6 March 2010

Bird-Watching and the Five Wounds

If you get stuck into your copies of that wonderful series of books in which Professor Eamon Duffy, of the junior University, has rehabilitated English medieval religion (and most recently the Counter-Reformation of Queen Mary and Cardinal Pole) you will find all the necessary background about the prominence of this devotion in late medieval England. On this blog I prefer to give you fresh stuff rather than plagiarising or epitomising, so I won't labour the point (What? You haven't got Duffy? Well, you should have).

If you want a holiday that combines good coastal walking, the possibility of sighting Fr 'Streaming' Zed and lots of other twitchers photographing the rare Choughs which became extinct in Cornwall but have now mysteriously reappeared, go to Cornwall (well, the coasts are more spectacular and the choughs gather in flocks of forty or more in the Kingdom of the West, County Kerry. But Cornwall is a good second best). While you are there, look at the medieval bench-ends which you will find surviving in dozens of the churches. Again and again you will find the shield of the Five Wounds appearing among the designs. You have, moreover, a good chance of finding bits of medieval stained glass with the same design. In the middle of 'the arms of Christ' is his pierced Heart, and in the four corners the pierced hands and feet. Sometimes, in the middle, there might instead be a Chalice and Host, and the Host might have the Heart combined with it.

It is not surprising that the people of this peninsular rose in rebellion when, in 1549, Edward Tudor tried to impose the alien and superstitious cult of Reformation Protestantism upon them (Duffy, Morebath). Of course, hardline Roman Catholics among you will not approve of these yokels; they had been in schism from Rome since 1534 and so they cannot claim to be proper Catholics, only Anglican Catholics. But, for us, they are our beloved martyrs. And it is not surprising that they carried banners before them embroidered with the Five Wounds of Christ.

Dr Cranmer and his cronies were very scared. And like a lot of scared people, they turned nasty (Dom Gregory Dix writes beautifully about the intellectual dishonesty with which Cranmer, in his writings, practised suppressio veri, concealing facts which simple people might not know for themselves). Cranmer wrote sarcastically about the banners of the Five Wounds, and admonished these brave folk that true devotion to the Redeemer had nothing to do with waving such banners around (I've mislaid the quotation I meant to deploy; can anyone help?).

But I don't think Cranmer had always been so inimical towards the Devotion to the Five Wounds.

Cranmer and the Five Wounds soon.


Michael McDonough said...

Whatever could you mean? As a hardline Catholic myself, I have nothing but admiration for the yokels like those of Morebath and their pastor. They did what they could, and that's all anyone can ask.

Joshua said...

Indeed, holy martyrs all.