31 October 2022

A ‘virtual tour’ of a dozen
All Saints and All Hallows
churches on Hallowe’en

All Saints’ Church, Calverton, near Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire, dates from the 12th century and was rebuilt in 1818 and 1824 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

This evening (31 October 2022) is Halloween or the eve of All Hallows’ Day.

Quite often I hear people suggesting that Halloween is eve of All Souls’ Day, and that Halloween is a night for remembering the souls of the dead. But Hallowe’en is a contraction of ‘All Hallows’ evening,’ or All Saints’ Eve, which falls on 31 October, the day before All Saints’ Day or All Hallows’ Day, which is celebrated on 1 November.

In the past, Allhallowtide, from 31 October to 2 November, was marked as a time in the liturgical year for remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the departed. All Souls’ Day is on 2 November, and Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday occur at this time of the year too.

There is constant speculation that Hallowe’en has its roots in Celtic harvest festivals, such as the festival of Samhain. But the present date of All Saints’ Day or Hallowmas and of its vigil, Hallowe’en, have been traced back to Rome and Pope Gregory III (731-741), who founded an oratory in Saint Peter’s for the relics ‘of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors.’

So, to mark Hallowe’en, All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints Eve, I have put together a ‘virtual tour’ of a dozen churches I have visited with the names of All Saints and All Hallows, in England, Ireland, Italy and Romania.

1, All Saints’ Church, Calverton:

Inside All Saints’ Church, Calverton, facing east (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The church in Calverton first appears in local records in 1068, and was later known as All Hallows’ Church. The advowson or living of Calverton descended with the manor until the manor was sold in 1806. It was then bought by Charles George Perceval (1756-1840), 2nd Lord Arden, an elder brother of the Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval (1762-1812), who was assassinated in the lobby of the House of Commons.

Lord Arden commissioned the architect William Pilkington to rebuild All Saints’ Church in 1818-1824, on the foundations of All Hallows’ Church.

Lord Arden’s son, the Revd the Hon Charles George Perceval (1796-1858), was the Rector of at Calverton from 1821. A devout High Churchman and a supporter of the Tractarians, he was responsible for much of the decoration in the church, including the stained glass windows and other embellishments. More rebuilding took place in the 1850s, and further restoration and decorations were carried out in 1871-1872, when the architect was Edward Swinfen Harris of Stony Stratford.

Today, All Saints’ Church, Calverton, is in parochial union with Saint Mary and Saint Giles, Stony Stratford.

2, All Saints’ Church, Jesus Lane, Cambridge:

All Saints’ Church on Jesus Lane, Cambridge … one of the best-preserved Victorian Anglo-Catholic Gothic Revival churches in England (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

All Saints’ Church,Cambridge, beside Westcott House and opposite Jesus College, was built in 1863-1864 and is one of the best-preserved Victorian Anglo-Catholic Gothic Revival churches in England. It was designed by George Frederick Bodley (1827-1907), one of the most important architects of the Tractarian Movement.

Although this is Bodley’s first church in the Decorated Gothic style of the early 14th century (1300-1320), it is one of his most successful and became his favourite. The church stands opposite Jesus College, beside Westcott House and just a few steps away from the Jesus Lane Gate below the rooms I have had in Cloister Court, Sidney Sussex College.

The original All Saints’ Church stood on a site opposite Trinity College and close to the Divinity Schools. This site, now marked by a triangular piece of open land with a memorial cross, stood in the old Jewish quarter of Cambridge, and the church was known as All Saints in the Jewry. Jesus College, as patron of the living, donated a site for a new church in Jesus Lane.

3, All Saints’ Church, North Street, York:

Inside All Saints’ Church, North Street, York, facing the east end (Photograph Patrick Comerford, 2022)

All Saints’ Church, North Street, York, is regarded as ‘York’s finest mediaeval church.’ It stands near the River Ouse and next to a row of 15th century timber-framed houses, and should not be confused with All Saints’ Church, North Street, which I described yesterday.

All Saints’ Church was founded in the 11th century on land reputedly donated by Ralph de Paganel, whose name is commemorated in the Yorkshire village of Hooton Pagnell.

The earliest part of the church is the nave dating from the 12th century. The church has an impressive tower with a tall octagonal spire. Inside, the church has a collection of mediaeval stained glass, including the ‘Corporal Works of Mercy’ and the ‘Pricke of Conscience’ window, depicting the 15 signs of the End of the World.

4, All Saints’ Church, Pavement, York:

The East Window in All Saints’ Church, Pavement, York, by Charles Eamer Kempe depicts the saints (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

All Saints’ Church, Pavement, York, has a striking octagonal 15th-century lantern tower that makes the church a local landmark. The church is the Guild Church and Civic Church of York, and dates from the 14th century, although tradition says All Saints’ Church was first built in 685 for Saint Cuthbert.

The church was restored by George Edmund Street in 1887, when the stonework was cleaned, the pinnacles restored, and the central east window depicting All Saints is by Charles Eamer Kempe.

5, All Saints’ Church, Blackrock, Co Dublin:

All Saints’ Church, Blackrock … a Victorian church that continues the legacy of the Tractarians and the Oxford Movement (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

All Saints’ Church, Blackrock, Co Dublin, was built on Proby Square and Newtown Park in 1868-1870 in the Early English style to meet the needs of a growing Victorian suburb. This part of the Carysfort Estate was developed in 1840-1880, and the parish was created in 1868 from parts of Stillorgan, Kill and Monkstown.

The architect was John McCurdy (1824-1884), the official college architect of Trinity College Dublin. The contractors were J & W Beckett; William Beckett was the grandfather of the Nobel playwright Samuel Beckett. The church has some of the finest examples of the work of the stained-glass artist Wilhelmina Geddes (1887-1955), a vital figure in the Irish Arts and Crafts movement

6, All Saints’ Church, Grangegorman, Dublin:

The interior of All Saints’ Church, Grangegorman … redesigned and renovated according to Tractarian principles (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

All Saints’ Church, Grangegorman, where I often did Sunday duty while I was a canon of Christ Church, Cathedral, Dublin, stands in an area that was once a grange belonging to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church Cathedral, with lands providing rents that supported the Vicars Choral of the cathedral.

