Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Tuesday 31 May 2016


In the light of the Pope's recent comments about establishing a commission to look into the historic evidence for the place of Deaconesses in ecclesial life today's post from Zenit includes an interesting article by Fr Edward Macnamara about the history of Deaconesses as a recognised ministry in the Catholic Church.

As this is likely to be alively topic amongst some of my friends I am reproducing the text in its entirity - complete with its illustration: now who only a few years ago would have depicted a Deacon with a maniple? How things have changed. :


Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university. 
Q: Could you please explain why historically the Church accepted women deacons and yet since the second century this has been stopped? The Church of England allowed women priests, and the number of its clergy almost doubled in five years. Considering that Benedict XVI allowed married men into the Catholic priesthood to open the Anglican door, could this not be considered a key for Western rules on celibacy to be relaxed in the future? — T.B., Salford, United Kingdom
A: There are several questions in one. The decisions of the Church of England regarding this question have no bearing on the Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II effectively closed this debate with a declaration that the Church does not have the power to ordain women priests.
Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to allow married Anglican clergy to be ordained to the Catholic priesthood (which John Paul II had already allowed in a more-restricted manner) does not indicate a relaxation of the celibacy rule, as the norms in place foresee that newly ordained clergy of the Anglican-use ordinariates will be celibate. 
Perhaps the principal question regards deaconesses in the Church. Pope Francis agreed to a proposal to set up a commission to study this question. This question had already been touched upon in 2002 by a document of the International Theological Commission: “From the Diakonia of Christ to the Diakonia of the Apostles.” The whole document is available on the Vatican website and is worthwhile reading so as to have the full context of the part regarding deaconesses which we report below.
“In the apostolic era different forms of diaconal assistance offered to the Apostles and communities by women seem to have been institutional. Thus Paul recommends to the community at Rome ‘our sister Phoebe, servant [he diakonos] of the Church at Cenchreae’ (cf. Romans 16:1-4). Although the masculine form of diakonos is used here, it cannot therefore be concluded that the word is being used to designate the specific function of a ‘deacon’; firstly because in this context diakonos  still signifies servant in a very general sense, and secondly because the word ‘servant’ is not given a feminine suffix but preceded by a feminine article. What seems clear is that Phoebe exercised a recognized service in the community of Cenchreae, subordinate to the ministry of the Apostle. Elsewhere in Paul’s writings the authorities of the world are themselves called diakonos (Romans 13:4), and in Second Corinthians 11:14-15 he refers to diakonoi of the devil.
“Exegetes are divided on the subject of First Timothy 3:11. The mention of ‘women’ following the reference to deacons may suggest women deacons (by parallel reference), or the deacons’ wives who had been mentioned earlier. In this epistle, the functions of the deacon are not described, but only the conditions for admitting them. It is said that women must not teach or rule over men (1 Timothy 2:8-15). But the functions of governance and teaching were in any case reserved to the bishop (1 Timothy 3:5) and to priests (1 Timothy 5:17), and not to deacons. Widows constituted a recognized group in the community, from whom they received assistance in exchange for their commitment to continence and prayer. First Timothy 5:3-16 stresses the conditions under which they may be inscribed on the list of widows receiving relief from the community, and says nothing more about any functions they might have. Later on they were officially ‘instituted’ but ‘not ordained’; they constituted an ‘order’ in the Church, and would never have any other mission apart from good example and prayer.
“At the beginning of the second century a letter from Pliny the Younger, governor of Bithynia, mentioned two women who were described by the Christians as ministrae, the probable equivalent of the Greek diakonoi (10, 96-97). It was not until the third century that the specific Christian terms diaconissa or diaconal appeared. 
“From the end of the third century onwards, in certain regions of the Church (and not all of them), a specific ecclesial ministry is attested to on the part of women called deaconesses. This was in Eastern Syria and Constantinople. Towards 240 there appeared a singular canonico-liturgical compilation, the Didascalia Apostolorum (DA), which was not official in character. It attributed to the bishop the features of an omnipotent biblical patriarch (cf. DA  2, 33-35, 3). He was at the head of a little community which he governed mainly with the help of deacons and deaconesses. This was the first time that deaconesses appeared in an ecclesiastical document. In a typology borrowed from Ignatius of Antioch, the bishop held the place of God the Father, the deacon the place of Christ, and the deaconess that of the Holy Spirit (the word for ‘Spirit’ is feminine in Semitic languages), while the priests (who are seldom mentioned) represented the Apostles, and the widows, the altar (DA 2, 26, 4-7). There is no reference to the ordination of these ministers.
“The Didascalia laid stress on the charitable role of the deacon and the deaconess. The ministry of the diaconate should appear as ‘one single soul in two bodies.’ Its model is the diakonia of Christ, who washed the feet of his disciples (DA 3, 13, 1-7). However, there was no strict parallelism between the two branches of the diaconate with regard to the functions they exercised. The deacons were chosen by the bishop to ‘concern themselves about many necessary things,’ and the deaconesses only ‘for the service of women’ (DA 3, 12, 1). The hope was expressed that ‘the number of deacons may be proportionate to that of the assembly of the people of the Church’ (DA  3, 13, l). The deacons administered the property of the community in the bishop’s name. Like the bishop, they were maintained at its expense. Deacons are called the ear and mouth of the bishop (DA 2, 44, 3-4). Men from among the faithful should go through the deacons to have access to the bishop, as women should go through the deaconesses (DA 3, 12, 1-4). One deacon supervised the entries into the meeting place, while another attended the bishop for the Eucharistic offering (DA 2, 57, 6).
“Deaconesses should carry out the anointing of women in the rite of baptism, instruct women neophytes, and visit the women faithful, especially the sick, in their homes. They were forbidden to confer baptism themselves, or to play a part in the Eucharistic offering (DA 3, 12, 1-4). The deaconesses had supplanted the widows. The bishop may still institute widows, but they should not either teach or administer baptism (to women), but only pray (DA 3, 5, 1-3, 6, 2). 
“The Constitutiones Apostolorum, which appeared in Syria towards 380, used and interpolated the Didascalia, the Didache and the Traditio Apostolica. The Constitutiones were to have a lasting influence on the discipline governing ordinations in the East, even though they were never considered to be an official canonical collection. The compiler envisaged the imposition of hands with the epiklesis of the Holy Spirit not only for bishops, priests and deacons, but also for the deaconesses, sub-deacons and lectors (cf. CA 8, 16-23).The concept of kleros  was broadened to all those who exercised a liturgical ministry, who were maintained by the Church, and who benefited from the privileges in civil law allowed by the Empire to clerics, so that the deaconesses were counted as belonging to the clergy while the widows were excluded. Bishop and priests were paralleled with the high priest and the priests respectively of the Old Covenant, while to the Levites corresponded all the other ministries and states of life: ‘deacons, lectors, cantors, door-keepers, deaconesses, widows, virgins and orphans’ (CA 2, 26, 3; CA 8, 1, 21). The deacon was placed ‘at the service of the bishop and the priests’ and should not impinge on the functions of the latter. The deacon could proclaim the Gospel and conduct the prayer of the assembly (CA 2, 57, 18), but only the bishop and the priests exhorted (CA  2, 57, 7). Deaconesses took up their functions through an epithesis cheirôn or imposition of hands that conferred the Holy Spirit, as did the lectors (CA  8, 20, 22). The bishop pronounced the following prayer: ‘Eternal God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, creator of man and woman, who filled Myriam, Deborah, Anne and Hulda with your spirit; who did not deem it unworthy for your Son, the Only-Begotten, to be born of a woman; who in the tent of witness and in the temple did institute women as guardians of your sacred doors, look now upon your servant before you, proposed for the diaconate: grant her the Holy Spirit and purify her of all defilement of flesh and spirit so that she may acquit herself worthily of the office which has been entrusted to her, for your glory and to the praise of your Christ, through whom be glory and adoration to you, in the Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.’ 
