the Constitution allows the people to remove the Prince or abolish the monarchy by a simple majority.

Historically stStates rise and fall, but can we afford this in the third millennium? Can the ballot  replace the battlefield.

Asked further about the revised Constitution he has introduced in his Principality the Prince explained that legislative power remained with the Prince, and that populace were happy with that. The Parliament had parties. Draft laws were discussed with the Prince and Hereditary Prince ( who now exercises regency powers in routine matters ) and the chief minister, and then presented to Parliament.

The people, if they gather 1000 signatures, or 1500 to change constitution, can present to Parliament petitions for a popular vote, which will be signed off by the Prince. His father, Prince Franz-Josef  II,  did attract criticism once by exercising his veto, but Prince Hans-Adam says in advance of a vote if he intends so to do.

Sometimes such direct legislation is badly drafted, against the constitution or conflicts with international obligations. Democracy is the best system, keeping a check on the other side, and it keeps political life in touch with reality. He saw it as a listening to the market, indeed market research, building up from the local level.

Decolonisation outside Europe copied centralised models, when itwould have been better to build up from villages.

He said he had enjoyed business more than government which takes longer, and proved more tiresome

He thought the EU had failed as as United States, and that new model was needed, one that would bring government down to the local level. He also thought it needed a smaller parliament, more like the US Congress is size - he worked there in his youth.

Asked about the impending referendum he said he beinclined to vote to leave the EU, and welcome the UK to the EEA.

As to what happened if smaller units compete he thought it was for the UN to keep the peace - though this might be.Utopian. Liechtenstein had got rid of its army in the mid-19th century, it having been paid for from his own pocket by the Prince.

Parliaments have to be elected, and, in effect, politicians buy votes, and in managing the bureaucracy that ensues there was  political horsetrading - the monarch was there as referee.


Ducal hat and insignia of the Liechtenstein primogeniture - a gouache of 1756
A replica of the Hat was presented to Prince Franz Josef II in 1976

Image: Wikipedia 

This was an interesting and wide ranging address. I am tempted to say taht what works in Liechtenstein might not be practical in larger units. In the Swiss Confederation it has along standing tradition, and a unique constitutional dispensation. As a model it does require an independent Monarch to reconcile and monitor, and that role is exercise wisely and well by the Prince's fellow European monarchs within their existing constitutional dispensations. How far larger realms could copy the Liechtenstein model is another matter.

There is more about the Principality and its history at the following links;


History of Liechtenstein

Monarchy of Liechtenstein

List of monarchs of Liechtenstein

Princely Family of Liechtenstein

Ducal hat of Liechtenstein

Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein

Hereditary Prince Alois

HSH Prince Joseph Wenzel


The Arms of the Principality of Liechtenstein

Image: Wikipedia

The Book the Bishops want to Ban ( sort of )

The Special Correspondent has drawn my attention to the article in the latest edition of The Spectator by Damian Thompson which is a review of a book about the Church of England which the publishers, Bloomsbury, have withdrawn before publication.

Damian Thompson's article can be read at http://www.spectator.co.uk/2016/02/whats-so-dangerous-about-this-book-about-the-church-of-england/

Thursday 4 February 2016

St Blaise

Yesterday was the feast of St Blaise, and following Mass I had the traditional blessing of my throat.

John Dillon posted an impressive selection of images of St Blaise on the Medieval Religion discussion group:

Not to be confused with his homonyms Blasius of Amorion, Blasius of Caesarea, Blasius of Veroli, and Blasius of Verona, the thaumaturge Blasius of Sebaste (d. circa 316, supposedly) is popularly known in English by a French form of his name (Blaise; other European forms include, but are certainly not limited to, Blasios / Vlasios, Vlaho / Blaž, Blasius, Blas, and Biagio / Biase). His cult is first attested from the sixth century, when the medical encyclopedist Aetius of Amida reports his being invoked in cases of illness of the throat.

