10 November 2016

Two Vestimental and Pontifical queries

Query Number One: A correspondent asked, a few weeks ago, how vestments of the mighty (fourteenth century) Bishop John Grandisson of Exeter ended up in the Azores.

In general terms, I am sure the answer to this is to be found in the despoliations by the regime of Edward Tudor. Exeter Cathedral had its goods inventoried in the first decade of the sixteenth century; and then again less than fifty years later, on the eve of the Great Confiscations. The latter list, in my unchecked recollection, was less than a tenth of the length of the former. Clearly, people knew what was just around the corner; there must have been a cut-price selling-off of plate and vestments to English and foreign merchants on an industrial scale (Duffy in Stripping reproduces a Protestant cartoon of precisely this). I have sometimes wondered if the escape of our Lady (de Gratia) of Ipswich to Nettuno, cast into a piously romantic account, might really have happened in some such rather more prosaically commercial sort of way. Perhaps, indeed, an under-hand commercial way, since the 'burning' of the statue is actually documented. One can imagine the royal officers charged with the burning discerning in subterfuge a mercenary opportunity.

Fast-forward now, please, to the twentieth century: the Bishop of Oxford from 1937 to 1955 was another mighty pontiff, Kenneth Kirk, who, together with Dom Gregory Dix, was one of the 'leaders of the Catholic movement in the C of E'. I think I have shared with you, before, the jolly ditty which circulated during those enchanted but distant years:

How happy are the Oxford flocks
How free from heretics
Their clergy all so orthodox
Their Bishop orthoDix.

In his will, the pontiff bequeathed his pontificalia to any son-in-law of his who might become a bishop (how exquisitely, delightfully, Anglican!). They were duly in time so inherited and used by Eric Kemp, Bishop of Chichester (1974-2001) during that seemingly endless bright and balmy Indian Summer of the Church of England in Sussex, when it was so tempting just to live for the moment and to enjoy sine cura the corn, the wine, and the oil, daily lifting up a rococo chalice or a Puginesque monstrance as the sun slanted through the Comper glass; those years when so many of us carefully kept our eyes away from the writing on the wall. Years before Benedict XVI came to our rescue and, by calling our bluff, made everything come right ... cui pius amor.

This morning's second query: does anybody know what happened to the Kirk/Kemp vestments after Bishop Eric's death?

1 comment:

Banshee said...

Is it something that can be looked up? I see there is an online lookup for English wills, but it costs 10 pounds and takes 10 days to get your document copies.

Of course, even if the vestments are named in Kemp's will, they might be elsewhere by now. But it is a start.