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 31 March 2016

Writing to the Oxford Times

Here is Oxford there is currently a proposal to erect a monument, consisting of a clenched fist holding a star, as a memorial to Oxfordshire volunteers in the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39. The proposed site is close to the War Memorial on St Giles in the city centre. This is close to a number of Catholic churches and houses of study. Given the terrible persecution of the Church by the Second Spanish Republic this is, to say the least, insensitive to Catholics. Placing it close to the memorial to British war dead from the two World Wars is also highly contentious.

In response to a letter in The Oxford Times I was moved to write as follows to that journal:

Dear Sir,

Colin Carritt's vicious attack on the Catholic Church in Spain (letters 10th March) reads like a rant by an old-fashioned Orangeman. He suggests the Church brought persecution on herself because of her opposition to Soviet-inspired regimes. Does he really think that it is acceptable to commit slaughter simply because someone has an opposing political view? Certainly that is what the governments of the Soviet Union and Mexico thought - and these two blood-stained states were the only ones to support the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War.

What does Mr Carritt think the Church did to merit the horrific desecration of church buildings, and the wholesale killing of priests and religious? Was it clothing the poor, running orphanages, hospitals and schools and feeding the hungry that justified crucifying priests and seminarians? Was it running workers' cooperatives in his diocese that made the Oratorian bishop of Lerida, Blessed Salvio Huix, so offensive that he had to be shot through the hand, while he carried on absolving the twenty other of his diocesan priests who were martyred with him? Another 250 priests were killed merely for being clergy in his diocese alone. Was it for being a catechist for his fellow gypsies that required another victim to swallow his rosary before he was shot?

As early as 1933 Pope Pius XI wrote an encyclical imploring the Spanish Republic to rethink its harsh laws outlawing religious education, confiscating sacred objects, banning religious processions, and forbidding prayers in cemeteries. If this Pope, whose anti-fascist and anti-Nazi credentials are second to none, saw through the bogus claims of the Spanish Republic to be liberal and democratic, why cannot Mr Carritt bring himself to deplore its actions? Why does he have to blame the Church for being attacked?

Mr Carritt and his friends might possibly be able to make a better case for the memorial to the International Brigades if they were first to accept the historic reality and condemn the brutality committed by the Republican side. Nobody doubts that the Nationalists killed many of their fellow Spaniards in circumstances that were also horrific. Such was, and tragically remains,the nature of civil wars. We should deplore all of these killings without reservation, and, indeed, condemn them.

However we do not need Oxford to have a one-sided memorial that perpetuates the terrible hatreds of the 1930s. In contrast Spain itself has successfully pursued national reconciliation since 1975 by eschewing past hatreds and looking to shared values and the future.

Yours faithfully,
John Whitehead

Republican militia men desecrating a Madrid church in 1936

Image: es.wikipedia

I was contacted by the The Oxford Times to say that they have a 300 word limit for letters, so out came the online equivalent of the the blue pencil to produce:

Dear Sir,

Colin Carritt's attack on the Catholic Church in Spain (letters 10th March) is bizarre. He suggests the Church brought persecution on herself because of her opposition to the Republican regime. Does he really think that it is acceptable to slaughter those who hold opposing political views?

What does Mr Carritt think merited the horrific desecration of church buildings, and the wholesale killing of priests and religious? Was it clothing the poor, running orphanages, hospitals and schools and feeding the hungry that justified crucifying priests and seminarians? Was it running workers' cooperatives in his diocese that made Bishop Salvio Huix of Lerida so offensive that he was shot after absolving twenty of his priests who were martyred with him? 270 priests were killed merely for being clergy in his diocese alone. Was it for being a catechist for his fellow gypsies that required another victim to swallow his rosary before he was shot?

As early as 1933 Pope Pius XI wrote an encyclical imploring the Spanish Republic to rethink its laws outlawing religious education, confiscating sacred objects, banning religious processions, and forbidding prayers in cemeteries. That Pope, whose anti-fascist and anti-Nazi credentials are second to none, saw through the bogus claims of the Spanish Republic to be liberal and democratic, but Mr Carritt cannot bring himself to deplore its crimes.

Mr Carritt and others should accept the historic reality and condemn the brutality committed by the Republicans. Both they and the Nationalists killed many of their fellow Spaniards in dreadful circumstances. We should deplore all of these killings without reservation.

Oxford does not need to have a memorial perpetuating the terrible hatreds of the 1930s. In contrast Spain itself has successfully pursued national reconciliation since 1975, eschewing past hatreds and looking to a shared future.

Yours faithfully,
John Whitehead

This letter, together with some others making similar points, appeared in today's Oxford Times.



For some background information on this terrible period in the history of the church in Spain see the following Wikipedia articles Red Terror (Spain), Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War and Catholicism in the Second Spanish Republic

Addendum April 25th:
I heard today that Oxford City Council, whilst accepting the case in principle for the memorial, have acepted the points made by many of us as to its unsuitability on St Giles. The City Council therefore has suggested a site on the other side of the city centre at the foot of Headington Hill. 


Rite of Braga

The New Liturgical Movement has a post about a site - Alma Bracarense - dedicated to the study of the Portuguese Rite of Braga, and based around studies of the 1924 Editio Typica sanctioned by Pope Pius XI of this ancient Rite.

The website is at http://almabracarense.wordpress.com.and I have added it to the side bar.

Braga Cathedral

Image: Wikipedia

There is a brief online introduction to the Rite at Rite of Braga 


Palm Sunday in the Braga Rite

Image: theradtrad.blogspot 

There are sets of photographs from the Nymphios blogspot of the Palm Sunday liturgy with an explanatory introduction at PICS: High Mass in the Rite of Braga (Part I), PICS: High Mass in the Rite of Braga (Part II) and at PICS: High Mass in the Rite of Braga (Part III)


Today, March 31, is the eleventh anniversary of my reception into the Catholic Church, and as is my wont on this important personal date, I will repost my account  of the reasons that led to my decision

This is a piece I wrote in my early days of blogging about my reasons for so doing, and in the form I published it three years with some slight emendations and additions.
It was Thursday in the Octave of Easter 2005, and chosen because it enabled friends and relatives who would not have been able to attend at the Easter Vigil to be present and, in one case, to be my sponsor.

