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 30 November 2021

St Andrew - Patron of Scotland

My previous post concentrated on medieval English devotion to St Andrew and it seems appropriate to also note his status as patron of the Kingdom of Scots. The following is a republication of a post I wrote in 2011 about that.

Today is the feast of St Andrew the Apostle, and has been observed as such since the fourth century. Thinking about this led me to reflect on his emergence as the patron saint of Scotland, and the attendent iconography.

I have edited, adapted and in places extended the following paragraphs from the Wikipedia article on St Andrew - the whole article, and his links with other countries can be read here.

Eusebius quotes Origen as saying that Andrew preached along the Black Sea as far as the Volga, Kiev and Novgorod. In consequence he was to become a patron saint of the Ukraine, Romania and Russia. According to tradition, he founded the see of Byzantium (Constantinople) in the year 38, installing Stachys as bishop. According to Hippolytus of Rome he preached in Thrace, and his presence in Byzantium is also mentioned in the apocryphal Acts of Andrew, written in the second century. This diocese was to develop into the Patriarchate of Constantinople and Andrew is recognized as its patron saint.

By long established tradition Andrew is said to have been martyred by crucifixion at the city of Patras in Achaea on the northern coast of the Peloponnese. Early texts, such as the Acts of Andrew known to Gregory of Tours describe Andrew as being bound, not nailed, to a Latin cross of the kind on which Jesus is said to have been crucified. However a tradition developed that Andrew had been crucified on a cross of the form called Crux decussata (X-shaped cross, or "saltire"), now commonly known as a "Saint Andrew's Cross" This is supposed to have been at his own request, as he deemed himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross as Jesus had been (though of course, the privilege of choosing one's own method of execution is a rare privilege, indeed), and is similar to the story of St Peter being crucified upside down at his own request or insistance, and for the same reason. The familiar iconography of his martyrdom, showing the apostle bound to an X-shaped cross, does not seem to have been standardized before the later middle ages in the view of Judith Calvert in her article "The Iconography of the St Andrew Auckland Cross" in The Art Bulletin 66.4 ( December 1984, pp.543-555) p.545,n.12. She drew this as her conclusion after re-examining the materials studied by Louis Réau in his  Iconographiede l'art chrétien III.1 (Paris 1958) p.79 and held that St Andrew's Cross appeared for the first time in the tenth century, but was not to become universal before the seventeenth century, and she was unable to find a sculptural representation of St Andrew on the saltire earlier than an early twelfth century architetural capital from Quercy. However I would comment that every eleventh century or later medieval depiction of St Andrew shows him with or on the saltire.

About the middle of the tenth century, St Andrew became the patron of Scotland. 

Several legends state that the relics of Andrew were brought under supernatural guidance from Constantinople to the site which became St Andrews in Fife. Of the two oldest surviving manuscripts one is among those collected by Jean-Baptiste Colbert and bequeathed to King Louis XIV, and now in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, and the other is in the Harleian MSS in the British Library. They state that the relics of Andrew were brought by one Regulus to the Pictish king Óengus mac Fergusa (729–761). The only historical Regulus (Riagail or Rule) - the name is preserved by the tower of the church of St Rule which adjoins the remains of the medieval cathedral in St Andrews - was an Irish monk expelled from Ireland with Saint Columba; his dates, however, are c.573 – 600. 

There are good reasons for supposing that the relics which came to St Andrews were originally in the collection of Acca, bishop of Hexham, who took them into Pictish country when he was driven from Hexham (c. 732), and founded a see, not, as according to tradition, in Galloway, but on the site of St Andrews. Given that the church at Hexham had been founded by St Wilfrid, with his strong links to Rome, and more importantly that the church there was dedicated to St Andrew, this looks a tempting interpretation. The connection made with Regulus is, therefore, due in all probability to the desire to date the foundation of the church at St Andrews to an early a date as possible. 

According to legend, in 832, King Óengus II led an army of Picts and Scots into battle against the Angles, led by Æthelstan, near modern-day Athelstaneford in East Lothian. The legend states that whilst engaged in prayer on the eve of battle, Óengus vowed that if granted victory he would make Saint Andrew the patron saint of Scotland. On the morning of battle white clouds forming an X shape in the sky were said to have appeared. Óengus and his combined force, emboldened by this apparent divine intervention, took to the field and despite being inferior in terms of numbers were victorious. Having interpreted the cloud formation as representing the crux decussata upon which Saint Andrew was crucified, Óengus honoured his pre-battle pledge and duly designated Saint Andrew as the patron of Scotland. The white saltire set against a celestial blue background is said to have been adopted as the design of the Scottish flag on the basis of this legend. However, as outlined above, there is evidence that St Andrew was venerated in Scotland before this date.

