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.

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Identifying Mary Boleyn

Last weekend the Mailonline website carried an article about a painting in the Royal Collection which it says has now been identified as a portrait of Mary Boleyn, sometime mistress of King Henry VIII and elder sister of the more famous, or infamous, Anne. The article can be seen at Mystery woman in portrait identified after 300 years as Mary Boleyn

I think the writer or copy editor has missed a point here - I think the portrait has been identified as being of Mary Boleyn for a long time, and is used widely on internet sites about her and her family. I think the story is more about identifying where the painting belongs within a series in the Royal Collection. It appears to be a seventeenth century copy of a sixteenth century original.

That said the article got me to look up what is known of Mary Boleyn - and not from the vast detritus of historical novels about her and her family. They are rarely historical or novel. The Wikipedia biography is actually quite full for a woman who lived much of her life in the shadows, if not in the complete shade. It can be seen at Mary Boleyn

With that it is really well worthwhile using the links to see exactly who she was connected to, and that opens up a lot of the social complexities of early sixteenth century England. Her two marriages are central to this. Her first husband, William Carey, had a Beaufort grandmother, cousin to the Lady Margaret. Her second husband, William
Stafford, was a seemingly impecunious distant relative of the great Stafford family, and he took  as his second wife a second cousin who was closer to the main line. She was a granddaughter of the last Stafford Duke of Buckingham and also of Bl. Margaret Pole. Her  uncle was therefore Cardinal Pole, but she and her family, clearly having evangelical views, took refuge in Geneva in the reign of Queen Mary I. The network so revealed bore out a point made by a researcher on the period that one needs to look at the whole range of an individual’s family connections in order to see how and where they fitted, or did not fit, into the world around them.

The other thing I learned from the original Mailonline feature was that whilst Anne Boleyn was the mother of Queen Elizabeth I, Mary Boleyn is the eleven times great grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II.

That line of descent comes through Her Majesty’s grandmother the Countess of Strathmore, who was descended from Mary Boleyn’s marriage to William Carey.

The Rood Loft and the Liturgical Gospel

Recently I came across a post on Allan Barton’s excellent Medieval Art blog about the use to which the Rood loft was put in English churches before the mid-sixteenth century liturgical revolution, or more specifically, the question as to whether or not the Gospel was sung or read from it at High Mass. 

The instances he gives and the various possibilities and difficulties involved in such a practice are set out clearly, and, I must add, coincide with my thoughts on this matter as a result of visiting many medieval churches over many years.

As he indicates the answer is not clear as to a uniform practice - and probably never was in parish custom or usage.

His post has some fine illustrations of surviving screens and those seemingly so cramped stairs to the lofts, and it can be viewed at The Rood Loft and the Liturgical Gospel

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

The Treaty of Troyes 1420

Today, June 2nd, is the six hundredth anniversary of the wedding of King Henry V to Catherine of Valois, the final act in the events around the making of the Treaty of Troyes in 1420.

Under the terms of this King Henry V was to become heir to the French throne and to act as Regent of France until the death of King Charles VI, when he would succeed him. As part of the agreement the English King was to marry the French King’s daughter Catherine. This marriage was not a new proposal - it had been raised in negotiations in 1408, 1409, 1413 and 1415. Her brother the Dauphin Charles, who ultimately did become King Charles VII, was disinherited.

There is a discussion of the Treaty of Troyes, with quotations from original sources, and a series of reflections on its implications which can be read at Treaty of Troyes and Trouble Ahead

Ratification of the Treaty of Troyes by King Henry V 21 May 1420 

The final negotiations took place in the cathedral of St Pierre et St Paul in Troyes.

Troyes Cathedral
Image: Wikipedia

In the negotiations in the cathedral, with Queen Isabeau to the fore on the French side and the English king supported by the young Valois Duke of Burgundy, alienated from his dynasty by the murder, apparently with the connivance or acquiescence of the Dauphin Charles, of his father the previous autumn, what was envisaged or presented as a final peace was set out. The Hundred Years War, which had begun in 1337, but in reality a generation or more earlier, would end with a new Great Peace as in 1361.

That one had not lasted, with the campaigning resuming in 1369, and nor was this to last - but both were impressive on parchment.

King Charles VI by the Master of Boucicaut 1412

Queen Isabeau receiving Christine de Pisan's Le Livre de la Cité des Dames, c. 1410–1414. 
Image: British Library and Wikipedia

King Henry V
Image: Wikipedia 

The wedding ceremony is sometimes said to have been in the cathedral but most authorities these days place it in the church of Saint-Jean-au-Marché, which lies to the west of both the the cathedral and the incomplete Basilica of St Urbain. The church has been considerably altered and restored since 1420, but parts of it - the nave and its aisles - are as they were on that remarkable wedding. For that occasion King Henry insisted the ceremony should be after the French fashion, presumably to indicate parity between the two realms. That is reminiscent of Queen Mary I stressing English customs at her marriage in 1554.

The great question that arises is, of course, was such a union of the two realms possible. Crucial factors in its failure were the deaths of King Henry V in 1422, two months before King Charles VI, and the desertion of his English alliance by Duke Philip of Burgundy in 1435. Those and a royal minority in England, plus Jeanne d’Arc appearing on the scene in 1429 made the realisation of the Treaty well nigh impossible.

However if we stand with the crowds which doubtless were gathered to see the happy couple, the 33 year old King and his 18 year old bride, leave St Jean that day perhaps such an outcome did seem not so likely.

Unions of realms such as Troyes envisaged were not uncommon from the later Middle Ages onwards. Denmark, Norway and Sweden were united in the Union of Kalmar from 1397 (Henry’s sister Philippa was married to its King) and lasted until Sweden seceded in 1523. Denmark and Norway shared a monarch until to 1814, then Sweden and Norway until 1905. Poland was under the same king as Hungary 1370-82, and his daughter’s marriage united Poland and Lithuania in the period 1386-1795. Castile and Aragon have been united in a dynastic union since 1474/9, and were in one with Portugal in the period 1580-1640. Austria and Hungary-Bohemia were linked under a shared ruler from 1526 to 1918.

England and Scotland have been in a dynastic union since 1603, and Great Britain and Hanover were in one from 1714-1837. The Prussian kingdom also came about in essence through branches of the same family linking through inheritance Ducal Prussia to the Electorate of Brandenburg.

Not a few of these unions were tempestuous or foundered temporarily or ultimately but their duration is still striking.

English exceptionalism notwithstanding there is the point made by K.B.Macfarlane in his famous 1953 essay on King Henry V, and perhaps endorsed by some other historians, that if anyone could make the envisaged Dual Monarchy work it was Henry.

The French, being French, do not celebrate the Treaty which they often brand as shameful. When I visited Troyes some years ago I noticed a plaque on the cathedral recording the visit of King Charles VII with Jeanne d’Arc in 1429, but no commemorative plaque for the 1420 Treaty. Funny that... 

However a Troyes tourist site does speak of the more positive potentialities of the Treaty:

Some historians call the 1420 Treaty of Troyes the “shameful treaty”, because it “handed” control of France to the English. This unwanted label became commonplace some three centuries later with the birth of the concepts of the nation and nationalism.
Yet a close inspection of the treaty would suggest that, in the context of the time, the treaty was actually extremely “modern”. As well as establishing peace between two warring factions, it also respected the identity of both parties and introduced the concept of ongoing dialogue between peoples, particularly through the development of trade.
In that sense, it is rather similar to the Common Market and the subsequent European Union, which came some six centuries later. And what if this treaty was more than just a visionary text? Some modern historians have drawn parallels between the Treaty of Troyes and the Declaration of Union of Britain and France, approved by De Gaulle and Churchill on 16 June 1940: “France and Great Britain shall no longer be two nations, but one Franco-British Union”. 
Article 24 of the Treaty of Troyes reads as follows:
“The two crowns of France and English shall for evermore be united as a single entity”. Later, the treaty talks of “accord, mutual affection, firm and stable friendships”
So, welcome to Troyes...