“The deaconesses were named before the sub-deacon who, in his turn, received a cheirotonia like the deacon (CA 8, 21), while the virgins and widows could not be ‘ordained’ (8, 24-25). The Constitutiones insist that the deaconesses should have no liturgical function (3, 9, 1-2), but should devote themselves to their function in the community which was ‘service to the women’ (CA 3, 16, 1) and as intermediaries between women and the bishop. It is still stated that they represent the Holy Spirit, but they ‘do nothing without the deacon’ (CA  2, 26, 6). They should stand at the women’s entrances in the assemblies (2, 57, 10). Their functions are summed up as follows: ‘The deaconess does not bless, and she does not fulfill any of the things that priests and deacons do, but she looks after the doors and attends the priests during the baptism of women, for the sake of decency’ (CA 8, 28, 6).
“This is echoed by the almost contemporary observation of Epiphanius of Salamis in his Panarion, in around 375: ‘There is certainly in the Church the order of deaconesses, but this does not exist to exercise the functions of a priest, nor are they to have any undertaking committed to them, but for the decency of the feminine sex at the time of baptism.’ A law of Theodosius of 21 June 390, revoked on 23 August of the same year, fixed the age for admission to the ministry of deaconesses at 60. The Council of Chalcedon (can. 15) reduced the age to 40, forbidding them subsequent marriage.
“Even in the fourth century the way of life of deaconesses was very similar to that of nuns. At that time the woman in charge of a monastic community of women was called a deaconess, as is testified by Gregory of Nyssa among others. Ordained abbesses of the monasteries of women, the deaconesses wore the  maforion, or veil of perfection. Until the sixth century they still attended women in the baptismal pool and for the anointing. Although they did not serve at the altar, they could distribute communion to sick women. When the practice of anointing the whole body at baptism was abandoned, deaconesses were simply consecrated virgins who had taken the vow of chastity. They lived either in monasteries or at home. The condition for admission was virginity or widowhood and their activity consisted of charitable and health-related assistance to women.
“At Constantinople the best-known of the fourth-century deaconesses was Olympias, the superior of a monastery of women, who was a protégée of Saint John Chrysostom and had put her property at the service of the Church. She was ‘ordained’ (cheirotonein) deaconess with three of her companions by the patriarch. Canon 15 of the Council of Chalcedon (451) seems to confirm the fact that deaconesses really were ‘ordained’ by the imposition of hands (cheirotonia). Their ministry was called leitourgia and after ordination they were not allowed to marry. 
“In eighth-century Byzantium, the bishop still imposed his hands on a deaconess, and conferred on her the orarion or stole (both ends of which were worn at the front, one over the other); he gave her the chalice, which she placed on the altar without giving communion to anyone. Deaconesses were ordained in the course of the Eucharistic liturgy, in the sanctuary, like deacons. Despite the similarities between the rites of ordination, deaconesses did not have access to the altar or to any liturgical ministry. These ordinations were intended mainly for the superiors of monasteries of women.
“It should be pointed out that in the West there is no trace of any deaconesses for the first five centuries. The Statuta Ecclesiae antiqua laid down that the instruction of women catechumens and their preparation for baptism was to be entrusted to the widows and women religious ‘chosen ad ministerium baptizandarum mulierum.‘ Certain councils of the fourth and fifth centuries reject every ministerium feminae and forbid any ordination of deaconesses. According to the Ambrosiaster  (composed at Rome at the end of the fourth century), the female diaconate was an adjunct of Montanist (‘Cataphrygian’) heretics. In the sixth century women admitted into the group of widows were sometimes referred to as deaconesses. To prevent any confusion the Council of Epaone forbade ‘the consecrations of widows who call themselves deaconesses.’ The Second Council of Orleans (533) decided to exclude from communion women who had ‘received the blessing for the diaconate despite the canons forbidding this and who had remarried.’ Abbesses, or the wives of deacons, were also called diaconissae, by analogy with presbyterissae or even episcopissae.
“The present historical overview shows that a ministry of deaconesses did indeed exist, and that this developed unevenly in the different parts of the Church. It seems clear that this ministry was not perceived as simply the feminine equivalent of the masculine diaconate. At the very least it was an ecclesial function, exercised by women, sometimes mentioned together with that of sub-deacon in the lists of Church ministries. Was this ministry conferred by an imposition of hands comparable to that by which the episcopate, the priesthood and the masculine diaconate were conferred? The text of the Constitutiones Apostolorum  would seem to suggest this, but it is practically the only witness to this, and its proper interpretation is the subject of much debate. Should the imposition of hands on deaconesses be considered the same as that on deacons, or is it rather on the same level as the imposition of hands on sub-deacons and lectors? It is difficult to tackle the question on the basis of historical data alone. In the following chapters some elements will be clarified, and some questions will remain open. In particular, one chapter will be devoted to examining more closely how the Church through her theology and Magisterium has become more conscious of the sacramental reality of Holy Orders and its three grades. But first it is appropriate to examine the causes which led to the disappearance of the permanent diaconate in the life of the Church.”
The document at a later stage describes the disappearance of deaconesses:
“After the tenth century deaconesses were only named in connection with charitable institutions. A Jacobite author of that time notes: ‘In ancient times, deaconesses were ordained. Their function was to look after women so that they should not have to uncover themselves before the bishop. But when religion spread more widely and it was decided to administer baptism to infants, this function was abolished.’ We find the same statement in the Pontifical of Patriarch Michael of Antioch (1166-1199). When commenting on can. 15 of the Council of Chalcedon, Theodore Balsamon, at the end of the twelfth century, observed that ‘the topic of this canon has altogether fallen into disuse. For today deaconesses are no longer ordained, although the name of deaconesses is wrongly given to those who belong to communities of ascetics.’ Deaconesses had become nuns. They lived in monasteries which no longer practiced works of diakonia except in the field of education, medical care, or parish service.
“The presence of deaconesses is still attested in Rome at the end of the eighth century. While the Roman rituals had previously not mentioned deaconesses, the sacramentary Hadrianum, sent by the pope to Charlemagne and spread by him throughout the Frankish world, includes an Oratio ad diaconam faciendum. It was in fact a blessing, placed as an appendix among other rites of first institution. The Carolingian texts often combined deaconesses and abbesses. The Council of Paris of 829 contained a general prohibition on women performing any liturgical function. The Decretals of Pseudo-Isidore contain no mention of deaconesses; and neither does a Bavarian Pontifical from the first half of the ninth century. A century later, in the Pontifical Romano-Germanique of Mainz, the prayer Ad diaconam faciendum  is to be found after the ordinatio abbatissae, between the consecratio virginum and the consecratio viduarum. Once again, this was merely a blessing accompanied by the handing over of the stole and veil by the bishop, as well as the nuptial ring and the crown. Like widows, the deaconess promised continence. This is the last mention of ‘deaconesses’ found in the Latin rituals. In fact the Pontifical of Guillaume Durand at the end of the thirteenth century speaks of deaconesses only with reference to the past. 
“In the Middle Ages, the nursing and teaching religious orders of nuns fulfilled in practice the functions of diakonia without, however, being ordained for this ministry. The title, with no corresponding ministry, was given to women who were instituted as widows or abbesses. Right up until the thirteenth century, abbesses were sometimes called deaconesses.” 
Finally, having analyzed the theology of the various degrees of the sacrament of orders, the document reached the following conclusion:
“With regard to the ordination of women to the diaconate, it should be noted that two important indications emerge from what has been said up to this point:
“1. The deaconesses mentioned in the tradition of the ancient Church — as evidenced by the rite of institution and the functions they exercised — were not purely and simply equivalent to the deacons;
“2. The unity of the sacrament of Holy Orders, in the clear distinction between the ministries of the bishop and the priests on the one hand and the diaconal ministry on the other, is strongly underlined by ecclesial tradition, especially in the teaching of the Magisterium. 
“In the light of these elements which have been set out in the present historico-theological research document, it pertains to the ministry of discernment which the Lord established in his Church to pronounce authoritatively on this question.”
The documents of the International Theological Commission are authoritative but are not magisterium as such. Any future commission will certainly have to take its research and conclusions into account.

