Thursday, 13 November 2008

The Restored Cantilupe Shrine at Hereford Cathedral.

The tomb as it was before. The work is part of a large scale scheme at Hereford Cathedral to renew certain parts of the building connected with Saints, which seems an admirable scheme and better value than sticking a votive candle stand by a pillar, which is the usual cathedral ploy.

Here is Peter Murphy, who has painted the panels of the new cover for the feretory. His website is found HERE

On Saturday 8th November there was a Service of Celebration giving thanks to God for the life and ministry of Saint Thomas of Hereford and consecrating his newly-restored shrine in the Cathedral Church of Saint Mary the Virgin and Saint Ethelbert the King in Hereford. The shrine houses a portion of the relics of Saint Thomas of Hereford on loan from the Society of Jesus at Stonyhurst.

The Service which was very well attended, included many processions and was a musical feast of hymns and anthems in the incense laden atmosphere of the Cathedral. In addition to some outstanding contributions from the Cathedral Choir, the Schola Cantorum of Stonyhurst College sang two Latin pieces and distinguished themselves very well – Exsultate justi in Domino by Viadana (1564–1645) and the Kyrie Eleison from the Four Part Mass by Byrd.

Amongst the many interesting and diverse elements that made up the whole service was the ecumenical nature of the event. In attendance were; the Mayor and Mayoress of Hereford; the Lord-Lieutenant for Herefordshire; the Archdeacon of Canterbury who was representing the Archbishop of Canterbury; the Chaplain of Merton College, Oxford; the Succentor of Brecon; the Dean of Gloucester; the Archbishop of Tanzania; the Bishop of Ludlow; the Reverend Dom Michael Evans OSB and the Abbots of Belmont and Downside as well as the Right Worshipful Brother Rodney Smallwood, Provincial Grand Master for the Herefordshire Freemasons.

Pupils from Saint Thomas Cantilupe School in Hereford acted out the story of Saint Thomas, reflecting in mime the scenes depicted on the new hangings that surround the restored shrine.

More photos of this extraordinary day as they become available.

The panel depicts the Virgin Mary and Christ Child enthroned between Sts Ethelbert, John the Baptist, Thomas Becket and Thomas Cantilupe. In addition there are two angels kneeling and presenting the Mappa Mundi to the Virgin and Child.

The Christ Child is the source of light in the painting. He is holding an orb, symbol of the world, and the cloth of honour behind has the Latin for ‘I am the light of the world’ written in gold on a red band. Thomas Cantilupe is shown in a blue cope and full bishop's vestments, including a decorated mitre, white gloves with bishop's ring, and holding a crozier. His symbol, the wolf, stands behind him and his coat of arms is also on the left of the cloth of honour.

Thomas Becket is depicted in red vestments and the Archbishop's white pallium with black crosses. His features are as those in the mosaic portrait icon in the cathedral of Monreale in Sicily, which was completed shortly after his murder and is believed to be an accurate likeness. He has a sword, the symbol of his martyrdom, through his mitre. This depiction of Becket with the symbol of his passion is believed to have been traditional in English medieval church wall paintings. His coat of arms of three black choughs, small members of the crow family, is on the right of the cloth of honour.

St John the Baptist is standing to the left of the Virgin and St Ethelbert to her right. Both saints are pointing, St John at Christ and St Ethelbert at the Mappa Mundi. By these gestures they are indicating that Christ is the light of the world, adding emphasis to the words of the inscription. St John is depicted, as he is customarily in both Byzantine icons and early Italian panel painting, as the last prophet, a man of the desert with wild hair and unruly beard and wearing a camel skin garment.

St Ethelbert wears his crown and is holding the palm, symbol of his martyrdom. His robes are in the same colours as in the Ethelbert shrine paintings, in addition to this his cloak brooch is a golden ‘E’ as a visual reference to the Ethelbert shrine's gilded metalwork.

The inclusion of The Mappa Mundi is important as it adds both a visual focus in the centre of the painting and a sense of historical continuity as it is also believed that in the early middle ages the Mappa was part of the original Thomas Cantilupe shrine furnishing.

Overall, the painting visually references both ducento and trecento Italian panel painting, particularly the work of Sienese painters and artists of the International Gothic tradition. It is courtly, highly ornamented and decorative, with an emphasis on a richness of surface, as in works such as The Maesta by Duccio and the Wilton Diptych. Copyright, Dean and Chapter of Hereford Cathedral.

Pictured left to right:- Roy Davies of Cantilupe Chapter, David Haines of Cantilupe Lodge, The Very Revd. Michael Tavinor and The Revd. David J Bowen. With respect to my friends at Black Horse Lodge and in the East Lancs, I am no fan of seeing Masonic regalia in a church. However, they donated generously to the restoration of the shrine. This picture is taken in the Lodge itself.