It has also been suggested that St Andrew's connection with Scotland may have been reinforced following the Synod of Whitby, of 663 when the Celtic church felt that St Columba had been "outranked" by St Peter and that Peter's brother would make a higher ranking patron. In 1320 the Declaration of Arbroath cited Scotland's conversion to Christianity by Andrew, "the first to be an Apostle".

The National Archives of Scotland website has an interesting, illustrated, piece about the use of the image of St Andrew as national patron and emblem: it can be viewed here.

St Andrew also appeared on pilgrim badges from the cathedral priory at St Andrews, examples of which have been found in excavations in the city.



There are some good pictures of the remains of what was once the largest cathedral in Scotland, and something of its history here and here. There is an introduction to the site, designed for school groups, with a reconstruction drawing from Historic Scotland here. Incidentally the cathedral priory, founded about in the early twelfth century, was colonised by canons from Nostell priory in Yorkshire, and which was close to my home town.

After the Scottish War of Independence St Andrew continued as a national symbol, as in the Trinity Altarpiece by Hugo van der Goes of circa 1478-79 depicting the saint standing behind the kneeling figures of King James III and his son and successor, James Duke of Rothesay, the future King James IV.


St Andrew with King James III and the future King James IV.
From the Trinity Panels by Hugo van der Goes
Royal Collection on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland

Photo from Englishmonarchs.orm

However a somewhat similar scene with King James IV from his Book of Hours, now in Vienna, and dating to about the time of his marriage to Queen Margaret in 1503, shows St James the Great as his sponsor or patron:


King James IV at prayer.
Queen Margaret is shown top right, and beneath are the arms of the King of Scots.


Unfortunately these two illustrations are not of the highest quality but they were the only ones available on the web - due I think to copyright reasons. However they do serve to illustrate the points under consideration.

It is to this period that one may well look for the origins of the Order of the Thistle, which I discussed in my post The Order of the Thistle last year. The inventory of King James III's goods made in 1488 includes a collar of the same design as that of the present Order, and in the miniature above the royal arms in the panel on the lower right are encircled by a collar as well as those on the altar frontal in front of the King. King James V is depicted wearing a similar collar in paintings and King Charles I wore one at his coronation at Holyrood in 1633.

I posted again about this subject last year, with a better reproduction of detail from the van der Goes painting, and a bit more about the iconography and use of the colour green by the Order of the Thistle, in St Andrew and Scotland

St Andrew Pray for us

St Andrew and his churches

Today is the feast of St Andrew.

Fr Hunwicke recently posted about the feast in S Andrew is Imminent. But I am puzzled.

In it he draws attention to the fact that it was on this day that during the Rising of the North in 1569 that the insurgents restored the Catholic Mass in Durham Cathedral. This may, or may not, be coincidental but fifteen years earlier in 1554 England and Ireland had been reconciled to the Church by Cardinal Pole as Papal Legate at the request of Queen Mary and King Philip at a ceremony in Whitehall Palace. The day was appointed to be kept as an anniversary in perpetuity.

Evidence as to the popularity of St Andrew in the past is mentioned by Fr Hunwicke, although how extensive it was in medieval England is a matter about which I am not too sure. It can certainly be seen in the fact that he is the patron of two medieval English cathedrals, at Rochester and Wells. He is also the patron of the priory (“Abbey”) at Hexham and co-patron with SS Peter and Paul of the abbey and now cathedral at Peterborough. All of these are Anglo-Saxon in origin and Hexham at that period was also a cathedral. The fact that he was the brother of St Peter, given the strong English devotion to the Prince of the Apostles in the wake of St Gregory’s mission May account fir this.

In the post-Conquest era probably the most important foundation in his honour was the Cluniac Northampton priory dedicated to him. Nothing appears to remain above ground of this house but there is a short history from Wikipedia at St Andrew's Priory, Northampton and a detailed one from the VCH Northamptonshire at Houses of Cluniac monks: The priory of St Andrew, NorthamptonThis is well documented and brings out clearly the difficulties faced by Cluniac priories before denization - in this instance in 1405. Due to its central location at Northampton the house regularly, if not habitually, hosted the regular councils of English Benedictine monks in the later medieval period.