Saturday 28 May 2016

The Littleport Riot 1816

The BBC News website has a report about the commemoration of the Littleport Riot near Ely in 1816.

This was one of the post Waterloo disturbances arising in part from the economic changes of the times and post-war dislocation. The report can be seen at:  Littleport's hunger riots: Descendants mark 200th anniversary

Reading it I was tempted to see parallels with some of the East Anglian events of 1381 in the Peasants Revolt - not just in that there were disturbances caused by several different issues but also seeing it as part of an East Anglian tradition of independent minded people who were perhaps instinctively more likely to rise in protest than those in other regions. Think of 1549 and the English Civil War. But then again, the sixteenth, and indeed, seventeenth century South West was also a potential trouble spot with risings in the time of Henry VII, in 1549 and in 1685. Regional traditions and folk memories should not be discounted.

St Thomas returns to Canterbury

The BBC News website has an article about the visit to England of the relic of St Thomas of Canterbury from Esztergom in Hungary. An elbow bone fragment believed to have come from the body of St Thomas Becket was taken back to Canterbury Cathedral, 845 years after he was murdered there.

The report, with links to related articles and videos about St Thomas and his relics can be seen below, as can a selection of other articles from various websites about the visit:
Thomas Becket bone fragment carried to Canterbury

Hungarian Pilgrimage to Reunite Thomas Becket Relics with Cathedral

The Hungarian pilgrimage dedicated to St Thomas Becket takes place in May. The saint's relics from the Diocese of Esztergom will be reunited with his relics ...

Reuniting the Relics of St Thomas Becket - Diocese of Westminster

In a joint initiative with the Church of England and the Catholic Church of England and Wales, the Embassy of Hungary will bring a relic of St Thomas Becket, ...

St Thomas Becket relic returns to UK from Hungary after 800 years ...

23 May 2016 - St Thomas Becket relic returns to UK from Hungary after 800 years ... The trip would likely include the first ever papal visit to Northern Ireland.

Thomas Becket relic will be brought back to Britain for first time in 800 ...

23 May 2016 - Church leaders hope that the week-long tour of his relics will help to revive awareness of Becket's importance as well as building bridges ...

Becket's bones return to Canterbury Cathedral

23 May 2016 - This relic of St Thomas Becket is touring south-east England this week from its home in Esztergom, Hungary, and will be at Canterbury ...

