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.

Sunday, 5 June 2022

Roman celebrations of Pentecost

Shawn Tribe has an interesting piece on the Liturgical Arts Journal website about traditional Roman customs to celebrate Pentecost in the churches of the City. One which survives is the shower of red rose petals in the Pantheon.

In the past similar customs obtained elsewhere  as he described with not only flowers but doves and burning tow. What our present age with its concerns for animal welfare and about fire prevention or the risk of personal injury would make of such things is probably predictable if sad.

The use of such images or visual representations of the Holy Spirit and of Pentecostal Fire for many centuries is a reminder that visual aids are nothing new. They  were a way of signifying the particular nature of the day alongside the liturgy and show an imagination as to what could have an impact of the eyes and minds of the faithful. Spectacle is nothing new, and allied in such cases to charm and delight. 

To what extent these may derive from ancient Roman pre-Christian or Imperial practice is not discussed but Rome above all in the West was likely to keep such practice, or at least the memory of it, alive. It has all the exuberance associated with the Baroque long before that style or mood as we know it was conceived.

The article can be read at Forgotten Roman Customs of Pentecost

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