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.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Medieval Cuisine

I found the following post on the interactive Quora website a while back and thought it worth copying as it might interest readers. It is entitled "How would Medieval people react to eating modern food?" and is by Alberto Yagos, who describes himself as Spanish born.He writes as follows:

"I’ve cooked most of the recipes in two Medieval cookbooks, Libre de Sent Soviand Libre del Coch which were the most important ones in Spain, France and Italy from the 14th to 16th centuries. Some of the recipes are as old as 1220 and some of them also appear in English cookbooks.

Contrary to the popular belief that meat and fish were very expensive, they were quite usual on most tables. Villages not very big could have four or five butcher shops. In 1287, a carpenter called Mr. Paulet paid his mother for her livelihood (each year): two mines of wheat (around 400 pounds), four barrels of wine, an entire salted pork or beef and three canes of wool. In 1307, the maid of a scribe in Majorca buys every day: bread, wine, meat or fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, cabbages, onions, cucumbers, almonds, parsley and carrots.

What was expensive was well preserved or fresh meat.

Medieval people from that era would get surprised by the new ingredients (potatoes, bellpeppers, chocolate…) and the fact that you can eat summer vegetables in the middle of winter.

And also:
* Bread and wine aren’t the usual breakfast. Also, people eat it too soon (they were used to eating the first time around 3 hours after getting up).

* People drank wine and beer pure, without spices, water, honey or vinegar. Or in a certain preparation, without butter and barley flour (if you are curious, it tastes as bad as it sounds).

* Meat and fish are very abundant but also very repetitive. Medieval people would eat any meat and any fish. And any part.

* We cook with milk (a big no in Medieval cuisine, only for two months, April and May, it was recommended to have around 300 gr. of goat's milk).

* We use cheese and not curd in most recipes. Cured cheese was taken as a full meal.

* Food has very little spices. They used pepper and sugar as the stars of the dish. Sugar was really expensive but they used it a lot (a lot of recipes called for 3-4 ounces of sugar), so now that it’s so cheap they wouldn’t understand why we put so little.

* Very few preparations are boiled fish/meat (it was recommended to cook it this way in summer).

* Sauces are used in little quantities. Medieval preparations literally were floating in sauces made of broth, almond flour, wine, eggs.

* We reserve the fruits for desserts. The first time I cooked a typical soup of the era with onion, apple and bacon people thought it would be disgusting (it’s just really sweet).

* We mainly use wheat flour. The basic flour in the era was barley and they added it to most recipes."

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

An Election is Called

I was somewhat surprised to learn from my iPhone this morning that the Prime Minister has requested adissolution of Parliament and that there will be a General Election on June 8th.

Mrs May repeatedly said she would not do such a thing, and, quite correctly, did not call one to "seek a mandate" - we do not elect the Prime Minister, but rather MPs, and from whom the leader of the majority party or of a coalition is asked by The Queen to form a government. Now she has changed her mind.

I suspect people are getting sick of trooping off to the Polling Stations - certainly they must in Scotland having had the Referendum in 2014, the General Election in 2015 and their own General Election in 2016 as well as the Europe Referendum. Politicians tend to forget that real people, normal people, are not like them and obsessed with politics.

This is compounded by the nonsense of the Fixed Term Parliament Act wished upon us by the Coalition - any proper Conservative government would  have got rid of that, and then moved on to repealing the enormity that is the Constitutional Reform Act of 2005 - Constitional Deform Act more like.

Well, we shall see what happend in June, but a long Election campaign is fraught with risks for all parties.