I took as my confirmation name Philip - not only the name of the founder of the Oratory and of an Apostle, but also my father's first name and one that I had always liked. So John Robert became John Robert Philip. I subsequently went to the not inconsiderable expense of adding the name by deed poll, so I can insist on officialdom recognising my spiritual journey.

As it happened, by being received when I was, I thereby became one of the very last Catholics to be received into the Church in the pontificate of Pope John Paul II - I feel I squeezed through the door of history in that respect. There are those converts who used to describe themselves as "John Paul II Catholics" or similar phrases. I am, by historic fact and by sympathy a "Benedict XVI Catholic", but, and it is a very important "but", I am a Catholic first - Popes inevitably come and go. That said I consider it an enormous good fortune for the Church and, for me as an individual member of it, to have had His Holiness in the Chair of Peter. His pontificate has been a great blessing for the whole church. Much of what we have already heard from Pope Francis indicates continuity on expressing the faith as his predecessor did, and in bringing a serious Christian awareness to the current social and economic ills of the world.

As I made my decision to seek reception I codified my ideas into nine categories or groups. St Edmund Campion had his Decem Rationes which he placed so provocatively in St Mary's Church in Oxford in 1581. Mine are more personal perhaps, but, in that they may interest others, here are my Novem Rationes of 2005:

1. I believed all that the Catholic Church believed - so why was I not in full communion with it? I read the Catechism through and found nothing from which to dissent within it.

2. In particular I accepted the claims of the Papacy and its necessity in order to maintain orthodoxy and unity.

3. As a historian I appreciated the Catholic case for the nature of the Church and the Papacy, and the fact of its historical continuity - Walter Ullman's point that the Papacy is the one institution that links the Apostolic age to the Atomic age reverberates in my mind.

4. The call to Unity - not only the principal of Ut unum sint but also the specific claims to expressing that unity with all other Catholics through the Holy See as described by the Fathers.

5. The Catholic Church was seen to act on issues contingent upon Christian belief - Life issues might be the most obvious, but there were others, and with an authentic response being made.

6. I realised that my historic sympathies were with Catholicism - which side would I have been on, or at least believed I would have been on or wanted to be on in say, the Reformation? Well it was clear. My heart lay with the Catholic cause.

7. The state of Anglicanism was not encouraging. For Traditionalist Anglo-Catholics the situation was one of increasing isolation, and the sense that a Third Province would not be granted.

8. Much as I loved my Anglican places of worship - Pusey House and St Thomas in Oxford - I felt that I was called to move on. I was at an age when I still could make a change, but that there was not time to delay. If this was the time, then so be it.

9. I thought that many of my Anglican friends were moving or would move into full communion with Rome. Those friendships, based and rooted in a shared spiritual life, were very important to my own spiritual development, and they were pointing all in the same direction.

Looking back from this point, seven years later, I have never had cause to regret my decision. There is no "seven year itch."

I still endorse those nine sets of ideas.

The last three invite some additional comments.

The Church of England has continued on its way, and has failed to have the generosity to provide for Traditionalist Anglo-Catholics. The issue of women bishops remains unresolved and even more divisive it would seem in the wake of alst november's failure to vote the matter through the General Synod.

Anglicanorum Coetibus has been issued - I pray it will be successful in extending the unity of the Church to others of like faith and mind outside its formal bounds. Since 2011 we have witnessed the establishment of the Ordinariate first in England and more recently in the USA. I have been able to help to support those joining it by acting as a pro-sponsor in two cases, or simply by turning up to support their Masses, and, of course, by praying for it.

Summorum Pontificum reasserted the right to have traditional forms of the liturgy and it has been followed by a strong and positive response, and that needs to be continued - as has been said what was sacred once is sacred now.

I am still on excellent terms with friends from Pusey House and St Thomas', and I rejoiced at Fr Hunwicke's appointment to the latter in 2007. It has been good to see all that is happening at both institutions for the Catholic cause. It was very good for my humility that they could manage and survive without me. I retain enormously happy memories of my time at both places and at the churches I worshipped at in Yorkshire before I came to Oxford.

Nonetheless I increasingly find it difficult to see why more people in the Anglo-Catholic tradition are not availing themselves of all - and it is so much - that is offered by the Ordinariate. It is all they have ever said they wanted or indeed hoped for - bar, possibly, taking their church buildings with them, and though I can sympathise to a great extent, but not to the exclusion of what ultimately matters.

As to my friends - well, I was the second of our group to make the move, and three more had followed by last year. In the last two years two more married couples, one with three children, from that set of friends have made that same move. Four of the men have either been ordained or are preparing for ordination.

Along the way I have made many other new friends amongst those converting, and I have been made very welcome in my new spiritual home. I am extremely lucky to have the Oratory and also SS Gregory and Augustine and Blackfriars as places in which to worship regularly here in Oxford.

A friend and I likened the process of conversion and reception not to swimming the Tiber, but to paddling across - when we reached the opposite bank we found friends waiting in the deck-chairs to hand one a towel to dry one's feet and then to hand you a missal or breviary to read as you sat down to watch who would be next to come over.

May St Philip Neri, Bl. John Henry Newman and all the saints continue to pray for me, and for those seeking their home in the Church.

For a bit more background see also my post Ten years ago from 2014.

Tuesday 29 March 2016

Towton 555

Today is the 555th anniversary of the battle of Towton, fought on March 29th 1461, which that year was Palm Sunday and hence the contemporary name of the battle was Palm Sunday Field. It is normally considered the largest and bloodiest battle fought on English soil.

As someone raised in the area and fascinated by the later middle ages Towton has long been an interest of mine, and when I still lived in the area I organised visits to the site and a series of Requiem Masses ( Anglican Rite ) in the church at Saxton, where many of the victims are buried.