Bones of Thomas Becket to return to Canterbury – via Hungary ...

www.telegraph.co.uk › News › Religion
21 Jan 2016 - Relics which escaped Reformation and became a symbol of resistance to Communism return to site of murder after 800 years in gesture of ... 

Friday 27 May 2016

Celebrating St Philip's Day

This evening the Oxford Oratory celebrated the feast of St Philip Neri. This was a day late because as in 1595, the year when St Philip died, May 26th was the feast day of Corpus Christi.

The Solemn Mass this evening had as its preacher the Provost of the London Oratory, Fr Julian Large.
St Philip Altarino 2016.JPG

The statue of St Philip in place for the preparatory Novena

Image: Oxford Oratory

As is usual we had a novena leading up to St Philip's Day to prepare for the celebration of his feast and to ask for his prayers for the Oratory and parish.

Thursday 26 May 2016

King Edmund I

Today is the 1070th anniversary of the violent death in a scuffle of King Edmund I at Pucklechurch in Gloucestershire in 946. Born in 920/21 he proved an energetic ruler after his succession to his half-brother Athelstan in 939. At the time of his death in 946 he was only about 25, and his sons too young to succeed him. His brother Eadwig became King and was then succeeded in turn by King Edmund I's sons, King Eadwig and King Edgar. He is thus an ancestor of the British royal house. Like his son King Edgar he was buried at Glastonbury Abbey.

There is an online account of the King's life at Edmund I  and the up to date life of him in the Oxford DNB by Ann Williams can be read at Edmund I.

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Down by the Isis

Here in Oxford it is Summer Eights Week, leading up to the final races on Saturday afternoon.

Last week the Special Correspondent sent me a very interesting piece on the history of the boat houses and their predecessors the College barges on the Thames - or Isis. It can be seen at https://heartheboatsing.com/2013/04/22/oxford-beer-boathouses-and-barges/ and in particular in respect of the barges gives an insightful account of what was once a distinctive feature of the river.

Image result for Osbert lancaster Zuleika Dobson images 

Sir Osbert Lancaster's  depiction of a college barge on a race day for an edition of Sir Max Beerbohm's Zuleika Dobson


Wednesday 18 May 2016

St Eric of Sweden

Today is the feast of St Eric of Sweden, otherwise King Eric IX, and like St Olav of Norway and St Cnut of Denmark, a martyr King who became a patron of the monarchy and nation.

There is an online account of his life at Eric IX of Sweden


A later medieval carving of St Eric 


Last March Medieval Histories, a really excellent online journal from Denmark, and often with fascinating material on medieval Scandinavia, had the following illustrated feature about him:

St. Erik of Sweden – A study of the Bones in his Reliquary 
  Erik theSaint fromSweden being studied

Erik the I of Sweden (c. 1125 - 1160) was a stout man, used to fighting and a great fan of fresh-waterfish. And that he might have died as the legend tells  Read more.

Tuesday 17 May 2016

A French interview with the Pope

The Zenit website has the text of an interview given by Pope Francis to the French Catholic La Croix newspaper.
Speaking with journalists Guillaume Goubert and Sébastien Maillard for La Croix, the Holy Father discusses issues ranging from migrants, the separation of Church and state, and the scandal of sexual abuse by priests.
He also takes a question on the Society of St. Pius X and on the synods on the family.
La Croix has now published an English translation of the interview, available here. The original French text is at http://www.la-croix.com/Religion/Pape/INTERVIEW-Pope-Francis-2016-05-17-1200760633
The comments the Pope makes are, to my mind, more interesting or revealing than many of the stories we read emanating from the Vatican.

Roman barracks

The BBC News website has a post about how excavation work for a new metro line in Rome has unearthed a huge army barracks from the reign of Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd Century. The report can be viewed at  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-36311156 

Monday 16 May 2016

An altar frontal made from part of a dress of Queen Elizabeth I ?

There is an intersting post on the website Royal Central about a discovery in a Herefordshire church. I have  amended the text slightly:

A richly embroidered altar cloth, which may be a remnant of a dress belonging to Queen Elizabeth I herself, has been found in Bacton, Herefordshire. Historians believe that Queen Elizabeth I could have given the dress to one of her faithful servants, Blanche Parry. Blanche Parry was born in Bacton. The cloth was preserved for centuries in the small rural church of St Faith's in Bacton and it has now been identified by experts as a piece of a 16th century dress. Until very recently it hung in glass case on the wall.
© Historic Royal Palaces
© Historic Royal Palaces
 The connection to the Virgin Queen has been rumoured for centuries. Tracy Borman, a Historic Royal Palaces joint chief curator, has featured the story in her new book, The Private Lives of the Tudors. It was not uncommon for Queen Elizabeth I to pass on clothes she no longer wore, due to her enormous wardrobe, and the theory is that it once formed part of a court dress. It was made from cloth of silver, which was a high status fabric which could only be worn by royalty or the highest members of the aristocracy. It cannot be definitely confirmed that the dress was worn by Queen Elizabeth I, but she is depicted wearing a very similar fabric on the bodice of her dress in the Rainbow Portrait at Hatfield House.
 Tracy Borman said, "This is an incredible find - items of Tudor dress are exceptionally rare in any case, but to uncover one with such a close personal link to Queen Elizabeth I is almost unheard of. We're thrilled to be working with St Faith's Church to conserve this remarkable object, which will now be further examined by our conservation experts at Hampton Court Palace, where we hope to be able to display it in future."

St Ubaldus of Gubbio

John Dillon posted about St Ubaldus of Gubbio, whose feast day is today, on the Medieval Religion discussion group as follows:

Orphaned while still a boy, the wealthy Ubaldus (d. 1160; the name is a pronunciation spelling of the more familiar Hucbaldus or Hubaldus) was educated at a community of canons at Fano in the Marche, embraced an ascetic lifestyle, and returned to his native town of Gubbio in Umbria, where he became a canon of the cathedral chapter and later its prior.  After a disastrous fire he undertook the rebuilding of the cathedral church.  Ubaldus was ordained priest and in 1129 became Gubbio's bishop.  Noted for his pastoral zeal and and for careful management of church property and revenues, he refused to be dissuaded or even angered when physically threatened during a period of factional strife in the city.  Gubbio's victory in 1151 over an attacking force from Perugia and other cities was credited to the efficacy of Ubaldus' prayers.  In 1155, already elderly and infirm, he succeeded in convincing Friedrich Barbarossa, who had just burned Spoleto, to lift his siege of Gubbio.  Ubaldus is Gubbio's patron saint.

