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, 20 May 2020

Further thoughts about Pope Celestine V

Further to my post yesterday here are a few further thoughts about Pope Celestine V.

I have now found online the full picture, from which I used the central figure of the saint yesterday. It dates from fifty to seventy years later than his death so it is not a portrait from life so far as we know. It is typical of its genre, and is similar to the famous one of St Louis of Toulouse. The comparative scale of the figures is interesting, with the sainted Papal founder shown twice the size of his monks. The traditions of the ancient Middle East still had a place in medieval Europe. Hierarchy is stressed very clearly. The very individual faces of the Celestine monks are in themselves noteworthy as being just that, individual. The whole group could be a group of modern novices or seminarians.

Pope Celestine V and the monks of his Order
Niccolo di Tommaso ( active 1346-76 )
Image: stpetercelestine.ca

I found another online account of St Peter Celestine’s life and of his relics. This includes modern research which disproves one at least of the more lurid accusations, that of murder, laid at the door of his successor Pope Boniface VIII. The biography is from the website of a Californian parish under his patronage and can be viewed at Celestine-V

The pontificate of Celestine needs in part to be understood in terms of the Millenarianism of the Italy, especially the south, in the thirteenth century. Ideas deriving from Joachim of Fiore and his prophecies of the Age of the Spirit, seemingly fulfilled within a generation by the appearance of St Francis of Assisi, the expectations that aroused, and the splits about the apostolic life and poverty within the Franciscan community all heightened the expectations of many. This was a turbulent, volatile society and one that was experiencing social and economic change. In the Neapolitan kingdom this was also played out against the background of the end of the Hohenstaufen and the advent of the Angevins. Furthermore the year 1300 was approaching, which generated the idea of mass pilgrimage to Rome - hence the first Papal Jubilee year. The books of Norman Cohn and Marjorie Reeves show the extraordinary expectations that flourished in these years. Add to that a King of Naples who thought his luck was in when one of his subjects, a noted, if simple, holy man was elected Pope... If you were looking for or expecting the Angelic Pope - well, here he appeared to be. It was, of course, going to end badly, or otherwise, or if you were Cardinal Gaetani, who as a consequence became Pope Boniface VIII, very well indeed. Until that is the events at Anagni in 1303....

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