My previous post on the battle can be viewed at  Palm Sunday Field 1461, Towton links, The Battle of Towton - 550th anniversary, Towton - remembering the dead, Victims of the Battle of Towton and Palm Sunday Field.

Monday 28 March 2016

Easter Rising

Over in Dublin there are continuing celebrations and commemorations of the 1916 Easter Rising - the actual anniversary is not until late April - which have attracted attention across the wider world.

I was taken aback by hearing on the BBC World Service News - but then, it being the BBC, perhaps I should not have been - the events of 1916 described as a uprising against "British occupation."  Now that is plain inaccurate - all those involved were British, subjects of the King of the United Kingdom. If some of them chose to define themselves - I think the phrase these days is self-define - as independent "Irish" rather than British, or as Irish British or British Irish, well that was their look -out, but it was not the legal fact. Dublin was as much under British occupation in 1916 as Edinburgh or Cardiff were then or are today.

An Irish friend with whom Iexchanged e-mails on this subject todayopined that the 1916 Rising might have been avoided if the UK government has concentrat don implementing the 1914 Home Rule Act. This may be the case, but the 1914 Act had raised expectations and fears to new a pitch in Ireland as awhole, and the Westminster government did have something else to worry about from late July of that fateful year. Home Rule, with the possibility of exemption for some parts of northern Ireland had been legislated for. It was merely suspended until the end of the European War. I doubt if those who  created the Rising cared much for the Act - they wanted to create a stir, and the War, ironically, allowed them the opportunity.

The price for Ireland ever since has neen pretty dreadful, and much still remains unresolved.

Charles Moore makes some trenchant points in today's Daily Telegraph about the events of 1916 which I have cop[ied from their website.

Irish rebels lying in wait on a roof getting ready to fire during the Easter Rising, 1916 
Irish rebels lying in wait on a roof getting ready to fire during the Easter Rising, 1916  Credit: Getty

The centenary of the Easter Rising was commemorated in Dublin yesterday. The unsuccessful revolt of Irish Republicans helped pave the way for the breakaway of southern Ireland from the United Kingdom in 1922 and the horrible civil war.

In the phrase “Easter Rising” is contained the central blasphemy of terrorist acts committed in the name of God. What has the resurrection of the Prince of Peace got to do with trying to shoot the British out of Ireland?

Patrick Pearse, the rising’s leader, who proclaimed the republic outside the General Post Office, suffered from what Yeats called “the vertigo of self-sacrifice”. He had a homoerotic vision of the macaomh, the beautiful young scholar warrior who would die for his country – half the Irish mythical hero Cuchullain, half Jesus. The night before he was shot by a British firing squad, Pearse wrote a mawkish poem comparing the Virgin Mary’s loss of her son to his own death.

A century later, this distasteful confusion of political fanaticism with faith is even more in fashion, but nowadays in Islam, not Christianity. Among those rebels executed by the British shortly after Pearse was his devoted brother, Willie. In Brussels last week, a pair of brothers, Ibrahim and Khalid al-Bakraoui, detonated two of the three bombs which killed 31 people.

In modern Ireland, I am glad to say, sentimentality about the murderous and self-righteous revolutionaries who helped condemn the Republic to 70 years of economic backwardness and narrow priest-domination – and the North to terrorist guerrilla warfare – is at last being superseded by a more clear-headed approach. I strongly recommend Ruth Dudley Edwards’s new book, The Seven, which dissects the attitudes of the founding fathers. The repentant IRA terrorist Sean O’Callaghan has published a brave, hostile account of the life of Pearse’s socialist co-conspirator and martyr, James Connolly.

It no longer seems so heroic to have provoked violence against a parliamentary democracy and slaughter among one’s own people, however much one may support an independent Ireland. Must it take another century before a comparable questioning of supposedly holy killing comes to dominate the Muslim world?

“A terrible beauty is born”, famously wrote Yeats. Actually, it was a terrible ugliness, and it is getting uglier.

Children collect firewood from the ruined buildings damaged in the Easter Rising
Children collect firewood from the ruined buildings damaged in the Easter Rising  
Credit: Getty
Text and images: Daily Telegraph 

Easter in Oxford

I spent the Triduum and Easter, as usual these days, in Oxford.

Maundy Thursday began, as I have previously mentioned, at Blackfriars with Tenebrae. After leading agroup out to show them Blenheim Palace - a bit dispiriting in the rain, but always spectacular - it was back for Mass and the vigil until Compline and the walk back home at midnight.

On Good Friday I had arranged to have breakfast in the city with a friend at 8.20 before going to our seperate devotions. I went again to Blackfriars for Tenebrae, then spent the day quietly before going to the Solemn Liturgy at 3 - always very well attended at bthe Oxford Oratory amnd always very dignified - and then after a cup of tea, back to church for the Stations of the Cross at 7.

Holy Saturday I went again to Tenebrae, and then spent much of the day acting as the porter in the Oratory shop before going to Confession. After that there was supper and then back to the Oratory for the Easter Vigil. The rain meant we stayed in church for the lighting of the New Fire in the porch and then followed the accustomed ceremonies. The Oratory had four baptisms and two receptions into the Church. Afterards I went for a celebratory drink with one of those received at the Vigil and his sponsor.

Easter Day followed its usual pattern at the Oratory, with the Solemn Mass ending, as is out custom, with the choir singing the Hallelujah Chorus. Afterwards there was time to have adrink and talk to freinds in the Social Centre before being invited to join friends who were going off for a Lebanese lunch at arestaurant in the Cowley Road - so we made up a British, Australian, Anglo-Irish and Anglo-American, Italian and Brazilian group to witness to the joy of the Resurrection and the Catholicity of the Church. Then back in a taxi and a fine Five Cope Vespers at the Oratory.

Today I am off to Mass at 10 and then plan on having a bit of time to myself reading a book about the reign of King Richard II.

Sunday 27 March 2016

The Resurrection

Christ is Risen, Alleluia!
He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!