Absent both from the earliest witnesses of the pseudo-Hieronymian Martyrology and from the probably originally late fourth-century Syriac Martyrology surviving in a manuscript written at Edessa in c. 411, and thus absent as well from the hypothetical fourth-century Greek martyrology thought to have provided a fund of feasts common to both, Blasius has both a legendary pre-metaphrastic Passio (BHG 276-276c; first attested from the eighth century) and a metaphrastic one (BHG 277); beyond these Greek texts there are versions in Latin and in other languages. These make him a physician of Sebaste in Armenia (now Sivas in Turkey) who is elected bishop, goes into hiding to avoid the Licinian persecution, lives in a cave where with the sign of the cross he cures sick animals, is sought out, arrested and imprisoned, tends the sick, operates miracles, is tortured, and finally is decapitated. Later versions have him flayed with carding combs prior to execution. Blasius' miracles include saving a boy from choking to death on a fishbone and causing a wolf to restore to a widow a piglet that it had taken from her. In the later Middle Ages his reputed care for ailments of the throat caused Blasius to be numbered among the Fourteen Holy Helpers; his association with animals made him a patron of keepers of livestock.

Since the tenth century Blasius has been the patron saint of Dubrovnik (formerly Ragusa), where an originally twelfth(?)-century head reliquary of him, formed as a Byzantine crown, is kept in that city's early modern katedrala Marijina Uznesenja (cathedral of the Assumption of the BVM):



There is an arm reliquary as well (in these photos shown along with the head reliquary):

Supplementing Gordon Plumb's post of earlier today, herewith some links to further period-pertinent images of St. Blasius of Sebaste:

a) Blasius' martyrdom as depicted in the late tenth- or very early eleventh-century so-called Menologion of Basil II (Città del Vaticano, BAV, cod. Vat. gr. 1613, p. 390):

b) Blasius delivering the piglet to the widow (upper register) and Blasius' martyrdom as depicted in the late eleventh- or very early twelfth-century frescoes of the Chapelle des Moines at Berzé-la-Ville (Saône-et-Loire):
Detail view (Blasius delivering the piglet to the widow)

c) Blasius' martyrdom (three scenes) as portrayed, perhaps by Roger of Helmarshausen, on a long side of a late eleventh- or early twelfth-century portable altar (copper gilt over wood) executed for the abbey of Abdinghof and now in the Erzbischöfliches Diözesanmuseum und Domschatzkammer in Paderborn:

d) Blasius (at left) as depicted in an early twelfth-century mosaic in the cupola di San Leonardo in Venice's basilica cattedrale patriarcale di San Marco:
Detail views:

e) Blasius as depicted in the mid- or slightly later twelfth-century mosaics of the Cappella Palatina in Palermo:


f) Blasius (lower register, second from left) receiving a book from Duke Henry as depicted in the late twelfth-century Gospels of Henry the Lion (c. 1188; Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, cod. Guelf. 105 Noviss. 2°, fol. 194r):

g) Blasius (second from right) as depicted in the late twelfth-century frescoes (1196) of the chiesa rupestre di San Biagio at San Vito dei Normanni (BR) in Apulia:

h) Blasius as depicted in a late twelfth- or early thirteenth-century fresco in the santuario di Maria SS. Regina (a.k.a. Santa Maria d'Anglona) at Tursi (MT) in Basilicata:

i) Blasius as depicted in late twelfth- or early thirteenth-century gold and enamel work on his head reliquary in the treasury of Dubrovnik's katedrala Marijina Uznesenja:

j) The widow brings the pig's head to the imprisoned Blasius (below: wolf devouring the pig) as depicted in an initial "T" in a thirteenth-century ms. of Magnum legendarium austriacum (Zwettl, Stiftsbibliothek, cod. 13, fol. 105v):

k) Blasius confronting the Roman governor persecuting him as depicted in a thirteenth-century glass window panel from the area of Soissons, now in the Louvre:

l) Scenes from Blasius' legend as depicted in the earlier thirteenth-century St. Blaise lancet of the "St. Blaise window" (Bay 217; c. 1230-1240; the other two lancets depict scenes of St. George and of St. Thomas of Canterbury) in the cathédrale Notre-Dame in Coutances:
http://therosewindow.com/pilot/Coutances/w217c-Frame.htm [with links to detail views]
and at right here:
Other detail views:

m) Blasius healing a throat as depicted in a mid-thirteenth-century gradual for the Use of the abbey of Fontevrault (c. 1250-1260; Limoges, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 2, fol. 63v):

n) Blasius as depicted (at right, flanking St. John Climacus; at left, St. George of Lydda) as depicted in a later thirteenth-century Novgorod School icon in the State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg:

