And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

mandag 28. februar 2011

The Devil himself

Marry, sir, three or four as honest devils and good companions as any be in hell.
- The Honourable Historie of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, Robert Greene

The Devil is an Ass, I do acknowledge it.
- The Devil is an Ass, Ben Jonson

And wroth to see his Kingdom fail,
Swings the scaly Horror of his folded tail.
- On the Morning of Christ's Nativity, John Milton

In a place like York that displays so much devotion towards Heaven there needs must be a devil roaming around too. On a few occasions I have encountered him in the streets, trying to make the people believe he does not exist or that he exists merely as wood and strings, snickering and laughing fiendishly in the process. For those who doubt I present evidence of my encounters and leave the judgement of verity to them. 

When you dance with the devil, you wait for the song to stop.
- Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

 The printer's devil, a remnant from the age of Minstergate's and Stonegate's bookbinders.

The Devil himself, which is the author of confusion and lies.
- The Anatomy of Melancholy, Richard Burton

But I pray you, sir, do you come lately from hell?
- Robert Greene, The Honourable Historie of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay

 Ahriman, the foe of Mithras, girted with a serpent and, like Saint Peter mirrored, holding the keys to his kingdom. This was erected in York on commission by a certain Volusius Irenaeus in thanksgiving for the devil's assistance. The manner of assistance or the venture assisted in is unknown, but judging from the lengths Ireneaeus was prepared to go to it was presumably serious business indeed. The carving is currently on display in Yorkshire Museum. 

søndag 27. februar 2011

The Great Exchange

                                       to compare
Great things with small
- Paradise Lost, John Milton (after Virgilius)

(...) to see so rich an Assembly of Country-men and Foreigners consulting together upon the private Business of Mankind, and making this Metropolis a kind of Emporium for the whole Earth.
- The Royal Exchange, Joseph Addison, The Spectator no. 69 (May 19 1711)

This weeked there was an international market in Parliament Street and I became aware of it by coincidence on an idle stroll Thursday afternoon. This made me very happy as I had looked forward to the international market ever since I came to York, remembering with pleasure the market from last time I was here. Since Thursday I have come to the market every day to feast on the various foodstuffs available there. Sadly time, money and capacity did not allow me to try everything, but what I did try I enjoyed.

During my visits I was perennially reminded of Joseph Addison's essay on the royal exchange quoted in the epigraph. I consider it a charming piece of writing despite of - or perhaps due to - its childish naïveté, and also very suitable for the occasion, although it is to compare great things with small. As Addison's Mr. Spectator I walked among the booths and took delight the variety of available options, the colourful sights and the delicious smells exuding from the vendor stalls.

He seems a bit disappointed that I didn't buy anything.

 As a friend of mine pointed out, everything sounds suspicious if you put "Dutch" in front of it. Be it pancakes, macaroons, donuts or handshakes, "Dutch" makes it sound quite nasty. I didn't try any of these things.

Thus Pontus sends her beaver stones from far;
And naked Spaniards temper steel for war.
- John Dryden's rendition of Virgilius' Georgics i.54

The rice was heavy in taste and texture and the spices were nicely mixed together. The portions were very generous; this is a medium-sized portion and I didn't even manage to finish it, although that could very well be mainly due to a recently-devoured burger.

 It is a bit disturbing that "posh pies" sounds like a pun on Posh Spice. I hope this was not intentional.

I can't recall exactly what they all contain or which pie contains what (except pork meat), but there is one with sage and onion stuffing (the one closest to the camera), one with onion relish and one with gloucester cheese, just to mention some of it. The two I have eaten so far were very good indeed.

This burger stall had a wonderful selection of meats and I bought one every day to try something new.

The ostrich burger. Its taste was quite bland, but fortunately very juicy and well grilled.

The kangaroo burger. Immensely rich in taste, this succulent burger was a thoroughly pleasant experience. The taste itself was unfamiliar but good. According to a friend of mine, studies have concluded that the kangaroo releases less methane than sheep and cattle and could therefore be a good substitute. After having tasted the meat I strongly approve of the solution.

The wild boar burger. Despite being less tasty than the kangaroo burger I still favour this one since it had a milder flavour more reminiscent of the game I'm used to from Norway, unsurprisingly. The burgers were, at least judging from the ostrich, not sprinkled with any additional spice and although this caused the occasional blandness mentioned, I consider it the best solution as this really brought forth the meat itself. The onion topping did not divert the meat flavour but rather underscored it.