 The Resurrection
Piero della Francesca


Jane Stemp Wickenden posted on the Medieval Religion discussion group the following poem:

Resurrection  - by Piero degli Francheschi, at Borgo

Sleep holds you, sons of war: you may not see
(You whose charmed heads sink heavy in your hands)
How 'twixt the budding and the barren tree
With glory in his staring eyes, he stands.
There's a sharp movement in this shivering morn
That blinds your sense while it breaks your power:
The Phoenix grips the eagle: Christ reborn
Bears high the standard. Sleep a little hour:
Sleep: it were best ye saw not those bright eyes
Prepared to wreck your world with errant flame,
And drive strong men to follow mysteries,
Voices, and winds, and things that have no name.
Dare you leave strength half-proved, duty half-done?
Awake! This God will hunt you from the sun!

James Elroy Flecker.

Mariano Paniello added this link to an illustrated online article about the painting and cognate works which can be viewed at http://www.poderesantapia.com/art/pierodellafrancesca/resurrection.htm

Saturday 26 March 2016

The Easter Sepulchre

Today being Holy Saturday when the Church commemorates Our Lord sleeping in the tomb or indeed Harrowing Hell in anticipation of Easter it is worth recalling the medieval pra ctice of entombing the Blessed Sacrament in an Easter Sepulchre - there is an online introduction to this distinctive English medieval practice at Easter Sepulchre, and which gives a gazeteer of surviving examples.

Hawton church in Nottinghamshire


 Heckington church in Lincolnshire



Lincoln cathedral - the tomb of Bishop Remigius and the Easter Sepulchre

Image: geograph.org.uk

If these stone examples point to particular wealth and prosperity other churches had wooden Easter sepulchres, which were, of course, less likely to survive the ravages of the reformation and time. Here is one surviving example, which is thought to be fourteenth century:

Cowthorpe church in Yorkshire

Image: buildingconservation.com

Last year John Shinners posted on the Medieval Religion discussion group this text from the church of St Mary Redcliffe in Bristol in the later fifteenth century:

“Memorandum. That Master Cannings hath delivered, the 4th day of July, in the year of our Lord 1470, to Master Nicholas Pelles, Vicar of Redclift, Moses Conterin, Philip Berthelmew, and John Brown, Procurators of Redclift beforesaid, a new Sepulchre, well guilt with fine gold, and a civer thereto; an image of God Almighty rising out of the same Sepulchre, with all the ordinance that longeth thereto; that is to say, a lath made of timber Heven made of timber and stained cloths. Item, Hell made of timber and iron work thereto, with Devils the number of thirteen. Item, four knights armed, keeping the Sepulchre with their weapons in their hands; that is to say, two spears, two axes with two paves [shields]. Item, four pair of Angel's wings, for four Angels, made of timber, and well-painted. Item, the Fadre, the crown and visage, the well (sic, read ball) with a cross upon it, well gilt with fine gold. Item, the Holy Ghost coming out of Heven into the Sepulchre. ltem, longeth to the four Angels, four Chiveliers (Perukes).”

Jon Cannon added the documentation still survives at the Bristol Record Office: P.St MR/ChW/3/a. There are detailed published accounts in E.E. Williams, The Chantries of William Canynges in St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, with a Survey of Chantries in General and some Events in the Lives of the Canynges Family (1950) and T. P. Wadley, Notes or Abstracts of the Wills Contained in the Volume Entitled the Great Orphan Book and Book of Wills in the Council House at Bristol (1886).

The Rites of Durham contains a description of the ceremonies observed in the cathedral there before the dissolution of the monastic chapter, and the particular ornaments and furnishing of the church at Easter which is very well worth reading - the sixteenth century spelling is no real barrier:

"Also there was a goodly monument pertaininge to the Church called the pascall* w ch was wont to bee sett upp in the quire (9) and there to remaine from the thursday called Maundye thursday' before Easter untill Wednesday after the assention day that did stand uppon a foure square thick planke of wood against the first grees or stepp hard behind the 3 basons of siluer that hung before the high altar, in the midst of the s d greese is a nick* wherein on of the corners of the s d planke was placed, and at euerye corner of the planke was an iron ringe wherunto the feete of the pascall were adioyned, representinge the pictures of the foure flyinge dragons, [att each Corner one, H. 45] as also the pictures of the 4 Euangelists [w th six faire Candlesticks for six tapers to stand in, H. 45] aboue the tops of the dragons underneath the nethermost bosse, all supportinge the whole pascall and [in] the 4 quarters haue beene foure Christall stones, and in the 4 small dragons 4 heads 4 christall stones as by the holes doe appeare and on euerye side of the 4 dragons there is curious antick worke as beasts and men uppon horsbacks with bucklers bowes and shafts, and knotts with broad leaues spred uppon the knotts uery finely wrought all beinge of most fine and curious candlestick mettall [or Latten* Mettal glistring as y c Gold it self having six Candlesticks or Flowers of Candlestick mettall, added by Dr. Hunter, in -^ s - < > ,s - the margin] coiiiinge from it three o( euerye side wheron did stand in euerye of the s d flowers or candlestick a taper of wax and on the height of the s d candlestick or pascall of lattine was a faire large tlower beinge the principall flower w^ 1 was the 7 candlestick, the pascall in latitude did containe almost the bredth of the quire in longitude that did extend to the height of the [Lower, H. 45] uault wherein' did stand a long peece of wood reach inge within a mans length [height, H. 45] to the uppermost uault roofe of the church, wheron stood a great long square tap of wax [a lardge square wax tap, H. 45] called the pascall a fine conueyance threoigh the s d roofe' of the church to light the tap withal! in conclusion the pascall was estimated to bee one of the rarest monuments in all England.