As to medieval parish churches - cities such as London with three medieval foundations that were rebuilt by Wren - St Andrew by the Wardrobe, described by Wikipedia at St Andrew-by-the-WardrobeSt Andrew Holborn, covered by Wikipedia at St Andrew Holborn (church and by Britain Express at St Andrew's Holborn Church, London, History & Visiting | Historic London Guide; the Guild Vicar is the Bishop of Fulham, Jonathan Baker, whom I knew when he was Principal of Pusey House, and thirdly St Andrew Undershaft, which is described by Look up London at Why is This Church Called St Andrew Undershaft?

Norwich has a very handsome church from the turn of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, which is described by Wikipedia at St Andrew's Church, Norwich and by Norfolk Churches here

In York there are the remains of a church dedicated to St Andrew which was closed in the 1560s consolidation of the city parishes whic reduced them by half. There are also the remains of a medieval parish church under his patronage in Worcester.

Three northern parish churches under the patronage of St Andrew that are of particular interest to me. 

Greystoke in Cumberland is a substantial late medieval parish church that was made collegiate in 1382 by the then Lord Greystoke and which is notable for its surviving late medieval stained glass. It, and its notable features are described in Greystoke, Cumbria by Wikipedia, in Greystoke St Andrew's Church by Visit Cumbria and by Explore Churches in Greystoke St Andrew
The surviving stained glass is described and shown in Greystoke Church Stained-Glassin Greystoke, St. Andrew's Church: and in Panel of the Month.

Greystoke is a fine example of a late medieval pious chantry benefaction by a local aristocrat that, being away from what we might think of as the mainstream of national life illustrates how integrated such foundations were into the life of late medieval society.

Slaidburn church in the Forest of Bowland, although apparently largely rebuilt after his time, was the first church to which the future Bishop Richard Fleming was  presented and which he held In the year 1403-4, before moving on to more lucrative pastures. His appointment does nicely illustrate how the system could work in the favour of someone like “my” Bishop. The church is notable fir its early seventeenth century woodwork. Wikipedia has a short description at Slaidburn

Bolton on Dearne church in the southern West Riding is a wonderful Anglo-Saxon survival. What makes that entertaining as well is to visit it with a copy of the appropriate Pevsner Buildings of England. I assume this is unchanged in the latest revision but the main entry by the great man dismissed the church very quickly as over-restored in a few words, barely lines. However an asterisk points the reader in the second and subsequent editions to the appendix, where the true architectural significance of St Andrew’s Bolton-on-Dearne is brought out.

Wikipedia has a short account with a photograph at Church of St Andrew the Apostle, Bolton upon Dearne and it is also covered by Explore Churches at Bolton on Dearne St AndrewWhat these do not mention is that being in the “Barnsley Biretta belt” the church has a strong Anglo-Catholic tradition which adds considerably to its charm and appeal.

I posted a somewhat similar post to this on this day in 2011 which can be seen at Devotion to St Andrew in medieval England

St Andrew Pray for us

Monday 29 November 2021

The Gloucester Ku Klux Klan …

Over dinner last night a friend told me a story that he had no reason to doubt.

Some years ago a concerned citizen of Gloucester contacted the police there to say that they had seen a group of white caped and hooded men in the city whom they took to be members of the Ku Klux Klan. 

Mr Plod investigated. Mt Plod investigated thoroughly.

He was able to ascertain that this was not the Gloucester KKK, but in fact the white robed monks of Prinknash Abbey arriving for Evensong in Gloucester Cathedral ……

Sunday 28 November 2021

Advent - four weeks or five?

Today is Advent Sunday, the beginning of the time of preparation and anticipation for Christmas that combines both looking at Christ’s coming in the past in time and space and also looking at his future coming when time and space as we know them shall be swept away.

Advent combines solemnity - or indeed spiritual sobriety ( the physical version is scarce these days in this season ) - with expectant joy. Often described as one of the Church’s hidden treasures it sometimes, depending upon the calendar, seems rushed and too short for proper preparation ( and all the more so in the flurry of modern shopping and suchlike )

The New Liturgical Movement recently had an interesting and carefully researched article by Gregory DiPippo about how Adent was originally longer in the West, as it still is in the East, being five rather than four weeks until the time of St Gregory the Great.