And I thought to myself, 'a little fermented curd will do the trick'. So I curtailed my Walpoling activites, sallied forth, and infiltrated your place of purveyance to negotiate the vending of some cheesy comestibles.
- The Cheese Shop Sketch, Monty Python

Here are both bread and cake for the people.

This picture was taken Saturday and I was told Gordon Kaye himself had been serving the day before. I was annoyed by this since I had been to the market that day, but I hadn't even noticed him.

Because of the Viking festival.

Even the Finns were represented.


Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.
Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.
Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.
Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.
Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.
Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.
- Psalm 150

Now I in you without a bodie move,
       Rising and falling with your wings :
We both together sweetly live and love,
       Yet say sometimes, God help poore Kings.
- Church-Musick, George Herbert

Church bell clinging on trying to get a crowd for Evensong
- Lions, Dire Straits

For a few weeks now I have made it my Sunday ritual to attend the Choral Evensong service in York Minster at 16.00 The service takes place in the quire of the cathedral, where the central aisle is surrounded by wooden benches for the choir and the attendants, situated beneath the wonderfully crafted vaults that echo the sounds of music and contemplation, making the listener more intent to listen and absorb what he hears.

The East Window, erected in the period 1405-08. During the renovation one can only see a paper replica of the stained glass. The poor quality of the photograph is due to an unfortunate combination of no flash and bad craftsmanship.

The service starts with the chant of the choir heard from the quire nave and followed by their entrace into the quire in two files. When they have taken their places in the benches they sing the responses. Today the responses were taken from William Byrd and Psalm 148 and I was very pleased about this since I William Byrd is one of my favourite musicians. It was very beautiful as is fitting such a majestic setting. 

The quire seen from the East Altar. This is where the choir enters and exits. 
After the responsories comes the first of two readings for the evening, and it is a wonderful pleasure to hear the words of Scripture spoken in serene English softly reverberated by the stone of the church. Although I consider myself quite familiar with the Holy Bible there are, admittedly, few books I have read in their entirety and Evensong is therefore a great opportunity to be exposed to Biblical passages I do not know or know not well enough. Today's reading from chapter 8 of the Proverbs is an excellent example and the rendition of Wisdom as God's assistant during Creation brings to mind Boethius' Lady Philosophy.

I have noticed that the Anglican Church is quite fond of Paul and his letters are frequently subject to the readings. Personally I have a rather ambivalent relationship with Paul, but his most beautiful passages are superb poetry. A couple of weeks ago the preacher used Paul's writings to illustrate the necessity of context and pointed out that he did not write against slavery just as he never said anything regarding global warming or the war in Iraq. This sober and historically-minded approach is one of the main attractions of the Anglican Church and frequently the sermons appear more like lectures than admonitions, a quality I greatly favour.

And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
- Revelation 4:2-3

The preacher pointed out, although I haven't seen for myself yet, that chapter 4 of Revelation echoes in the stained glass of the Eastern Window.

After the first reading the choir sings a canticle, today from Leighton's Collegium Magdalenæ, while the congregation stands. The standing of the congregation is a frequent aspect of the service and it enhances the solemnity of the occasion. Whereas in Norway the congregation is expected to stand during the readings and sit during the song, in the Anglican Church it is the other way around. Personally I prefer the Anglican way, because in then the listener can better contemplate the words of the readings and let his mind soar with the music and thus the experience is greatly enhanced.

The vaulted ceiling of the quire. 

When the choir has finished the second reading commences. The readings often serve as a prelude comprising two separate elements, one from each of the Testaments, which the preacher weaves together in the sermon. Today's second reading was the fourth chapter of Revelation, a beautiful passage describing the throne of God and a passage that has had a major impact on Medieval art due to its detailed and succinct description of Heaven.

Following the second reading the choir sings another canticle and then the congregation utters the Apostolic Creed. It has often been pointed out that the Church of England is a compromise between Protestantism and Catholicism and this becomes quite obvious in the third section which is rendered in the following manner:

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

After the Apostolic Creed the choir sings a selection of prayers and responses, ending with the Lord's Prayer. Following this session one of the priests prays the intercession and the choir then sings an anthem which basically serves as an introitus to the sermon.

The sermons are one of the many reasons why I keep returning to the Minster for Evensong. The priests are men of erudition expressing a devout and mild-mannered concern for humanity. So far I have not encountered any brimstone in the words of the preachers, quite the contrary. In the various sermons I have heard, the emphasis is on the joys of life, the forgiveness and the love of God and - as was the case today - the aspect of praise.

