Thursday, 27 December 2012

Griffith ap Rhys- An important Welsh knight in early Tudor times

This week is the story of a powerful Welsh knight who was associated with Prince Arthur Tudor, the Cathedral, and the city of Worcester. Sir Griffith ap Rhys ap Thomas, the only legitimate son of Sir Rhys ap Thomas by his first wife Eva, was born circa 1470.  His father Sir Rhys ap Thomas played a pivotal role in the politics of the Wars of the Roses and under the patronage of Henry VII became the most powerful man in South Wales.
Griffith and Catherine. Copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

When in 1492 at the age of six. Henry VII's son Prince Arthur was sent to live at Ludlow Castle, Henry would have wanted his son surrounded by his most loyal supporters and Sir Rhys who was appointed his 'guardian'.  Griffith as Rhys's son was a obvious choice as companion for the young Prince of Wales.    Griffith seems to have been a close friend of Prince Arthur and served as his 'Master of the Horse'.    Griffith was created a Knight of the Bath during the wedding festivities.  He was also with Arthur when he returned to Ludlow with his new bride.

The tomb chest of Griffith ap Rhys in Worcester Cathedral. Copyright Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

Arthur died in 1502 and when his body was taken from Ludlow Castle to Worcester Cathedral, Griffith played an important part at the funeral.  Dressed in mourning habit, his horse draped in black, he rode at the head of the procession carrying the prince's banner.  And at the interment in Worcester Cathedral he offered at the Gospel the rich embroidered banner of his Lord's Arms.

His coat of arms. Copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

After Arthur's death Griffith continued to serve the royal family and Henry confirmed that Griffith should inherit his father’s honours on his death.  Griffith was also present, representing Worcestershire, when Henry VIII travelled to France for the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520. In the monastery’s accounts for 1521-22 is a reference to Griffith formerly owning a property in Birdport Street. No doubt it was a useful place where he could stay while visiting the region, and could facilitate trade between Worcester and Wales.

A Coat of arms on the tomb. Copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

Griffith died sometime between July and October 1521, predeceasing his father who died later in 1525.  It is not known how he died but as he died intestate it was probably a surprise or he would, have made a will. 

A Coat of arms on the tomb. Copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

Griffith married Catherine St John, daughter of John St John around 1507. 
The inlaid memorial brass plate of Griffith and his wife was already badly decayed by the seventeenth century and the present brass dates from the Victorian period.  The only child we can be sure of was one son, Rhys ap Griffith, who was later executed by Henry VIII for treason,  though if the Victorian brass is to be believed  they had 11 children, 7 girls and 4 boys all living to adulthood.  Catherine accompanied Griffith to France for the Field of the Cloth of Gold where she was in attendance on the Queen.  After Sir Griffith's death Catherine married Sir Piers Edgecombe. She made her will December 4, 1553, and died that month.  She is buried with Griffiths in his tomb which is located in the eastern choir transept in Worcester Cathedral below the tomb of the Arthur, Prince of Wales, eldest son of Henry VII. 

A Coat of arms on the tomb. Copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

Around the tomb is this inscription:  Here in this tomb lyeth buryed the Body of the Noble knyght, Sir Gryffyth Ryce Son of Syr Ryce ap. Thomas knyght, which Syr Gryffyth dessyd the xxix day of September in the xiiii yere of Kyng Henry the viii. And also of Lady Catheryne the Wyfe, Daughter of Syr John Saint John whych decessed the …... day of …. Anno Dom. Mcccc …. on whose Soules, and all Cristen Soules Jeshu have Mercy.  Amen.

by Vanda Bartoszuk.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Carolingian Writing Style