The Revd William Maturin (1806-1887), a high-churchman strongly influenced by Pusey and Newman, was the Vicar of All Saints for almost half a century (1843-1887). During his time at All Saints, the church was redesigned and renovated according to Tractarian principles. The chancel was added in 1856, Thomas Drew added the north aisle in 1865, and baptistery and south porch were added in 1887. Drew also remodelled the interior along Tractiarian lines.

7, All Saints Church Mullingar, Co Westmeath:

Inside All Saints’ Church, Mullingar, Co Westmeath (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

All Saints’ Church in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, in 2014 celebrated the bicentenary of the completion of the present church building in 1814. But this prominent, elevated site has been the site of church buildings since ca 1208, when the Bishop of Meath, Simon de Rochford, gave a church here to the Augustinian Priory of Llanthony Prima in Gwent, Wales.

The church was rebuilt in 1813-1814 and was later extensively refit to designs by Joseph Welland (1798-1860) and William Gillespie (1818-1890). In 1878, the chancel and sanctuary and the transepts in All Saints were raised to designs by Sir Thomas Drew (1838-1910.

8, All Saints’ Church, Stradbally, Co Limerick:

All Saints’ Church, Stradbally, Co Limerick … a Co Limerick church in the Diocese of Killaloe (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Stradbally in Co Limerick, is the only, Church of Ireland parish in Co Limerick that is in the Diocese of Killaloe – although some old parishes in Co Limerick are in the Diocese of Emly, and some old parishes in the Co Clare are in the Diocese of Limerick.

Castleconnell and Stradbally form one village and one parish on the banks of the River Shannon, and local lore claims a small church was built here as early as the sixth century. The present church, All Saints’ Church, is a gable-fronted Board of First Fruits style church that was built in 1809, enlarged to the north in 1826 and 1844 by James Pain, with a chancel modified by Welland and Gillespie in 1863.

The church has a number of interesting monuments, including one designed by Pain for Anne Fitzgibbon, Countess of Clare, and a burial vault designed by Pain for General Sir Richard Bourke of Thornfield House, Lisnagry.

9, All Saints, Templetown, Co Wexford:

The East End of All Saints’ Church, Templetown, Co Wexford … strongly influenced by AWN Pugin’s church in Barntown (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

All Saints’ Church in Templetown, Co Wexford, was built in 1896 through the efforts of and financed by Canon William Synnott (1834-1911), Parish Priest of Templetown (1886-1911) and Precentor of Ferns. The church was designed by Michael Power, architect and builder, of Saint Kearns, Tintern, Co Wexford.

All Saints’ Church can be compared with Saint Alphonsus’s Church, Barntown, designed by AWN Pugin (1812-1852) and built in 1844-1851. Pugin conceived of Saint Alphonsus’s Church, Barntown, as a complete Catholic parish church and is his only complete expression in Ireland of the small village parish church. Some writers suggest the church in Barntown is a finer version of the simplest of all Pugin’s designs, Saint Augustine’s Church in Solihull. However, most historians say Pugin’s design for Barntown was based on Saint Michael’s Church in Longstanton, 10 km north of Cambridge .

The design of All Saints’ Church in Templetown shows Pugin’s continuing influence on the design of Roman Catholic churches in Co Wexford and the Diocese of Ferns throughout the 19th century.

10, All Saints’ Church, Rome:

All Saints’ Church on the Via del Babuino is one of two Anglican churches in Rome (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

All Saints’ Church on the Via del Babuino is one of the two Anglican churches in Rome. An Anglican congregation has been worshipping in Rome since 1816, and All Saints’ Church dates from 1882. This iGothic revival red-brick church, about 100 meters from the Spanish Steps, was designed by George Edmund Street (1824-1881.

The electric lighting was a gift in 1909 from Alfred Chenevix Trench (1849-1938), son of Archbishop Richard Chenevix Trench of Dublin and proprietor of the publishing house Kegan Paul Trench. The Stations of the Cross commemorate the Revd Peter Marchant from Dublin, who was chaplain from 1991 to 1995.

A plaque commemorates ‘Lt-Col Baron JW Keen, and … his brave comrades in arms … who fought with Garibaldi in Italy’s struggle for freedom …’ The plaque was unveiled in 1920 by Garibaldi’s daughter-in-law, and some of the few surviving ‘Redshirts’ were present in their uniforms. Born Constance Hopcraft, she was present when the foundation stone of All Saints’ was laid in 1882.

Other monuments recall Hugh Cairns, Earl Cairns, a leading politician from Cultra, Co Down, and Sir John Conroy, an Irish baronet who died in Rome in 1900 – his grandfather, Sir John Conroy from Co Roscommon, has been labelled ‘Queen Victoria’s nemesis’ and was alleged to have had an affair with Queen Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent. The English author AN Wilson even suggests he may have been Queen Victoria’s actual father.

11, All Saints’ Church, Bucharest:

The Byzantine-style dome in All Saints’ Church in Bucharest (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

All Saints’ Church, Bucharest, or Precupetii Vechi, is an inner city Orthodox church in the Romanian I visited it many years ago when the Orthodox parish priest, Father Gheorghe Tudor, had built an old people’s centre and started a project that included three-storey sheltered housing and a food programme.

The project began in 2002 and was feeding up to 100 people three times a week, with a further 25 families receiving food parcels with food donated by local restaurants. The sheltered housing provided a home for 20 old people on fixed pensions who had lost their apartments and short-term respite for old people who could afford to pay for their heating and lighting.

11, All Hallows by the Tower, London:

All Hallows by the Tower claims to be the oldest church in the City of London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

All Hallows by the Tower claims to be the oldest church in the City of London, although recent research questions these claims. It is said the church was founded by the Abbey of Barking in the year 675, 300 years before the Tower of London was built, but the origin and early history of All Hallows-by-the-Tower are obscure.
At one time it was dedicated jointly to All Hallows (All Saints) and the Virgin Mary and at times it was also known as All Hallows Barking. The proximity of the church to the Tower of London gave it many royal connections, and Edward IV made one of its chapels a royal chantry.