Ubaldus has two almost immediately posthumous Vitae from Gubbio, the first (BHL 8354) emphasizing his leadership in the nascent Augustinian Canons and the second (BHL 8355, 8357; two versions, of which the longer, dedicated to Barbarossa, is the earlier) on his merits as a reforming bishop.  He was canonized by Pope Celestine III in 1192.  Two years later, when his body was exhumed for transportation to the predecessor of the early sixteenth-century basilica di Sant'Ubaldo atop Monte Ingino above the city, it was found to be incorrupt.  As it still is, apparently:




Ubaldus' cult remained local until the latter half of the fourteenth century and the early fifteenth, when it spread across northern Italy chiefly in Augustinian contexts.  Also in the fourteenth century it crossed the Alps and found a home at Thann in Alsace, where a collegiate church was dedicated to him under the name of Theobald.  Thann's Vita sancti Theobaldi (BHL 8028) presents a form of Ubaldus' Vita secunda thought to be intermediate between its two versions from Gubbio and Thann's "finger" of its Saint Theobald has been shown to have come from the body preserved on Monte Ingino, though from its right earlobe rather than from a hand (see "La vérité à propos de la relique" at <http://www.eugubininelmondo.com/fr/Thann.html>).  Herewith a view of Thann's reliquary housing this object of veneration:

Some period-pertinent images of St. Ubaldus of Gubbio:

a) as depicted (lower register, second from left) in an earlier fourteenth-century polyptych (c. 1325-1350) in Gubbio's Museo civico:



b) as depicted (at right, flanking the BVM and Christ Child; at left, St. John the Baptist) in an earlier fourteenth-century detached fresco (1342?) remounted in Gubbio's Museo civico:

c) as depicted (lower register at right, flanking the BVM and Christ Child; at left, St. Jerome) by members of the Bellini workshop in a later fifteenth-century triptych (c. 1464-1470) in the Galleria dell'Accademia in Venice:



d) as depicted (at left, flanking the BVM and Christ Child; at right, St. Sebastian) as depicted by Giovanni Martino Spanzotti  in a late fifteenth-century triptych (probably early 1480s) in the Galleria Sabauda in Turin:



e) as depicted (at left, holding a model of Gubbio) in the early sixteenth-century frescoes (c. 1501-1510) in Gubbio's cappella del Spirito Santo:
Detail view:


These frescoes are currently undergoing restoration.  There are excellent detail views of the portrait of Ubaldus from earlier this year toward the beginning of the brief YouTube video linked to here (starting at 0:17):

f) as depicted (at right; at left, St. Augustine of Hippo) in an early sixteenth-century fresco (c. 1503; attributed to Orlando Merlini) in Gubbio's Museo civico:

Theresa Gross Diaz added a link to an article about the rather splendid - and rather curious - celebrations Gubbio puts on each year for St Ubaldus. Italian cities have ofen preserved wonderful customs such as this as signs of local identity and patriotism. The illustrated article about the Corsa dei Ceri in honor of St Ubaldo on May 15) can be seen at http://www.italoamericano.org/story/2016-5-15/Gubbio  The three 'ceri' i.e. 'candles' (for SS Ubaldo, Giorgio and Antonio) are shouldered up the very steep Mount Ingino from the central piazza.

Saturday 14 May 2016

Kingdom of the Two Sicilies - amending the Castro succession

The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies


 I was sent the following link by a friend about the announcement by HRH the Duke of Castro that he has amended the law of succession to his claim to the throne of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies to a system of absolute primogeniture, thus putting his two daughters in immediate succession to himself. The post can be seen at  http://royalmusingsblogspotcom.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/duke-of-castro-adopts-gender-equal.html

As the writer points out this may well call into question the apparent moves to reconciliation two to three years ago with the other claimant branch of the Bourbon house of Two Sicilies represented by HRH the Duke of Calabria. The link to that story can be accessed at  http://royalmusingsblogspotcom.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/royal-musing-exclusive-reconciliation.html

Looking for illustrations to add to this post I was surprised by the number of T-shirts, mugs, key-rings and suchlike that one can buy on-line with the arms of Il Regno that one can purchase online. Do Cafepress know something we don't? It it a hopeful sign for the future of the cause of the Two Sicilies?

I remeber being told by friends who had been on a motoring holiday that on a mountain road in, I think, the Abruzzi, they passed a very modern road sign proclaiming that drivers had now entered the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Talking to other freinds who are from the south of Italy and indeed from the Two Sicilies, they still resent the denigration of what was in many ways a progressive realm by Italian standards in the mid-nineteenth century and the wholseale asset stripping of economic resources that followed upon unification wiith Piedmont-Sardinia. That led to the poverty of the south. Only now are people outside Italy becoming aware of how the south was an occupied zone, with Piedmontese troops in plenty for many years after 1861.

File:Coat of Arms of Princess of the Two Sicilies.svg

 Arms of a Princess of the Two Sicilies

 Image: Wikimedia 

Tough cookie, Garibaldi, as one might say.

All of which reminds me to try to get on and read Harold Acton's The Bourbons of Naples and The Later Bourbons of Naples.

Birth of Emperor Charles IV

Today is the 700th anniversary of the birth in 1316 of the future Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV.

Charles IV-John Ocko votive picture-fragment.jpg 

Emperor Charles IV
A detail from the votive panel of Archbishop John Ocko

Image: Wikipedia 

There is an online biography of the Emperor at Charles IV

Born in 1316 , King of Bohemia from 1346 and holy Roman Emperor from 1348 he died in 1378 and was one of the most remarkable rulers of both Bohemia and the Empire, the ruler who developed Prague as a capital city ofd first class rank. He sponsored the rebuilding of the cathedral of St Vitus there - not completed until the 1920s, founded the Charles University - the first such institution within the Empire, developed the cult of St Wenceslaus and had made the crown of Bohemia, known as that of St Wenceslaus. As apatron of the visual arts his work in Prague and at his castle at Karlstejn survives as atestimony to the brilliance of his era. For the Empire the issued the Golden Bull which regulated that territory and institution until its dissolution in 1806.