The Carolingian writing style was first established by the Carolingian Empire, an Empire which spanned France, Germany, northern Italy, northern Spain and later Bohemia. It existed and expanded during Charlemagne’s reign (768-814) but did not survive long after his death. During his reign, he established representatives of the state in each region but maintained control and uniformity throughout his empire by holding annual assemblies. He introduced many reforms; most notably in education and religion.
A significant part of Charlemagne’s educative reforms was the introduction of a standardised writing style; the Carolingian style. This was a crucial act both then and now as it is this style which establishes Charlemagne firmly in the history and study of palaeography as it forms the basis of our modern writing style today. Its purpose was twofold; it was designed to make writing easier to read and much quicker to produce. Its initial style can be characterised by the large, rotund characters, vertical ascenders and descenders (often clubbed) and the wide gaps between the words. The latter definitely distinguishes it from the likes of other writing styles at the time when words were often difficult to separate due to their proximity to one another.
There are a substantial number of Anglo-Saxon characters in the Carolingian writing. This is because Charlemagne believed that the Anglo-Saxons held superior literary and literacy skills and so wished to ameliorate the Empire’s literary standing by commissioning certain great scholars to reside in and influence his establishments. For example, it is known that he commissioned Alcuin to visit his own court. This suggests that the presence of Anglo-Saxon characters is due to the influence of Anglo-Saxon scholars.
In the image below, quarto 28 in the Worcester Cathedral Library, the writing style is that of Carolingian miniscule. This scribe has an unsteady hand, however, as one can see that the ascenders and descenders tend to tremble slightly and are not exactly vertical (as encircled on image). This is a quarto from Eusebius’ Historia Ecclesiastica.

Figure 1 Quarto 28, Eusebius' Historia Ecclesiastica. S.X This image is copyright the Dean and Chpater of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

This writing style was introduced to England in the mid 10th century. Potential reasons for its transference from the Continent to England could be due to associations between great libraries of England and the Continent but also the travelling of monks. We know that one monk (and later Bishop of Worcester), Saint Oswald, departed for Fleury monastery, as he was in search of a better monastic life, and returned in 958. There are two early manuscripts which originate from the Continent in Worcester Cathedral Library, one of which is pictured above, and it is likely that they travelled along with Oswald on his return to England. Thus, it is primarily through these two means which the Carolingian style was brought to England, copied by scribes and henceforth, instigated as a popular writing style in the English monasteries and establishments.
Since its establishment in England, the Carolingian writing style underwent some major alterations; most noticeably were the gradation from large to small characters and the reducing spaces between the words. In the two images below one can see these alterations embodied.

Figure 2 Folio 173, Sacramentary. S.XI 1/4 This image is copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)
The differences between the above and below images reveal the transformation of the Anglo-Caroline hand. Figure 2 illustrates a skilled Anglo-Caroline scribing hand, scribed in the first quarter of the 11th century whereas Figure 3 depicts an English protogothic hand with some features of Anglo-Caroline, dating from the 12th century. The latter has undergone numerous alterations in its scribing hand; the characters, while equally rounded, are much closer to one another and have been scribed with a thicker nib. Furthermore, there is less space between the words and the lines, rendering the page to have a much more filled visual aspect.
Figure 3 Folio 92, Homilarium. S.XII This image is copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)
Regardless of these alterations, one can see the contingencies this writing style has with the original Carolingian style and also with our modern way of scribing letters; a fundamentally rotund character style and proximity of words. The way we write today is founded upon this style - although we might hope it is in a more legible manner!

Colette Davies

Monday, 17 December 2012


In this week’s blog we look at the life of a brave Scottish soldier from the civil war era buried in Worcester Cathedral. William Hamilton was born on 14th December 1616. In 1651 he was a senior commander in the Royalist army which fought at the Battle of Worcester, and died of his wounds after the battle.
An engraving from the cathedral collection

If you visit Worcester today you will find a memorial that was erected to the Duke in September 1913, in addition to his existing gravestone near the High Altar. During his short life, William was initially part of the Royalist cause but in 1642 he was sent to Scotland to assist his brother in attempting to prevent the Scots from favouring the Parliamentarians in the war. They failed and on their return to Oxford, they were thrown into prison. William escaped and decided to return to Scotland and change sides. He became one of the Scottish commissioners appointed to treat with the king in prison. The commissioners failed to persuade the king to establish Presbyterianism is England, but William was horrified to see the king then handed over to the English. He called this: “the Judas-like sale of the King for pieces of silver.” He converted back to being a Royalist. After the execution of Charles I, he went into exile. His brother James was tried and sentenced to death on the scaffold, some two months after the king.  James’ title passed to William.

The memorial brass placed in the cathedral in 1913

As Duke of Hamilton, William returned to England with Charles II and fought in the battle of Worcester in 1651. He showed great courage, but was wounded as he led his regiment against Cromwell’s infantry and died at the Commandery a few days later.
The gravestone of the Duke of Hamilton
In the cathedral library there is also what is thought to be the tip of a standard that was found in the Victorian era near the duke’s coffin. The archive also holds a Victorian sketch of the lead coffin in which the Duke’s body was placed.
The tip of a standard found near the body

All images are by Mr. Chris Guy and are reproduced by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester cathedral (U.K.)