The church became the location for the temporary burial of a number of distinguished people following their executions on Tower Hill, including Sir Thomas More, Bishop John Fisher and Archbishop William Laud. Admiral William Penn, father of William Penn of Pennsylvania, and Samuel Pepys watched the Great Fire of London in 1666 burn from the tower of the church.

During World War II , when the vicar was the Revd Philip TB ‘Tubby’ Clayton, founder of the Toc H movement, the church suffered extensive bomb damage. It was rebuilt after the war and was rededicated in 1957.

12, All Hallows’ Church, Bread Street, London:

A plaque from All Hallows’ Church in the churchyard of Saint Mary-le-Bow recalls the baptism of the poet John Milton (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

All Hallows’ Church, Bread Street, was a parish church in the Bread Street ward of the City of London. It stood on the east side of Bread Street, on the corner with Watling Street, and was first mentioned in the 13th century.

The church was closed for a month in 1551 following a bloody fight between two priests. As penance, they were obliged to walk barefoot from Saint Paul’s through Cheapside and Cornhill. During the reign of Queen Mary I, the rector, Laurence Saunders, was burnt at the stake in 1555 for preaching Protestant doctrine. John Milton was baptised in All Hallows in 1608.

The church was destroyed in the Great Fire in 1666, and was rebuilt in 1681-1684 by Sir Christopher Wren. The parish of All Hallows Bread Street was combined with that of Saint Mary-le-Bow in 1876 and the church demolished in 1878. The pulpit is now in Saint Vedast alias Foster, the organ case in Saint Mary Abchurch and the font cover in Saint Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe.

At Precupetii Vechi Church in inner city Bucharest with Father Gheorghe Tudor (centre) of the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Revd James Ramsay (right) of the Anglican Church of the Resurrection

Praying in Ordinary Time with USPG:
Monday 31 October 2022

The chapel in Exeter College, Oxford, was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and dominates the Front Quadrangle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

Today is Halllowe’en, the eve of All Hallows’ Day or All Saints’ Day. But the Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship today also remembers Martin Luther, Reformer, 1546, with a Commemoration.

Before today gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for reading, prayer and reflection.

For the rest of this week, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, One of the readings for the morning;

2, A reflection based on seven more churches or chapels in Oxford I visited earlier this month;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

Exeter College, the fourth-oldest college in the University of Oxford, was founded in 1314 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Martin Luther was born in 1483 at Eisleben in Saxony and educated at the cathedral school in Magdeburg and the university in Erfurt. He joined an order of Augustinian Hermits there and was ordained priest in 1507, becoming a lecturer in the university at Wittenberg. He became vicar of his Order in 1515, having charge of a dozen monasteries.

His Christian faith began to take on a new shape, with his increasing dissatisfaction with the worship and order of the Church. He became convinced that the gospels taught that humanity is saved by faith and not by works, finding support in the writings of Augustine of Hippo. He refuted the teaching of the Letter of James, calling it ‘an epistle of straw’.

Martin Luther sought to debate the whole matter by posting 95 theses or theological propositions on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on this day in the year 1517. The hierarchy chose to see it as a direct attack on the Church, which forced Luther into open rebellion. The Protestant Reformation spread throughout Germany and then Europe, many seeing it as liberation from a Church that held them in fear rather than love.

Luther died in 1546, having effected a renaissance in the Church, both Protestant and Catholic.

Luke 14: 12-14 (NRSVA):

12 He [Jesus] said also to the one who had invited him, ‘When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’

Inside Exeter College Chapel, Oxford, consecrated in 1859 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Exeter College Chapel, Oxford:

Exeter College on Turl Street is the fourth-oldest college in the University of Oxford. It was founded in 1314 by Walter de Stapledon, Bishop of Exeter, as a school to educate the clergy. It is right in the centre of Oxford, next-door to the Bodleian Library and close to the science labs. Notable alumni include Raymond Raikes, William Morris, JRR Tolkien, Richard Burton, Roger Bannister, Alan Bennett and Philip Pullman.

The Front Quadrangle sits on roughly the site of the mediaeval college, although Palmer’s Tower in the north-east corner is only part of the early buildings that remains. The quadrangle is dominated by the chapel, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and built in 1854-1860. On the opposite side stands the hall, built in 1618and notable for its vaulted ceilings and numerous fine portraits.

There has been a chapel in Exeter College since its foundation, and the chapels have fulfilled many different functions over the past seven centuries, as understandings of religion and faith have changed through the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the Oxford Movement.

A new chapel was built in 1623-1624. However, by the early 19th century, concerns were expressed about the structural soundness of the 17th century chapel, and the idea of replacing the building was first suggested in 1813.

A survey conducted by the architect RC Hussey in the early 1840s concluded there was no immediate danger, but said repairs to the north wall were needed in the long term and these would cost as much as building a new chapel.

The decision to demolish the 17th century chapel was also influenced by the religious leanings of the fellows of the college. Several fellows were supporters of the Oxford Movement. Newman had remarked in 1837, ‘At Exeter, right opinions are strong.’ The mood was right for building a chapel with a Eucharistic focus and a Decorated Gothic style.

Sir George Gilbert Scott was approved unanimously to design the new chapel in July 1853. He was greatly influenced by French architecture, in particular the mediaeval jewel La Sainte-Chappelle in Paris, and his proposal for Exeter reflected the best of French Gothic style.

His original design was for a building on the north side of the Fellows’ Garden, extending into the quad with a west front facing the gate tower. However, the fellows balked at a cost of £8,000. Scott modified his proposal, suggesting it should be moved back to the site of the old chapel, avoiding the need to demolish student accommodation. This was finally agreed and the foundation stone was laid on 29 November 1856.

By the time the chapel was completed, the cost was nearer £12,000, met by an extensive fundraising campaign and by significant sacrifices by the fellows and students. The chapel was consecrated on 18 October 1859 by Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, with Henry Phillpotts, Bishop of Exeter, in attendance.

