20 July 2009

More Heraldry

The Arms of the See of Oxford have a band across the middle (a "fess") and above it three crowned demivirgins (yes, the term does afford scope for endless witticisms, but, believe me, most of them were made several hundred years ago), and in the base an Ox walking sedately across a Ford. The three demivirgins have given rise to the undergraduate assumption that the shield represents three lady dons vivaing a cow. Who the ladies actually are is not entirely clear.

It is likely that one of them is S Frideswide. She was a princess who declined marriage, fled, and hid among pigs in a forest until her suitor was struck blind and gave up the quest, whereupon she became an abbess. Her shrine was in the chapel of S Frideswide's Priory, which later became the Chapel of Cardinal College (I believe some people now call it Christ Church, but it's still got Wolsey's hat and his coat of arms - which it uses as its arms and its flag - all over it). It serves as the cathedral church of the diocese which Henry VIII erected (and which, we presume, acquired legitimacy under Good Queen Mary). Under Bad King Henry, the shrine was demolished and S Frideswide's bones were mixed with those of some Protestant woman; subsequently an inscription informed the public that Religion and Superstition lay mingled there.

A bit of an ambiguity there, don't you think? Rather as in the naughty old Jacobite doggerel "God save the King! God save our Faith's Defender:/ God bless - no harm in blessing - the Pretender./ But who Pretender is, and who is King:/ God bless my soul! That's quite another thing!". Anyway, S Frideswide now does cheerful duty as Patron of the City, University, and Diocese. (Under the old conventions, would that have made her a Double of the First Class with a privileged octave?)

The Saint, when she heard that her admirer had been blinded, prayed to S Margaret ... ah, yes, it comes back to me. That's why I decided to do this post today ... when we all - didn't we, Fathers? - commemorated S Margaret in our EF Masses. But unfortunately, I seem again to have rambled. I'll try to finish this on Wednesday and resolve the cliffhanger. In the meanwhile, Sancta Margareta, ora pro nobis.


Malcolm Kemp said...

I'm not sure whether one should be pleased or dismayed about the Oratory (I assume the Oxford one) having Evensong. I know Romans (including one fairly recent Pope) are supposed to be envious of our having BCP Evensong (a service which, to me, seems to have no purpose or relevance whatsoever other than feed the ego of the musicians). Vespers - with or without an organist - seems infinitely more relevant and infinitely preferable.

About 40 years ago when I was director of music at St Paul's Brighton a young ordinand (a local boy) came into church with the sacristan and proceeded to tell me that the only services worth attending anywhere are those without any music. He is now Vicar of a church on the outskirts of Brighton where they have a new and very expensive digital organ and I sometimes play for funerals there. However, after a lifetime of playing the organ and/or directing choirs at choral Evensongs I am beginning to see that there was at least some point in what he said all those years ago. That said, the music and the architecture at the London Oratory move me greatly.

Here endeth the rant that will probably have me cast into musical outer darkness of spending eternity listening to never ending performances of Brewer in D.

Malcolm Kemp said...

My comment above was obviously intended for the topic on Liturgical Reform. I am too thick even to try to move it!

Little Black Sambo said...

Surely Evensong was the old English name for Vespers, and simply remained in common use? So even now, it does not necessarily mean BCP Evening Prayer.

rev'd up said...

Or rather, "Me exspectaverunt" Mass for S Margaret of Antioch (14 Holy Helpers, videlicet of a woman in the family way, as mine is!) commemoration for S Jerome Aemilianus.

Magister said...

I thought Evensong according to the BCP was in fact an amalgamation of Vespers and Compline. Hence why both the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis are sung at Evensong.