Catholicism in England

“This is your dowry, O Holy Virgin, wherefore, O Mary, may you rule over it.”

One of my first daytrips in London was to Tyburn Convent. This was still at the height of lockdown when travel was restricted. As is the case with many daytrips, the visit spurred my interest in the history of the convent and its link to the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Montmartre (in Paris) and the Tyburn Tree.

The visit also led me to the Gordon Riots and Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens. Although I didn’t find that book, serendipity lead me to The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400–1580 by Eamon Duffy. This was a scholarly work and for months my posts were wholesale quotes from this tome.

I also bought Book in the Cathedral via book-store roulette and this wonderful little gem was the impetus behind my first trip to Canterbury in search of Thomas Becket. Although COVID restrictions made touring impossible, I did manage to pray in the nave. I also visited St Augustine’s Abbey. St Augustine was instrumental in introducing Catholicism to England in the 6th century.

I eventually made it back to Canterbury for a proper tour and to visit the place where Thomas Becket was murdered. I also read Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot on the train to Canterbury.

The Thomas Becket exhibit at the British Musuem was another moment of serendipity. The exhibit included stained-glass from Canterbury and the supposed book from the aforementioned Book in the Cathedral. It was the fountainhead for a planned pilgrimage to France across the English Channel to retrace the steps of Becket’s exile. My attempt at pilgrimage to France failed twice but was greatly supplanted by one to Walsingham.

Before the Reformation, Walsingham was visited by kings. The Wilton Tryptic, on display at the British Musuem, portrays a young King Richard II. His father was the Black Prince, buried in Canterbury Cathedral, and his grandfather was Edward III. Richard II was deposed during some internecine fighting, and some attribute that event to the troubles that what would befall the nation and monarchy in WAR OF THR ROSES. The Wilton Tryptic features Edward the Confessor¹ (holding the ring he gave John the Evangelist), Edmund the Martyr, and St John the Baptist. The significance of The Wilton Tryptic cannot be understated since it symbolizes Richard II “giving his kingdom into the hands of the Holy Virgin, thereby continuing a long tradition by which England was known as ‘Our Lady’s Dowry'”.

My pilgrimage to Walsingham was momentous NOT because it was the ONLY time I rented and drove a car in England, but because it is arguably the place of Catholic birth and rebirth in England. A pilgrimage to Walsingham includes prayers to reconsecrate England to Our Lady.

The bookend to my time in England was reading the Faith of our Fathers by Joseph Pearce. I was introduced to Pearce whilst doing some research on the history of Walsingham. He mentioned the idea for this book in a video on Walsingham. The book helped me understand the skittishness of English Catholics given the grisly history of martyrs and the still recency of emancipation via the Catholic Relief Act of 1829.

There were three other pilgrimage related trips. The first was to Plymouth where pilgrims often left for Camino de Santiago. The second was touring the northern cathedrals and the shrines of Hugh of Lincoln, Saint William of York, and St Cuthbert. The third was a daytrip to Ely in search of St Edmund who was felled by the Danes in defense of the faith.

In London I visited The Chapel of St George and the English Martyrs at Westminster Cathedral which commemorates so many of those martyrs. I was also starting to understand WHY so many Catholics in England appeared to worship so awkwardly, apologetically, and accidentally. There was more than one occasion when I thought clergy and parishioners had one eye over their shoulder half expecting the monarch (or a Lollard) to strip the altar.

What I witnessed was the bravery of Catholics in almost every generation. The Church of England cathedrals are just museums now and many parish churches are shuttered or are coffee / community centers. There is a coldness and desperation in those once holy places now devoid of consecrated altars. What has been left is man trying to fill that vacuum with his own holy objects (usually hideous art that tries in vain to lift man to God-like status) or substitutes like earth worship. The faith though is very much alive in those Catholic parishes I visited every Sunday on those weekend trips.

The Catholic Heart of England
Some of My Best Friends Are Paintings (The Imaginative Conservative)
2 Mc 7:1-2, 9-14

¹Edward the Confessor will have his own post.