In preparation for the 150th anniversary of the consecration of the ‘new’ chapel in 2009, the chapel underwent thorough restoration in 2007. Cleaning work revealed bold features such as the elaborate ceiling stonework and marble inlays, that had been obscured for decades.

The same year work began on the exterior, cutting out large areas of crumbling stone and fixing newly carved grotesques and gablets. After a recent restoration of the windows, the chapel is now looking resplendent.

All are welcome in Exeter College Chapel. Alongside being a place of worship and prayer, it seeks to be a deliberately inclusive space, belonging to the whole college, as well as a place to seek solace and to challenge views of life.

The Revd Andrew Allen is Official Fellow, Chaplain, Chattels Fellow and Dean of Degrees. He read Law and German Law at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and the University of Bonn, and he returned to Oxford to study theology and train for the priesthood. Before ordination, he returned to Bonn to work on a European Union project to process and define a culture of remembrance in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Before being elected chaplain, he was a priest in three rural parishes in Buckinghamshire.

His current research explores the religious life of Edward VII, and whether the monarchy and church relied on each other to secure their positions. He has a wider interest in how liturgy reflects identity, and in particular how the hierarchy of the Church of England responded to the changes of the Oxford Movement in the early 20th century.

He teaches Church History and Doctrine and is part of a nation-wide group that has been leading commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, as defined by Luther’s nailing of the 95 thesis in Wittenberg. This includes lectures and sermons, as well as projects to digitalise and transcribe Reformation era texts.

He is a Vocations Adviser in the Diocese of Oxford, and is keen to strengthen links with European Churches, especially the Old Catholics and Protestant Church in Germany.

Exeter is the only college in either Oxford or Cambridge where a student-led choir sings three services a week. The services in term time are at 6 pm on Sundays and at 6:15 pm on Tuesdays and Fridays. A spoken service of Mattins is offered each morning at 8:30 am.

The choir stalls in Exeter College … alongside being a place of worship and prayer, it seeks to be a deliberately inclusive space (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Today’s Prayer (Monday 31 October 2022):

The Collect:

Almighty and eternal God,
you have kindled the flame of love
in the hearts of the saints:
grant to us the same faith and power of love,
that, as we rejoice in their triumphs,
we may be sustained by their example and fellowship;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post Communion Prayer:

Lord of heaven,
in this eucharist you have brought us near
to an innumerable company of angels
and to the spirits of the saints made perfect:
as in this food of our earthly pilgrimage
we have shared their fellowship,
so may we come to share their joy in heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The theme in the USPG Prayer Diary this week is ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ This theme was introduced yesterday by the Revd David Rajiah, Diocesan Prayer Co-ordinator for the Diocese of West Malaysia.

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

Let us pray for the Diocese of West Malaysia and the communities it serves.
Help us to put aside our prejudices.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The chapel porch in Exeter College … the chapel underwent a thorough restoration in 2007 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Looking out on the Front Quadrangle of Exeter College from the chapel porch (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

30 October 2022

Four Candles are something of
an old school joke in Oxford

The Four Candles at the corner of George Street and Bulwark’s Lane in Oxford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

I have been in Oxford four or five times this year, including a stay in John Ratcliffe Hospital in March and April following my stroke earlier this year.

There is a good bus service between Stony Stratford and Oxford, and as I make to and from the bus station I cannot but smile as I pass The Four Candles on 51–53 George Street at the corner with Bulwark’s Lane. This was formerly Yates’s Wine Lodge, and before that the Slug and Lettuce. But it was renamed in 2008 when it was taken over by JD Wetherspoon.

The pub’s name, The Four Candles, was inspired by a celebrated comedy sketch by the Two Ronnies, where Ronnie Barker tries to buy fork handles from Ronnie Corbett in a hardware shop. Ronnie Barker asks for and gets ‘four candles’, when all he really wanted were fork handles – ‘andles for forks.’

Four Candles seems an appropriate name for the pub, for Ronnie Barker spent his school days just a few steps away at the City of Oxford High School for Boys, and his first tentative steps on the stage were made a couple of hundred metres away at the Oxford Playhouse.

The beginning of the Two Ronnies goes back to The Frost Report, the satirical show that brought together the future members of Monty Python and the Goodies, and Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett.

By the second series of The Frost Report, the two Ronnies were being paired up in sketches. When David Frost helped found London Weekend Television, most of the Frost Report cast went with him. When Frost’s production company parted company with London Weekend, so did the two Ronnies, and The Two Ronnies emerged.

Oxford University’s History Faculty building … built as the City of Oxford High School for Boys (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The eye-catching building next door but one to the Four Candles, on the corner of George Street and New Inn Hall Lane, is Oxford University’s History Faculty building. It was originally the city’s High School for Boys, which opened in 1881, and former pupils include Ronnie Barker.

It was built as the City of Oxford High School for Boys, with the educationalist, philosopher and teetotaller Thomas Hill Green as the leading founding figure. The school was purpose-built and was designed by Sir Thomas Graham Jackson (1835-1924). He also most of Hertford College, including the Bridge of Sighs over New College Lane, much of Brasenose College, and ranges at Trinity College and Somerville College, as well as the former town hall in Tipperary Town.

The foundation stone of the school was laid in 1880 by Prince Leopold, youngest son of Queen Victoria.

The most famous old boy is TE Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, who was a pupil in 1896-1907. He then entered Jesus College, taking first class honours, in 1910. His best known work is the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, an account of his experiences during the Arab revolt of 1916-1918. The title comes from the Book of Proverbs, ‘Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars’ (Proverbs 9: 1).

The school finally closed in 1966. The Faculty of History at the University of Oxford has been based at the former City of Oxford High School for Boys since 2007. The History Faculty building on George Street has three seminar rooms, a lecture theatre and a common room.

Praying in Ordinary Time with USPG:
Sunday 30 October 2022

Inside the Chapel in Pembroke College, Oxford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

This is the Fourth Sunday before Advent. The Season of Advent can be described as the countdown to Christmas, so we are already in ‘the countdown to the countdown.’ Although Hallowe’en is not until tomorrow, already there are Christmas offers in the shops, pubs and hotels.