Mary Somers

Friday, 7 December 2012

Bishop Henry Parry and Virginia

This week brings you an unusual connection between a Jacobean Bishop of Worcester, the colony of Virginia and some books in the collection. Henry Parry was Bishop between 1610 and 1616. He was present at the death of Queen Elizabeth I, and as her chaplain he gained the important confirmation from her that she died as a Protestant.

Henry Parry's monument in Worcester Cathedral. Image is reproduced by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral.

In Anthony Wood’s Athenae Oxonienses (1691), Parry was described as being the son of Henry Parry, and grandson of William Parry of Wormbridge, Herefordshire. Bishop Parry was born in Wiltshire on 20th December 1561. He became a scholar of Corpus Christi College, Oxford on 13th November 1576. He was made a probationer on 23rd April 1586, and gained his MA. He later read Greek at the same College.

King James I was greatly impressed by Parry’s preaching skills. In 1606 the King of Denmark, who was visiting King James, gave Parry a ring as a reward for the quality of his sermon. Later, as Bishop of Worcester, Parry paid for a pulpit in the cathedral. He wrote at least two books and translated two more, and generously gave a sum of money to the University of Oxford. It was in 1612 that Bishop Parry invested £13 6s 8d in a company set up to support the establishment of the colony of Virginia. 

In the cathedral library, are a set of books by a Church of England clergyman, Samuel Purchas. Purchas compiled Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas His Pilgrimes: Contayning a History of the World, in Sea voyages, & lande-travells, by Englishmen & others...etc (1625). This work combines research of fellow clergyman Richard Hakluyt and that of his own on exploration around the world. It includes an early map of Virginia first engraved in 1606, as well as some accounts of life in the early seventeenth century colonies including Virginia.

Map of Virginia 1606. The  image is reproduced by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral

In book nine, chapter fifteen is the list of provisions recommended for every person who would be going to live in Virginia. These included enough food to sustain a man for a year- eight bushels of meal, two bushels of pease, two bushels of oatmeal, a gallon of aqua vitae, a gallon of oil, and two gallons of vinegar, as well as clothing, and weapons. The weapons required were light armour, a five or five and a half foot musket, sword, sword belt, bandolier, twenty pounds of gunpowder, and sixty pounds of shot or lead for bullets. 
A family of six were required to bring with them axes, hand saws, whip-saws, hammers, shovels, spades, augers, hatchets, nails, pickaxes, various other tools and kitchen utensils. These books were published after Parry’s death, but perhaps as an investor he had access to some of the early accounts of life in Virginia.
New France, New Scotland, New Foundland, and New England c.1625. The image is reproduced by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral. 

Parry died of a stroke on 12th December 1616 at the Bishop’s Palace in Worcester, and was buried in the North Quire transept. His monument was later moved to the south nave aisle together with a plaque. Another plaque to him is in the St. George’s chapel placed there in 1872 by a descendant.

The brass monument to Bishop Parry. The images are reproduced by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Mystery Plays and English

From the 4th-6th December of this year in the run up to Christmas the cathedral shall see the arrival of the Mystery Plays cycle from Gloucester Cathedral. This week, we include a guest blog from English Literature student Katy Ikin who has studied the plays in conjunction with the development of literary and linguistic English. The developing history of the liturgical Mystery Plays has a great span of around five hundred years. During this time, from the tenth to sixteenth century, the English language, literature and drama have undergone huge change.

In the 900s when the Anglo Saxons inhabited our island, Old English was spoken amongst the masses. Despite its popularity in oral tradition, works of writing such as the plays would have been written and performed in Latin as this was the learned language of the church. As a consequence of the invasion of William of Normandy in 1066, French succeeded Latin in play scripts followed eventually by early modern English.

This manuscript is an example which demonstrates the simultaneous usage of Old English with Latin. English was always the dominant oral language, as Latin was for professional documents and so there are very few examples of Old English scripture in existence.

The Plays’ height of popularity was between the 14th-15th centuries during the middle ages. There were four main types of Drama of this time, these being Folk Plays, Mystery Plays, Morality Plays and The Interludes. All were influential towards the later comedies and tragedies of the Renaissance but none more so than the Mystery Plays. The plays started as a visual telling of the Christian story. As the plays would have primarily been performed in Latin and French, languages which many people did not understand, aesthetic importance was paramount in aiding the congregations understanding of the stories. Their escalation was from small musical services into full-scale dramatised performances that became customary for guilds to present during the Christmas and Easter periods.