The article can be read at The Five Week Advent

The Jacobite Kennington Martyrs

Today. November 28th, is the 275th anniversary of the last of the three sets of executions of Jacobite officers at Kennington in London. Other executions of more rank and file participants in the Rising took place at York, Carlisle and Penrith.

The 1745 Association has been meeting online via Zoom with a series of monthly talks which are then uploaded to YouTube. Last month we had an excellent talk by Steven Robb about the fate of the men who were tried in London and who went to the gallows at Kennington. Of note in the illustrations were several anti-Jacobite prints of considerable elegance and remarkable ingenuity of imagination.

The video of the talk can be seen at The Kennington Martyrs

The remains of most of the men were interred at St George’s Gardens in the King’s Cross area and there is a video of the Association’s annual commemoration event there this year at St George's Gardens Commemoration August 2021

The head of Col. Francis Towneley was rescued from Temple Bar and eventually found its way to the family vault in Burnley church. I posted about his posthumous fate last year in 

A video of the Rutland Roman villa

In my last post I wrote about and linked to the reports about the discovery of an important Roman villa site in Rutland in A Roman villa in Rutland

This has now been followed by the release online of a video which includes interviews with the farmer who discovered it and with the archaeologists who worked on the site. It also includes film of the mosaic floor with its images derived from the Iliad which has in particular attracted the attention of both experts and of the media.

Thursday 25 November 2021

A Roman villa in Rutland

The BBC News website has a report today which alerted me to the discovery of the site of what was clearly a substantial and cultured Roman villa in Rutland. It is thought to date from the third or fourth century.

What especially marks it out is that one room has a floor mosaic design indicating the literary tastes of the owners. The sizeable floor depicts the battle between Achilles and Hector from Homer’s Iliad. As a subject it is a unique discovery in this country and the mosaic is being hailed as the most important to be uncovered in a century.

The remains were initially discovered after distinctive pottery showed up in a field and initial excavation led to the villa site. Further examination of the clearly extensive site will continue next year and plans are being worked upon to present the site, which has now been scheduled, to the public.

Once again this is a case of a significant and spectacular archaeological site being found with, apparently, no previous indication of its existence.

In addition I found that The Art Newspaper has a somewhat more detailed account of the site, including the evidence for the abandonment of the villa, and that can be read at Magnificent Roman mosaic discovered in a farmer's field is 'UK's most exciting find of its kind in a century'

Monday 22 November 2021

Men’s fashion style 1000 -1500

In my last post I linked to a piece by the Welsh Viking about the Sutton Hoo helmet. I came across that from looking at another post by him about the development of men’s fashion in western Europe between the years 1000 and 1500.  I think that is also worth sharing as a useful guide to men’s attire in the period and with that to the continuities as well as the innovations over those centuries. 

He pitches it particularly, but by no means exclusively, at his fellow re-enactors, As a result the practicalities are brought out about both the making as well as the styling of clothing. He has some good illustrations - though perhaps some deserve to stay on screen a bit longer - and one certainly gets a sense of how fashion developed, particularly in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It is all presented in a rather jaunty way, bringing out his own stylistic preferences.

Sunday 21 November 2021

The Sutton Hoo Helmet - a reinterpretation

I came upon a video by The Welsh Viking - who was new to me but has produced a range of such things, especially in connection with re-enactment clothing as well as being a graduate student in archaeology - which looks at the latest theory about the iconography and significance of the Sutton Hoo helmet.

He bases his account on a recent research paper which argues the imagery of Odin/Wotan/Grim on the decoration of the helmet and its overall design is highly suggestive of ritual use and the function of the wearer - let us assume it was a King of East Anglia - as a temporal representative of the pagan God. As he also points out Odin is a constant theme in the decoration of the finds from the Sutton Hoo ship. He case for such an interpretation seems impressive.

The video, with links to the academic articles he cites, can be seen at Is the Sutton Hoo Helmet from "The Dig" Really an Odin Mask?

Saturday 20 November 2021

The reredos of All Souls College

Christopher Howse writes with his usual elegant perception about the reredos of the chapel of All Souls College in his regular Sacred Mysteries column in the Daily Telegraph. His article is based on a new book about the towering statue-filled reredos which dates in its origin to the founding of the college by Archbishop Henry Chichele in the 1430s. Howse links this to the dedication of the college and to All Soulstide, but then opens up the story of its restoration in the 1870s - as he points out a typical story of Fellows feuding.

The design of the reredos, as is so much else in All Souls, is derived from New College, and the same ideas were also copied at Magdalen by Bishop Waynefleet.