I plan to be present at the Parish Eucharist in the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Giles later this morning (30 October 2022). But, before today gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for reading, prayer and reflection.

For the rest of this week, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, One of the readings for the morning;

2, A reflection based on seven more churches or chapels in Oxford I visited earlier this month;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

Pembroke College was founded in 1624 by James I and was named after William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Luke 19: 1-10 (NRSVA):

1 [Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. 3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5 When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ 6 So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7 All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ 8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ 9 Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’

The chapel in Pembroke College was begun in 1728, the year Samuel Johnson entered the college (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Pembroke College Chapel, Oxford:

Pembroke College, at Pembroke Square, is a constituent college of the University of Oxford. The college was founded almost 400 years ago in 1624 by King James I of England, using in part the endowment of a merchant Thomas Tesdale, and was named after William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke, Lord Chamberlain and then-Chancellor of the University.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the Lichfield-born essayist, moralist, literary critic and lexicographer, entered Pembroke College in 1728 at the age of 19. His tutor asked him to produce a Latin translation of Alexander Pope’s ‘Messiah’ as a Christmas exercise. Johnson completed half of the translation in one afternoon and the rest the following morning. The poem later appeared in Miscellany of Poems (1731), edited by John Husbands, a Pembroke tutor, and is the earliest surviving publication of any of Johnson’s writings.

A lack of funds forced Johnson to leave Oxford without a degree after 13 months, and he returned to Lichfield. He eventually received an MA degree from Oxford just before the publication of his Dictionary in 1755. He received an honorary doctorate from Trinity College Dublin in 1765 and from of Oxford in 1775.

JRR Tolkien was a Fellow of Pembroke in 1925-1945, and wrote The Hobbit and the first two volumes of The Lord of the Rings during his time there.

Sir Roger Bannister, neurologist and former Master of Pembroke College (1985-1993), was the first man to run the mile in under four minutes.

A former Senior President of Tribunals and Lord Justice of Appeal, Sir Ernest Ryder, has been the Master of Pembroke since 2020.

The ornate but intimate chapel in Pembroke College was begun in 1728, the year Samuel Johnson entered the college, and was completed in 1732, when it was consecrated by John Potter (1674-1747), Bishop of Oxford and later Archbishop of Canterbury. As Bishop of Oxford, Potter also ordained John Wesley.

The chapel was designed and built by William Townsend. The Chapel Quad was created in 1848 to designs by the Exeter-based architect John Hayward, and is widely considered one of the most beautiful quads in Oxford.
The interior of the chapel was dramatically revamped by Charles Eamer Kempe, a Pembroke graduate, in 1884-1885.

The Reredos consists of beautifully veined pale marble columns enclosing ‘The Risen Christ’ by James Cranke the younger (1748–1826), after a painting by Peter Paul Rubens in Antwerp, over a super-altar of carved alabaster. The windows are filled with stained glass, and the walls and ceiling glow with gold and colours. The painting was a gift from Joseph Plymley in 1786.

Dr Damon Wells, a Pembroke alumnus and a significant benefactor, enabled the restoration of the Chapel in 1972 and provided ongoing support to the Chaplaincy and History Fellowship. He endows the chaplain’s stipend, and the chapel bears his name by authority of a former Archbishop of Canterbury.

Today, the chapel describes itself as ‘as a place of peace,’ with a focus on and prayer for the world and the college community. The college choir includes 12 choristers from Christ Church Cathedral School.

Each Sunday the chapel invites a speaker from one of a host of religious traditions: they included Anglican, Armenian, Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, Latter-Day Saint (Mormon), Lutheran, Methodist, Muslim, and Orthodox speakers, Evangelical, Traditional and Liberal, as well as people who are reluctant to take a faith label, and people who are happy to share their quest from a non-religious perspective.

The chapel is used regularly by the College Christian Union, it is a regular place of worship for Oxford’s Armenian Community, and the Catholic Mass is celebrated there too. The icon of the Armenian Martyrs icon was consecrated by the Armenian Bishop and the 17th-century statue of St Margaret of Antioch is a gift of the Catholic community.

The chapel is also a venue for baptisms, weddings, funerals and memorial services for students, staff and alumni.

The Revd Dr Andrew Teal is Chaplain and Fellow. His responsibilities include all aspects of chapel life and choir, the provision of pastoral care and welfare, as well as teaching. His research interests include ancient theology and philosophy, modern systematic theology and Christology, and the faith and spirituality of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). He is also a Farmington Fellow and Visiting Fellow and Adjunct Faculty at the Neal A Maxwell Institute at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

There are daily services in the chapel from Monday to Friday during Full Term and a Choral Evening Service 5:30 pm on Sundays.

The Reredos includes a painting of ‘The Risen Christ’ by James Cranke the younger, copied from a Rubens in Antwerp (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Today’s Prayer (Sunday 30 October 2022):

The Collect:

Almighty and eternal God,
you have kindled the flame of love
in the hearts of the saints:
grant to us the same faith and power of love,
that, as we rejoice in their triumphs,
we may be sustained by their example and fellowship;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post Communion Prayer:

Lord of heaven,
in this eucharist you have brought us near
to an innumerable company of angels
and to the spirits of the saints made perfect:
as in this food of our earthly pilgrimage
we have shared their fellowship,
so may we come to share their joy in heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The theme in the USPG Prayer Diary this week is ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ This theme is introduced this morning by the Revd David Rajiah, Diocesan Prayer Co-ordinator for the Diocese of West Malaysia, who writes:

‘On 8 April 1970, the Diocese of West Malaysia was created from the Diocese of Singapore and Malaya.

‘In 1996, the Province of South-East Asia, consisting of the Dioceses of Sabah, Sarawak, Singapore and West Malaysia was created by the Archbishop of Canterbury as the 37th Province in the Anglican Communion, thus making the Anglican Church in the region self-governing, self-supporting and truly indigenous.

‘From 2021 to 2030, the Diocese of West Malaysia’s theme is ‘Behold, I make all things new’. Focusing our ministry on this theme, we are working to cultivate a prayer movement within the diocese, encouraging every church in the diocese to start a prayer group. We also hold regular prayer meetings either in-person or online and diocesan prayer gatherings every Wednesday online. We pray in Tamil, Chinese, English as well as Malayic and Austronesian languages.