Within the Abbye Church of Durha uppon good friday [theire was, H. 45] maruelous solemne seruice, in the w ch seruice time after the passion was sung" two of the eldest [Ancient, Dav.] monkes did take a goodly large crucifix all of gold of the picture* of our sauiour Christ nailed uppon the crosse lyinge uppon a ueluett cushion, hauinge St. Cuth(io)berts armes uppon it all imbroydered w th gold bringinge that betwixt them uppon the s d cushion to the lowest greeces [stepps, H. 45] in the quire, and there betwixt them did hold the s d picture of our sauiour sittinge of euery side [on ther knees, H. 45] of that, and then one of the s d monkes did rise and went a prettye way from it sittinge downe uppon his knees with his shooes put o( uerye reuerently did creepe away uppon his knees unto the s d crosse and most reuerently did kisse it, and after him the other monke did so likewise [all v c other Monckes, H. 45], and then they did sitt them downe on euery [of evther, H. 45] side of the s d crosse and holdinge it betwixt them, and after that [them, H. 45 J the prior came forth of his stall, and did sitt him downe of his knees with his shooes of and in like sort did creepe also unto the S d crosse [and all the monkes after him one after an nother, in the same ms. Cos., order, and not in H. 45], in the meane time all the whole quire singinge an Himne, : the seruice beinge ended the two [two not in H. 45] monkes did carrye it to the sepulchre w th great reuerence, w ch sepulchre was sett upp in the morninge* on the north side of the quire nigh to the high altar before the seruice time and there did lay it within the s d sepulchre, with great deuotion with another picture of our sauiour Christ, in whose breast they did enclose with great reuerence the most holy and blessed sacrament of the altar senceinge [singinge, H. 45] and prayinge vnto it uppon theire knees a great space settinge two taper lighted before it, w ch tapers did burne unto Eas\er day in the morninge that it was taken forth.

There was in the abbye church of duresme uerye solemne seruice uppon easter day betweene 3 and 4 of the clocke in the morninge in honour of the resurrectio where 2 of the oldest monkes of the quire came to the sepulchre, beinge sett vpp upon good friday after the passion all couered with redd ueluett and embrodered with gold, and then did sence it either monke with a paire of siluer sencors sittinge on theire knees before the sepulchre, then they both risinge came to the sepulchre, out of the which w th great reverence they tooke a maruelous beautifull Image of our sauiour* representinge the resurrectio with a crosse in his hand in the breast wherof was enclosed in bright [moste pure, H. 45] Christall the holy sacrament of the altar, throughe the w ch christall the blessed host was conspicuous, (11) to the behoulders, then after the eleuation of the s d picture carryed by the s d 2 monkes uppon a faire ueluett cushion all embrodered singinge the anthem of christus resurgens* they brought to the high altar settinge that on the midst therof whereon it stood the two monkes kneelinge on theire knees before the altar, and senceing it all the time that the rest of the whole quire was in singinge the fores d anthem of Xpus resurgens, the which anthem beinge ended the 2 monkes tooke up the cushines and the picture from the altar supportinge it betwixt them, proceeding in processio from the high altar Ms - Cos. to the south quire dore where there was 4 antient gentle- men* belonginge to the prior appointed to attend theire cofningc holdinge upp a most rich cannopye of purple ueluett tached* round about [tashed about, L., C] with redd silke, and [a goodly, Dav.] gold fringe, and at euerve corner did stand one of theise ancient gentlemen to beare it ouer the s d Image, with the holy sacrament carried by two monkes round about the church the whole quire waitinge uppon it with goodly torches and great store oi other lights, all singinge reioyceinge and praising god most deuoutly till they came to the high altar againe, wheron they did place the s d Image there to remaine until! the assencion day.

There was a nother crosse of Xpall* that serued for euerve day in the weeke, there was borne before the crosse euerve principall day a holy water font [fatt, H. 45] of siluer* uery finely grauen and pcell gilt, which one of the nouices* did carrye."


 The High Altar and choir of Durham cathedral


Just the sort of text to make you deplore the antics of the so-called reformers...

Tenebrae in Oxford

The Special Correspondent sent me the following link to an article about the traditional observance of Tenebrae: http://www.fathercekada.com/2009/04/07/the-office-of-tenebrae-old-vs-5562-rite/


A Tenebrae Hearse

Image: Breviary.net

All however is not lost.

Here in Oxford Blackfriars has for many years put on a version of Tenebrae on the mornings of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. As last year I was fortunately able to attend all three days and found them very dignified and moving.

The service conforms to modern rules in that they are in the morning and in the vernacular. Although there is a hearse with the gradual extinction of its candles there is no singing of the Miserere, or the return of the Jesus candle or the simulation of the earthquake with the book banging, but there is the dramatic prostration of the cantors in the midst of the chancel and of the other Dominicans super formas.

These are always well attended, and I am sure a restoration, a reform of the reform, of the missing traditional features would be entirely acceptable to the congregation as well as being a very good to do in itself.

This year on Good Friday and Holy Saturday the Oxford Oratory, for the first time, also celebrated tenebrae on the Friday and Saturday mornings. As I am not (yet) capable of bi-location I was unable to attend being already committed to the observance at Blackfriars, but this is a very welcome development, and further evidence of things moving in the right direction.

Friday 25 March 2016

Good Friday


 The Lamentation 
  Hugo van der Goes
circa 1470 
 Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna

 Joseph of Arimathea (behind Jesus) and Nicodemus (at Jesus' left) 

Image: http://tinyurl.com/65mlog


Image: Breviary.net

Thursday 24 March 2016

Royal Maundy

The BBC news website has an illustrated report about The Queen marking Maundy Thursday with the traditional service and distribution of the Maundy money at St George's Chapel in Winsdor Castle.  Commemorative coins were included in the other Maundy purse - the money given in lieu of provisions and the Queen's Gown redemption money - to 90 men and 90 women, each representing one of her 90 years.

The report can be viewed at  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35890750

St Catherine of Sweden

Today is normally given as the feast of St Catherine of Sweden, the daughter of St Bridget.