Weekend 529.0 (Towton and York)

“This battayl was sore foughten, for hope of life was set on every parte and takynge of prisoners was proclaimed as a great offence, by reason whereof every man determined either to conquer or to dye in the felde. This deadly battayle and bloudy conflict continued x houres in doubtfull victorie. The one parte some time flowynge, some time ebbing, but in conclusion kyng Edward so coragiously comforted his men, refreshing the wery, and helping the wounded, that the other parte was discomfited and overcome, and lyke men amased, fled toward Tadcaster bridge to save them selfes.” — Edward Hall, Chronicle

I was in the medieval city of York this weekend to visit the Towton Battlefield Trail. I walked 25.4 km on Saturday and 18.8 km on Sunday. It was like a self-imposed death-march.

Mass was at English Martyrs and they have a lovely chaplet dedicated to Our Lady of Walsingham. I also visited York Minster and the National Railways Museum on Sunday.

Flickr Albums
(1) Towton
(2) York

(1) Cock Beck
(2) Towton Battlefield Trail

Hidden Treasures
(1) Priory Church of the Holy Trinity
(2) The Stained Glass Centre, St. Martin’s Church
(3) Paintings at the the National Railway Museum:
(3a) Spirit of the South by Harry Stevens
(3b) First Class: The Meeting by Abraham Solomon¹
(4) The Hole in the Wall
(5) Light, Glass & Stone: Conserving the St Cuthbert Window

(1) FortyFive Vinyl Café was closed
(2) It was English Mum’s Day on Sunday and I didn’t have restaurant reservations
(3) Forgot my Rosary Beads at home (this is the pair from Westminster Cathedral blessed at The Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs in Cambridge)
(4) Didn’t pack very well (extra shirt and shoes)²
(5) Should have stopped at the Greyhound Inn for a pint after my tour of the Towton battlefield. It was close to sunset and the inn sits in the shadows of All Saints Church.

¹The placard next to the painting says the scene inspired the poet John Betjeman but it doesn’t say which poem?
²There was an incident on the trail involving a marsh and a river.

Spirit of the South by Harry Stevens (1970)

Weekend 503.0 (Three Cups Walk)

Spent the weekend in Ely/Cambridge. The highlight was The Stained Glass Museum in Ely. I’ve started an album on Flickr and will publish a proper post in the not so distant future. Amazingly there were NO references to E.W. Twining at the museum.

My two favorite stained glass windows from the collection were Christ The Good Shepherd (1913) designed and made by Karl Parsons and a Franciscan Boy and a Vision of Heaven (1931) designed and made by Margaret Edith Aldrich Rope. Margaret studied under Karl Parsons at Central School or Arts. The details and colors in both are exceptional and my photos include dozens of closeups.

The chalice in the design by Parsons sits on a beautiful blue and green background whilst the pink, red, and white in the halo connect the Son of God with the Resurrection. The contrast between light/dark in the Rope design is softened by two penitent angels (both bathed in yellow).

Other notable designs in the collection included Bird Quarry, St Paul Preaching at Athens, The Virgin Mary and Disciples at Christ’s Ascension, St Joseph and the Angel, and The Visitation. My favorite designs seem to focus on the Mysteries.

Sunday Mass and Rosary was at Our Lady of the Assumption and The English Martyrs.

*The images is a scan from The Stained Glass Museum: Highlights from the Collection

Weekend 496.1 (Thomas Becket Exhibit)

“Chosen before the foundation of the world in Christ, Saint Thomas in his propitious birth lit up the capital of the British Isles, London.” – Edward Grim, Life of St Thomas Becket 1171-2

I spent a day at Westminster Abbey earlier in the week and have started to post photos on Flickr. This afternoon I was at the British Museum for an exhibit on Thomas Becket (murder and the making of a saint). During my trip to Canterbury Cathedral one of the guides mentioned the stained-glass window showing the miracles after Becket’s martyrdom was on loan to the British Museum. In lieu of normal glass the staff at Canterbury Cathedral replaced the loaner with a facsimile. You can tell right away because the colors are muted and the figures are bit garish.

I also visited Room 40 (Medieval Europe 1050 – 1500) to see the Towton Ring.