In terms of English history he was the father of Queen Anne of Bohemia, the consort of King Richard II, and it was, less happily, under the Anglo-Bohemia contacts of those years that the ideas of Wyclif spread to Bohemia and led to the misdirection of the Emperor's laudable and orthodox aim of reinvigourating the Bohemian church into Hussitism.

One of the books I am reading at the moment is Fr Bede Jarrett's biography of the Emperor which includes a translation of the Emperor's own autobiography of his years before his accession.

A remarkable ruler in a glittering and cultured age, he was also one concerned to stamp his image and personality on his realms through the visual arts and enduring memorials.

Wednesday 11 May 2016

Prof Dennis Nineham

A friend has sent me the link to the Daily Telegraph obituary of Professor Dennis Nineham, formerly Regius Professor of Theology at Cambridge, Warden of Keble College and Professor at Bristol.
Like the friend who sent the link I knew Prof. Nineham in his retirement when he served for several years as a Senior Member on the Library Committee of the Oxford Union. As my friend wrote "it really did show the breadth of an Oxford education when you spent time talking to people like this waiting for the Librarian to arrive."

Dennis Nineham was a courteous man, punctilious in attending meetings, unafraid to express his displeasure or disagreement with Union Officers if need be, but also displaying humour and also friendliness towards much younger people.

Theologically I suspect I did not have that much in common with him, but he is someone I do recall with regard as an example of the " old school " of academics here.


The Duke of Cambridge in Oxford

I gather from the Internet through a post on the Royal Central site that the Duke of Cambridge was in Oxford today.

The post, slightly adapted and with some of my comments and explanations added in [ ] reads as follows:

" On Wednesday, the Duke of Cambridge travelled to Oxford to open Magdalen's completed Longwall Library which has been under construction for more than two years. His Royal Highness also opened the Blavatnik School of Government [ an ugly circular  creation in glass between the Woodstock Road and Jericho ] and the Weston Library [ that is, what used to be the New Bodleian. this is an excellent resource for Library users, and for visitors, having permanent exhibition spaces, and a tea room. It has been open for use for about a year]

This library renovation was a multi-million pound project with a new wing added and the interior was gutted and tore out to make more room for reading areas and to let in more natural light. During this time, students have been using a tent they've lovingly named the “Marquee."

Renovating Longwall has been a project of hard work and long hours of dedication by many; donations from alumni and telethons held by current students and administrators to raise the £10.5 million necessary to see this project completed. The construction company contracted to work on the building put in thousands of hours as well. So with a project of this scope and magnitude, there is bound to be controversy.

There are some who don't think the Duke should be the one to open Longwall. First-year musician student from Magdalen Ted Mair is one isn't pleased with this idea.

He said: “Prince William has made it to his current position simply by being born to a certain father. This appears to me as exactly the kind of cultural elitism that Magdalene, as part of the University of Oxford, should be discouraging. As an institution trying to open its gates to students from as many walks of life as possible, this choice of guest seems like a step backwards."

Another source told Oxford Student Paper, Cherwell: “We have a great many Magdalene alumni who have achieved far more through their own endeavors than Prince William has by accident of birth. Why didn’t the college choose one of them?"

[ It always surprises me - well to some extent at least why it is that reporters bother to record such miserable little whiners on these occasions...]

There are those though, who believe it quite fitting for the Duke to have this honour. Oliver Baldwin is one such student who said: "This is an honour for the school. “I’m very excited about The Duke of Cambridge coming to open the new library. The Queen is a symbol of Britain and The Duke of Cambridge, as the future king, is a symbol of where Britain is going, always remaining relevant to each new generation."

[ Much better! ]
Sam Sherburn, the current Magdalen JCR President hopes the Duke will see the value of the building.

He said: “I’ve talked about Magdalen's New Library Project to more alumni than I care to remember across several Telethons It is a fantastic project and it is great to see it open at long last. I hope that the Duke of Cambridge will be able to see for himself the hard work and dedication of those involved in the project– and those revising for their exams, for whom the New Library is a much-needed asset!” "

The Clever Boy will add that he, and he suspects many others in Oxford, were not aware in advance of this visit. As I, and others indeed, have pointed out before, the  University does not publicise these things well. I did see some preparations at the Weston Library the other day, but there was nothing to draw attention to what was scheduled.

St Maiolus of Cluny

John Dillon posted on the Medieval Religion discussion group the following piece about one of the Holy Abbots of Cluny - a monastic tradition which has always held a great interest for me, coming as I do from a town which once had a Cluniac priory:

Maiolus (in modern French: Maïeul, Mayeul) was the fourth abbot of Cluny.  Previously archdeacon of Mâcon, from 954 he was the coadjutor of Cluny's by then blind abbot Aymard, whom he succeeded in perhaps 963.  Both the abbey and its larger community flourished under his rule.  Maiolus traveled widely, reforming Benedictine houses in today's France, Germany, and Italy.  In 972 he was seized by Muslims from Africa who had settled in Provence, was wounded while defending one of his traveling companions, and was briefly held until he was ransomed at great expense (a letter from Maiolus appealing to Cluny for his ransom and describing his captors survives).  Maiolus died on this day in 994 at Cluny's priory in Souvigny (Allier) and was laid to rest in its church, now the église prieurale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul.  His cult was immediate.  Maiolus' tomb at Souvigny quickly became a pilgrimage destination.  One of its earliest recorded visitors is St. Fulcramnus / Fulcrannus (d. 1006).  The first of Maiolus' numerous Vitae (BHL 5177-5185) was written by Cluniac monks by the end of the tenth century and went through several revisions.  Another was written in 1033 by Maiolus' immediate successor, St. Odilo of Cluny (d. 1049).