All Souls chapel also houses two wonderful original fifteenth century statues of King Henry VI and Archbishop Chichele from the High Street exterior. Like the reredos they were once painted and unlike its figures have survived the centuries, and were brought indoors in the early twentieth century. Unfortunately their replacements are very inferior copies indeed.

Wednesday 17 November 2021

Bishop Edward King

                     Bishop Edward King
                     Spy cartoon of 1890

                        Image: Wikipedia 

This afternoon  I went to a stimulating talk at Pusey House by Bishop Michael Marshall - sometime of Woolwich - about his new biography of Bishop Edward King (1829-1910), a student at Oriel, Chaplain and the Principal of Cuddesdon, Regius Professor of Pastoral Theology at Christ Church and from 1885 until his death Bishop of Lincoln. I think it could be fair to describe him as the greatest post-reformation holder of the See. To many he is most famous for the Lincoln Judgment of 1890 about Ritualism in the Church of England and for being the first Anglican bishop since 1559 to wear a mitre. His white chasuble can be seen on the present holder of the See at Bishop Edward King’s chasubleWikipedia has an introduction to his life at Edward_King

In his book Edward King: Teacher, Pastor, Bishop, Saint ( Gracewing ) Bishop Marshall sets out his argument that it was Edward King,  through his training of clergy and influence on other theological college principals and his example as a pastoral Bishop of Lincoln, who was the single most influential implementor of the ideals of the Oxford Movement across the whole country rather than to just academic or similar groups.

It is a substantial book and promises much new material on the life of Bishop King, described in 1935 in a sermon in Lincoln Cathedral by Archbishop Lang - whom King had confirmed -  as “the most saintly of men and most human of saints.”

        Bishop King in his last years

          Image: Project Canterbury 

From what he said it is clear that Bishop Marshall is keen - very keen - to promote to the powers that be in the Church of England the vision of pastoral care of clergy and people that was exemplified by Bishop King. It is a vision all Christian denominations can, I think, take to heart and learn from.

I look forward to looking properly at his book snd reading it, touching as it does on not a few  interests and influences in my own life.

This was an excellent, and fortuitous ( possibly), way to mark the feast of St Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln 1186-1200.

Tuesday 16 November 2021

The martyred Abbot of Glastonbury

Yesterday was the anniversary of the martyrdom of the last Abbot of Glastonbury, Richard Whiting O.S.B. together with two of his monks in 1539. Abbot Richard was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1895. Wikipedia has an introduction to his life and death at Richard Whiting (abbot)

Now some people in Glastonbury have had the idea of petitioning The Queen to grant a posthumous pardon to the Abbot as part of the celebrations to mark the Platinum Jubilee next year.

I was sent the link because I have written before on this blog about Glastonbury - a place I know and revere - and think it worth sharing with others. I signed the petition yesterday. 

Bl. Richard Whiting and companions, Pray for us

Black History?

The website History Debunked has an insightful and thought-provoking video about the modern assertion that there were sub-Saharan Africans living in Roman Britain. This assertion is based on the interpretation of a very few archaeological discoveries. The video, which challenges this interpretation, can be seen at Black people in Roman Britain; the collapse of a modern fairy story

That is not to say that there were never, ever, black Africans in Britannia in almost four centuries of Roman rule. What it does say is than the modern anxiety to find such a presence ignores the real evidence of archaeology and anthropology. Not only does it ignore the detailed evidence but latches on to something to prove or promote a contemporary argument, not an historical fact.

Furthermore I will add that I have known archaeologists who rush to announce a spectacular discovery on an overly hasty identification, only to have to retract it - in one case quite literally the next day.

Friday 12 November 2021

In the teeth of the evidence

As often happens I chanced unexpectedly upon a short article published on Ancient Origins almost four years ago and which raises some interesting possibilities about calculating the age at death of medieval skeletons, and more especially those of older people, from their teeth. This method yields results that challenges the idea that a reasonable number of people did not reach what we might think of as old age.

The article can be seen here

More on the Fountains Abbey Tannery

I wrote the other week about the identification of the site of an extensive medieval tannery at Fountains Abbey. That can be read at Fountains Abbey Leather

Live Science now has a report about the discovery which gives additional details about the site and the part it played in the abbey’s economy. It can be viewed at Archaeologists solve mystery of 'bowling alley' under Yorkshire abbey

Wednesday 10 November 2021

A fifteenth century find from Sheriff Hutton

Both the BBC News and the Mail Online have reports about the discovery by a metal detectorist of a fifteenth century tiny gold book, open at two facing pages with images of St Leonard and St Margaret. Both were saints invoked in childbirth. As the photographs show the detail of the rendering of the leatherwork binding on the other side is remarkable given the size of the item.

