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, 29 December 2020

St Thomas of Canterbury

Today is the Feast of St Thomas of Canterbury and the culmination of the delayed commemorations leading up to the anniversary of his martyrdom on this day 850 years ago.


Fresco showing the martyrdom of Thomas Becket in the Church of St John and St Paul, Spoleto

Image: Supertock/ Church Times

The BBC News website had a most interesting article a few days ago about the apparent identification of a psalter which the Archbishop treasured. The illustrated report, which is very much a fascinating historical detective story can be seen at Has Thomas Becket's treasured 'little book' been found?

Assuming the identification is correct - and the  case looks strong - then this is one more instance of treasures surviving in ‘plain sight’ and that collections such as that of the Parker Library at Corpus Christi Cambridge are such an amazing resource in having preserved unique and historic manuscripts. One might regret that Archbishop Parker gave such works away from Canterbury but that might well not have survived otherwise.

Christopher de Hamel’s account of the research The Book in the Cathedral: The Last Relic of Thomas Becket was published by Allen Lane this year - ISBN 978-0-241-47958-3. At only 58pages long it doubtless makes for excellent fireside reading in these dark and coronavirus ridden days, if only for an afternoon.

St Thomas of Canterbury Pray for us

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