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 30 March 2024

Conserving the Breamore Rood

The Daily Telegraph has a report on recent conservation work that has been undertaken on the late Anglo-Saxon Rood that is now located above the doorway of the church at Breanore in north west Hampshire. The newspaper account of the work and the Rood and the later paintings added to create a landscape background can be read at Rare Anglo-saxon ‘rood’ in Hampshire successfully restored
I visited Breamore many years ago to see both the church and the fine Elizabethan Manor House. Both are very well worth seeing if you are in the area. It is a seemingly very peaceful and tranquil corner of England.

Three impressions remain from that afternoon. Firstly there is the scale and grandeur of the composition of the Rood. There is a similar figure nearby at Romsey Abbey. It is a powerful and striking reminder that late Anglo-Saxon England could create big and bold statements of faith.

The second was the fact that several centuries after it was carved the parish created a special place to ‘enshrine’ it, and provided the background painted decoration to try to give the illusion of real space. Not only does this have a charm all its own but also shows a late medieval desire to enhance what they had inherited and clearly loved.
The third thing is, alas, the wickedness of the bigots who destroyed the figure in the belief that they were doing Christ’s work. If, as the article, suggests, this was a result of the Edwardian reformation after 1547 then the shock to the conventional believer in the parish must have been intense. The long arm of the ‘Reformers’ reached not just to Breamore as to every other parish but up into the little chapel over the porch on a mission to destroy. It is hard to feel sorry for the fact that the national authors of such things came to a bad end. The peace and tranquillity of Breamore were shattered the day the Rood was so brutally defaced. So to, in innumerable similar acts, was the peace and tranquillity of this country.


Zephyrinus said...

A most apposite Post, John.

And one that reinforces how much The Church is perpetually under persecution.

Thank you for this excellent and informative Post.

Anonymous said...

There is another surviving Saxon rood in the parish church of St Andrews, Cullompton, Devon. It is apparently unique in having a carved skull at the base, representing Golgotha:



John (Ramsden)