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.

Saturday 9 September 2023

The Sacred Belt of Prato

To mark yesterday’s feast of the Nativity of the Virgin the Liturgical Arts Journal has an article about the Sacred Belt of the Virgin Mary which is venerated in the cathedral at Prato. This devotion goes back to the high middle ages and acquired a special exposition pulpit in the fifteenth century, and designed by Donatello. The feast of the Nativity of the Virgin is one of the days in which the relic is exposed for public veneration as the article explains. It can be read at The Sacred Belt of Our Lady (Cathedral of Prato, Italy)

As the article shows the tradition of Our Lady giving her belt to St Thomas as she was assumed into Heaven is ancient and shared by Christians both East and West. The relic at Prato is one of antiquity and prestige, but was by no means unique. Many medieval churches in western Europe claimed to possess it - or perhaps bits of it, like fragments of the True Cross. It was the last physical, tangible, material link to the Virgin and by a process of association was often used or requested by expectant mothers for a safe delivery. That all these belts or girdles of Our Lady cannot all be true may well be incontestable yet the human need for such spiritual aid cannot be gainsaid.

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