I assume it is intended to represent a Book of Hours rather than a Bible as the authors of the article describe it. A Book of Hours would frequently include illuminations of Christian saints whereas a Bible would not.

It is similar to a charm or badge worn on a necklet but has no obvious means of suspension. Perhaps that is why it was lost.

On stylistic grounds it has been suggested that it could be by the same craftsman who made the now famous Middleham Jewel, a gold lozenge shaped locket decorated with a sapphire and depicting the Annunciation which was found near the castle in that town in the 1980s.

This new discovery was made at Sheriff Hutton - it is rather misleading to say York, which is quite a few miles distant. The village is dominated by the dramatic ruins of the castle. Built in the late fourteenth century by the Neville family, from the early 1470s it was used by the future King Richard III. During his reign it housed relatives such as Elizabeth of York and the children of his deceased brother the Duke of Clarence, as well as prisoners like Earl Rivers. It was also used as a royal residence and seat of government by the King’s nephew the Earl of Lincoln and again by King Henry VIII’s son the Duke of Richmond in rhe 1520s. It is therefore a place, like Middleham, where expensive devotional trinkets would have been worn and lost.

One must hope that this gold book charm can join the Middleham Jewel in the Yorkshire Museum in York.

Sheriff Hutton played a not insignificant part in the development of my own historical interests. A holiday with relatives there on the eve of my sixth birthday was an important anf formative influence when I was indeed very young but already strongly interested in the past. The castle ruins, the parish church with the reputed tomb of Edward of Middleham, Prince of Wales, and visits to nearby Cadtle Howard, Gilling Castle, Helmsley Castle and Rievaulx Abbey fuelled an enthusiasm which has never left me.

Tuesday 9 November 2021

Elizabethan wall paintings revealed

The Mail Online has an article about the discovery of six painted images from the late sixteenth century on the wall of a public house at Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire. 

The pictures are a reminder that certainly in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the interiors of houses in towns often had colourful and complex painted decoration on their walls. I have posted in the past about examples which survive in Oxford, Abingdon and Tewkesbury, as well as about an enthroned image of King Henry VIII in the former rectory at Milverton in Somerset. I discussed this topic and also with links to other domestic wall paintings in Herefordshire earlier this year in my post English Medieval Wall Paintings

The Hoddesdon examples apparently include a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I and of her chief minister William Cecil, Lord Burghley. This would suggest that, as with the Somerset painting of King Henry if you wanted to show your loyalty to the reigning monarch you did not need to go to the expense of a panel painting but could get a local jobbing painter to produce a likeness straight on to the plaster. In this instance it was loyalty to the Queen and to her Lord Treasurer, who just happened to own the building, which prompted the creation of the likenesses in the 1580s or 90s. 

The paintings are also a reminder that in a pre-photographic age, and an age before mass popular engravings, people away from London and centres of influence could still know what the monarch or a major political figure looked like. The royal image reached perhaps further than we might think, such as standardised images of medieval kings used as carved label stops in churches, as John Harvey argued. The implication of this discovery is that many such examples were relatively ephemeral if painted on plaster in buildings prone to redecoration and alteration.

The scriptural quotations may be very typical of Elizabethan Protestantism but they also suggest an expectation that most people could read and draw the appropriate conclusion from the link to the person depicted.

The series also shows, as do the other domestic examples I have cited that interiors were more highly decorated than one might realise looking at most restored buildings from the period. Schemes that do survive, even if much faded, do suggest a vitality and skill, as well as subtly that we do not expect, having forgotten that particular tradition.

Orange Vestments?

The notion of orange vestments might, at first glance, seen like some contemporary horror story to frighten the tender feelings and delicate sensibilities of the traditionally minded or the aesthetically sensitive ….

One wonders how well they might be received in certain parts of Ireland…

However the Liturgical Arts Journal had a recent post about some historic examples which were distinctly orange in colour. It speculated as to whether they might have been classed as red or yellow in eras when dyes were more variable than today, and indeed when local usages were more varied.