Chaucer's work of middle English- The Canterbury Tales from an eighteenth century copy in the cathedral library.

During the medieval period, the plays were transcribed in Early Modern and Modern English. Since the recent revival of the plays of the past couple of decades, this has remained mostly unchanged. The same actions and rhythms of the original texts have been reworked only slightly in order to bring the ancient texts into modern English. The plays engage with majestic themes of the bible as well as comedy and tragedy, which in conjunction with rich live musical accompaniment, create a multidimensional performance that appeals to all audiences, old and new.

More about the Mystery Plays and the features of their development is displayed in the Cathedral. This display can be seen in the south nave aisle for the next couple of months.

By Katy Ikin.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Gods of Rome

This week we have a look at the Ancient Romans. They were depicted by Father Bernard de Montfaucon in his books, which can be seen in Worcester Cathedral library. More specifically, we look at who the Romans worshiped and how they went about it. Like many cultures before and after them, the Romans worshiped a Pantheon of gods rather than a single entity. This Roman Pantheon is most closely related to the previous Greek Pantheon which was adapted and influenced by their new culture. This caused some gods to change their names, others to gain or lose their connections to certain areas of influence and still more were created for areas where no god previously existed (they even created a goddess for door hinges called Cardea).

This engraving is a representation of ten major gods or goddesses. From B. de Montfaucon  Antiquity- explained and represented in sculptures (1721-25). Image is copyright Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral.
The Romans did not pray as we do today but instead sacrificed various livestock and burnt the most flavour-filled parts in tribute. They would also offer up the first cup of wine and the best parts of each meal in the same way. This was collectively known as supplication. A Roman citizen would make a supplication several times a day while a soldier would make additional sacrifices before and after all battles in hope or thanks for protection.

There were fourteen major gods and goddesses, thirteen of whom presided in the palace of the gods on mount Olympus while the fourteenth ruled over the dead in the Underworld. They are as follows; Jupiter the King of the gods and god of the sky, Juno the Queen of the gods and the goddess of marriage and family, Neptune the god of the sea and earthquakes, Mars the god of war, Apollo the god of the sun and culture (meaning everything from medicine to music), Mercury the god of thieves and roads, Bacchus the god of wine and madness, Minerva the goddess of weaving and handicrafts, Diana the goddess of maidens, hunting and the moon, Ceres the goddess of farming and harvest, Vulcan the God of fire and forging, Vesta the goddess of home and the hearth, Venus the goddess of love and Pluto the god of the Underworld and wealth. There are also a great many more ‘minor’ gods and goddesses like Somnus the god of sleep and Janus the god of beginnings and endings, and finally there are the few heroes whom the people came to refer to as gods like Hercules and Adonis.

This is a montage of many different minor gods and goddesses. B. de Montfaucon, Antiquity- explained and represented in sculptures (1721-25). Image is copyright Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral. 
Some of the gods were worshiped and praised for their relation to success at war or the Emperor, namely Mars and Jupiter, however some were only worshiped out of fear for what they would do to you, mostly Pluto and Neptune who controlled the afterlife and earthquakes respectively. Some of the gods were blamed for the various inexplicable deaths at the time, such as plagues, sunstroke and other assorted illnesses, so needless to say the Romans continued to supplicate themselves to the gods so they would not unleash these horrors upon them. They might even ask them to be unleashed upon their enemies.

As might be expected the Romans found other ways to show their faith too, mainly by immortalizing the gods in the form of pottery, paintings and statues as well as in their literature, both written and in songs or poems. It is from these things that we have learnt of Roman culture and their gods even today.

by Nick Robinson

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Worcester Cathedral and the home front

No city in England managed to fully escape the impacts of the Second World War, however, Worcester and its Cathedral experienced these to a lesser extent, as it was bombed only a handful of times during the war, resulting in several casualties, but very little destruction. However, it was affected in many other ways which are often overlooked when considering life on the home front.

            As a wartime inhabitant of Worcester, if you happened to be walking past the cathedral on 6th June 1940, you would have been confronted with the sight of the Cathedral’s wrought-iron railings being removed to fuel the country’s war machine. Although the removal of gates, railings and other sources of scrap metal was a common occurrence up and down the country, it was nevertheless a controversial decision to sell the railings (for £44 9s 0d) which had originally surrounded the Old St Michaels graveyard.
5th January 1943: The colours being laid up at Worcester Cathedral. Note the War Memorial and lack of railings in the background. 