Medieval Easter customs

The latest online issue of the Medieval Histories website has a series of Easter-themed posts which I think may be of interest to my readers, and so I have copied and pasted the links below:

Naumburg Cathedral Choir Screen c. 1250. Source: Wikipedia/Anders Hoernigk








Crucifixus Dolorosus or Forked Crucifix from c. 1300

In an unusually dramatic way, a Crucifixus Dolorosus or forked crucifix depicts the suffering and dying Christ hung on a living tree.   Read more.
Poland, National Museum of Warsaw. Source: Wikipedia








Arnulf of Leuven – Salve Mundi Salutare

Immersion into the corporeal horrors of the crucifixion led to a new late medieval devotion, the contemplation of the wounds. Arnulf of Leuven led the way   Read more.
Wienhausen Christ in Tomb








The Wienhausen Sepulchre and the Risen Christ

Wienhausen, a convent near Lüneburg has preserved a remarkable heritage of religious art in the form of murals, sculpture, textiles and texts. Touching the Risen Christ was the high point   Read more.
The Jewish cemetery in Prague. Source: Private Prague Guide

Passion in Prague

One of the more evocative places in Prague is the Jewish churchyard and the the oldest synagogue in Europe. In 1389 it was the scene of a terrible pogrom.  Read more.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Easter in Oxford

I spent Easter here in Oxford, as usual, and with the usual pattern of liturgical events.

On Maundy Thursday I went to Tenebrae at Blackfriars, though not on Good Friday or Holy Saturday. On those days I said the Office in the Traditional form using my iPhone

In the evening I attended the Mass of Lord's Supper and I have copied these pictures from the Oratory website, and added a few additional comments

The Washing of Feet:

The Washing of Feet

IMG_1849 (3)

The Mandatum

The Procession to the Altar of Repose:

The Blessed Sacrament is incensed 

 IMG_1863 (3)

IMG_1860 (2)

The Procession to the Altar of Repose

IMG_1869 (3)

Br Benedict has been very busy recently in the Oratory Guild Room making the canopy for the Altar of Repose, a great enhancement of the Sacred Heart Chapel and much more striking than the previous arrangement - impressive as it was - with draped cloth.

The Altar of Repose

Keeping watch with Our Lord in His Agony

The Blessed Sacrament is placed in the Tabernacle at the Altar of Repose

The Stripping of the Altars:

IMG_1893 (3)

The Stripping of the Altars

IMG_1898 (4)

Keeping Watch with Our Lord in His Agony:

Keeping watch with our Lord in His Agony

The Altar of Repose

IMG_1902 (4)

The Altar of Repose

I rather feel I shall miss the canopy and hangings when they come down as they really enhance the chapel. 

I, along with a considerable number of others, stayed until Compline at 11.45 before making my way home.

On Good Friday I had the happy circumstance of being able to meet up in the middle of the day with an old friend from Oriel. He is an Italian academic from Sardinia and was here for a conference.

As usual the Oratory was packed for the Solemn Liturgy at 3, and there was a good attendance for Stations of the Cross and the Veneration of the Relic of the Holy Cross at 7.

Holy Saturday I helped out as porter in the bookshop before attending the Solemn Easter Vigil and the First Mass of Easter - always the highlight of the liturgical year.

Easter Day I was back for the 11 Solemn Mass, and after lunch with a friend, back for Solemn Vespers and Benediction.

This year's Paschal Candle, beautifully painted by Mrs Freddie Quartley, and the photographs also show the Sanctuary in its full Easter splendour:




This reproduces the painting by Piero della Francesca of the Resurrection I posted about on Easter Day - great minds obviously think alike.

Images: Oxford Oratory website 

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Easter Day

Christ is Risen, Alleluia! He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!

Della Francesca’s ‘Resurrection’

The Resurrection
Piero della Francesca c.1463
Sansepolchro, Tuscany


I originally posted this piece in 2011 and have decided to do so again this year, with some adaptation and additions.

The depiction of Our Lord is one of the most powerful ever created and impresses itself deep into one's consciousness. It is one of the few which have attempted to capture the moment of Resurrection, although carving from the same periood in alabaster from English workshops are well known as are smaller manuscript and embroidered depictions. Aldous Huxley described Piero's work  in an essay in 1925 as "the greatest painting in the world." For Huxley here was the face of someone who had indeed conquered Death and Hell.