The illustrated article can be seen at A Brief Inquiry into Orange Shades in Vestments

Friday 5 November 2021

Guy Fawkes’ Lantern

My friend Dr Tony Morris has a post which is appropriate to today on his always interesting Morris Oxford blog about one of the treasures, or perhaps curiosities, of the Ashmolean Museum. 

It is what is believed to be the lantern that Guy Fawkes had with him when he was apprehended in 1605. In the post Tony sets out the history of the lantern, such as it is known, and also has a photograph of it in all its slightly bartered glory. His post can be seen at 

The Agatha Christie Indult 50 years on

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the granting by Pope Paul VI of what is widely known as the Agatha Christie Indult, which allowed the continued use of the traditional rite of Mass according to the 1962 Missal, as amended in 1965 and 1967, in England and Wales. This concession, unique in the Catholic Church, enabled the liturgical celebration of, with some changes, “the Mass the martyrs died for” to remain as part of the life of the country. Not until 1984 was the privilege extended to the whole Church, followed, of course by further relaxation of restrictions before the definitive grant of Summorum Pontificum.

The story of the Indult is set out at Agatha Christie indult This includes a list of all the signatories to the letter requesting the Indult, which makes very interesting reading in itself.

A memoir of those years from a member of the Latin Mass Society can be read at The 1971 English Indult - A Recollection | Latin Mass Society

There are further reflections on the Indult and in particular on Dame Agatha’s influence in obtaining it and on her own religious beliefs at How Agatha Christie Saved the Latin Massat The Famous "Agatha Christie" Indultat The Agatha Christie Indult* and at The day Agatha Christie captured the attention of Pope Paul VI

A good way to mark this significant and, currently very pertinent, anniversary in this month of November would be to not just offer thanks for the Indult but to pray for the repose of the souls of the signatories and of the great Cardinal John Heenan.

There is an interesting historic irony that this grant to the Church in England snd Wales should have been given on, of all days in the year, November 5th …. but then perhaps that is all part of the splendidly counter-cultural nature of the Indult, and the way in which it is recalled.

Parkin and gingerbread for Bonfire Night

The always interesting online historic cookery site Tasting History this week features Yorkshire Parkin and its association with Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night on November 5th. As a Yorkshireman this added to the interest the site always offers.

It uses a 1915 recipe for Yorkshire Parkin and offered a history, so far as it can be ascertained, of the cake. I must say that I had never heard the one about Filey before and that dragon bones are the origin of Filey Brig.

In the Comments section there is a good suggestion from a viewer as to how the name Thar cakes could have evolved into Parkin as the present name. Thar cakes again is a term hitherto unknown to me.

The video can be seen at 1915 Yorkshire Parkin for Bonfire Night

I do recall one of my uncles, who was a professional baker, making the point that there were considerable local variations in tastes fir baking and that in the area west of Wakefield in and along the Calder Valley ginger and similarly flavoured cakes were more popular than in our area around Pontefract. I am sure that population movement and changes has broken down many of those local differences.
There is another recipe, again from 1915, which is online and from a Canadian presenter. This was made in 2019 and which uses one of several for Parkin from the same cookery book, indicating the variety of methods. It can be seen at 1915 Yorkshire PARKIN Recipe

When I was growing up in Yorkshire in the 1950s and 60s, and coming on my mother’s side from a family who owned a bakery and shops I associate this time of the year not only with Parkin but also gingerbread men and pigs - known as Parkin Pigs - and with brandy snap, which came in tins decorated with a drawing of the church tower at Boston in Lincolnshire - Boston Stump. There was also Bonfire Night Toffee which came to shops in small shallow metal trays and was broken up with a small metal hammer to sell to customers  in broken pieces of slab toffee.

One of the comments on the first recipe refers to the decline in home bonfires and fireworks on this night since the late 1960s. This is an unfortunate consequence of the modern obsession with Health and Safety and an early example of the influence of the nanny state.

Thursday 4 November 2021

Defender of the Faith

Last month was the 500th anniversary of the bestowal of the title Defender of the Faith on King Henry VIII by Pope Leo X on October 11th 1521. This was in gratitude for the King’s riposte to Luther the Assertio Septem Sacramentorum - The Defence of the seven Sacraments - which Henry had begin in 1519. There is an article about it at Defence of the Seven Sacraments

Wikipedia has a useful history of the title and its use at Defender of the Faith

Here in Oxford the Ashmolean Museum has what is believed to be the sword sent to the King on this occasion.