o) Blasius' martyrdom as depicted in a late thirteenth-century copy of French origin of the Legenda aurea (San Marino, CA, Huntington Library, ms. HM 3027, fol. 32v; image greatly expandable):

p) Blasius (at left; at right, Pope St. Urban I) in the late thirteenth-century Livre d'images de Madame Marie (c. 1285-1290; Paris, BnF, ms. Nouvelle acquisition française 16251, fol. 91r):

q) Blasius (at center, betw. Sts. Eleutherius of Illyria and Hypatius [of Gangra?]) as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century frescoes (between c. 1312 and 1321/1322) in the nave of the monastery church of the Theotokos at Gračanica in, depending on one's view of the matter, either Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija or the Republic of Kosovo:
Detail view (Blasius):

r) Blasius as portrayed in an earlier fourteenth-century (second quarter) chiefly silver reliquary bust probably of French manufacture, formerly in the collegiate church at Braunschweig dedicated to him (commonly known as the Braunschweiger Dom) and now in the Bode Museum in Berlin:


s) Blasius (at left; at right, St. Babylas) as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century frescoes (betw. 1335 and 1350) in the altar area of the church of the Holy Ascension at the Visoki Dečani monastery near Peć in, depending on one's view of the matter, either the Republic of Kosovo or Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija:

t) Blasius' flight from persecution as depicted in a mid-fourteenth-century copy, from the workshop of Richard and Jeanne de Montbaston, of the Legenda aurea in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (1348; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 241, fol. 65v):

u) Blasius (at far right, after Sts. Spyridon the Wonderworker and Clement of Ohrid) as depicted in the later fourteenth-century frescoes (1360s and 1370s; restored in 1968-1970) in the church of St. Demetrius in Marko's Monastery at Markova Sušica (near Skopje) in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia:
Detail view (Blasius):

v) Blasius (at left; at right, St. Prochorus) as depicted in the later fourteenth-century frescoes (1375) in the church of St. George in Longanikos (Laconia administrative region):

w) Blasius (at left) as portrayed in relief on a later fourteenth- or fifteenth-century mezzanino struck by the Republic of Ragusa:

x) Blasius (while at prayer, attacked by a demon) as depicted in a late fourteenth- or early fifteenth-century copy of the Legenda aurea in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (Rennes, Bibliothèque de Rennes Métropole, ms. 266, fol. 69v):

y) Blasius as portrayed holding a model of Ragusa in a fifteenth-century silver-gilt statuette kept on the high altar of Dubrovnik's katedrala Marijina Uznesenja:


z) Blasius as depicted (at left; at right, St. Spyridon the Wonderworker; both protecting livestock) in an early fifteenth-century Novgorod School icon (c. 1407) in the State Historical Museum, Moscow:

aa) Blasius (second from left; at far left, St. Bartholomew the Apostle) as depicted by Masaccio in his earlier fifteenth-century San Giovenale triptych (c. 1424/25) in the chiesa di San Pietro in Cascia di Reggello (FI) in Tuscany:

bb) Blasius' martyrdom as depicted by Mariotto di Nardo in an earlier fifteenth-century predella panel (c. 1425) in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rennes:


cc) Blasius as portrayed (at centre; at left, St. Ulrich; at right, St. Erasmus of Formia) in the earlier fifteenth-century polychromed wooden statues (before 1436) re-used in the central compartment of the otherwise early sixteenth-century winged altarpiece (1517/1518; restored c. 2000) by Jörg Lederer in the choir of the Kirche St. Blasius in Kaufbeuren:

The altarpiece as a whole:

dd) Blasius as depicted in a mid-fifteenth-century panel painting (c. 1450), sometimes attributed to Nero di Bicci, in the Musei Capitolini in Rome:

ee) Blasius as depicted in a mid-fifteenth-century initial (c. 1450-1460) by the Master of the Murano Gradual, cut from a gradual and now in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles:

ff) Blasius as depicted in a later fifteenth-century Novgorod School icon in the Karelian Fine Arts Museum, Petrozavodsk, Russia:

gg) Scenes from Blasius' legend as depicted in a later fifteenth-century copy of Vincent of Beauvais' Speculum historiale in its French-language translation by Jean de Vignay (1463; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 51, fol. 58r):

hh) Blasius as depicted in the central panel of Martín de Soria's later fifteenth-century San Blas Altarpiece (1464) in the iglesia de San Salvador at Luesia (Zaragoza):


