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, 8 December 2020

Remembering St Ambrose

Yesterday was the Feast of St Ambrose.
St Ambrose is enshrined in the Basilica of Sant’ Ambrosio in Milan. He began the building, although much of the church as it is today dates from the twelfth century. Its complex architectural and institutional history is set out in Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio
and in  I think the early, near contemporary, mosaic portrait of St Ambrose mentioned at the end of the second account is this one:

His significant contribution to the tradition of hymn writing and singing is introduced by this essay, Historical Issues in Western Hymnody: Preparing for the St. Ambrose Hymnal

Amongst later depictions of St Ambrose is this fine example from the later fifteenth century.

St Ambrose giving his blessing.A detail from the St Ambrose Polyptych of 1477 by Bartolommeo Vivarini (1440-99)
Image: O Clarim
File:Bartolomeo Vivarini, Polittico di sant'ambrogio 01.jpg

The St Ambrose Polytyptich
St Ambrose is flanked by SS Louis, Peter, Paul and Sebastian 
Galleria dell’ Accademia, Venice

Image: Wikipedia 

His Austrian Tyrolean contemporary, Michael Pacher (c.1435-98), in his Altarpiece of the Church Fathers of 1471-5, depicted St Ambrose with one of his attributes, a baby in a cradle. This refers to the story of bees settling on the future saint’s face when he was a baby and leaving a drop of honey, indicating his future mellifluous tongue.

File:Michael Pacher 005.jpg

St Ambrose
Michael Pacher
Alte Pinathotek  Munich

Image: Wikipedia 

Both of these later medieval images stress in their beautiful detailed way a hierarchical image - of figures serene and magisterial in the interpretation of Divine Truth.

St Ambrose Pray for us

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