John Dillon posted the following on the Medieval Religion discussion group:

Catherine of Sweden (also Catherine of Vadstena; d. 1381) was the daughter of Ulf Gudmarsson, lord of Ulvåsa and of his wife Birgitta Birgersdotter of Finsta (better known today as St. Bridget of Sweden).  At the age of thirteen she was married to a young nobleman; their union was never consummated (later it was said that both had taken a vow of chastity).  When after a few years he died Catherine was in Rome with her mother, whose work she supported and whose ascetic lifestyle she imitated.  Catherine remained with Birgitta until the latter's death in 1373.  In 1374 she brought Birgitta's body to the latter's foundation at Vadstena, where Birgitta was interred and Catherine became abbess.  She spent the remainder of her life there and at Rome, working for her mother's canonization and directing the nascent Order of the Most Holy Saviour (the Bridgettines).  Her own cult was confirmed Papally in 1484.  Today is her dies natalis and her day of commemoration in the Roman Martyrology.  One of her attributes is a stag that is said to have protected her virginity by scaring off an intended attacker who had been lying in wait for her in a vineyard as she walked to Rome's basilica di San Sebastiano fuori le Mura.

Some period-pertinent images of St. Catherine of Sweden:

a) as portrayed in an oakwood statue in a later fifteenth-century altarpiece (c. 1476-1500) from Blidsberg, a locality of Ulricehamns kommun (Västra Götalands län), now in Västergötlands museum, Skara:



b) as portrayed (at left; at right, St. Erasmus of Formiae) in a wooden statue in a later fifteenth-century altarpiece (c. 1476-1500) in Önums kyrka, Önum, a locality of Vara kommun (Västra Götalands län):


c) as depicted (at far right; at left, St. Helen of Skövde; at centre, St. Birgitta of Sweden) in a late fifteenth-century mural painting in Götene kyrka, Götene (Västra Götalands län):


The painting in situ:


d) as depicted (at right; at left, St. Birgitta of Sweden) in a painted panel of an altarpiece of c.1500 in Högsby kyrka, Högsby (Kalmar län):


e) as depicted in a vault painting of c.1500 in Tolfta kyrka in Tolfta, a locality of Tierps kommun (Uppsala län):


f) as portrayed in a wooden statue of c.1500 in Nordingrå kyrka in Nordingrå, a locality of Kramfors kommun (Västernorrlands län):


Detail view:


g) as depicted (at left, flanking the BVM; at right, St. Birgitta of Sweden) in a painted panel of an earlier fifteenth-century altarpiece in St. Nykolai kyrka, Arboga (Västmanlands län):


Detail view (Catherine):


h) as portrayed (at left in the centre compartment; at right, St. Lawrence of Rome) by Håkan Gulleson in an earlier fifteenth-century altarpiece statue in Trönö gamla kyrka in Trönö, a locality of Söderhamns kommun (Gävleborgs län):


Detail view (Catherine):

Anders Fröjmark subsequently added the following comments:

The history of the feast days of St. Katherine of Vadstena is rather complicated. It is thought that she was originally celebrated on March 24 in Vadstena Abbey. An office exists, but there are to my knowledge no extant medieval manuscripts which give positive evidence of this feast day. On August 8, 1482, a papal bull allowed the cult in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, and held out the prospect of canonization. Six years later, a new bull authorized a solemn translation of her relics. This was celebrated in a magnificent manner in Vadstena on August 1, 1489, one of the greatest religious manifestations in late medieval Sweden. After that, her Translatio was the main yearly feast day, but celebrated not on August 1, but on August 2. In 1513, Leo X had the feast moved to June 25. These two feast days may be found in late medieval calendars from Sweden.

Unfortunately, the canonization of St. Katherine, which from the bulls and from a printed Summarium by Johannes Franciscus de Pavinis in the early 1480s would seem to be impending, has since been totally forgotten by the Papacy.

Monday 21 March 2016

Treasures of the Dukes of Portland

The BBC News website has a report about the creation of the new Harley Gallery in Nottinghamshire to exibit the collections built up by the Dukes and Earls of Portland - the dukedom, created in 1716 became extinct in 1990 - and the title is now Earl of Portland.

Entitled "Michelangelo's 'silent madonna' on show " and which begins by saying that a work by  Michelangelo  that has not been shown in public for 50 years goes on permanent display at the new gallery can be seen at  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-35830877 


Welbeck Abbey


Tours of the state rooms at Welbeck Abbey, the ancestral home of the family, are available as can be seen from the website at  Welbeck Abbey State Room Tours | Welbeck Estate and from the Historic Houses Association at Welbeck Abbey.There is an online history of the house at Welbeck Abbey


 Welbeck Abbey


The history of the Cavendish-Bentinck family can be read at the online account Earl of Portland

Coat of Arms of the Duke of Portland.svg 

Arms of the Dukes of Portland 

Image: Wikipedia

Sunday 20 March 2016

St Cuthbert

Today is the traditional date for the principal feast of St Cuthbert - September 4th which the modern calendar assigns him is the feast of his Translation into the present cathedral at Durham in the early twelfth century.

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

Cuthbert seems to have sprung from Anglo-Saxon nobility living in the more northerly parts of the kingdom of Northumbria; as he trained at Melrose Abbey, quite possibly his family was of Lothian.  After serving as guest master at Melrose's newly founded daughter house at Ripon he returned to Melrose as prior, then moved on to Lindisfarne where he was also prior, and then became an hermit on Inner Farne.  In 685 he was consecrated bishop of Lindisfarne (for which he exchanged Hexham, to which he had just been elected).  At the very end of 686 or early in 687 Cuthbert returned to Inner Farne and died there, probably in his early fifties.  His body was taken back to Lindisfarne and interred next to the altar of St. Peter's church.  Eleven years later, Cuthbert was accorded a formal elevation, at which time his body was declared to be incorrupt.

The focus of what became a more than regionally significant cult, Cuthbert has an anonymous early Vita (BHL 2019; finished c. 699-705) by a monk of Lindisfarne and two Vitae by St. Bede the Venerable, the first in verse and the second an expanded one in prose (BHL 2020, 2021).  When Northmen sacked Lindisfarne in 793 the monks began a lengthy peregrination with Cuthbert's body and other treasures (not least the head of St. Oswald), settling in 883 or 885 at Chester-le-Street in today's County Durham.  By this time Northumbrian missionaries had carried Cuthbert's veneration to the Continent and Cuthbert was entered in the major Carolingian martyrologies.  Grotefend lists feasts for him not only in continental dioceses either founded by Englishmen (e.g. Utrecht, Freising, Bremen) or influenced from England (e.g. Rouen, Trondheim) but in others as well (e.g. Kraków, Toledo).  In 995 Cuthbert's remains were brought from Chester-le-Street to Durham, where they repose in the cathedral.