‘Many members of our churches are committed to praying for at least five individuals they know – this means we are all connected in a chain of prayer. More infrequently, the diocese leads prayer walks and prayer drives, taking different routes through each state of West Malaysia while praying. As a diocese, prayer is at the heart of our spiritual life.’

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

‘For the Son of Man
came to seek out and save the lost’.
May we remember that
no one is beyond redemption.
Help us to put aside our prejudices.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The Chapel Quad was created in 1848 and is believed by many to be one of the most beautiful quads in Oxford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Samuel Johnson’s rooms were on the second floor over the entrance-gateway (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

29 October 2022

A church in London says
goodbye to the legacy of
an 18th century slave trader

An empty niche in Saint Botolph without Aldgate once held the bust of Sir John Cass (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

I was visiting Saint Botolph without Aldgate last week in my search for the story of Dame Dorothy Comberford and the Poor Clare nuns of the Minories, where she was one of the last Abbesses.

I wrote about Saint Botolph’s after a visit in early 2020. But I noticed last week that, since that visit, the bust of the 17th-18th century slave trader Sir John Cass has been removed from the church porch in response to a growing awareness of his involvement in the slave trade.

The bust was removed on 18 June 2020 with the approval of the Archdeacon of London after a vote at an emergency meeting of Saint Botolph’s parochial church council. The niche in the porch that once held his bust is now vacant, with a simple sign explaining the decision taken by the parish.

The decision to distance the parish from the former benefactor and from his involvement in the slave trade followed a similar decision by Sir John Cass secondary school in Stepney to change its name and a decision by the Cass Foundation in the City to of London remove a similar bust.

‘We voted unanimously to seek permission to remove the bust’, the Rector of Saint Botolph’s, the Revd Laura Jørgensen, said in a statement to the East London Advertiser.

‘We apologise for the years spent celebrating the legacy of a man without understanding the origin of his wealth, gained through slavery and human exploitation,’ she said. ‘Removing the bust is an important step in acknowledging that history, but it’s not the end of our journey. We are a diverse congregation and promise to do all we can to eradicate racism, discrimination and inequality.’

John Cass was born near Aldgate in 1661 and was a City alderman and sheriff before being elected an MP in 1712. He had set up a school in Aldgate for 50 boys and 40 girls in 1710 and rented buildings in Saint Botolph’s churchyard.

Cass’s name is linked with many institutions in the East End and the City. His foundation set up in 1748 gives grants to promote education in inner London, including the secondary school in Stepney Way and a primary school in Aldgate both named after him.

The secondary school has since changed its name to Stepney All Saints’ School. Two universities also adopted the name Cass for centres of learning with funding from the foundation.

The Metropolitan University’s Cass School of Arts was embroiled in controversy five years ago when the Aldgate and Whitechapel campuses were occupied by students to stop them being closed. The protest stopped the arts school being transferred to the university’s main campus in Holloway. The school also changed its name after the protest.

City University’s business school in Clerkenwell adopted the name Cass in 2002 following a donation from the foundation to promote education for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. It set about reviewing of all its historic funding sources to find out if there are any other links with slavery.

The foundation commissioned an independent academic in February to look into links to the slave trade. It reaffirmed its ‘abhorrence of racism and discrimination’ in an initial statement following George Floyd’s death and subsequent protests around the world.

Statues or busts of Cass have also been removed from the University of East London Stratford Campus; the façade of 31 Jewry Street in the City of London, headquarters of Sir John Cass’s Foundation, where the statue was a fiberglass replica of the original; and Sir John Cass Redcoat School, Stepney.

The parish has distanced itself from the legacy of Sir John Cass (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The statement in the church porch in Saint Boltoph’s reads:

‘Following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in 2020, there was an immediate global response which highlighted structural racism, both in the United States and here in the United Kingdom.

‘After the toppling of the Statue of Edward Colston in Bristol, the spotlight fell on other prominent people who traded in enslaved people and who were honoured with statues. One such person was John Cass (1661-1718). Having founded a school in the churchyard of St Botolph’s in 1710, John Cass endowed it under his Will to provide education to Portsoken’s poor children.

‘John Cass made much of his wealth from the exploitation and death of others in the transatlantic slave trade. It is estimated that he invested today’s equivalent of at least £1 Million Pounds in the Royal African Company. John Cass was involved in the management of the Royal African Company which transported nearly 150,000 enslaved women, men and children from Africa to the Caribbean. There are references to John Cass in this church, for example on the board to your left which records the names of the Aldermen of the Portsoken Ward. He is part of the history of St Botolph’s and as its current custodians we have a duty to speak out against the devastation brought about by the enslavement of human beings made in the image of God.

‘In this niche stood, since 1966, a bust of John Cass. It was a focal point of honouring him at the annual Founder’s Day service held here. The Parochial Church of St Botolph without Aldgate, on the learning the source of John Cass’s wealth, petitioned for a faculty from the Church of England to remove the bust. We leave this space empty, for now, as a sign of our repentance that we had not seriously understood his role in the Royal African Company, and that we had not thought to do a basic search for him.

‘We believe that racism and oppression are a denial of the glorious Gospel of love preached by Jesus Christ and to that end we are to anti-racism, acknowledging where we have fallen short, and doing our best to highlight and address the issue of modern slavery today.’

On Founder’s Day in February each year, the pupils of the Sir John Cass schools wore red quills in their lapels and made their way to Saint Botolph’s Church for a remembrance service, when each pupil receives an orange and a bun recalling the founder’s generosity.

Cass was active in public life in the City of the London as a merchant, builder and politician. This career began when he was elected Alderman for the ward of Portsoken, one of the 25 wards of the City of London.

He was a Conservative MP for the City of London in 1710-1715, and was elected one of the Sheriffs of the City in 1711. In addition, he was a member of the newly-formed Commission for Building Fifty New Churches, set up to oversee building new churches for the expanding population of the City. He was treasurer of both the Bethlem Royal and Bridewell Hospitals in 1709-1715. He was knighted in 1713, became Master of the Carpenters’ Company and in 1714 moved to the Skinners’ Company.

