19 June 2022


 If Bishop Frere was not quite One of Us, Dom Gregory Dix certainly was. In 1942, he wrote:

"Anyone who has seen the golden dove above the altar of the choir at Amiens or the veiled pyx hanging in the Lady Chapel of the massive new conventual church at Mirfield will remember how it seems to dominate the whole space of the building, and how the sense of the sacramental presence seems to radiate out from it upon the very soul of the beholder. (To me personally this has always seemed by far the most poetic and striking of all methods of reservation and ... surely the most worthy. ... there is hardly a book of devotions or instruction for layfolk from the England of the 13th and 14th centuries which does not reveal the effect of the practice upon private devotion. Lydgate may stand for the rest: 'When thou comest to the holy place--cast holy water in thy face--Then look to the high altar--and pray to Him that hangeth there'."

I would add one of the 'Articles' of the West Country 'Prayer Book Rebels' of 1549 ... put forth within weeks of the Hanging Pyxes being brought down:

"We will have the sacrament to hang over the high altar and there to be worshipped, as it was wont to be; and they which will not thereto consent, we will have them die like heretics against the holy catholic faith."

Do you feel tempted to say Amen to that? In fact, within a decade Altar Tabernacles began to appear in some English churches.

Dear heroic Prayer Book Rebels! Many of them were themselves soon to die in the genocide unleashed upon them by the foreign mercenaries of the Tudor regime. 

Can anyone doubt that they have their reward?


Joshua said...

I recall the tale of a certain Anglican church with a hanging pyx, which, when necessary, would be winched up and down by one of the servers - hence the quip that there "God moves in a mysterious way"!

Simon Cotton said...

The hanging dove still remains at Amiens. The only other one of which I am aware in a French cathedral is at Saint Bertrand-de-Comminges.

Matthew said...

All Saints' Margaret Street has (or had?) a hanging pyx whose ascent and descent were controlled by a not totally silent electric motor,

J N said...

Earlier on this century, when the sanctuary of All Souls' Church, Peterborough, was being refurbished, the parish priest proposed a hanging pyx, which to my mind would have looked marvellous. However, I believe that the bishop refused permission on the grounds of security.

Jhayes said...

There are some good pictures of hanging pyxes here:


And more discussion and pictures here:


armyarty said...

The West Country rebels also demanded that Holy Bread (something like the Eastern Rite Antidoron)and holy water be made every week.

Holy water is not used as much as it was, even in living memory, and the holy bread is long gone.

Do you think that the Ordinariate could bring it back in the way the rebels demanded? Solemly blessed holy water to bring home, and the holy bread as well?

John said...

Fr, does that quotation regarding holy water hark back to its use by laypeople for ablutions before prayer? When did it become common simply to make the sign of the cross with holy water, as opposed to the more ancient & more Mediterranean practice?