Saturday, 9 June 2007

A Glimpse of Heaven

Early saints of England occupy the vault of St Gregory's chapel, one of the first chapels to receive its mosaic decoration. To the left, in the centre, is St Benendict - not the great Father of Monasticism, but St Benet Biscop (628 - 689) , founder of the monstery of Jarrow, and importer of many Roman treasures and customs, not least among which was the singing of gregorian chant. Opposite him in the vault stands Jarrow's greatest son, St Bede the Venerable.

Further on is shown St Cuthbert (634 - 687), the great Bishop of Lindisfarne, and one of the most popular saints of Northern England. He is depicted holding the head of St Oswald, which was found alongside the Bishop's body when the tomb was opened in 1827. St Oswald himself is depicted opposite St Cuthbert; he was king of Northumbria who was martyred by a rival pagan king in 642. His body was mutilated, and his head found its way to Durham, where it was placed in the shrine of St Cuthbert.

In the middle hangs Cardinal Basil Hume's galero - his Cardinal's wide-brimmed hat. Although these are no longer given to Cardinals, and still less worn, it is permitted for a Cardinal to own one. Cardinal Hume's grand-niece, being an accomplished milliner, made one up for him. It is one of the last things he saw before he died, and it was felt appropriate to hang it, according to age old custom, above his tomb.

1 comment:

John the organist said...

Thank you for highlighting these saints and the galero which I seem to have not noticed! I have a Methodist friend who particularly loves this chapel!