Some period-pertinent images of Maiolus of Cluny (or at least [item a] reasonably supposed to be of him):

a) as probably depicted in one of a pair of twelfth-century frescoes of sainted abbots in the chapelle des Moines at Berzé-la-Ville (Saône-et-Loire), a former dependency of Cluny:



The corresponding fresco is thought probably to depict St. Odilo:



b) as portrayed in one of two thirteenth-century gisants on his and St. Odilo's double tomb in the église prieurale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul in Souvigny, shattered during the Revolution and recently reconstructed from surviving fragments (one doesn't know which figure represented Maiolus):


That photo seems to be from the early 2000s.  As the reconstruction progressed the figures were filled in.  Some more recent views:



Two informative French-language articles on the double tomb and its reconstruction:
1) Pascale Chevalier, "Les Gisants des saints Abbés Mayeul et Odilon découverts à Souvigny", in Annie Regond et Pascale Chevalier, eds., Sculptures médiévales en Auvergne: création, disparition et réapparition (Clermont-Ferrand: Presses Universitaires Blaise Pascal, 2008, pp. 63-71):
http://tinyurl.com/zs6w7ua   [Google Books preview; scroll down to p. 63]
2) Pascale Chevalier et Arlette Maquet, "La fouille des tombeaux des saints abbés de Cluny, Mayeul et Odilon et les pèlerinages à Souvigny", Bulletin Monumental 162 (2004), 87-100:

c) as depicted in a mid-fifteenth-century painting (c.1440-1450) on a door of the monumental cabinet for his relics and those of St. Odilo in the église prieurale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul in Souvigny:


Distance view (Maiolus at left, Odilo at right):
The reliquary as a whole:

d) as depicted in two illuminations in a later fifteenth-century  Libellus missarum sancti Maioli (1465-1466; Chambéry, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 7, fols. 1r and 15r):

e) as portrayed in a later fifteenth-century limestone reliquary bust (c. 1480; from the former priory of Souvigny dedicated to him in Veurdre [Allier]) in the Musée Anne de Beaujeu in Moulins:



f) as depicted (scenes) in a set of eight early sixteenth-century frescoes (c. 1515; attributed to Bernardino Lanzani) in Pavia's formerly Cluniac basilica di San Salvatore:

It is good to see the saint's tomb being reconstructed.

Monday 9 May 2016

King Joao I of Portugal's Livro da Montaria

Earlier this evening I attended a meeting of the Oxford Bibliographic Society at the Weston Library at which there was a lecture "Lost and Found:The Fifteenth-century Manuscript of  João of  Portugal's Livro da Montaria" which was given by Dr Juan-Carlos Conde of Magdalen College.

King João I

Image: Wikipedia

King João reigned from 1385 until his death in 1433; there is an online biography of him at
John I of Portugal

His family were certainly not lacking in literary and intellectual pursuits, and at some point in the years 1415-33 the Livro da Montaria ( Book of Hunting ) was composed. Hunting was an important part of courtly life, building team spirit, developing skills as horsemen and generally keeping the aristocracy fit.

The tradition of such works was extensive: Dr Conde cited the treatise of Emperor Frederick II on falconry, the writings of Dom Manuel, of King Alfonso XI of Castile's book on hunting and one written by a Castilian prisoner from the battle of Aljubarrotta in the years1385-8 on falconry. The Clever Boy thought also of  The Master of Game on hunting written by Edward Duke of York (d.1415)

King João 's is the most important such book written in Portugal and was in the library of his son King Duarte I. The Royal Library in Madrid has copies from the 14th and 15th century of King Alfonso XI's Libro de la Montaria which were owned by Queen Isabella the Catholic

Of King João's book only two copies were known until recently - one is a late 18th-early19th century copy in the Lisbon National Library and and a Coimbra copy of 1897. They from come from a 17th century copy made in 1626 at the Jesuit college in Montforte de Lemos in Galicia in Spain. In 1990 there resurfaced in the Lisbon Fundacao Oriente what is reasonably certainly a direct copy of the original, and this was published in 2009. In 2010 the copyist of 1626 was identified as Spanish, which explains ceertrain features in the manuscript.

In 2000 at Montforte de Lemos fragments of a medieval manuscript of the Livro were found: this was a page which had been reused to bind notarial records. It was presumed that the rest of the manuscript was lost. This was clearly a presentation copy, and in date quite close to time of composition. There was no proof but this could be part of King Duarte's own manuscript. This page was removed but is to be reunited to the remains subsequently found.

In 2013 more pages were found in the archives at Lugo comprising 10 whole pages, parts of 10 more plus 4 fragments amounting to 30 pages in total. They were binding notarial documents from 1721-61 and the discovery attracted considerable attention in El Pais

All the surviving portions are by the same hand, with related ornamental devices, the remains of a a presentatuion copy with corrections

A 1503 decree of Queen Isabella I regarding notaries was the most important since one of King Alfonso X in the mid -thirteenth century, and was not replaced until 1862. This 1503 decree establishe dthat notaries must keep full copies of their documents in volumes. Most ordinary binding was in parchment, and as printing was coming more and more into fashion, old manuscripts were lost as printed books became more popular, parchment from older works was used to make or bind paper. Thus the Fragmento Roncesvalles survives as one page used as a folder. Other such fragments are of an early novel and in the Alba Library a 10th century page fom S.Luke's Gospel. At Burgos a 12th century folio page similarly survives in the S.Clara archives.With the important text of King Alfonso X's Siete Partidas printed copies replaced manuscript ones.

About a third is now available of the original text of King João, which then makes possible a comparison with the 1626 manuscript copy to see how accurate that is.

As to why there are no more copies Dr Conde pointed out that less survives generally in the way of manuscripts in Portugal.

This was a fascinating historical and bibliographical story - it was just a pity so few people were there to actually hear the lecture.


 The tomb of King João and his Queen Philippa of Lancaster in the abbey at Batalha



Bournemouth Oratory

There was the news in the Oxford Oratory parish bulletin yesterday about the proposal to set up a new Oratory in Bournemouth.

This initiative, backed by the Bishop of Portsmouth, has attracted quite a bit of attention. The two founding Fathers are from the Southwark archdiocese, and are to be supported and joined by Fr Dominic Jacob from the Oxford Oratory.

There are articles about this very positive development by Fr Blake on his blog at  A New Oratory in Bournemouth and in the Catholic Herald online at England's sixth Oratory to be set up in Bournemouth

The parish website can be seen at Sacred Heart Church Bournemouth and there is an online account of the building and its history at Sacred Heart Church, Bournemouth

 Outside Views


The Church of the Sacred Heart in Bournemouth

This is a project to be thankful for and to pray for in the coming months and years.