The first time I attended Evensong I came too late and had to stand outside the quire, which did by no means impair the aural experience. The preacher had a wonderfully mellow voice and he talked about the God of overflow and the importance of praise, not only to God but also to our fellow men and women. Today the Reverend Canon Jonathan Draper talked about praise in relation to the imagery of Proverbs and Revelation, claiming quite beautifully that for a Christian "praise is the default position, if I can put it that way." He also pointed out how praise had been central to the Christian religion for centuries, giving examples from Job, Paul and George Herbert (1593-1633), the latter claiming in a manner typical of his age that praise is the philosopher's stone.

I find it immensely attractive that the major focus of the preachers at York Minster is the benevolence of God and that particularly Christian care for one's neighbours that never deviates into prying but allows for privacy in matters that should remain private, delightfully formulated in liberal sobriety.

When the sermon is over the congregation sings the hymn for the day while standing, followed by the exit of the choir. The singers return to the quire nave from whence they entered and sings a responsory which is followed by the voluntary, which is a musical piece performed by the organist while the quire is evacuated.

The central nave and the Great West Window with the Heart of Yorkshire.

Evensong lasts for about 45 minutes and its brevity is one of its very appealing aspects, since it allows a speedy progression that avoids the risk of tiring the listener. The combination of professional singers and liberal-minded theologians succeeding each other in a nice arrangement also heightens the experience.

lørdag 26. februar 2011

Thy Soul is in thy Hands

 This is my presentation for yesterday's Saving the Sinners seminar and the subject is penitential manuals of the 13th century seen in view of their forebears at the University of Paris. Since this is a text intended for a particular audience it may not be that accessible to the general reader and there is a multitude of names apt to cause more confusion than clarity. However, the main argument should be sufficiently clear, or else I have strongly overestimated myself.

But these civil penalties are either mitigated or rendered more severe for various causes and are rather to be called penalties than penances. Ecclesiastical satisfactions are properly called penances since they usually proceed from inward penitence.
- Liber Poenitentialis, Alan de Lille (ca. 1114-1203)

All the faithful of either sex, after they have reached the age of discernment, should individually confess all their sins in a faithful manner to their own priest at least once a year, and let them take care to do what they can to perform the penance imposed on them.
- Lateran IV, constitution 21

Behold, thy soul is in thy hands. Choose therefore for thyself whether to be sufficiently punished in this life according to canonical or authentic penances or to await purgatory.
- Liber Poenitentialis, Robert of Flamborough

The Summula - or little treatise - of Walter de Cantilupe (c. 1195-1266) was aimed for teaching clerics how to hear confessions and how to prescribe penance, and it was meant to accompany and complete the synodal statutes issued at the synod of Worcester in 1240. Walter recognised a necessity in educating the clergy in this matter and assailed the task diligently. The necessity itself stemmed from the Fourth Lateran Council whose 21st constitution states that men and women having reached the age of discernment should confess their sins to their priests at least once a year. In order for the clerics to perform the correct prescription of penance, they had to be educated in the matters of sin and how sins could be amended. It was also necessary that the clergy was in unison on these matters and therefore Walter de Cantilupe wrote a manual to edify his underlings for the benefit of his flock.

In their article "The Summulae of Bishops Walter de Cantilupe (1240) and Peter Quinel (1287)" in Speculum volume 67, Joseph Goering and Daniel S. Taylor places the Summulae of Walter de Cantilupe in relation to his forebears saying that his work "is indebted to the tradition of English works on penance and pastoral care," listing a range of clerics and theologians whose writings have preceded and more or less directly influenced Walter de Cantilupe's own writings. Goering and Taylor claim Walter's immediate inspiration in particular to be the works of Alexander of Stavensby and Robert Grosseteste, the latter being the author of the treatise Templum Dei. They also list a number of other writers of penitential matters, all of whom are Englishmen, and include the handbooks produced by the early Dominican order, which was approved by the Papal See December 22 1216.
Robert of Grosseteste, 13th century

However, I find it insufficient to limit the chain of influence to an English sphere, which is what it appears to be despite the mention of the Dominican manuals. This was an age where churchmen like Walter de Cantilupe, his contemporary episcopal colleagues and his clerical and scholarly forebears belonged to or identified themselves with the Papacy rather than the temporal realms of their age. It is of course true that the writers in question operated to a great extent within the realm of the English king, but these were men of erudition who had spent their youth outside whatever parish they resided in at a later age, and I seek therefore to attempt extending the range of influence beyond the English sphere by looking at the backgrounds of the various writers of penitential literature.

