19 September 2016

S Januarius and the Ordinariate

Oxford is a city of secrets; and one of its best kept secrets is its very personal relationship with the 1630s, an interesting decade when the Ordinariate very nearly happened ahead of its time. There appeared to be exciting ecumenical possibilities between England and Rome, partly helped by Charles I's laudably uxorious infatuation with his Queen Henrietta Maria.

First stop, if one wishes to do a pilgrimage to the 1630s, might be to contemplate the glass in Magdalen Chapel; 1632 and a baroque reinterpretation of the 'perpendicular' schemes in the windows of All Souls, New College, and elsewhere, each light being occupied by one saint. That in itself is interesting in a period commonly supposed to be 'Protestant'; and the selection of saints is even more so. They are not, as you might expect, a predominantly Biblical band; indeed, numerically they are less biblical than the saints in Oxford's medieval glass. Some of them, interestingly, are saints whose very existence plays a deft game of hide-and-seek with the canons of Enlightenment historicity, such as S Catherine with her wheel. There is S Anne 'Mater'; and S George; and S Januarius. S Januarius!! That admirable Saint who, this very day, is being celebrated in Naples, with supplications that, by the annual miracle of the liquefaction of his blood, he will guarantee the safety of that city! Many of the Saints in the window are so deliciously obscure that I cannot find them in my Dictionary of Saints. There is a strong cohort of Fathers: Ss Cornelius and Cyprian; Basil; a brace of Gregories; Dionysius; Polycarp; Hippolytus; Ignatius; Irenaeus; Clement. All this is faintly reminiscent of the Tractarian period: Fr Faber would have been happy writing biographies of Ss Eulalia and Theodosia; while Blessed John Henry Newman would have felt at home among the Fathers (one recalls that feature of his character which Dr Manning never stopped suspecting: 'the old patristic Anglican tone'). A most provocative curiosity: only one of the saints is wearing a halo. She is labelled 'Sancta Maria Deipara'.

A quiet saunter along the curve of the High brings one to the porch of the University Church, built in 1637, grandly and exuberantly baroque, its twisted columns identical with those supporting Bernini's canopy in S Peter's, Rome; a tantalising hint of the Catholic Baroque England that just might have been. Enshrined within a jolly ensemble of classicising details is a female Figure royally crowned and holding a Child ... the 'Sancta Maria Deipara' we met in Magdalen. The statue in this porch was listed on the indictment of Archbishop Laud when he was to be martyred for being Popish. Sancta Maria Oxoniensis, ora pro nobis! Et beate Gulielme Laud, sis memor nostri!

A third statio is much more private; no public thoroughfare. The back quadrangle at S John's was built by Archbishop Laud in an elegant Renaissance style; a statue of blessed Charles Stuart at one end looks across to a statue of Queen Henrietta Maria. An interesting suggestion of the workings of Providence: that it was a King who had no mistresses, and promoted a culture of Married Love, who was privileged with a crown of martyrdom ... am I right in thinking that the same may be true of Louis XVI?

If you want to have a better look at Queen Henrietta Maria, you could try the Old Common Room in Merton (the college in which the Queen resided during the Civil War), but they probably wouldn't let you in. But not to worry: there is at least one other portrait of her somewhere or other in the Ashmolean. (And indeed, I visited her last week among the Roman Renaissance magnificences of Alnwick Castle in Northumberland; I suspect loyalist fervour demanded her mass-production.)

In Oxford Cathedral, in the Lucy Chapel, you will find monuments of the royal servants who died (sometimes under arms) while the King and the Court were in Oxford, quorum animabus propitietur Deus (as well as the Shrine of S Frideswide and a bust of beatus ille Doctor Veritatis Edward Bouverie Pusey).

What more could a visitor want?


Woody said...

The next time that Her Honor and I are in England, we shall have to make a visit to Oxford to see these great sights, Father. We almost made it up there this past July while we were in London for her Houston Epicopalian church's choir residing at S. Paul's for a week, but there were publicized difficulties with the rail connections, so we were discouraged and went to Greenwich instead. On another day, we did have a very nice lunch with Sheila Lawlor of the Politeia group, and her husband, and Prof. Thomas Pink, among others; Prof. Pink told me that he had declined to sign the letter of the 45, on prudential grounds, which now seem justified.

Somewhat reluctantly I accompanied my wife and her group to Highclere, but was rewarded by the sight of a heroically sized van Dyk painting of the Royal Martyr, in a room there. It seems that the family were loyal to the King during the Civil War. As one of their scruffy Roman auxiliaries, I was probably the only member of the Society of King Charles the Martyr there.

I had the honor to attend Holy Mass at Saint James, Spanish Place, at Noon on 26 July, the date of Fr. Hamel's murder, and to hear a most edifying homily from Fr. Christopher Colven (as I was told later, formerly Master of the SSC when he was an Anglican), culminating with the question that he asked of us: do we have the faith worth dying for, as did Fr. Hamel?

Zephyrinus said...

Riveting Post, Fr.

Many thanks.