            As with all cities and towns across the country, there was the urgent necessity to prepare for the real possibility of German bombing. One preparation was the decision on the location for an air-raid shelter - The crypt was at first proposed; however this was soon disregarded as the potential problem of those sheltering being crushed by falling masonry presented a substantial drawback. The site for the shelter was eventually decided to be under College Hall.

            Further preparations were made to preserve the Cathedral and its collections. This included £25 to be spent on protecting the Cathedral’s manuscripts, and new insurance was taken out for objects such as the organ, bells and furniture. Additionally, particular stained glass windows were removed and stored for safe keeping, and on 8th September 1941, blackout coverings were fixed to the outside of the windows of St John’s Chapel and the Chapter house, which were the main places used for Holy Communion during the war.

Rogation Day 1941: Blackout precautions were needed for services during the war.
            Although the Cathedral itself remained undamaged, due to a combination of precautions and luck, it was by no means left unchanged by the war. The tower, for example, which for centuries has formed part of Worcester’s unique skyline, had its fair share of alterations. It was decided upon as Worcester’s primary observation post to be used to sight and shoot down German bombers, approaching the city. The tower was also the site of Worcester’s air raid siren, to warn civilians of an impending attack.

However, despite the disruption caused by the war to civilians in big ways and also in smaller ways, the stoical attitude of the British during the Second World War was true of Worcester and it’s Cathedral. At Worcester, as in many years previous, an illuminated Christmas tree was placed in the north transept. In December 1941, it was asked that any gifts or donations for the Worcester branch of Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen’s Families Association be placed below the tree. 

by Carys Aldous-Hughes

Friday, 2 November 2012

A great English theologian called John Wyclif

In the last few weeks the cathedral blog has taken you to eighteenth century Berlin with an English traveller, visited the medieval monastic infirmary and looked at medieval doctors' contracts, and told the story of some beautiful choral music from the reign of Charles I.

This week, we include a guest post from work experience student Matthias Hans all about John Wyclif who was a forefather in the eventual development of Protestant Christianity. This was Matthias Hans' final project  for the cathedral library over the summer. If you want to read his study about John Wyclif follow this link.

This photograph shows the bones of John Wyclif being dug up, burnt, and the ashes thrown into the river by the Church authorities who disagreed with what Wyclif wrote! The image is from one of the Cathedral's copies of Foxe's Book of Martyrs. This work is the story of Protestant Christianity upto the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, and about those men and women who died in the struggle for their beliefs.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Choicest Master Pieces of Choral Music

If you have been fortunate enough to attend a service or concert at Worcester Cathedral, you will remember the beautiful sound and the atmosphere that is possible in such an ancient building. In this week’s blog we delve into the cathedral library’s music collection to look at two seventeenth century music books.
(Robert Parsons' music from an early part book. The photograph is copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral)

The first is one of the handwritten Worcester choral part books. This was compiled over many years. One section was copied down at some point between the years 1620 and 1640. The second section dates to between 1670- 1700. There are 115 items by eighteen composers in the manuscript. To pick one of the earlier composers as an example, there are the Venite, Te Deum, Benedictus, Kyrie, Creed, Magnificat, Nunc Dimittis, and an offertory by Robert Parsons (1530 -1572). 

The second book is a printed music book. John Barnard was a minor Canon of Saint Paul’s Cathedral in the mid-seventeenth century. In Worcester Cathedral Library are copies of his famous music book ‘The First Book of selected Church Musick’. Barnard collected together and had published various approved composers works. The book was printed by Edward Griffin in 1641. Griffin was not experienced in printing music, but the finished product must have pleased both himself and the author. It contains a series of intricate opening letters for many of the pieces, and an unusual typeface for the words that give the books a degree of unexpected elegance.

(Barnard's First Book of Church Music 1641. The photograph is copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral)

Barnard dedicated the book to King Charles I. In his dedication Barnard spoke of the long tradition of English choral music from Anglo-Saxon times. However, he wished to publish what he described as the “choycest Master-peeces, left us in Hymnes, Anthems, and Services” of famous composers’ works from the reign of Queen Elizabeth I onwards. Barnard was not simply bringing his favourite tunes to a wider audience. As he wrote, he was keeping them from the “danger of perishing, or corrupting in erroneous and manuscript obscurity”.