In 1709, Cass founded a school in buildings in the churchyard of Saint Botolph’s in Aldgate, attended by 50 boys and 40 girls. His health began to fail by 1718, prompting him to write a new will in which he hoped to secure future provision for the school, leaving it all the property he had acquired since making his first will.

While completing his new will, Cass suffered a brain haemorrhage and died with only three pages of his new will signed. His heirs contested the latest will in the Court of Chancery and their action continued for 30 years. His will was finally upheld, and the Sir John Cass Foundation was established in 1748.

Cass was buried in the churchyard of Saint Mary Matfelon in Whitechapel. The church was destroyed by fire in 1880. Today, all that remains of the church are a few graves and a small external arch on Whitechapel Road. The churchyard and church area were turned into Saint Mary’s Park, which was renamed the Altab Ali Park in 1998 in memory of the young Bangladeshi clothing worker murdered in 1978.

The bust of Sir John Cass was removed in 2020 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Praying in Ordinary Time with USPG:
Saturday 29 October 2022

Saint Clare Street, off Minories, London, stands on the site of the former Abbey of the Minoresses of Saint Mary of the Order of Saint Clare (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

In the Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship, today recalls James Hannington, Bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa, Martyr in Uganda, 1885 (29 October), with a Lesser Festival.

Before today gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for reading, prayer and reflection.

Since Monday, I have been reflecting in these ways in the morning:

1, One of the readings for the morning;

2, A reflection based on six churches or church sites I visited in London last week;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

St Clare House, Minories … a reminder of the Poor Clares’ presence near the Tower of London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

James Hannington was born in 1847 into a Congregationalist family and became an Anglican before going up to Oxford. He was ordained and, after serving a curacy for five years, went with the Church Missionary Society (CMS) to Uganda. He was consecrated bishop for that part of Africa in 1884 and a year later began a safari inland from Mombasa, together with other European and indigenous Christians. The ruler of the Buganda, Mwanga, who despised Christians because they refused to condone his moral turpitude, seized the whole party, tortured them for several days and then had them butchered to death on this day in 1885.

Luke 14: 1, 7-11 (NRSVA):

1 On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.

7 When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honour, he told them a parable. 8 ‘When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honour, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; 9 and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, “Give this person your place”, and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, “Friend, move up higher”; then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. 11 For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’

St Clare Coffee and Bar, Minories … a reminder of the Poor Clares’ presence in this part of London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The Abbey of the Minories and Holy Trinity Church:

Minories is one of the more peculiar street names in London. Minories takes its name from an Abbey that once stood at the north end of the street, called the Abbey of the Minoresses of Saint Mary of the Order of Saint Clare.

The Minoresses, in turn, took their name from the Latin Sorores Minores, meaning Sisters of the Minor Order of Saint Francis, the women’s section of the Franciscan order founded by Saint Clara of Assisi.

The Abbey in Minories was established by Edmund ‘Crouchback’, Earl of Lancaster and brother of Edward I, some time before 1291, perhaps as early as 1281, to house nuns brought from Spain to England by his second wife Blanche of Artois, the widowed Queen of Navarre. She was a niece of King Louis IX of France and his sister Isabella, who founded the Poor Clares’ Abbey of Longchamp.

The Abbey of the Minoresses of Saint Clare without Aldgate was known variously as the Abbey of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Aldgate, the House of Minoresses of the Order of Saint Clare of the Grace of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Minoresses without Aldgate, Saint Clare outside Aldgate, or the Minories, London. It was in the parish of Saint Botolph, outside the mediaeval walls of the City of London at Aldgate.

The Poor Clares of Aldgate had a mitigated form of their Rule that allowed them to own property. They lived an enclosed life on a site often said to be of five acres, although it may have been as little as half that size.

An early benefactor, Sir Henry le Galeys, Mayor of London, endowed a chantry in the chapel of Saint Mary in the nuns’ church, where he was buried. Substantial endowments came later from figures such as Queen Isabella, widow of Edward II, Margaret, Countess of Norfolk, and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster.

These royal connections gave a certain cachet to the house, attracting women of noble birth and the daughters of wealthy merchants. After the death of her husband, Thomas de Beauchamp, 12th Earl of Warwick, in 1401, Margaret Beauchamp (née Ferrers), went to live in the Abbey with three matrons. Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, placed his young daughter Isabel in the Abbey, but had a house right next to the conventual church and had access to the abbey through a private entrance.

The Abbess sent a gift of distilled water of roses to the Tower of London for Elizabeth of York, the wife of Henry VII, in April 1502. The Queen gave a gift of money to three nuns and a servant of the Abbess.

The Minories … a public house takes its name from the nuns and their former abbey (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The Abbey suffered more than once from the plague and other epidemics, and it is said 27 nuns of the abbey died of the plague in 1515. Soon after, the convent buildings were destroyed by fire. It was rebuilt by 1520, with contributions from Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey, the mayor and aldermen of London and private individuals.

One of the last abbesses was Dame Dorothy Comberford (1524-1531). At the Tudor dissolution of the monastic houses, the abbey was surrendered in 1539. The last abbess was Dame Elizabeth Salvage.

By the time the Minoresses surrendered their Abbey to Henry VIII in 1539, they had grown wealthy through renting their lands, exemption from taxation, and the plentiful bequests they had received in the Medieval period.

Following the Dissolution, the Abbey landholdings passed first to John Clerk, Bishop of Bath and Wells, Henry VIII’s ambassador to the Duke of Cleves, but the king seized the bishop’s own London residence in compensation. It also came to house officers of the Tower of London.

Later, Edward VI gave the lands to Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk and father of Lady Jane Grey, in 1552. In 1554 it reverted to government use, housing the Ordnance Office and its stores, transferred there from the Tower of London.

By 1598, the abbey precinct was used as armouries and coach-houses. In 1686, the area became part of the Liberties of the Tower of London.