The tradition of English penitential guides is said to have started with Robert of Flamborough's Liber Poenitentialis (1208-13). Contemporary works are Summa de penitentia by Thomas of Chobham (d. 1230's) and Summa qui bene presunt (c. 1220) by Richard of Wetheringsett (active c. 1200 - c. 1230). These men were all English by birth, but it is insufficient to label them as Englishmen, since they were a part of the vast Papal network operating on a level of its own regardless of temporal boundaries. Their relationship to this network becomes evident once we start looking a bit closer at these writers and their backgrounds.

Robert of Flamborough's book of penances was written on the instigation of Richard Poore, bishop of Salisbury and in his youth student in Paris under Stephen Langton. Robert himself was also canon-penitentiary at the abbey of Saint Victor in Paris.

Thomas of Chobham studied arts and theology in the 1180s and was influenced by Peter the Chanter, whose theology echoes in his mature writings. After a period at Salisbury under Richard Poore's older brother Herbert, in which he wrote the Summa de penitentia et officiis ecclesiae, Thomas returned to Paris and apparently taught theology in the 1220s.

Richard of Wetheringsett was not a Parisian student, but studied at the cathedral school in Lincoln. However, his master, William de Montibus had sometimes in the 12th century - maybe the 1160s - studied theology under Peter Comestor and others. He also taught theology himself in a school outside the Paris walls, and it would be surprising if this did in no way reflect on the young Richard. Also Walter's contemporary Robert de Grosseteste had studied in Lincoln.

As we can see Paris is the perhaps main unifying feature of these churchmen. Pope Innocent III himself, in his days as Lotario di Conte Segni, had also studied at Paris, and among the master's there penance had been one of the many issues frequently debated. Among the grandest names in this respect are Alan de Lille who wrote his book on penances in the period c.1175-1200. Alan de Lille was in turn a student of Peter Abelard who himself discussed the nature of sin in a heated argument with Bernard of Clairvaux.

Penance had of course been an aspect of Christian life long before the 12th century, but with Lateran IV's mandatory annual confession there comes a paradigm shift for penance which demands much more from both the laity and the clergy in terms of knowledge and awareness and opens up for the range of penitential literature. At the core of this change lies the intellectual milieu of the University of Paris, its masters and its student, and it is above all in that tradition we must consider Walter di Cantilupe's summulae.

lørdag 19. februar 2011

House of Solitudes

Platonic England, house of solitudes
rests in its laurels and its injured stone,
replete with complex fortunes that are gone,
beset by dynasties of moods and clouds.
- The Laurel Axe, Geoffrey Hill

Today I awoke to a grey-clad England with rain suspended in the opaque clouds as a threatening promise. It was one of those days when you don't leave the house unless you have business to attend to or find the weather poetic. For me both of these conditions applied, and I was constantly reminded of Geoffrey Hill's beautiful sonnet The Laurel Axe, particularly the section quoted in the epigraph.

I left the house in the afternoon heading for the post office through the museum gardens and decided afterwards to take a stroll through the Shambles and King's Square. By the Shambles I witnessed anarchy in the UK as I saw a black-dressed, huddled band of dispassionate anarchists marching down the street with flags and facial expressions matching the weather very nicely, followed by two sedate, helmeted policemen who didn't seem to expect much from them. Later I came upone them once again, emerging from a bakery with pasties in their hand, still seeming very dispassionate, as if they had realised theirs was a hopeless cause and then decided to abide with the establishment. Unfortunately, they did not want to be photographed.

The fog, a sheepdog circling, bared
its teeth from slavering hedges
at the dark, sheepskin-collared

stranger; then coldly it grew clear
as those green, lucent panes
of England
- A Change of Skin, Derek Walcott

  The Church of St. Olav.

In this year [1055] died Earl Siward at York, and he lies at Galmanho in the minster which he himself had built and consecrated in the name of God and Olaf.
- The Anglo Saxon Chronicle, C manuscript

 Platonic England, house of solitudes,
Rests in its laurels and its injured stone
- The Laurel Axe, Geoffrey Hill

Looke backe, who list, vnto the former ages,
And call to count, what is of them become:
- The Ruines of Time, Edmund Spenser

It stands, as though at ease with its own world,
the mannerly extortions, languid praise,
all that devotion long since bought and sold
- The Laurel Axe, Geoffrey Hill

To find the Western path,
Right thro' the Gates of Wrath
I urge my way
- Morning, William Blake

 The York Museum Observatory

mulch-black and brown leaves seethed
nourishing England. In an air
cold as iron, he freely breathed
- A Change of Skin, Derek Walcott

 Church currently housing the Jorvik Dig.

Our backyard.