(1) Quotes from The Stripping of the Altars by Eamon Duffy:

“That the primers were more than texts can be readily gathered from handling a few of them, manuscript or printed. The ornamentation that most primers contained would have established for their readers the fact that they were, in the first place, sacred objects. Paintings or woodcuts of the Trinity, of the life of the Virgin, of the saints with their emblems, above all scenes depicting the suffering and death of Christ, served in themselves as focuses of the sacred, designed to evoke worship and reverence. They were often conceived as channels of sacred power independent of the texts they accompanied.”

“Above all, the saint desired pilgrimage to his shrine, and a promise to visit the saint’s relics and there offer a coin or a candle was held to be the most likely way to attract his interest and help.”

“The primary purpose of pilgrimage had always been to seek the holy, concretely embodied in a sacred place, a relic, or a specially privileged image. Such localization of the holy in sacred places was often criticized in the later Middle Ages, not least by Thomas à Kempis in the Imitation of Christ. In fact the practice of pilgrimage, travel to seek the sacred outside of one’s immediate locality, had important symbolic and integrative functions, helping the believer to place the religious routine of the closed and concentric worlds of household, parish, or gild in a broader and more complex perception of the sacred, which transcended while affirming local allegiances. Pilgrimage also provided a temporary release from the constrictions and norms of ordinary living, an opportunity to review one’s life and, in a religious culture which valued asceticism and the monastic life above the married state, an opportunity for profane men and women to share in the graces of renunciation and discipline which religious life, in theory, at least promised.”

(2) Public Lecture. ‘The Library of Saint Thomas Becket’, by Christopher de Hamel, FSA

(3) Tour of Thomas Becket: murder and the making of a saint exhibition (British Museum)

(4) British Museum Becket exhibition features treasures from the Parker Library

Weekend 408.0

(1) Market news: painting of Richmond Hill has to stay in the UK (The Telegraph)

(1a) Richmond Hill in the Summer of 1862 by Jasper Francis Cropsey (Flickr)

“This is one of Cropsey’s most critically acclaimed panoramic landscapes painted in England. The view of the Thames from Richmond Hill, outside of London, was a popular destination for artists and sightseers. The subject had even greater relevance for Cropsey and his viewers in 1862. Richmond, Virginia–the capital of the Confederacy during the American Civil War–derived its name from a view on the James River that reminded its founder of his English youth. In this context and at this time, many critics read Cropsey’s painting as a comment on the sectional conflict then raging as well as a personal plea for reconciliation and unity.”

Weekend 393.0 (All I do is keep the beat and bad company)

“At the heart of all Catholic life is a miracle, a mystery, the Blessed Sacrament. Surrounded traditionally by ritual and awe, it has been the formative aspect of Catholic art, drama, and poetry.” – Charles A. Coulombe

(1) Treasures of New York: The Heckscher Museum of Art

(2) A quote from The Vignelli Canon:

“The knowledge of design history is important because it provides us with an insight into the motivations related to each period, movement or expressions that generated the artifacts. It is only by knowing deeply the why that we can understand the what and further appreciate them. The more we can spend on reviewing the past the better we can understand contemporary phenomena and the better we can formulate our own theories and therefore our designs.”

(3) Bishop Barron on Evangelizing Through Beauty

(4) Inspired by the Kingdom Hearts Orchestra World Tour & The Walt Disney Film Archives: The Animated Movies 1921-1968 here’s my wish list of KH3 worlds:

(a) The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
(b) Meet the Robinsons
(c) Wreck-It Ralph
(d) Frozen
(e) Lilo & Stitch
(f) Music Land (Silly Symphonies)
(g) Up
(h) Lonesome Ghosts or Brave Little Tailor
(i) WALL-E
(j) Clock Cleaners (Twilight Town???)

Does Disney Town encompass the world of DuckTales? Disney Town is a nice tribute to Mickey’s Birthdayland & Starland (and I believe Scrooge McDuck was the mayor)
I would like to be able to summon the Rocketeer, Pedro (Saludos Amigos), V.I.N.CENT, Susie the Little Blue Coupe and the BIG Mickey from Thru the Mirror
Square Enix / Disney should include worlds from Studio Ghibli
Didn’t include Tangled because some of the KH3 trailers show it
Other considerations: Flowers and Trees (Sill Symphonies) and Mickey’s Fire Brigade