The altarpiece as a whole:


Blasius' martyrdom as depicted in one of the predella panels:


Expandable views of panels depicting scenes from Blasius' legend start about halfway down this page:

ii) Blasius as depicted in a detached later fifteenth-century fresco (between 1475 and 1500; from the refectory of the convento di San Biagio in Cesena [FC] in Emilia-Romagna) in that city's Pinacoteca comunale:

Madonna dell' umiltà

jj) Blasius holding a model of Ragusa as portrayed in a later fifteenth-century statue on the Ploče Gate in the same city (now of course Dubrovnik):

kk) Blasius as depicted (at far right in the lower register above the predella) by Carlo and Vittore Crivelli in their later fifteenth-century polyptych of Monte San Martino (c. 1477-1480) in the chiesa di San Martino vescovo in Monte San Martino (MC) in the Marche:

Detail view of Blasius:

ll) Scenes from Blasius' legend as depicted in twenty late fifteenth-century painted panels (c. 1480-1490) mounted on the north wall of the nave of the Kirche St. Blasius in Kaufbeuren:

Detail view (the women forced into slavery):

mm) Blasius (at left, holding a candle; at right, St. John the Baptist) as depicted by Hans Memling on a wing of his Passion (or Greverade) Altarpiece of 1491 in the Museum für Kunst- und Kulturgeschichte in Lübeck:


nn) Blasius (second from right, flanking the BVM; at far right, St. Roch / Rocco) as depicted by a Tuscan follower of Neri di Bicci in a late fifteenth-century panel painting (1498; for the abbey of Santa Maria della Salute et San Niccolao in Buggiano [PT]), exhibited by the Carabinieri in 2015 as part of the exposition "La memoria ritrovata" in Cagliari:


oo) Blasius (third from left; after St. Florus of Illyricum and St. Nicholas of Myra and before St. Anastasia of Sirmium) as depicted in a late fifteenth- or early sixteenth-century Novgorod School wooden triptych in the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow:

pp) Blasius (at left, holding a model of Ragusa; at right, St. Paul the Apostle) as depicted by Nikola Božidarević / Nicholas of Ragusa in his very early sixteenth-century triptych (c. 1501) in the Dominican convent in Dubrovnik:

The triptych as a whole:

qq) Blasius as portrayed holding a model of Ragusa in an early sixteenth-century statue (1503) in the Kulturno-povijesni muzej in Dubrovnik:
Detail view (model of Ragusa):

rr) Blasius as portrayed in a stone bust on the early sixteenth-century Field Gate (1506) at Ragusa's former dependency of Ston (Dubrovačko-neretvanska županija) in Croatia:

ss) Blasius as portrayed in relief (at far right) among the Fourteen Holy Helpers on the early sixteenth-century tomb of the Kurfürstin Anna (1512) in the Evangelisch-lutherische Pfarrkirche St. Maria in Heilsbronn (Lkr. Ansbach) in Bayern:

tt) Blasius as portrayed in an early sixteenth-century ceiling boss (c. 1519) in the choir of the Evangelisch-lutherische Kirche St. Sixti in Northeim (Lkr. Northeim) in Niedersachsen:

uu) Blasius as depicted by Fermo Stella in an earlier sixteenth-century panel painting of the Madonna between St. Blasius and St. John the Baptist (1536) in the Museo Valtellinese di Storia e Arte in Sondrio (VA) in Lombardy (detail view):

vv) Blasius as depicted (at upper right) in an unframed earlier sixteenth-century polyptych (1537) in the chiesa del Purgatorio at Ruvo di Puglia (BA) in Apulia:

Detail view of Blasius as reproduced on a poster; image greatly expandable:

ww) Blasius as depicted by Theofanis Strelitzas-Bathas (a.k.a. Theophanes the Cretan) in the mid-sixteenth-century frescoes (1545 and 1546) in the katholikon of the Stavronikita monastery on Mt. Athos:

xx) Blasius as depicted (twice) by George / Tzortzis the Cretan in the mid-sixteenth-century frescoes (1546/47) in the Dionysiou monastery on Mt. Athos:
1) full-length portrait:
2) martyrdom: