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.

Friday 13 January 2023

The medieval pavement at Canterbury Cathedral

Christopher Howse wrote recently in his regular column Sacred Mysteries in the Daily Telegraph about a new study of the geometric pavement in the Trinity Chapel at Canterbury Cathedral.

The latest research suggests that the pavement was originally created by Italian craftsmen for the Italian born Archbishop St Anselm at the beginning of the twelfth century, and subsequently moved and re-installed in the Trinity Chapel in front of the Shrine of St Thomas. Such an example of medieval appreciation of the skill of past generations and its manifestation as conservation in practice is like the survival of Norman doorways which were dismantled and re-erected when parish churches were extended with the addition of aisles or otherwise completely rebuilt. Instances of this can be seen in several Yorkshire churches.

The Canterbury pavement is also seen as the inspiration for the great Westminster sanctuary pavement commissioned by King Henry III from Italian workmen, and which, no longer covered by a carpet, can now once again be appreciated. I have also seen the suggestion that the Westminster floor was inspired by the floor, long lost, of the Lady Chapel in the abbey at Glastonbury which the King may well also have seen. The two theories are not mutually exclusive but do all point to a desire to create the most beautiful adornment for the focus of devotion on those three great churches.

There is an article from Current Archaeology from 2020 about recent work at Canterbury Cathedral which includes, inter alia, a digital reconstruction of the Shrine of St Thomas as it may well have appeared circa 1408, which shows the pavement in the left foreground. It can be seen at England in stone: recounting recent research at Canterbury Cathedral

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