The book consists of service music by Tallis, Strogers, Bevins, Bird, Gibbons, Mundys, Parsons, Morlys, Giles, Ward, and Woodsons. There then follows six composers’ work suitable for the Psalms and Litany, and then fifty-four Anthems again by a range of composers.

(Barnard's First Book of Church Music 1641. The photograph is copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral)

The last word should go to John Barnard who ended the book’s preface with this sentence: “So wishing to all those that shall use these books, cleere voices, true measure, and chiefly affections ray’sd to the devout height of these ditties, I take leave.”  

David Morrison, Cathedral Library and Archive.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Medical Care in a medieval monastery Part 2

Part 2: Medieval Doctors and Medical texts

                                                A copy of Galen's Tegni, 13th Century.
               (This image is copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester cathedral U.K.)

Have you ever dreamed of a job where you were paid a salary but you also received free food and a gallon of ale every time you showed up for work? Today’s blog deals with medieval medical textbooks, investigates doctors’ contracts and asks how they paid for medicines and care in the priory?

Just as a major modern hospital has a medical library for the benefit of staff and patients, so the monastic infirmarer also had access to a number of important medical texts from the cathedral library which would have allowed him and his deputy monk assistants to improve their knowledge. These texts included twelfth and thirteenth century translations of Arabic and Jewish doctors, such as Haly Ibn Abbas and Isaac, as well as translations of classical physicians such as Galen, or Hippocrates. There were also contemporary Christian authorities such as Gilbertus Anglicus’s fourteenth century compendium of medical knowledge. Several of the texts show evidence of having been annotated.  

                                             A doctor from a German woodcut of 1475
                    (This image is copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester cathedral U.K.)

The infirmarer also worked alongside a local physician. One monastic register reveals the details of a doctor’s contract that was drawn up by the monks with Master Henry Hampton. He became the physician to the monastic infirmary on 6th September 1320. His annual fee was forty shillings. When he visited the infirmary he was also guaranteed a monk’s loaf, a ‘gustatam’ (or gallon to a gallon and a half) of the best ale, a dish of food, stabling for his horse, and a livery robe. The quantity of ale required was normal because water was unsafe to drink and the ale was weaker than modern beer. In 1329 another such medical contract survives for Master John de Bosco. De Bosco was required by the monks to maintain confidentiality, warn them of anyone plotting evil deeds, and promise to give medical advice and assistance when called upon. He too was paid an annual fee, and also received food, the best ale of the monastery, and a place to stay if having to tend the sick overnight. There was also food and lodging for his servant and horse.

A Worcester document showing the income used to pay for medical care in Henry IV's reign.    (This image is copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester cathedral U.K.)

Sick monks did not have to pay the doctor themselves because the financial burden was shouldered by the monastery. The infirmarer was allowed to collect the rents from a portion of the monastery’s lands for this purpose. He also received payments towards treating the sick from nine local parish churches, such as Bromsgrove, Himbleton, Tibberton, Knightwick, Saint Andrew’s Pershore, and Saint Swithun’s Worcester. While the head of the monastery could afford to pay for his own medical advice and medicines, he occasionally would intervene to help pay for the cost of medicines of a sick monk as Prior William More did for brother William Fordam in 1531.

David Morrison, Cathedral Library and archives.           

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Medical Care in a medieval monastery- Part 1

Part 1: The infirmary, nursing and diet

Reading immediately after supper, or drunkenness were just two of the things to be avoided if you did not want to damage your health according to advice in one of the cathedral’s late medieval monastic registers. These archive registers have a huge amount of information about life in the middle ages. They are currently being conserved. In this week’s blog- the first in a two part series- I will use these registers to look at the duties of an infirmarer, aspects of late medieval nursing care, and dietary advice at Worcester Cathedral’s Benedictine priory.

The monk in charge of medical care at Worcester was called the infirmarer. Together with his monastic brothers and lay assistants- the infirmary clerk, the washerwoman, and the groom of the infirmary, the infirmarer would have provided the daily nursing care and general administration of the infirmary, which was located on the west side of the cathedral. He also had to find money in his budget to maintain the fabric of the building, for example repairing the infirmary chapel windows in 1378-79. There was also an infirmary garden both for the benefit of the patients and for growing medicinal herbs.  