Something like that ephemeral 1940 arrangement was again tentatively suggested by the French government in the period before the 1957 Treaty of Rome.

As for the English, despite a few articles in popular history magazines - and allowing for the current health emergency - in the age of Brexit there seems no appetite for commemorating one of the most spectacular, if short-lived, diplomatic successes. Funny that as well...

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Historians’ Thought for the Day

A friend just shared this with me:

When Geoffrey Barraclough asked Patrick Collinson what his research method was, all he could say was that he tried to look at everything which was remotely relevant to his subject. “I had no ‘method’ only an omnium gatherum of materials culled from more or less everywhere.”

Our Lady of Walsingham

The last day of the spiritual Marian Pilgrimage brings the virtual traveler to the most famous of all the medieval English shrines of Our Lady, the one that has been so triumphantly restored in the twentieth century and which in the twenty-first looks with confidence to the future in a rededicated Dowry of Mary - the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.

I rather wonder if Edmund Waterton, writing in 1879, could have envisaged so successful a renewal of devotion to Our Lady in the countryside of west Norfolk, or that it should come about in the way that it did. That is a remarkable and graced story.

Waterton’s extensive notes on the medieval Shrine are a rich source of information about its history and he cites material I do not recall seeing in more recent works on the history of Walsingham. Waterton was also keen to set at rest false interpretations about it and pilgrimage in general. I do appreciate the fact that he has plenty to say that is critical of that over-rated, tiresome and painful liberal Erasmus and his attitude to Walsingham - useful as I must admit his account is of what the layout of the Holy House was. These pages can be viewed at waterton1 and by following the page links at the end they can be consulted in extenso. Following on from it is at least part of J.C.Dickinson’s 1956 history The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us

Saturday, 30 May 2020

Our Lady of the Mount King’s Lynn

On the penultimate day of the spiritual pilgrimage to medieval English Marian shrines we reach the chapel of Our Lady of the Mount at King’s Lynn. Unlike many places on this virtual journey the chapel still stands, and like the Bridge chapel at Wakefield or the Slipper Chapel at Walsingham is an almost unique surviving example of a type of building that would have graced the towns and roadsides of pre-Reformation England. As the websites which follow show this is a remarkably complex structure for such a small building, indicative of the spiritual and ecclesial complexities of the era that created it.

The websites are all illustrated and give both historical and architectural information about the chapel, built in 1483-5, and extended upwards in 1506. Its main purpose seems to have been for pilgrims from the continent arriving or departing King’s Lynn on the journey to or from Walsingham.

The Historic England webpage about it can be seen at Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount, The Walks, Kings Lynn, Norfolk

Britain Express also features it at Red Mount Chapel, King's Lynn | Norfolk Heritage Guide

The Norfolk Churches website has a piece which can be seen at Norfolk Churches.

The King’s Lynn Friends of ‘The Walks’ have an account with a chronology of the chapel’s history at Red Mount Chapel | Friends of 'The Walks'.

There s a useful note about the building on Flickr which can be seen at Chapel of Our Lady on the Mount Kings Lynn Norfolk.

King’s Lynn was a major port and trading town with a rich array of medieval churches. Although she lived upwards of a century earlier there is a fascinating insight into the lively spirituality of a King’s Lynn housewife and into the world she occupied there in the town and on her travels in England and abroad in The Book of Margery Kempe. There are translations of this remarkable fifteenth century narrative into modern English available from both Oxford’s World’s Classics and from Penguin, plus a sizeable array of interpretive works. Like the Chapel on the Mount her autobiography is a unique survival for its period, and both open our horizons into the past.

Our Lady of the Mount King’s Lynn, pray for us

Friday, 29 May 2020

Our Lady of the Oak at St Martins Norwich

Oak Apple Day seems an appropriate day for the virtual Marian Pilgrimage to be at the shrine of Our Lady of the Oak, in the churchyard of St Martin’s in Norwich.

Francis Blomefield (1705-52) in his collections on Norwich in his History of Norfolk vol IV, pt ii, in the 1806 edition, says of this pilgrimage place:

“In 1513, John Buxton, worsted weaver, was buried in the churchyard "before the image of our Lady in the Oke, and gave to our Lady in the Oke 6d. This was a famous image of the Virgin Mary, placed in the oak, which grew in the churchyard, so as it was seen by all that passed in the street; from whence the church took the name of St. Martin at the Oak, it being always before, called St. Martin in Coste-lane, or Coselany, the whole part of the city from Blackfriars-bridge, or New bridge, to St. Martin at the Oak-gates, being so called, because it lies on the coste of the river: now it seems this oak and image began to be of remark about the time of Edward II. for then I find it first called ate the Oke.........certain it is, she was much visited by the populace, who left many gifts in their wills, to dress, paint, and repair her; at the coming of Edw. VI. to the crown, she was dismounted, and I am apt to believe the poor oak, also cut down, least that should be visited for her ladyship's sake, for the present oak, which now grows in the place, hath not been planted a hundred years, as appears by the parish register in these words, "I John Tabor, constable and overseer, did bring the Oak from Rannerhall near Horning ferry, before me on my horse, and set it in the churchyard of St. Martin of Coselany, I set it March 9. 1656." Then also the rich vestments and plate, were sold, and the money laid out to fye the river. 1534, Will. Alleyn, worsted weaver, gave a pall of baudekyn.”
The church building was rebuilt in the fifteenth century - the chancel circa 1440, the south aisle with a huge apparently uncompleted porch initiated by a bequest from Alderman Thomas Wilkyns in 1491-2.

St Martin’s fate as a church building in the last eighty years is a rather sad story. It lies north of the river Wensum and away from the city centre and not in the tourist part of the city. In 1942 it was severely damaged in a bombing raid - looking into that I was struck by how much the city suffered from these, especially in that year. After the war it was not fully restored but what survived was repaired to act as a parish hall for neighbouring parishes. However with the closure of so many of the city’s churches in the 1960s - I recall thinking, as an inveterate church crawler, how depressing the results of that policy were in Norwich when I stayed there in 1970 - its new role as a hall never happened and it has been used for a variety of charitable uses in subsequent decades.

There is a modern, illustrated, account of the church and its fate from the Norfolk Churches website which can be viewed at Norfolk Churches

There is a more detailed account of the parish and church, its history, architecture and fragments of alabaster from it at St Martin at Oak (Coslany)

There are photographs of the church before the bombing and of all the medieval churches of Norwich in the collection by George Plunkett which can be accessed at Norwich Mediaeval City Churches

It has occurred to me before, and certainly whilst following this set of pilgrimage visits, that visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary often involve Our Lady standing in a tree. Most recently there is the cork oak at Fatima in 1917. On this virtual journey there were the shrines of Our Lady of the Oak at Islington and the apparitions at Evesham. At Lourdes it was not a tree but up on the rock above the spring that Our Lady was seen. That an elevated site might be suitable or convenient is clear, but the association with trees, especially oaks, looks interesting. I now find that there is an article about this by that learned twentieth century investigator of the history of Marian shrines Martin Gillett, whose 1948 article about ‘Our Lady of the Oak’ in Life of the Spirit vol ii can be found on Jstor. At the moment I do not have access to that beyond the first page but, after making the point about the not infrequent association of Our Lady with oak trees as at Norwich, Penrhys and possibly Willesden in England, Gillett turns to the shrine of Sta Maria della Quercia at Viterbo. There is a good account of the origins and development of that shrine, which originated in the fifteenth century, in another article from 1944 which can be seen in full at dominicanav29n3ourladytheoak

This may give an analogous example as to how such devotions may have developed in medieval England as well as in medieval Italy.

Our Lady of the Oak, pray for us

Oak Apple Day

Happy Oak Apple Day!

On May 29th 1660, 360 years ago, on his thirtieth birthday, and in the twelfth year of his reign, King Charles II entered London on what came to be seen thereafter as the formal date of the Restoration, rather than the vote in the Commons calling him back on May 8th or the King’s landing at Dover on May 25th.

King Charles II
Image: jvcullenblogspot

There is a very readable article from three years ago by Ian Mortimer about the Restoration and its impact on the life of the realm and all the King’s subjects, arguing that we underestimate its far-reaching significance. It can be read at 1660: The year that changed everything

The Court culture of the Restoration is well summarised in a glowing review of the exhibition two years ago at The Queen’s Gallery from The Guardian which can be seen at Charles II: Art and Power review – crowning glories of a royal passion

Traditional celebrations of Oak Apple Day are covered in another article, this time from Country Life five years ago, entitled Bring back Oak Apple Day

That sentiment is one I heartily endorse, even if this year it is impractical, but would argue that, rather as the theme of Ian Mortimer’s article, there is something here than can unite Crown and people in a shared celebration of history and identity. It is in some ways very understated in its expressions, or slightly eccentric, but it springs from impulses that are far older than 1660. To make more of it would be good, and be a way of expressing gratitude for all that the Restoration did restore, for an institution at the heart of the nation that we take too easily for granted. Being who we are as a people it would also be genuinely of the people, and not the assertive strident celebration of nationhood that some other countries feel obliged to have on national days - but then they lack monarchs.

A Happy Oak Apple Day to you all!

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Milanese Ascension Spectacle

Today being the Octave Day of the Ascension is an appropriate day on which to share this post by Gregory DiPippo from The New Liturgical Movement a week ago about the distinctive feature, over and beyond the Ambrosian Rite, of the celebration of Ascension Day in the cathedral of Milan.

The ceremony is of the type that are described in accounts of medieval liturgies and still in pre-1789 French churches, or such survivals today as the Assumption Mystery Play at Elche in Spain. The Milan Ciloster dates from 1447, which is just the era when such spectacle was valued as an adjunct to worship.

The background and the video link are at A Unique Milanese Custom for the Feast of the Ascension

Our Lady ‘of Ardenbergh’ at Great Yarmouth

The virtual Marian pilgrimage today reaches its most easterly point with the devotion to Our Lady of ‘Ardenbergh’ in Great Yarmouth.

This has some interesting aspects to it. Firstly it invoked the Virgin under a continental title, being properly that of Our Lady of Aadenberg, a town which lies in the southernmost part of Zeeland at the mouth of the Rhine. Off the coast by the neighbouring town of Sluys in 1340 the English navy won the first great victory of the Hundred Years War. In thanksgiving the next day King Edward III went on foot on a pilgrimage to this nearby shrine. As at least sixty of the ships in his fleet of 260 were from Great Yarmouth Waterton’s suggestion that some at least of their crews accompanied the King is a very reasonable one, and that they brought the cult of Our Lady of Aadenberg back with them to Norfolk. By 1349 the altar of St Mary ‘de Arnsberg’ there was in receipt of bequests.

A generation later, in 1370, the Prior of the house of Augustinian canons dedicated to St Olave at Herringfleet, a few miles south-west of Great Yarmouth, built a chapel in the churchyard of the town’s parish church of St Nicholas and dedicated it to Our Lady of Aadenberg. This stood to the east of the chancel, and there was already a chapel to the west of the church dedicated to St Mary. What is perhaps unusual about this aspect of the devotion is that St Nicholas was not just the town’s parish church but was also a daughter house of the Benedictine cathedral priory in Norwich. So here is apparently cooperation between two different orders of religious in action. Maybe the original focus of the cult had been at Herringfleet, which lies inland on the Suffolk side of the river Waveney, and was now moved physically into the centre of the town’s spiritual life. A request for burial at the north door of this chapel in the churchyard is recorded in a 1508 will. The chapel no longer survives, but it is interesting as being in a sense almost a contemporary war memorial to the Hundred Years War.

The pilgrimage to Aadenberg itself came to an end in 1452 when in an episode of inter-provincial rivalry - both being ruled at that time by Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy - the Zeeland town was attacked and the church burned by men from Flanders, who carried the statue of Our Lady back with them to Bruges and installed it on the front of their Town Hall. Aadenberg itself, which claims to be the oldest city in Zeeland, declined and is now a small picturesque town almost on the Dutch-Belgian border.

Our Lady of Aadenberg, pray for us

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Bede, Augustine and Gregory on 21st century Liturgy

The latest Minute Missive sent out to friends and supporters by the FSSP has a historically based reflection on the potential for future pathways in the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of Mass. I do not know how many of my readers will have received it directly, so I have copied the text and am reproducing it as follows:


This week we celebrate back-to-back feasts of two great English saints–Bede the Venerable on May 27 and Augustine of Canterbury on May 28. Both of these men are recognized today as key figures in the early English Church–St. Bede who wrote the Ecclesiastical History of the English People and saved much history from oblivion, and St. Augustine who was appointed by Pope St. Gregory the Great to convert the Anglo-Saxons and become the Apostle to England.

Among many other treasures, Bede’s chronicle preserves an invaluable exchange between Augustine and Gregory. Augustine asks why communities who shared the same faith nevertheless had different liturgical expressions.

Pope Gregory answered back:

You know, my brother, the custom of the Roman church in which you remember you were bred up. But it pleases me, that if you have found anything, either in the Roman, or the Gallican, or any other church, which may be more acceptable to Almighty God, you carefully make choice of the same, and sedulously teach the church of the English, which as yet is new in the faith, whatsoever you can gather from the several churches. For things are not to be loved for the sake of places, but places for the sake of good things. Choose, therefore, from every church those things that are pious, religious, and upright, and when you have, as it were, made them up into one body, let the minds of the English be accustomed thereto.
Fourteen hundred years later, we are still coming to terms with similar issues.

The 1962 Missal has been the standard missal for FSSP parishes for so long–but many have long lamented that it is profoundly untraditional for a calendar to be “frozen in amber” without any new saints being added. For example, it feels quite unnatural to honor St. Pio of Pietrelcina everywhere but on our altars. Yet on the other hand, how would it be possible to add in 60 years of new saints while also respecting the integrity of the traditional calendar? It took until this very year to painstakingly work out a solution, through the Congregation of the Faith’s promulgation of the decree Cum Sanctissima.

Other scholars have looked back to earlier times and wondered whether it would not be truer to the classical Roman Rite to restore practices that were abolished by Pius XII’s liturgical changes of 1955. Rome has granted some limited allowances along these lines as well, with some FSSP parishes being provisionally allowed to use the pre-1955 Holy Week rites.

Like Augustine on his arrival on the British Isles, we find ourselves confronted with disparate liturgical books but a wish to harmonize them in a single “body” that best exemplifies the overall spirit of the classical Roman Mass. Our different missals are chronological rather than geographical, but the essential problem is the same.

A liturgical purist might well object that to foray outside the protective confines of the 1962 missal is, to use the vernacular expression, “picking and choosing.” That for something as vitally important as the liturgical books of the Roman Rite, we should simply stick to the commonly-used missal and be done, instead of embarking on a complicated synthesis that will lead (so the thinking goes) to inevitable liturgical chaos.

But thanks to the pens of both Augustine and Bede, we can put the question back to Pope St. Gregory for advice.

Gregory flatly stated that it pleased him for Augustine to “carefully make choice” from the liturgical practices of different churches. Indeed, he himself was responsible for finalizing the Traditional Latin Mass as we know it today.

However, he is no reckless reformer. He naturally assumes that such a synthesis will only make use of those things that “may be more acceptable to Almighty God”, and are “pious, religious, and upright”. In other words, the ingredients of that synthesis must be chosen from what is in accord with the faith that Christ has given us and that contributes most to God’s glory. This principle necessarily excludes from consideration any concept that stems from mere convenience, worldliness, current fashions, or hostility or embarrassment toward tradition.

As the spiritual descendants of the English Church founded by Augustine and chronicled by Bede, we ought to consider how to apply Gregory’s sage words to our own time and our own liturgical challenges. Granted, they do not give us minute instructions to that effect, but they do provide us with some key points to keep in mind.

For tradition, in its fullest and truest definition, is not so much the exclusive property of one Missal or another, but remains ever present, in varying degrees, as a unifying thread through all of them. May Sts. Bede, Augustine, and Gregory watch over us as we strive to preserve it.


This seems to me to offer not a political mechanism but rather a traditional understanding and precedent for appropriate adaptation of practice in respect of the Calendar and a framework for looking at further restoration of ancient observances. It does not depart from traditional understanding but seeks to provide a subtle new light to enhance the living inheritance. This is not so much a programme as a philosophy and a hermeneutic. It is also one that could be profitably be applied in parishes to celebrations in the Ordinary Form to assist in the recovery of the sacred.

Old London Bridge

Country Life last week republished on its website two articles, from 2005 and 2019, about the building of what we now refer to as Old London Bridge and about the shops and houses that lined it until the mid-eighteenth century. Until the construction of Westminster Bridge earlier in that century it was the only roadway across the Thames into the capital and served not only as a shopping street but as a ceremonial entry to the City from the south bank.

Our Lady of Winfarthing

Today the Marian virtual pilgrimage reaches Winfarthing in southern Norfolk. I think this is by far the strangest place on the course of the spiritual pilgrimage, and parts of the story of this East Anglian village seem like the setting for one of the ghost stories of M. R. James.

In the parish church in the late middle ages was a statue of Our Lady of Peace, and offerings at it are recorded.

St Mary's Church, Winfarthing. 
Image: norfolkchurches.co.uk. (© S. Knott.)

However Winfarthing had another object which drew the prayerful. Blomefield, the great county historian of Norfolk, in his account of the village published in 1805, quoting the sixteenth century Norfolk born reformer Thomas Beccon records that:

“Here was a clock formerly, which now stands disused in the south aisle; and in a chapel at the upper end thereof was placed a famous sword, called the Good Sword of Winfarthing, of which Becon, in his Reliques of Rome, (printed in 1563,) fo. 91, gives us the following account. 
In Winfarthing, a littel billage in Norfolke, there was a rerteyne Swerd, called the Good Swerd of Winfarthyng, this Swerd was counted so prerious a relique, and of so great birtue, that there was a solemne pilgrimage used unto it, with large giftes and offringes, with bow makings, crouchinges, t kissinges: This Swerd was bisited far and near, for many t sundry purposes, but specialy for thinges that were lost, and for horses that were eyther stolen or else rune astray, it helpid also unto the shortning of a married mans life, if that the wyfe which was weary of her husband, would set a randle before that Swerd ebery Sunday for the space of a whole yeare, no Sunbay er cepted, for then all was bain, whatsoeber mas done before. 
I have many times beard (says that author) when I was a rhild, of diberse ancient men and wemen, that this Swerd was the Swerd of a rertayne thief, which took sanctuary in that church pard, and after wards through the negligence of the watchmen escaped, and left his swerd behind him, which being found, and laid up in a rertaine old chest, was afterward through the suttilty of the parson and the clerk of the same parish, made a precious Relique, full of bertue, able to do much, but specially to enrich the bor, and make fat the parson's pouch."
I have left Blomefield’s transcription of Beccon uncorrected with its slightly odd typography - the odd use of b for v, h or p, r for c and t for &, is not too difficult to understand.

The sword is featured on both the modern village sign and stained glass in the church. The original is lost, and how efficacious it was is unquantifiable, so marriage guidance might be a better idea....

The Winfarthing sword does appear to be similar in its invocation to dispose of unwanted husbands to the late medieval appeal to ‘St Uncumber’, as it was known in England. This was the insular version of the rather curious cult of Wilgefortis.

Today Winfarthing is a small and rather obscure village but it appears from the discovery there in 2014 of a very significant early Anglo-Saxon Christian burial to have been a place of significance in the mid-seventh century. There is a discussion of this at An assemblage of Anglo-Saxon material from Winfarthing, Norfolk

Am I being unnecessarily tidy as a historian in wondering if all these stray things can be tied together - an early cult centre, perhaps pre-Christian in origin, that evolved into devotion to Our Lady alongside residual folk magic?

Our Lady of Winfarthing, pray for us

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Our Lady of Windsor

The Marian spiritual pilgrimage has now reached Windsor and St George’s Chapel, which possessed the the-cross-gneth, believed to be a relic of the True Cross given by King Edward III, from 1416 a major relic of its principal patron St George and also the relics of the Buckinghamshire priest John_Schorne

Edmund Waterton records in his Pietas Mariana several images of the Virgin Mary at St George’s in Windsor.

The first was the little image of Our Lady. In the inventory of the Treasury taken in the eighth year of King Richard II, 1384-85, Sir Walter Almaly being then the custos, it was in need of some repairs, as there were enumerated four lilies which are wanting in the crown of the little image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There were also three crowns of silver gilt, adorned with divers precious stones, one of which was for Our Lady, another for her Son, and the third for St. Edward. Presumably the royal saint was kneeling in a tableau with the Virgin and Child. Five stones were wanting in the crown of Our Lady, and a flower of delicate workmanship in that of Our Lord.

King Henry IV gave another image of the Virgin and Child to the chapel: this was made of silver and gilt with Our Lady holding the Christ Child, who was shown playing with a bird, in her right arm. In 1427-28 in the minority of King Henry VI this was repaired or replaced - the records appear slightly contradictory - using 20 pounds 31ounces of silver by a goldsmith recorded as Conus Melver.

This may have been similar to the type of expensive Court art devotional image which has occasionally survived on the continent, or perhaps to the elaborate and delightful pieces of gold with jewels and enamel decoration which were certainly a speciality of Parisian goldsmiths in the first decade or so of the fifteenth century.

'The Goldenes Rössl' was a New Years gift in 1405 from King Henry VI’s grandmother, Queen Isabeau of Bavaria to her husband King Charles VI of France. This beautiful piece is on display in the Schatzkammer und Wallfahrtsmuseum in Altötting, Bavaria, Germany
Image: Pinterest

The building for which these images were provided was replaced by King Edward Iva from the 1470s onwards by the much larger St George’s Chapel we see today and which was completed under King Henry VIII in 1528.

On the site of the previous chapel, and retaining the thirteenth century doorways of its predecessor King Henry VII built what looks like an intended Lady Chapel which would have housed such images. The King may have planned to be buried in it rather than at Westminster - his eponymous chapel there may have been intended as a shrine chapel for a still not yet canonised St Henry VI.

Wolsey was given the chapel as a proposed burial place by King Henry VIII, who then took over the unfinished tomb, when the Cardinal fell from power, for himself. That project was never completed either: its fate is discussed in the late Jennifer Loach’s article in Past and Present 1994 ‘The Function of Ceremonial in the Reign of Henry VIII’. The King remains buried in the vault under the choir. The metal work was stripped away in the Civil War in 1642 or 1643 and the sarcophagus eventually ended up holding the body of Nelson in St Paul’s Cathedral. The empty chapel survived a plan to replace it with a mausoleum for King Charles the Martyr proposed in the time of his son King Charles II. King George III created a new royal vault under the chapel and it was Queen Victoria who decorated it in a lavish style as the Albert Memorial Chapel from the 1860s. I suspect it is, unfortunately, not always appreciated by visitors if they see it at all, dismissing it until recently as merely Victorian and as they cannot usually enter it, not seeing it as really part of St George’s.

In the ambulatory between the main chapel and this eastern chapel, and near the Cross Gneth, there appears to have been the image of “Our Lady behind the high altar” This is mentioned by John Foxe in The Book of Martyrs. Writing of one Robert Testwood, a chorister in St George’s Chapel at Windsor, he says:

"It chanced Testwood one day to walk in the church, at afternoon, and to behold the pilgrims, especially of Devonshire and Cornwall, how they came by plumps, with candles and images of wax in their hands, to offer to good King Henry of Windsor. [King Henry VI was reinterred in the main chapel and there was a considerable devotion to him supported by King Henry VII]." Testwood spoke to a group of them against pilgrimage, &c. "Then he went further and found another sort licking and kissing a White Lady made of alabaster, which image was mortised in a wall behind the high altar, and bordered about with a pretty border, which was made like branches, with hanging apples and flowers. And when he saw them so superstitiously use the image as to wipe their hands upon it, and then to stroke them over their eyes and faces, as though there had been great virtue in touching the picture, he up with his hand, in which he had a key, and smote down a piece of the border about the image, and with the glance of the stroke chanced to break off the image’s nose. “Lo, good people !” quoth he, “you see what it is nothing but earth and dust, and cannot help itself; and how then will it help you? For God s sake, brethren, be no more deceived.” And so he gat him home to his house, for the rumour was so great, that many came to see the image how it was defaced."
Edmund Waterton adds at this point the following comment “this sacrilegious wretch lost his life under Henry the Eighth, for denying the Real Presence”

Testwood was indeed to be one of the three Windsor_Martyrs of 1543. There is a biography of him him at Robert_Testwood

The Chapel’s organist also had radical religious opinions but was saved from the flames by Bishop Stephen Gardiner on the basis that he was only a musician and was the composer John_Merbecke

Our Lady of Windsor, pray for us

Monday, 25 May 2020

Our Lady of Winchester

The virtual Marian pilgrimage has today reached Winchester and the great cathedral church there. In his Pietas Mariana Britannica Edmund Waterton recounts that William of Wykeham chose the position of his chantry chapel in the fifth bay of the nave he had substantially reconstructed because that was where as a boy he had attended Mass at the altar of Our Lady. His two educational foundations in Winchester and Oxford are under her patronage - New College is merely a nick-name in origin for the College of Our Lady of Winton. There he is depicted in carvings kneeling before the Annunciation. His chantry provided for three Masses each day, the first being of Our Lady. This is all discussed in a handsomely illustrated post The Tomb of William of Wykeham in Winchester Cathedral.

That we can still appreciate Wykeham’s tomb and chantry is probably due to the old Wykehamist Parliamentary officer who stood with his drawn sword at the chapel door to protect it when his fellow troops were pillaging the rest of the cathedral and its contents in the Civil War. Nothing like the virtues of the Old School Tie...

This damaged statue of Our Lady and Child from the screen can be seen in The Triforium Gallery at the cathedral
Image: anticsroadshowblog.wordpress.com

Elsewhere in the cathedral there is the vandalised statue from the High Altar screen. The construction of this was apparently completed in 1475-6 and if the statues were not installed at that time, they were over the coming years to about 1490. There is a good feature on the Winchester cathedral website about its construction, damage, patching and eventual late Victorian restoration atBrief-History-of-Great-Screen.

As this points out the statues were removed in the mid-sixteenth century and decapitated in most cases, then systematically sawn up and reused as standard units as building material for walls in the Close. Quite when this happened is not clear; I would suspect after Bishop Gardiner was imprisoned and deprived in 1548, or possibly at the beginning of the Elizabethan settlement. Many pieces have been recovered in modern times and are now on display in the new exhibition space in the south transept triforium. As the link above explains extenive areas of colour still remain on the recovered statues all of which are carved from Caen stone. The hair is gilded and flesh areas are coloured pink, eyes are pale grey with black pupils. On the most famous statue of the Virgin and Child there is evidence that the lining of her cloak was deep blue whilst the robe was brilliant red with gold cuffs, giving an indication of how colourful and magnificent the statues must have been originally.

There is another post on sculpture fragments that have been recovered and returned to the cathedral from the Proceedings of the Hants Field Club which can be viewed at Lindley.

This illustrates what is still being recovered, what we can learn about the artistic life and culture of the medieval cathedral community and the shocking scale of destruction inflicted by fanatics.

In the cathedral Lady Chapel are a cycle of paintings from the very end of the fifteenth century depicting the miracles of the Virgin Mary. These are a rare survival, but I suspect that in their rather faded condition many visitors miss them. That is a pity and on my last visit to the cathedral with a priest friend, after we had said the noon Angelus in Latin in the chapel, we spent a while examining them. I was particularly taken with the scenes where St George was brought back to temporal a life by Our Lady to deal with Julian the Apostate.... There is another cathedral website article about the paintings with photographs of each panel which can be seen at The-Wall-Paintings-of-the-Lady-Chapel.

As a cathedral Winchester has good background material on features like this in the way that York does on its stained glass, Lincoln with its series of history pamphlets by experts in their field or the library at Worcester with its blog.

Our Lady of Winchester, pray for us

Sunday, 24 May 2020

A medieval priest from Lincoln cathedral

By coincidence as I was planning to write about Lincoln cathedral my eye lit on a news feed story on the Internet from the Daily Express about a facial reconstruction of the skeletal remains of a priest found during recent excavations in the area outside the west front.

I do think it a bit tantalising that a closer date for the burial is not given - I am sure that such dating will have been done rather than just saying the chalice and paten is of a twelfth and thirteenth century type. I also wish they would not give people’s height in centimetres. We do not speak of the living that way, so why should we of the dead like that? I had to find a conversion table to work out that the priest stood about 5’6” high. 

The report with photographs and a link to a previous article about the discovery can be seen at Archaeology breakthrough: Facial reconstruction brings 900-year-old priest back to life

The BBC News website had a report about the discovery of the remains, and also covering evidence about life in Roman and Anglo-Saxon Lincoln from the excavations in January and that can be seen at Lincoln Cathedral: Medieval priest's items 'rare find'

Our Lady of Lincoln

Whilst we are still in Lincolnshire it seems a pity not to take in, though it is not on Canon Stevenson’s list a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Lincoln. That also gives the opportunity to reflect a little further on the depredations of the reformers upon the spiritual and artistic heritage of the country. In 1536 the Lincolnshire Rising was the precursor to the better known Pilgrimage of Grace in Yorkshire and further north. It was when the Rising had occupied Lincoln and had based itself in and around the Cathedral Close that King Henry VIII’s message in response to their uprising was delivered to them in the Chapter House. It told them in no uncertain terms to disperse and saying that they were the rude commons of a county "one of the most brute and beastly of the whole realm," So unlike, so very unlike royal messages to the regions these days....

In his great history of medieval Lincoln Sir Francis Hill refers to devotion to Our Lady. She was chosen as patroness of the city on the occasion of the victory of the citizens over the forces of the Earl of Chester in 1147 during a bout in the civil war between the followers of King Stephen and the supporters of the Empress Matilda. 

The City of Lincoln itself, like the cathedral, was under the patronage of Our Lady, and the arms of the City are a gold fleur de lys superimposed on the cross of St George. The Annunciation is also depicted on The Stonebow, the historic late medieval seat of the city’s government and with an arched entry across the High Street. Viewed from the south side, the figure of the Archangel Gabriel stands on the right of the Gate, bearing a rolled scroll (originally inscribed 'Ave, gratia plena, Dominus tecum") while on the left the Virgin Mary, with hands joined, stands in an attitude of prayer, her feet treading on a dragon, symbol of evil. 

In Lincoln Cathedral by the High Altar was the devotional statue of Our Lady, it’s patroness. A description from the early sixteenth century is as follows:

A great image of Our Lady, sitting in a chair of silver and gilt with four polls, two of them having arms in the front, having upon her head a crown, silver and gilt, set with stones and pearls; and one bee [metal torque] with stones and pearls about her neck, and an ouche [brooch] depending thereby, having in her hand a sceptre with one flower, set with stones and pearls and one bird in the top thereof; and her Child sitting upon her knee, with a crown on his head, with a diadem set with pearls and stones, having a ball with a cross of silver and gilt in his left hand and at either of his feet a scutcheon of arms.
One rather wonders how “great” it was in size. I recall seeing a reference to the tradition that Bishops of Lincoln were expected to make a suitable offering of jewellery to the image.

When the statue was removed is not quite clear. Bishop John Longland, diocesan from 1521 to his death in 1546 had the doubtless interesting position of being Henry VIII’s confessor. It was in his time in 1540 that the shrines of two of his predecessors, St Hugh and Bl. or Ven. John of Dalderby, were removed on royal authority. At the end of a "Registre and Inventarye of all Jewell Westimentes and other ornamentes in the yere of owr lorde god m.ccccc.xxxvj," is "A Copye of the Kinges Lettres by force whereof the shrynes and other Jewels were taken" [1540]. Part of the letter reads as follows:

For as moch as we understand that there ys a certain shryne and di[vers] fayned Reliquyes and Juels in the Cathedrall church of Lyncoln with [which] all the symple people be moch deceaved and broughte into greate su[per]sticion and Idolatrye to the dyshonor of god and greate slander of th(is) realme and peryll of theire own soules,
"We Let you wỹt that (we) beinge mynded to bringe or lovinge subiectes to ye righte knowledge of ye truth by takynge away all occasions of Idolatrye and supersticion. For ye especiall trust (and) confidence we have in yowr fydelytyes, wysdoms and discrec̃ons, have (and) by theis presentes doe aucthorise name assign and appointe you fowre or three of you that immediatelye uppon the sighte here of repairinge to ye sayd Cathedrall church and declaringe unto ye Deane Recydencyaryes and other mynisters there(of) the cause of yowr comynge ys to take downe as well ye sayd shryne and supersticious reliquyes as superfluouse Jueles, plate copes and other suche like as yow shall thinke by yowr wysdoms not mete to contynew (and) remayne there, unto the wych we doubte not but for yeconsiderac̃ons rehersed the sayde Deane and Resydencyaryes wth other wyll be conformable and wyllinge thereunto, and so yow to precede accordingly. And to see the sayd reliquyes, Juels and plate safely and surely to be conveyde to owr towre of London in to owr Jewyll house there chargeing the mr of owr Jewyls wth the same.
"And further we wyll that you charge and com̃ande in owr name the sayd Deane there to take downe such monumentes as may geve any occasioñ of memorye of such supersticion and Idolatrye hereafter...."

Underneath is the following "memorandum” proving how great was the treasure possessed at that time by the authorities of the minster:

Memorandum that by force of the above wrytten comyssyoñ there was taken owt of ye sayd Cathedrall church of Lyncoln at that tyme in gold ijmvjcxxj oz (2621 oz.), in sylver iiijmijciiijxx.v oz (4285 oz.); Besyde a greate nombre of Pearles & preciouse stones wych were of greate valewe, as Dyamondes, Saphires Rubyes, turkyes, Carbuncles etc. There were at that tyme twoe shrynes in the sayd Cath. churche; the one of pure gold called St Hughes Shryne standinge on the backe syde of the highe aulter neare unto Dalysons tombe, the other called St John of Dalderby his shryne was of pure sylver standinge in ye south ende of the greate crosse Ile not farre from the dore where ye gallyley courte ys used to be kepte."
Harry Lytherland was the last Treasurer of Lincoln. His responsibilities were care of the treasures, not the finances, of the cathedral. As he saw the last of the treasures carried away, he cried "ceasing the Treasure, so ceaseth the office of the Treasurer," and flinging down the keys on the pavement of the choir, he walked out of the church. This occurred on the 6th June 1540. The office of Treasurer in the Chapter, which was part of the foundation, has not been filled since.

Bishop Longland was a conservative in religious matters. His successor, Henry Holbeach, whom we encountered at Worcester last week, was a keen reformer. He was appointed in August 1547 by the government of Protector Somerset.

In An Historical Account of the Antiquities in the Cathedral Church of St. Mary, Lincoln published in that city in 1771 it records : "A second Plunder was committed in this Church Anno 1548, during the Presidence of Bishop Holbech, who being a zealous Reformist, gave up all the remaining Treasure which Henry had thought proper to leave behind; this Bishop together with George Henage Dean of Lincoln, pulled down and defaced most of the beautiful Tombs in this Church; and broke all the Figures of the Saints round about this Building; and pulled down those [of] our Saviour, the Virgin, and the Crucifix; so that at the End of the Year 1548, there was scarcely a whole Figure or Tomb remaining."

Henry Holbeach having become Bishop of Lincoln in the August after Henry VIII's death, did what was expected of newly appointed bishops under Henry VIII in his time as Supreme Head and under both Edward VI and Elizabeth I: soon after taking possession of the See he surrendered to the Crown twenty-six (or according to Strype thirty-four) rich manors belonging to the see. He died at one of the remaining episcopal manors at Nettleham, just outside Lincoln in 1551.

What had survived that onslaught then had to endure the Parliamentarian trips in the Civil War - they accounted for most of the stained glass that had survived as well as the monumental brasses.

With thanks to A.F. Kendrick The Cathedral Church of Lincoln (Bell’s Cathedral series) 1898.

In 1943 a new Catholic parish was created for the area to the north of the city centre and that has the title of Our Lady of Lincoln. 2014 witnessed the installation of a very impressive new statue in the cathedral of Our Lady. The life size work is by the sculptor Aidan Hart, who is Orthodox, and funded partly by Catholics it has been sited in the south-east chapel of the Angel Choir.

There is a good illustrated article by Aidan Hart about the commissioning, design, creation and completion of the statue which can be seen at Our Lady of Lincoln Sculpture.

The new statue was dedicated by the Bishop of Lincoln on May 31 2014.

Our Lady of Lincoln, Lincoln Cathedral
Image: orthodox arts journal

Our Lady of Lincoln, pray for us

Our Lady in the Wood in Axholme

Today’s virtual Marian pilgrimage destination is quite close to both my native area and to others areas my ancestors were associated with, so I feel I am in home territory. I sense that all the more so because the history of the shrine of Our Lady in the Wood in Axholme is bound up with the world of the political and spiritual elites of the 1390s and beyond, which is very much in my historical sphere of interest.

Before 1389 Thomas Mowbray (1366-99) Earl Marshal and Earl of Nottingham, and later first Duke of Norfolk, of whom there is a biography at Thomas de Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk conceived a plan to convert the alien priory at Monks Kirby in Leicestershire into a Carthusian house for a Prior and twelve monks. At this time Carthusian houses were perceived as being the ideal foundation by monarchs and nobles across much of Western Europe. Elite piety was supported by the political elite. Although the Earl initiated the process with a petition to Pope Urban VI nothing further seems to have been done.

King Richard II creating Thomas Mowbray Earl Marshal in 1385-6. The King is handing the letters patent to the Earl
who holds in his right hand the gold, black tipped, baton of the Earl Marshal.
Image: Luminarium

However the Earl Marshal had not abandoned the idea. In 1396, possibly after consulting the Carthusian priors in England, he started anew, and had chosen the isle of Axholme, where he had family estates and where he had been born, as a suitable site for a Charterhouse, and he then petitioned Pope Boniface IX for leave to appropriate the priory of Monks Kirby as part of its endowment. Archbishop Robert Waldby of York was commissioned to investigate the matter, and comply with the Earl’s request.

On the proposed site of the monastery at Low Melwood, in Epworth, stood a chapel dedicated to the Virgin which had long been called the Priory in the Wood. It had apparently been established by the Premonstratensians ( Norbertines ). There the Earl has an ambitious plan to erect a new church in honour of the Visitation of the Virgin, St. John the Evangelist, and St. Edward king and confessor - a saint to whom devotion was very popular at the court of King Richard II - together with cloisters, monastic buildings and cells for a prior and thirty monks. With the King’s licence he endowed the house in frankalmoigne with 100 acres in the manor of Epworth, a rent of 20 marks, and such rights of common of pasture, of turbary, and of fishery as other free tenants held within the Isle of Axholme, the advowsons of Epworth and Belton, and the priory of Monks Kirby. John Moreby was chosen as Prior of the new foundation.

In June 1398, by which time the founder had been created Duke of Norfolk, to aid of the building of the church and charterhouse, Pope Boniface IX granted the very liberal indulgence known as that of St. Mary of the Angels at Assisi. This today is better known as that of the Porziuncula (or Portiuncula) and which over later centuries was to be much more widely available, indeed now universally, on the day of August 1 to 2. The history of this famous indulgence can be read at Portiuncula. Penitents who visited the house at Axholme on the feast of the Visitation of the Virgin, and gave alms towards the fabric, received remission for all sins committed from their baptism to that day. 

Only three months later, as the result of his quarrel with Henry of Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford, the Duke of Norfolk was banished for life by King Richard II - see the beginning of Shakespeare’s play about the King and his downfall for that - and Norfolk died and was buried at Venice in September 1399, at the very time that in England Hereford took the throne as King Henry IV. Just before the end of the year the government removed Monks Kirby from the new monastery, and it was not restored to it until King Henry V granted it to the monks of Axholme following the final confiscation and reassignment of the alien priories in 1415. The Portiuncula indulgence may therefore have been all more more valuable in these years as a source of donations.

In 1449 the Axholme charterhouse was very flourishing, the numbers had increased, but there were not enough cells for the monks, and buildings begun 'with wondrous skill and great cost' were still unfinished. The Prior and convent desired to add to their endowment, and this they managed to do in future years.

The full history of the house, including that of the penultimate Prior, Augustine Webster, one of the martyred Carthusians of 1535, can be read from the Victoria County History of Lincolnshire ii at The priory of Axholme.

Our Lady of the Wood at Axholme, pray for us

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Our Lady of the Park at Liskeard

The spiritual Marian pilgrimage having been to the extreme south east of the country yesterday now travels to almost the extreme south west to the shrine of Our Lady of the Park at Liskeard in Cornwall.

I have adapted and extended the following account from the website of the present Catholic church of Our Lady and St Neot in Liskeard, supplemented from the website about the Pilgrimage linked to below.

From the earliest days of Christianity in Cornwall, Our Lady was revered in Liskeard under the title ‘Our Lady of the Park’. A shrine to her had been established over a well, in a valley below the town, close to a tributary of the East Looe River. A chapel was subsequently built and became a flourishing place of pilgrimage. This appears to have been well established by April 1266 when Richard Earl of Cornwall and King of the Romans granted an annual fair on the eve, feast and morrow of the Assumption to the town.

Pilgrims travelled to the chapel and well, arriving down the Mass Path, from what is now Old Road. It is claimed people were baptised using the flowing waters in the baptistery, the remains of which can still be seen.

Following the Reformation in common with other traditional places of pilgrimage the shrine was destroyed and little remained to show that it had ever existed.

In 1955 the original site was identified and in 1979 the first modern pilgrimage held. This was last held in 2007. The 1998 Liskeard mural in Pig Meadow Lane was painted featuring the key events in the history of the town and surrounding area. Our Lady of the Park features on the mural, holding a cross, in front of a shrine, containing a chalice, with the inscription Unity. The shrine is marked Ladye Park and deer are alongside the shrine, reflecting the long established deer park. The Virgin Mary is the earliest recognisable figure on the mural, reflecting the antiquity of the shrine.

Ladye Park is now a private residence on the edge of town. The Catholic church of Our Lady and St Neot has an icon that was specially commissioned to honour Our Lady of Liskeard.

Image: liskeardcatholicchurch.org

For more about the revival of pilgrimage to the site see The Lost Shrine of Ladyepark at Liskeard in Cornwall.

Our Lady of the Park at Liskeard, pray for us

Friday, 22 May 2020

Our Lady of Pity in the Rock at Dover

Today the Marian spiritual pilgrimage reaches Dover. There stood the Chapel of St Mary or Our Lady of Pity (also recorded as Our Lady of the Rock in 1532), which was on “a piece of chalky cliff, at the extremity of the pier” or the shore to the east of Archcliffe or Arcliffe Fort. It is said to have been built by a northern nobleman on the place where he had been shipwrecked or at least in danger of so being. The dedication would suggest a late fourteenth or fifteenth century foundation at the time devotion to Our Lady of Pity became widespread. It is apparently first mentioned in 1530 when it was repaired by Joachim de Vaux, the French Ambassador, after he had survived being shipwrecked. 

A record exists that on the outside of the building over the steps was the badge of a rose and crown and over the door the impaled arms of England and France. 

When King Henry VIII landed at Dover in 1532 after his visit to Calais with Anne Boleyn to meet King Francis I he made an offering of 6s 8d at the chapel; his return had been delayed for several days by stormy seas and as it was the royal ship apparently took twenty eight hours to make the journey. The King may well have been very thankful to be back safe and sound.

The chapel was served in 1535 by John de Ponte, a Friar, who sought appointment as Master of the town’s Domus Dei from Thomas Cromwell that year. In 1538 he was imprisoned by the Mayor of Dover, Ralph Buffkyn, because he was said to communicate with the French during the war by keeping lights burning in the chapel at night. 

I find the idea of the Mayor acting as a sixteenth century equivalent of an ARP warden rather endearing.

At the suppression of the chapel it was valued at £50pa and the vestments and plate valued at 200marks (£133 6s 8d), so it was not an inconsequential foundation and presumably reflected the offerings in anticipation or gratitude for seaborne travellers for a safe crossing of the Straits.

Work at the harbour undermined the rock, and the chapel was probably carried away in a storm of 1576. The place where it stood was still called in 1798 Old Chapel and Chapel Plain but by 1828 nothing remained save the bare rock on which had once stood.. The burying ground was still extant in 1819.

With thanks to Arthur Hussey ‘Chapels in Kent’ in Archaeologia Cantiana (online).

Our Lady of Pity in the Rock at Dover, pray for us

Our Lady of the Four Tapers St Albans

The altar of Our Lady of the Four Tapers in the abbey at St Albans, yesterday’s destination on the spiritual Marian pilgrimage, is one of the few such shrines to have been reinstated in modern times.

According to the Victoria County History of Hertfordshire in the time of Abbot William of Trumpington 1214-35, the most important work, however, was the fitting up of the altar of our Lady and St. Blaise in the south aisle of the presbytery as it then was for the newly introduced Lady Mass ad notam. This entailed the repair of the surrounding walls which had been damaged by some fall of masonry not clearly specified, and the insertion of two wide windows near the newly fitted altar, which, when complete, was hallowed in honour of Our Lady by John bishop of Ardfert.

As a consequence the old Lady altar in the south transept became of secondary importance by this change but it received at this time an endowment for two candles in addition to the two it already possessed from the time of Adam the Cellarer (temp. Abbot Symon, 1167–83), and for this reason eventually became known as 'the altar of the Four Tapers.'

A beautiful image of Our Lady in the south transept, set up by Abbot Robert 1151–66, was now replaced by a still more beautiful work by Walter of Colchester. The old image was moved to the new Lady altar in the south aisle of the presbytery, but was, as it seems, very soon moved once more, this time to the north side of the church, in company with the old Rood, perhaps dating from the consecration of the Rood Altar in 1163, which had been taken down at the building of the pulpitum. The old altar beam made by Adam the Cellarer was removed and set up over the new image of Our Lady in the south transept, and at the same time the roof above the image was ceiled or panelled to hide the old blackened beams of the roof. As the transept chapels were almost certainly vaulted this roof must be that of the main south transept, a conclusion which agrees with the other evidence as to the position of the image. This was probably on the pier between the western arches of the transept chapels. This was certainly the position of the later image, which at some time after the completion of the eastern Lady Chapel, and the removal of the altar of the 'Four Tapers' to its vestibule, at the end of the south aisle of the presbytery, was set up in a chapel on the south side of the nave, and as the ‘Fair Mary’ became an object of special veneration to the townspeople. The altar beam of Adam. the Cellarer accompanied it thither.

The work rebuilding and extending the east end of the abbey church began in 1257, but the new eastern Lady Chapel was not completed until 1308-10. The Four Tapers altar lay just outside it.

It was before the important altar of our Lady of the Four Tapers in its new home that the heart of Abbot Roger Norton was buried in 1290. Part of a box of oriental origin was found here in 1872 in a stone hollowed out to contain it, and may have been the case in which the heart was inclosed. His body was interred in the presbytery alongside other abbots.

In the twentieth century the chapel has once more had the Four Tapers to augment it. The first time I saw it they were quite impressive but on a more recent visit the tapers were less striking.

It serves as the Mothers Union chapel for the diocese and there are now plans to fully restore the shrine base of St Amphibalus the priest that St Alban rescued, but who was later martyred in Redbourn. He also had a shrine in the middle aged but since its discovery during Victorian restoration works until now it has not been properly rebuilt and has remained a heap of stones, languishing in the corner of the north Ambulatory. The plan is to reconstruct it in the Four Tapers Chapel, and also to commission a painted reredos there telling the story of Alban and Amphibalus in medieval style.

Our Lady of the Four Tapers of St Albans, pray for us

Thursday, 21 May 2020

The Obsequies of Anne of Brittany Queen of France

By chance I came across a detailed online account of the funeral ceremonies of Anne of Brittany in January and February 1514. Duchess of Brittany in her own right as heiress of her father Duke Francis II she was to have the unique distinction of being Queen Consort of France twice, marrying King Charles VIII and then his successor King Louis XII. There is an illustrated online life of her which can be read at Anne of Brittany.

The comprehensive account of the ceremonies of her lying in state, the transport of her body and her final interment can be seen here.

Our Lady of Worcester

Whilst we are still in Worcestershire on the Marian spiritual pilgrimage it seems appropriate to take in another Marian shrine not included in the Stephenson booklet. That was the important one in the cathedral at Worcester and its destruction in 1538 is better recorded than that of many other such shrines.

The Catholic Encyclopaedia states that the celebrated image of Our Lady and the Holy Child was carved of wood and of a large size, and that it stood over the high altar and could be seen from all parts of the church. The narrative below would however suggest that it was in the Lady Chapel, east of the choir.

The excellent study by Diarmuid MacCulloch of ‘Worcester: A Cathedral City in the Reformation’ in Collinson and Craig (eds) The Reformation in English Towns 1500-1640 provides much of the context for these events.

In 1535 the enthusiastic reformer Hugh Latimer was appointed Bishop of Worcester and by the summer of 1536 he was inveighing against some local saints’ cults. He worked with the newly appointed Prior of Worcester, another enthusiastic Cambridge educated evangelical, Henry Holbeach, a protege of Cranmer, and later bishop of Rochester and Lincoln, to undermine the cult of Our Lady of Worcester. A year before the national assault on shrines, in August 1537, before the feast of the Assumption, they removed the draperies and adornments which decorated the statue. This provoked a bitter outcry and a defiantly ostentatious display of devotion on the eve of the Assumption by one Worcester man, Thomas Emans, when he saw the statue denuded of its rich trappings. He was denounced to the magistrates and hence to Cromwell by Latimer, Holbeach and the bailiffs of Worcester.

This can be read in Letters and Papers Henry VIII which is now very conveniently accessible online.

Thus on August 27 it is recorded as follows:

“The saying of the witnesses against Thos. Emans, servant to Mr. Evans. That he said, leaning upon Roger Crompe's shoulder, "Lady, art thon stripped now? I have seen the day that as clean men hath been stripped at a pair of gallows as were they that stripped thee." Then he entered the chapel, said his prayers, and kissed the image, and turned to the people, and said "Ye that be disposed to offer, the figure is no worse than it was before, and the lucre and profit of this town is decayed through this." Presten, the keeper of Our Lady, saith that he heard Thomas Emans say to the people, "This lady is now stripped, I trust to see the day that they shall be stripped as naked that stripped her."
This is followed by the confession of Thomas Emans, of the parish of All Saints, Worcester, made on August 19:

“That he entered the Lady chapel in the monastery of Worcester, on Our Lady even the Assumption, 1537, and said a Paternoster and an Ave, and kissed the image's feet, and then turned and said to the people: "Though our Lady's coat and her jewels be taken away from her, the similitude of this is no worse to pray unto, having a remors unto her above, then it was before." Spoke with the intent that the people should resort to her at Worcester as they had done before. Witnesses:—Hugh bp. of Worcester, Hen. Holbaghe, prior of St. Mary's Worcester, Walter Walshe, Robt. Acton, and Humfrey Burneforde and Wm. Mercer, bailiffs of Worcester.”
L&P Henry VIII xii (2) 587
What happened to Thomas Emans is not recorded beyond that he was committed to ward, but it does indicate genuine dissent at the episcopal action. Letters and Papers xii (2) 530 also indicates considerable hostility to Latimer in the diocese: one man was reported as saying he would walk seven miles carrying a faggot to burn Latimer at the stake. As it turned out he would have had to wait seventeen years and travel to Oxford for that particular pleasure.

The chronicler Edward Hall claims that to the delight of Latimer and his supporters at discovering that the statue itself, minus its draperies, was actually of a bishop rather than of the Virgin. Whatever the background to that story it seems to conflict with Emans’ deposition. What the account does show is that at least some late medieval English devotional images were dressed in fabrics and not just carved figures.

Latimer wrote to Thomas Cromwell from Hartlebury castle on June 13 1538 on various matters including his hope that 

“I trust your lordship will bestow our great Sibyll to some good purpose ut pereat memoria cum sonitu. She hath been the Devil’s instrument to bring many (I fear) to eternal fire: now she herself with her old sister of Walsingham, her young sister of Ipswich, with their other two sisters of Doncaster and Penrice, would make a jolly muster in Smithfield; they would not be all day in burning.”
Sermons and Remains of Hugh Latimer (1845), p395
The ‘Protestant work ethic’ was brought into play in a second letter from Latimer to Cromwell after the statue had been removed, on October 6th of the same year,

“Now Worcester is behind, an ancient and a poor city, and yet replenished with men of honesty, though not most wealthy; for years reason of their lady they have been given to much idleness; but now that she is gone they be turned to labouriouness, and from laziness to goodness.”
ibid, p403

showing the thirteenth century bell tower or leaden steeple which had been demolished in 1647
Image: Worcester Cathedral Library blog, reproduced there by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral

Our Lady of Worcester, pray for us