Cuthbert's shrine in Durham cathedral's Galilee Chapel was profaned and then destroyed in 1539.  In 1542 the saint's body was re-interred beneath the pavement where the shrine had stood.  Herewith two views of the location in its current state:





 Some period-pertinent images of St. Cuthbert:

a) as depicted (at right; at left, a King often identified as Æthelstan) in a tenth-century copy of St. Bede the Venerable's Vitae of him (Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS. 183, fol. 4r):


b) as depicted (perhaps) in a twelfth-century wall painting in Durham cathedral's Galilee Chapel:


c) as depicted (full-length portrait) in a later twelfth-century copy of St. Bede the Venerable's prose Vita of him (c.1176-1200; London, BL, Yates Thomson MS 26, fol. 1v):


Expandable views of this manuscript's many other images of Cuthbert are accessible from thumbnails here:

A few of these are also reproduced here (with somewhat more discursive captions):

Friday 18 March 2016

Emperor Nicholas II's Royal Victorian Chain

The Special Correspondent sent me the following link about the loan by The Queen to the Kremlin museums of the rediscovered Royal Victorian Chain which King Edward VII had bestowed upon Emperor Nicholas II. The story can be viewed at http://royalcentral.co.uk/uk/thequeen/queen-elizabeths-gift-to-the-moscow-kremlin-museums-57930

The survival of the decoration outside the state collections in post-1917 Russia raises intruiging questions as to who rescued it and how it reappeared.


Brazil and its little local difficulties

From following the news in the papers and internet I gather that in Brazil they are having problems with, and indeed, for, the President and ex-President.

Well now, regular readers will know what I am going to write, but the good people of Brazil really should know what they ought to do - undo the disaster of 1889 and restore the Imperial monarchy.

Mind you the dynasty needs to sort out who is the definitive claimant to the throne these days, but is that any worse than the current threats of impeachment, continuing and proliferating allegations of corruption and fraud, and the abuse of office to protect political allies?

Long live the Emperor!


The Imperial Arms of Brazil


Thursday 17 March 2016

Meeting the Editor of Pevsner

As I walked past Blackwell's Art bookshop on Broad St in Oxford this afternoon I was approached by a gentleman who asked if I would take his photograph next to one of the shop windows as one of the books was by him, and his publishers would like to see it. The book in questuion was a guide to English Church architecture designed to accompany the Buildings of England series founded by, and still thought of as being by, Sir Nikolaus Pevsner.

I was happy to oblige, and found that my interlocutor was Dr Simon Bradley the current editor-in-chief of Pevsner. I expressed my almost life-long appreciation for the series, and said how I had once kept a little list of emendations for the West Riding volume when I still lived in Yorkshire. He suggested I send him that, which I will do, when I have reconstructed it from memory.

A very pleasant encounter, and illustrative of the peopel one meets on the streets of Oxford.

Order of St Patrick

Today being St Patrick's Day, and this being this blog, regular readers will not be surprised to see again my virtually annual plea for the re-establishment of the Order of St Patrick.

The Order of St Patrick was founded in 1783, at the time of Grattan's Parliament, to reward those in high office in Ireland and Irish peers on whose support the government of the day depended. It therefore served as the national Order of Ireland as the Garter was for England and the Thistle for Scotland.

The Order in effect lapsed in 1974 with the death of the last surviving recipient, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, leaving The Queen alone as a member as Sovereign of the Order. Originally, the number of Knights of St Patrick was 15, and this increased to 22 in 1833. The Knights wore mantles of sky-blue satin, and the star of the Order was embroidered in silver on the right breast. The Order's most famous insignia were the badge and star used by the Lords Lieutenant of Ireland as grand Master of the Order; these were made available for the serving Lord Lieutenant's use in 1830 by King William IV. The insignia were made from 394 stones taken in part from some of Queen Charlotte's jewellery and from one of the Order of the Bath Badges which had belonged to her husband George III. Known as the 'Irish Crown Jewels', the insignia were stolen from Dublin Castle in 1907 and never recovered.

The Order effectively went into abeyance with the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, and the last appointment to it was of the Duke of York as heir to the throne by his brother King Edward VIII in 1936.

King George IV's Sovereign's Sash Badge  made in 1812. In the centre is a green enamelled shamrock, each leaf with a diamond five-arched crown, set on a red enamelled cross of St Patrick. The Badge has a swivel suspension loop of eight diamonds, and the reverse has the same design in coloured enamel and gold.

King George V's Diamond Star. Made around 1890, the Star's centre has a shamrock of emeralds, with the Saint's cross in rubies on a diamond background. 'George, Prince of Wales, April 1910' is engraved on the reverse

The Order's motto was 'Quis Separabit MDCCLXXXIII' - 'Who will separate us 1783'.

The badge of the Usher of the Order


Allowing the Order to begin to lapse in the years after 1922 was a mistake - part of the old Kingdom of Ireland remained as part of the united Kingdom, and the King was head of state of the Irish Free State until the 1937 Constitution was introduced, if not indeed until 1949 and the repeal of the External Relations Act. the post Second World war governments of the United Kingdom who in the face of opposition to reappointing to the Order of Ulstermen and Irishmen who had fought for the Crown in the war from the Dublin government were craven so to do.

On the basis that the Garter and the Thistle since 1948 have been solely in the Monarch's gift, and not political honours, the same principle should be applied to the Order of St Patrick. It could be bestowed on a similar basis on the great and the good. On an analogy with the Scandinavian monarchs bestowal of their highest orders on Presidents of Finalnd it could be given to the Presidents of the Irish Republic as an Extra Knight.  The modern Irish state, which is unique in Europe in having no public system of honours can hardly object.