The nursing care provided is not recorded in detail but it is known that very sick monks often stayed for weeks at a time in the infirmary. For example, in 1531-32, Brother John Crowle and Brother William Fordham required care for nineteen weeks and nine weeks respectively. 

                                             (A medieval feast from a woodcut of c.1517)

This monastic nursing care probably also included basic dietary advice. One of the Worcester Cathedral monastic archive registers gives details of certain food and drinks to have, and those to avoid.

Things that were good for you included bread that used pure flour and was not stale or old, the newly laid eggs of pheasants, hens, or partridges, fresh milk sometimes with sugar or mint leaves added to it for taste, poultry, venison, beef or pork, fish, figs, lettuces, grapes, parsley, mint, moderate amounts of good wine, and ‘clean brewed’ (i.e. good quality) ale or beer.

Things that were bad for you included unripe fruit, old meat, shellfish, immoderate amounts of onions, and sour wine. They also believed that sweet wines and sweet meats hurt the teeth, and thought that overly salted meat, garlic and onions, as well as thick and sweet wines hurt the eyes.

David Morrison, Cathedral Library and archives.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Travelling round Berlin and Potsdam

The theatre at Berlin according to Jonas Hanway. 
(The image is copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral.) 

In this week’s cathedral library blog, travel back to the year 1753, so don your tricorn, pack your clay pipe and pair of extra large riding breeches, and join Jonas Hanway (1712-1786), English merchant and journal writer. Hanway later became a well known essayist, philanthropist, and apparently even was an early exponent of the umbrella in England. Some of his published views would not be accepted today. However, his travel writing is still of interest. He travelled on a trade route to Persia and back to England via Russia, Germany and Holland and recorded his experiences in detail.

Amongst his many adventures, in Volume 2 Chapter 31, Hanway arrived in Berlin, the entrance to which he described as: “airy and elegant; the streets are regular and clean, and the houses uniform.”

Hanway gave detailed descriptions of the court of the King of Prussia, his palaces, army, and society. After being shown around the royal palace he visited the library “which would be deemed a mean apartment for a common school.”  However, he was impressed by the treasures kept on the shelves including a Bible formerly belonging to King Charles I, which had been used at the King’s execution. It was given to the Elector of Brandenburg as a relic by Archbishop William Juxon. He also saw a copy of the first ever Bible printed in America, a medieval German Bible, and several manuscripts that had once belonged to Cardinal Mazarin.

After describing the beautiful Berlin Opera House, Hanway notes a night time court masque at which the participants dressed in various classical costumes and staged a mock battle at which the wind blew out most of the lamps lighting the show and a local prince managed to injure himself with his own sword. Hanway was much more impressed with a magnificent mock battle staged by the Prussian army outside the city, to which all the citizens had come to watch.  

Hanway noticed that Berlin was greatly influenced by Paris, with French widely spoken by the citizens. He liked how the Prussian capital had elegant structures and regular streets and was reckoned one third larger than London, and yet surprisingly had only one eighth of the inhabitants. Hanway also noted the exchange rate for future fellow travellers reading his book. At this time it was possible to get 6 Prussian dollars for 1 English Guinea. We can only wonder at what he would have made of travel in present day Europe.

The Arsenal at Berlin at the time of Hanway's visit.
(The image is copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral)

A mile from Berlin he was shown around the Charlottenburg Palace, and then went just beyond Potsdam to see the palace of Sans Souci. He was impressed with the interiors of both places. However the gardener at San Souci would not allow him to wander the grounds with his sword, commenting that even the Prussian king would not do this. The modern tourist undoubtedly no longer has such a problem.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Reformation Monarchy

Our work experience student, Matthias Hans, produced three mini articles on the reigns of Henry VIII, Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I.  Please click on the links below to view the PDFs.

The images of monarchs are taken from a copy of Gilbert Burnet’s three-volume History of the Reformation published between 1679 and 1714.  Burnet was a renowned Protestant theologian who went on to become Bishop of Salisbury.  His History was conceived as a refutation of the work of Catholic writer, Nicholas Sanders.  Burnet was exiled during the reign of James II, who was a Catholic, but returned to England after the ‘Glorious Revolution’.  He preached at the Coronation of William and Mary in 1689.

Henry VIII.  Click here to read more about Henry.

Mary I.  Click here to read more about Mary.

