1 April 2019

Mgr Ronald Arbuthnott Knox, Clio ipsissima, MA

Mr Zeally's admirable bookshop generally has a copy of Knox's Barchester Pilgrimage. But, otherwise, you could borrow (if you are a member) the copy in the Union Library.

Inside the front cover is this hand-written piece of intelligence (your doing, Mr W?):

"Considered for withdrawal 15/1/2007 on grounds of low usage. Reprieved by Library Committee as the author is an ex-president."

Knox's Explanatory Dedication is dated "Barchester, Feast of St Ewold, 1935". His narratives reveal that in the pre-Pius XII era, the Propria Dioecesis Hogglestockiensis included S Ewold as a Double (with a commemoration of Ss Promiscuus and Miscellaneus* and 'Comm Octt SS App et S Io Bapt') on June 31 (or prid. Kal. Iul., which of course amounts to exactly the same thing).

Some questions: The Saint died either in 924/5 or 934 (there is some confusion in the sources about the date, but clearly he is not to be confused with either of the two Northumbrian Ewalds). Can anyone set him in his historical context? He was 'provided' to the See of Barchester by our late Holy Father Pope Christopher just after he had murdered his predecessor Leo V and just before he was in turn murdered by his own successor Sergius III ... back in those splendidly Romantic 'Ann Radcliff' days when the routine was for popes to murder their predecessors rather than just to canonise them.

When Cardinal Parolin murders, succeeds, and beatifies Francis I, naming himself Benedict-Francis I, we shall see the immense edification provided by such traditional customs.

Was S Ewold rather an early example of a papal 'provision' to an English see? What role did he play in King Athelstan's reforms? His shrine, so the Monsignore tells us, was not in the usual place behind the High Altar, but in the South Transept of Barchester Cathedral, until temp. Henrici viii (near, I believe, to where the appalling monument to Bishop Deadletter, memorialising in alabaster the mitre he never assumed in his lifetime, now stands).

I believe a relic of Ewold's big toe (left foot) did survive in the superb collection of relics in Hartwell Grissell's Relics Chapel in S Aloysius Church in Oxford until, in the 1970s, the Jesuits desecrated the chapel and burned all the relics and reliquaries (this, of course, was before Bishop Byrne and his Oratorians took it over).

Why is there a cultus of the Saint in Jersey? What form should the celebration of his next centenary, in a few years time, take? I don't think his Medieval Collect has survived; as far as I know, there are no mss or printed editions of the Missale ad Usum insignissimae Ecclesiae Barnicestrensis (although there is just one quire from a Portiforium in the Barchester Chapter Library, DC15a/5, with hand-written corrections by S Ewold's fourteenth century successor Bishop ffoliott; unfortunately, it doesn't cover the end of June).
*Their removal from the Calendare Generale is yet another crime which must be laid at the door of Annibale Bugnini. Such excisions may appear mere details, but in my view they subvert the diachronic unities which are fundamental to the Church Catholic as an institution subsisting in Time as well as in Eternity.


DMG said...

Do I detect the influence of Olaf Pilör's work? Thank you kind pastor!

Joshua said...

Dear Father Hunwicke,

I think you omitted by oversight the words "the translation of" between "a commemoration of" and "Ss Promiscuus and Miscellaneus", for as all men know, their principal feast was kept on the 31st of February (as you mentioned in a previous blog post back on the 16th of December 2017*).

* http://liturgicalnotes.blogspot.com/2017/12/the-curia-romana-1.html

I make bold to repeat the hopefully-helpful comment I left there, for the edification of your fellow readers:

Further curious details concerning Saints Promiscuus and Miscellaneus may be of interest: for these are what are known technically as “composite” saints, rather like those I beheld displayed in the museum underneath Santa Maria Maggiore, one of which which consisted of the head of one saint emplaced between the respective arms of two others.

For our saints began as two groups of martyred Christians of every age, sex and condition, each party burnt to death on a common pyre under the monstrous Diocletian, who slaughtered innocents innumerable that he might destroy our Faith and sustain his Empire, but instead damned himself while sending hordes to heaven.

When at length the smoking cinders were secretly raked through at night by the braver among the surviving faithful, that they might convey those sacred relics to their hiding places in the catacombs, such had been the ferocity of the fires that from each only a fraction of bones were recovered – but, by a prodigy of providence, the two collections amassed therefrom amounted in each case to a full if somewhat disproportioned skeleton, wondrously comprised of remnants from each burnt believer’s body.

For we, though many, are one body in Christ, as the Apostle taught, and are every one of us members one of another (Rom. xii, 5); likewise, the Didache (ix, 4) reminds us that the broken bread – here, the martyrs’ jointly roasted fragments – was once many grains scattered over the hills, milled and baked and gathered together into one, which foreshadows the assembly of the whole Church in the Kingdom of God; and the glorious martyrdom and astonishingly-assembled relics of these witnesses-unto-death is a literal demonstration of this.

The names of those in the two condemned parties having been lost in the confusion, the miraculously complete mixed skeletons were posthumously entitled Saints Promiscuus and Saints Miscellaneus, which collective pair by an understandable simplification were later referred to as Saints Promiscuus and Miscellaneus, as if each were a singular rather than a plural. By a late decision of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, for this reason the Common of Many Martyrs is used for them all.

It is to be regretted that not only scoffing atheists of recent ages, but also some of the learned Bollandists, and even the once-well-known Father Thurston, had unkind things to say about the cultus and curiously assembled relics of these great martyrs, to defence of which the redoubtable Monsignor Knox sprang in his works of piety; unsurprisingly, during Bugnini’s saint-denying sway their feast was dropt from the Calendar even of Rome herself, the place of their martyrdom, and on their natal day the honours of the altar are now paid them only at their titular church.

Banshee said...

Does Angela Thirkell cover any of these questions?

Banshee said...

Barchester is also covered by M.R. James in a short account of the carvings.

Curiously, there seems to be no Barchester wiki.

Dad of Six said...

All I can say Father is congrats!


jkh said...

Thank you dear Fr Hunwicke, for your efforts to cheer up all fools this day.