The Northern Irish 'Peace Process' and the commemorations of 1916 make much of shared recognitions of different traditions and their mutual acceptance. If that is so then restoring the Order cannot cause offence ( if it ever could have ) and it can be recognised as part of the historic traditions of all of Ireland.

The insignia of the Order survives as the emblem of the Irish Guards and gives them their blue bearskin flash. If the Duke of Cambridge as Colonel-in-Chief  of the Regiment could wear that on his uniform at his wedding and at Trooping the Colour it seems plain silly not to make him a Knight of the Order.

Star of the Order of St Patrick
Offered for sale at Spinks in 2005


St Patrick

John Dillon has posted on the Medieval Religion discussion group the following piece about St Patrick, his relics and iconography:

The fifth-century St. Patrick is the apostle of Ireland and one of its patron saints.  The son of a deacon and the grandson of a priest, he was captured at the age of sixteen from his home town in Britannia by pirates who sold him into slavery in Ireland.  He toiled for six years as a herdsman before escaping and returning home.  Later he experienced a nocturnal vision in which he was recalled by the Irish to minister unto them.  After further divine prompting, Patrick returned to engage in pastoral activities of that sort (chiefly, it would seem, in Ulster). We have two genuine writings by him, the Confessio  ("Confession") and the Epistola ad milites Corotici ("Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus").  English-language translations of these are here:

By the seventh century, when his Vita by St. Muirchú (BHL 6497) will have been written, Patrick was already the stuff of legend.  Armagh claimed to have his remains and promoted his cult.  A notable relic of this activity is the ninth-century Book of Armagh (now Trinity College, Dublin, Ms. 52), which in addition to the Gospels and other New Testament texts contains Muirchú's Vita of Patrick, another by bishop Tírechán (BHL 6496; late seventh- or early eighth-century), and other writings bearing on Patrick.  A page of this manuscript is shown here:
The Book of Armagh was long kept in an eighth-century satchel originally crafted for a larger book:


Another relic associated with Patrick is the very early (late sixth-century?) handbell known as the Black Bell of St. Patrick and now kept, along with its late eleventh- or very early twelfth-century shrine, in the National Museum in Dublin.  Views of both the bell and the shrine are here:

Another view of the bell:

Patrick is the patron saint of Patrick in the Isle of Man, where the remains of an originally tenth- or eleventh-century church dedicated to him are enclosed within the walls of Peel Castle on St Patrick's Isle.  In the aerial views shown here, the ruin in question is visible between the round tower and the remains of the cathedral of St. German:


In this view it is the building at top centre:
A distance view of the islet:

Early matter in a widely read and much translated and adapted later twelfth-century account of the otherworld by H. (traditionally called Henry) of Saltrey entitled Tractatus de Purgatorio Sancti Patricii  ("Treatise on Saint Patrick's Purgatory") related how Purgatory was revealed to Patrick and contributed to Patrick's fame in many areas beyond Ireland.  In Bl. Jacopo da Varazze's later thirteenth-century Legenda aurea the entrance to St. Patrick's Purgatory was through a well.  The city of Orvieto (TR) in Umbria has a very deep well constructed between 1527 and 1537 at the behest of Clement VII by the architect Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and called locally, as though it were an entrance to Purgatory, the Pozzo di San Patrizio ("Saint Patrick's Well").  This has a fenestrated central shaft around which course two spiral ramps, one for mules descending to the water and the other for mules going back up with a load of water.  Herewith a page of expandable views:
Other views:

Some period-pertinent images of St. Patrick:

a) as depicted (at left, sleeping under a tree) in an earlier thirteenth-century collection of saint's lives in their French-language translation by Wauchier de Denain (betw. 1226 and 1250; London, BL, MS Royal 20 D VI, fol. 213v):

b) as depicted (at right, receiving the staff of Jesus) in a later thirteenth-century French-language legendary (Paris, BnF, ms. Nouvelle acquisition française 23686, fol. 178v):

c) as depicted (piercing the king's foot with his staff) in a late thirteenth-century copy of French origin of the Legenda aurea (San Marino, CA, Huntington Library, ms. HM 3027, fol. 40v):

d) as depicted (at left, entering Purgatory) in a fourteenth-century copy of the prose Histoire du purgatoire saint Patrice (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 1544, fol. 105r):

e) as depicted (his vision of Purgatory) in an earlier fourteenth-century French-language legendary of Parisian origin with illuminations attributed to the Fauvel Master (c. 1327; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 183, fol. 242v):

f) as depicted in an earlier fourteenth-century copy of the Legenda aurea in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (c. 1326-1350; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 185, fol. 186v):

g) as depicted (piercing the king's foot with his staff) 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. 83r):

h) as depicted (before the king) 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. 89r):

i) as depicted (before the king) in an early fifteenth-century copy of the Legenda aurea in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay followed by the Festes nouvelles attributed to Jean Golein (c. 1401-1425; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 242, fol. 72r):

j) as depicted (at far right; his vision of the entrance to Purgatory) in an earlier fifteenth-century copy of the Merveilles du monde, a.k.a. Secrets de l'histoire naturelle (c. 1428; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 1378, fol. 10v):

k) as depicted (in Purgatory, standing on a snake) in a mid-fifteenth-century copy of The Vision of William of Stranton (1451; London, British Library, MS Royal 17.B.XLIII, fol. 132v):


l) as depicted (his vision of the entrance to Purgatory) in a later fifteenth-century copy of Vincent of Beauvais' Speculum historiale in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 310, fol. 161r):

m) as depicted (his vision of the entrance to Purgatory) in a late fifteenth-century copy (c.1480-1490) of the Legenda aurea in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 244, fol. 104v):


n) as depicted (right margin at bottom) in a hand-coloured woodcut in the Beloit College copy of Hartmann Schedel's late fifteenth-century Weltchronik (Nuremberg Chronicle; 1493) at fol. CXLVv:

The Zenit website today has the text of a homily by the Bishop of Derry about St Patrickand his real significance for modern Ireland which can be read at What Might St. Patrick Say to His Spiritual Descendants Today? It is a homily which makes some telling points, some of which might not have been said only afew years ago.