Elizabeth I.  Click here to read more about Elizabeth.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Guest Blog by Matthias Hans: Edward VI, the Boy King

My name is Matthias Hans and I am a history student from Bonn University in Germany.  I am on a five-week work experience placement at Worcester Cathedral Library and Archive.  I am interested in the late medieval and early modern periods, especially the history of religion.  During my time here I have already translated a German tour, catalogued books and correspondence, and done some research using original documents from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  This blog post makes use of the work I have done so far.

Matthias Hans: Doing work experience at the Cathedral Library and Archive

When King Henry VIII died on 28th January 1547 he had ruled for more than 38 years; his reign had brought immense changes in government, society and the Church. In ecclesiastical matters, the greatest change made by Henry was splitting from Rome in January 1531, following Pope Clement VII’s refusal to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.  At the time of Henry’s death his son, Edward the Prince of Wales (whom he had with his third wife Jane Seymour), was only nine years old. Because of his age he was unable to reign on his own.  This meant that others ruled for him, exerting their influence on him and pursuing their own agenda, especially in relation to religion.  They followed the strict reformed Protestant teachings of the Swiss reformer Jean Calvin, who made rigorous changes to liturgy, e.g. banning music from the church.

It was decided to keep Henry’s death a secret for three days.  Duke of Somerset Edward Seymour, the young Edward VI’s uncle, was made Lord Protector. Somerset kept the young prince isolated to ensure that he had the greatest influence over him. Edward was the first monarch declared in his coronation oath as the supreme head of the church by divine, not human, agency. The coronation oath was changed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, with the assent of the Duke of Somerset.   Cranmer said in his sermon delivered at the Coronation of Edward VI:

Therefore not from the Bishop of Rome, but as a Messenger from my Saviour Jesus Christ, I shall most humbly admonish your Royal Majesty what things your Highness is to perform.  Your Majesty is God’s Vicegerent, and Christ’s Vicar your own Dominions and to see, with your Predecessor Josias [sic], God truly worshipped, and Idolatry destroyed; the Tyranny of the Bishops of Rome banished from your Subjects and Images removed. These Acts be Signs of a second Josias, who reformed the Church of God in his Days.”

Shortly after Edward’s coronation Cranmer’s ideas for reform were put into practice. In July 1547 the Privy Council forbade candles and shrines, while in February the following year images in stained glass, wood and stone were regarded as idolatrous. The old and traditional social and religious customs of English Medieval Christianity vanished within just two years. Religious rites were reformed and unified, with Thomas Cranmer’s First Book of Common Prayer being published in 1549.

However the deep impact of these reforms was not welcomed by all the people. This led to a series of uprisings taking place, especially in the west of England, in 1549. With the uprisings, the bond of trust was broken between Somerset and the local gentry, who believed the Protector had taken his policies too far. In October of the same year Somerset’s offices were abolished and a coup d’├ętat against him took place, but the evangelical religious policy was carried on.  Meanwhile conservative, traditional bishops were removed from their office and some of their lands were seized for the government. In February 1550 Lord Warwick was appointed Lord Protector. Under the regime of Warwick, who was made Duke of Northumberland in 1551, Edward’s religious views became even more evangelical. In 1550 the Ordinals for Clerics, which set out new rules for the clergy were published.  All in all Edward became more independent from the church and his advisors, more rigorous and intolerant toward the old, traditional more Catholic minded forces. His refusal to accept the saying of the Mass for his sister Princess Mary almost caused a war with Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor. In 1552 Archbishop Cranmer’s Second Book of Common Prayer was published. It was a more overtly Protestant revision of the First Book of Common Prayer of 1549.  In June 1553 the 42 articles of Faith were published.  Doctrinally, these two publications were the climax of the ecclesiastical changes of Edwards’s reign, influenced by French/Calvinistic Protestantism. Edward saw the Eucharist as an act of remembrance rather than the real presence, like his mentor the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer.

King Edward VI
© The Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral

Scholars argue about Edward’s health during the last two years of his reign but it is certain that his health was poor during that time. He might have contracted tuberculosis, to which he finally succumbed on 6 July 1553. It is uncertain how the reformation would have progressed if the king had lived longer. Edward did not want either of his sisters, Mary or Elizabeth, to be his successor, as he regarded them both as illegitimate. He was especially afraid that the Catholic Mary would destroy his work of “true religion”. His wish was that the daughter of the Duchess of Suffolk, whom he regarded as his spiritual sister, should be his successor was not fulfilled. Instead England was to experience further turbulence in the following decades.

By Matthias Hans, Worcester Cathedral Library and Archive