There are online articles about Piero della Francesca's The Resurrection here and here. There are also more recent posts by Christopher Booker: The mathematical revolution behind 'the greatest picture in the world' and by Christine Zappella:Piero della Francesca, Resurrection

These articles refer to its near destruction in the Second World War, and there is more about the man who ensured its survival, Tony Clarke, in The man who saved The Resurrection

"Does not a ray of light issue from Jesus, growing brighter accross the centuries, that could not come from any mere man and through which the light of God truly shines into the world? Could the apostolic preaching have found faith and built up a worldwide community unless the power of truth had been at work within it?

If we attend to the witnesses with listening hearts and open ourselves to the signs by which the Lord again and again authenticates both them and himself, then we know that he is truly risen. He is alive. Let us entrust ourselves to him, knowing that we are on the right path. With Thomas let us place our hands into Jesus' pierced side and confess: "My Lord and my God!" "

Pope Benedict XVI
Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week

From pp.276-77

Saturday, 15 April 2017

The birth of Henry of Bolingbroke

Today is the 650th anniversary of the birth of the future King Henry IV at Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire. At that time he was heir to the vast estates of the Dukes of Lancaster, and in line of succession to the Crown, but his accession in 1399 could not have been expected.

His parents were John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and his first wife Blance of Lancaster. There is an online account of her life here. Blanche died the following year so young Henry would have had no memory of her. The link about his mother details his siblings, of whom two elder sisters lived but three brothers and another sister died in infancy.

 Tomb of John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster.jpg

Blanche of Lancaster and John of Gaunt
The effigies on their tomb in St Paul's Cathedral, as depicted in 1658 by Wenceslaus Hollar. The tomb itself was built between 1374 and 1380, and destroyed in the Great Fire in 1666. Anachronistic inaccuracies include Blanche's early 16th-century-style gable-headress, although that might be a result of renovation in the time of King Henry VII, and is not that dissimilar to the headress worn by Queen Philippa on her tomb at Westminster

Image Wikipedia


Bolingbroke Castle

Image: english-heritage.org.uk

The castle was built by the Earl of Chester c.1220 to a typical thirteenth century plan and survived until it was demolished in 1652. Today only foundations remain and the moat is no longer water-filled. There is more about its history at History of Bolingbroke Castle | English Heritage and at Bolingbroke Castle

Image result for bolingbroke castle

The plan of the castle

Image: english-heritage.org.uk 

Image result for bolingbroke castle 

A reconstruction of the castle in the fifteenth century

Image: Black Powder blogger 


A reconstruction of the gatehouse



The last standing fragment of the castle before its collapse


The castle at Bolingbroke was not one of the principal residences of the Dukes of Lancaster like Hertford, Kenilworth, Leicester and Pontefract, and that may be why it was chosen for the Duchess' lying-in, as somewhere quiet and tranquil.  Similar reasoning may explain the popularity of the manor house at Woodstock for the birth of royal children.

1n 1367 April 15th was Maundy Thursday and as Ian Mortimer points out in his very readable biography of the King The Fears of Henry IV this has resulted in uncertainty as to his actual birth in that Henry tended to mark the anniversary on Maundy Thursday however it fell by the calendar. It has also in consequence, Mortimer suggests, resulted in the practice at the Royal Maundy of English monarchs performing the pedelavium and giving alms to as many poor people as they have years, as opposed to the practice in other realms, and as in the Papacy and ecclesiastical communities, of just chosing thirteen after the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper.


Friday, 14 April 2017

Good Friday

The second and third of these images I also posted last year to mark Good Friday and I am doing so again as I think them amongst the most profound amomgst so many depictions over the centuries.


The Descent from the Cross
Rogier van der Weyden  circa 1435

Prado Madrid



 The Lamentation 
  Hugo van der Goes circa 1470

Joseph of Arimathea (behind Jesus) and Nicodemus (at Jesus' left) 
 Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna

Image: http://tinyurl.com/65mlog


Image: Breviary.net