The Ashmolean website rather implies it may be English rather than continental in origin, and perhaps that it is a sword of state from the period rather than the Papal gift.

The use of crystal on the hilt is reminiscent of the Crystal Mace at Norwich which was made for the City after its predecessor was lost during Ket’s Rebellion in 1549.

A crystal globe does, of course, feature as the top of the Papally presented Scottish sceptre of 1494, but that may be a feature associated with sceptres, such as the much older Hungarian one.

Unlike the sword the Cap of Maintenance is not known to have survived. The history of this type of insignia, its design and use is outlined in a Wikipedia article at Cap of maintenance

The various pictures of the sword in the Ashmolean appear unwilling in most cases to download. Here however are some details of the crystal hilt from Pinterest:

Pin image

Rorate Caeli faces down Cardinal Cupich

Rorate Caeli is a traditionally minded website that expresses itself trenchantly about events in the Church, and does so very well indeed in its latest post in which it dissects, not to say eviscerates, a letter from Cardinal Cupich of Chicago about the implementation of Traditionis Custodes. It does, incidentally, once more make me grateful for not living in the jurisdiction of prelates such as His Eminence of Chicago.

To return to Rorate Caeli … the article takes the Cardinal’s points apart and makes for a forceful justification for not, if humanly possible, going along with the approach, and the attitude, that is displayed. I was particularly struck by its comments about the status of various Catechisms and how they are not superseded by others. It also reiterates why exactly Pope Benedict XVI issued Summorum Pontificum and what his intention was.

The article, which is, if you will pardon the pun, eminently worth looking at, can be read at An Unwanted “Gift” from Cardinal Cupich

Wednesday 3 November 2021

St Malachy looking forward

In the Irish calendar of Saints today is the feast of St Malachy, a noted twelfth century reformer as Archbishop of Armagh, who died at Clairvaux on November 2nd 1148.

However to most people St Malachy is best remembered as the supposed compiler or sharer in a series prophetic revelations of the coded identity of future Popes up to the advent of Pope Peter II and the end times. Though dismissed by serious scholars they surface every Papal vacancy without fail. Mind you, according to the list ( which has, I believe, already been extended once ) the present pontificate is the last one before the advent of the Antichrist….watch this space.

These aspects and quite a bit more are covered in a lively article by Gregory Di Pippo on the New Liturgical Movement website today - though he makes a mistake in saying St Theodore of Canterbury was half a century before St Malachy when he was more like half a millennium earlier.

The article, which weaves together a number of interesting themes, can be read at The “Prophecies” of St Malachy

Although Di Pippo attributes the creation of the ‘St Malachy prophecies’ to as recently as 1590 they do represent a tradition of prophetic claims expressed in coded descriptions of future rulers that flourished in the later middle ages across much of Europe. The quest to predict the end of the world, the advent of the Celestial Emperor and the Pope of the End Times was a popular one, wonderfully recorded and studied in Marjorie Reeves’ magisterial The Influence of Prophecy in the Later Middle Ages

More about the effigy of Prince Edward at Canterbury

Last week I wrote about the latest research into the tomb effigy of Edward Prince of Wales in Canterbury Cathedral in New insights into the effigy of Edward Prince of Wales and linked to some articles reporting it.

I have now come across another online article about the project. It is from the Courtauld Institute and it gives more details of the research and also has a number of photographs of details of the effigy that can be opened up. The article can be seen at Scientific study of the tomb of the Black Prince sheds light on royal medieval England

Byzantine and Merovingian gold coin hoard from Norfolk

The BBC News site has a report about a major discovery in west Norfolk of gold coins from the era of the Sutton Hoo burial. It has been suggested that lthe coins were in a purse at Sutton Hoo and that later ploughing disturbed and scattered them. 

The explanation is that they were a hoard of bullion brought together in Merovingian France, with some more travellef pieces from Byzantium which then ended up in the East Anglian kingdom either through trade or other contact. As such it is a further reminder of the connections that bound the territories of western Europe together in the seventh and early eighth centuries, as well as their links further afield. It is also an indicator of the wealth that circulated around the North Sea littoral in that period.

It is very much to be deplored that another metal detectorist - a policeman in fact - found and made off with ten of the coins from the site and sold them. For that he has very properly gone to prison and lost his job, but some of the coins have not been recovered.

It gave me added interest in the story of the find - fascinating as the discovery is - that the numismatist at the Norwich Castle museum who worked on the identification of the coins is an old Oxford friend, Dr Adrian Marsden.