Meanwhile, around 1563, the nuns’ chapel became a parish church, the Church of the Holy Trinity, Minories, and this was the last religious building on the site. All the ancient monuments were removed, a gallery, a new pulpit and pews were installed, and a steeple was built.

The church became a Puritan stronghold, where both John Field and Thomas Wilcox preached. The church survived the Great Fire of London in 1666, and was rebuilt in 1706, retaining the north wall of the mediaeval abbey church. Until 1730, the church claimed the rights of a royal peculiar, outside the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London, and the right to perform marriages without licence. Some of the surviving abbey buildings were destroyed by fire in 1797.

A mummified head found in the church vaults in 1849 was said to be the head of Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk, who was executed in 1554. The head was displayed in a glass case in the vestry, but later went to Saint Botolph’s without Aldgate, where it was interred in a vault and eventually buried in the churchyard in 1990.

Holy Trinity Church closed in 1899, and the pulpit was moved to All Saints’ Church, East Meon, Hampshire. The building survived as a parish hall until World War II, when it suffered severe bomb damage. A wall remained until final clearance of the area in the late 1950s.

The coffin of Anne de Mowbray, 8th Countess of Norfolk, who died aged eight, was unearthed at the abbey site in 1964, and was reburied in Westminster Abbey.

No evidence of the abbey church or any other parts of the Abbey remains today. St Clare, a coffee shop on Minories, St Clare Street, running east off Minories, Saint Clare House and the Minories public house are all are reminders of the abbey and its name. The end of St Clare Street marks the site of the Church of the Holy Trinity, Minories.

A drawing published in 1907 of the west front of the Church of Holy Trinity, Minories (Edward Murray Tomlinson, A history of the Minories, London, London: by London: Smith, Elder & Co, 1907)

Today’s Prayer (Saturday 29 October 2022):

The Collect:

Most merciful God,
who strengthened your Church by the steadfast courage
of your martyr James Hannington:
grant that we also,
thankfully remembering his victory of faith,
may overcome what is evil
and glorify your holy name;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post Communion Prayer:

God our redeemer,
whose Church was strengthened by the blood of your martyr James Hannington:
so bind us, in life and death, to Christ’s sacrifice
that our lives, broken and offered with his,
may carry his death and proclaim his resurrection in the world;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The theme in the USPG Prayer Diary this week has been ‘Theology in Korea.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday.

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

We pray for everyone seeking to put their faith into practice. May we be inspired by Scripture and work to serve our communities.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Minories seen from the door of Saint Botolph Without Aldgate (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Minories stands on the site of the former abbey estate (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

28 October 2022

A rabbi during Limerick’s
‘pogrom’ with ‘ability and
courage of a high order’

The Jewish cemetery in Limerick is at the end of a lane in Castletroy (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I received an invitation earlier this week to a book launch next month for a new book to which I have contributed two chapters.

Of Limerick Saints and Seekers is edited by David Bracken and was published in Dublin last month by Veritas. The book is being launched by Dr Liam Chambers in Limerick Diocesan Centre, Saint Munchin’s, Corbally, later next month (Tuesday 22 November 2022).

In this new book, David Bracken invites readers to journey with him and over 50 other scholars through a millennium and a half of Limerick church history with saints and scribes, poets and preachers, martyrs and missionaries, and founders of churches, monasteries and religious communities.

The book spans religious history in Limerick, from early Ireland to the present day, with a collection of the lives and stories of extraordinary people from a variety of faith traditions and backgrounds, from well-known saints to unknown and unsung religious.

But the book is not confined to the Christian tradition, still less to the Catholic experience. The Limerick historian Dr Seán William Gannon tells the story of Rabbi Elias Bernard Levin (1863-1936), who came to Limerick from Lithuania, and brought together the Jewish community in the Colooney Street or Wolfe Tone Street area.

The community reached its apogee in the mid-1890s, with a vibrant Limerick Hebrew Congregation and about 200 Jews living in the city.

Hillview on Wolfe Tone Street … once a synagogue in Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In his chapter in this new book, Dr Gannon identifies Rabbi Elias Bernard Levin as the ‘central figure in this community.’

He was born in Telz, Lithuania, and served briefly as a rabbi in Lithuania before moving to Limerick with his wife Anna in 1882. The Levins remained in Limerick until 1912. In address to mark his departure, the president of the Limerick Hebrew Congregation, Hyman Graff, told him ‘the entire community recognised the valuable services he rendered … during the troubled period of antisemitic outbreak at Limerick and in all other communal affairs.’

The ‘Limerick pogrom’ was sparked or stoked by two virulent antisemitic sermons by the Redemptorist priest John Creagh (1870-1947). It eventually forced the Levin family to leave the city and settle in Leeds. There he served briefly as a rabbi and reader at the Old Central Synagogue and at the city’s Great Synagogue on Belgrave Street.

Rabbi Levin died in Leeds in 1936. He is described by Seán Gannon as having ‘ability and courage of a high order.’

Limerick’s last rabbi was Simon Gewurtz from Bratislava. The Jewish community in Limerick was without a rabbi after 1939, and the synagogue at 72 Wolfe Tone Street closed its doors for the last time eight years later. The building was closed in 1953, marking what the Jewish Chronicle called ‘the final chapter of an interesting community.’

The Limerick Pogrom, as it became known, remains controversial to this day. Even its classification as a pogrom is controversial, with some historians feeling that this cheapens the horror of the ‘real’ pogroms at the time Russia and Eastern Europe.

It was an exceptional event in Irish history. The tragedy is that this conflict involved two deprived communities living in miserable conditions. Father Creagh’s mission lost Limerick some of its finest citizens.

The controversy surrounding Kanye West and his racist, antisemitic outbursts, and the anniversary this week of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh in which 11 people wre murdered on 27 October 2018, are reminders of how we must continue to tell the stories of saints and seekers like Rabbi Elias Bernard Levin and the antisemitism and racism they faced.

Shabbat Shalom

Of Limerick Saints and Seekers, edited by David Bracken (Dublin: Veritas Books, September 2022), 266 pp, ISBN 9781800970311.

Rabbi Levin lived at No 18 Wolfe Tone Street, Limerick, from 1889 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)