Sunday 8 May 2016

A rara avis amongst birettas

The Clever Boy being the sort of person who notices these things he felt rather like a bird-watcher
 ( aka a Twitcher) who had spotted a lesser-spotted blue hook-beaked dotteril or what have you when he noted the biretta worn by Bishop Robert Byrne at Vespers at the Oxford Oratory this evening. This was an episcopal biretta in Roman Purple, but fashioned according to the Oratorian model. That, if readers are not familiar with it, is with slightly shallower sides that other designs and having a cord stalk rather than a pom-pom at the summit.

Now given the rarity of Oratorian bishops, and there has not been one in England since 1917, this was a rare sighting indeed and one to put on record. I commented upon it to Bishop Robert, and I thought its existence should be bruited abroad.

May Devotions at SS Gregory and Augusti

This afternoon I went to the May Devotion in honour of Our Lady at SS Gregory and Augustine here in Oxford.

In recent years I have aimed to attend this occasion, and usually managed to get there, and it has normally been blessed, as it was today, by fine weather. The afternoon begins at an altar set up in the grounds with prayetrs before astatue of Our Lady which is then carried in procession out and along part of Woodstock Road and into the church for prayers. We were all provided with roses to carry and then offer before the statue of our Lady of Fatima which is above the Lady altar in the church. Ss Gregory and Augustine was decorated with spring flowers and with garlands strtching from the baldechino to the side walls for the occasion ( and the visit of the Archbishop for the parish Mass in the morning ). The style that is used there for floral arrangements aims for a 'country' look to blend with the Art-Nouveau/Art-Deco style of the church, which dates from 1912. The effect was very pretty, and we added to the flowers as we offered the blooms we were all carrying for vases on the Lady altar.

After more prayers and an act of dedication to the Virgin we concluded with quintessentially English refreshments of tea and cake out in the open air.

A happy and holy afternoon that was very traditional and very English.

Saturday 7 May 2016

St Stanislas

Today is the traditional feast day of St Stanislas - in the Novus Ordo it is now observed on April 11th, the anniversary of his martyrdom in 1079.

There is an online account of his life and cult at Stanislaus of Szczepanów . Before looking at that I had already found this wonderful early sixteenth century image of St Stanislas, dating from 1530-35, and which is now held by the National Library of Poland.

Stanisław Samostrzelnik, Św Stanisław.jpg


: commissioned by Piotr Tomicki, Deputy Chancellor of the Crown and Bishop of Kraków
: transferred to Primate Andrzej Krzycki
1580s: transferred to Chancellor Jan Zamoyski
1810s: transferred to Library of the Zamoyski Estate

Miniature painted by Stanisław Samostrzelnik of Mogiła (Stanislaus Claratumbensis), from a manuscript copy of Catalogus archiepiscoporum Gnesnensium ("Catalogue of the Archbishops of Gniezno") and Vitae episcoporum Cracoviensium ("Lives of the Bishops of Kraków") by Jan Długosz, created in the 1530s for Bishop Piotr Tomicki of Kraków. It depicts Saint Stanislaus of Szczepanów as the patron saint of Poland, venerated by King Sigismund I and Tomicki himself together with church and secular dignitaries
Saint Stanislaus is depicted in hierachical proportion, dressed in pontifical vestments and a mitre on his haloed head. The inscription on a red plaque above reads: S[an]ctus Stanislaus Ep[iscopu]s Crac[oviensis] R[egni] P[oloniae] Patro[nus] (“Saint Stanislaus, Bishop of Kraków, Patron of the Kingdom of Poland”). He holds a crosier in his left hand and makes a blessing gesture with his right. The angels on either side of him support his cope above the figures praying below and hold the saint’s attributes: a palm branch symbolizing martyrdom and a red banner with the White Eagle intertwined with the letter “S” (King Sigismund I’s cypher) symbolizing his patronage of the Kingdom of Poland. The small figure of a naked bearded man at the saint’s feet is that of Piotr, whom – according to legend – Stanislaus resurrected, and serves as an attribute of the saint as a miracle maker.

The two larger figures kneeling at the saint’s feet are King Sigismund I of Poland (right, wearing a crown and a gold chain) and Piotr Tomicki, bishop of Kraków and deputy chancellor of the Crown (left, in pontifical vestments). Below, surrounded by wreaths and with a little white dog lying on the grass in between, are two heraldic shields:
  • on the right, the royal coat of arms, the White Eagle; above the escutcheon there is a crown and the letters S[igismundus] R[ex] (“King Sigismund”);
  • on the left, the arms of Tomicki’s Łodzia clan; above the escutcheon there is a mitre and the letters P[etrus] T[omicius] E[piscopus] C[racoviensis] (“Piotr Tomicki, Bishop of Kraków”).
Kneeling behind the King:
Kneeling behind Bishop Tomicki:
  • Canon Jerzy Myszkowski; below there is the coat of arms of his Jastrzębiec clan and the letters G[eorgius] M[yszkowski] A[rchidiaconus] C[racoviensis] (“Jerzy Myszkowski, Archdeacon of Kraków”);
  • two unidentified clergymen.
The miniature is surrounded by a border with floral ornamentation. The inscription on a red plaque in the left part of the border reads: Vir inclite Stanislae vita signis pasione gregem tuam pastor bone fove benedictione guberna protectione sana salva s[an]ct[i] intercessione (“O Stanislaus, famous for your life, miraculous signs and passion ! O good shepherd, support your flock with your blessing, govern our protection, heal and save us through your holy intercession!”).
Source: Miodońska, Barbara () Miniatury Stanisława Samostrzelnika,Warsaw: Wydawnictwa Artystyczne i Filmowe, Oficyna Wydawnicza Auriga, pp. 42, 96 ISBN: 83-221-0190-2.

Source: Wikipedia

I think this is not only a splendid work in its own right but a reminder of the vitality of Court art under the later Jagiellonian Kings of Poland.

The Order of Chivalry under his patronage founded by King Stanislas II Augustus in 1765 is described in an online article at Order of Saint Stanislaus