11 May 2023

Morning prayers in Easter
with USPG: (33) 11 May 2023

Archbishop Higbert, first Archbishop of Lichfield, and Thomas Cantelupe, once a prebendary and then Bishop of Hereford, in a stained-glass window in the Chapter House in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

This is the Fifth Week of Easter. Two of us are staying in York for a few days, having arrived here late on Monday. We visited Whitby yesterday, and we are planning to visit Knaresborough later today.

Before this day gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for prayer and reflection. Following my recent visit to Lichfield Cathedral, I am reflecting each morning this week in these ways:

1, Short reflections on the windows in the Chapter House in Lichfield Cathedral;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

The window in Lichfield Cathedral with Archbishop Higbert and Saint Thomas Cantelupe is in memory of Canon Jeremiah Finch Smith (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Archbishop Higbert and Saint Thomas Cantelupe window:

The Chapter House in Lichfield Cathedral is currently the venue for the exhibition ‘Library and Legacy,’ showcasing the collections in the cathedral library.

The chapter house was decorated with frescoes and stained glass in the late 15th century by Thomas Heywood, who was Dean of Lichfield in 1457-1492. The glass in the Chapter House once contained figures of the apostles, with other depictions above. These all predated the Cromwellian era, and were destroyed by the Puritans during the Civil War in the mid-17th century.

In the 19th century, the glazing of the chapter house displayed armorial bearings, more or less correct, in imitation of glass known to have ornamented the cathedral in the past. This armorial glass gradually gave way to glass representing scenes in the history of the cathedral. Six of the windows were glazed with these images in the late 19th and early 20th century, and the original but unfilled plan was to fill all the windows in the Chapter House.

The fifth window I am looking at this morning, like many of the windows in this series, is by Charles Eamer Kempe, and this window is in memory of Canon Jeremiah Finch Smith.

The figures in this three-light window represent Archbishop Higbert, first Archbishop of Lichfield, and Saint Thomas Cantelupe, once a prebendary of Lichfield Cathedral and Archdeacon of Stafford and then Bishop of Hereford.

Higbert or Hygeberht was the Bishop of Lichfield from 779 and Archbishop of Lichfield after the elevation of Lichfield to an archdiocese some time after 787, during the reign of King Offa of Mercia. However, little is known of Higbert’s background.

King Offa succeeded in making Lichfield an archbishopric, but this was unpopular with the Archbishops of Canterbury. After Offa’s death, his distant relative Coenwulf became King of Mercia, and petitioned the pope to have Lichfield returned to a bishopric. Pope Leo III agreed in 803, but by then Higbert was no longer considered a bishop, and he is listed as an abbot at the council that oversaw the demotion of Lichfield in 803. The date of his death is unknown.

Thomas de Cantilupe (1218-1282) taught canon law at the University of Oxford, where he became Chancellor in 1261. He was Archdeacon of Stafford when he was appointed Lord Chancellor of England in 1264. He became Bishop of Hereford in 1275, and died in 1282. He was canonised by Pope John XXII in 1320. His feast day is on 2 October.

The scenes in the lower panels of this window continue the historical series in the Chapter House windows, and show two bishops of Lichfield, from the ninth and the 12th centuries.

Bishop Higbert’s successor, Bishop Aldulf, is shown at the Council of Cloveshoo in the year 803, resigning as Archbishop of Lichfield and renouncing the metropolitan powers in favour of the Archbishop of Canterbury. He died ca 814-816.

Roger de Clinton, who was Bishop of Lichfield in 1129-1148, is shown building a new cathedral in Lichfield in honour of Saint Mary and Saint Chad. Roger de Clinton also laid out the main streets of Lichfield in a grid pattern, still in evidence almost 800 years later.

This window is in memory of Canon Jeremiah Finch Smith (1815-1895). He was the eldest son of Jeremiah Smith (1771-1854), High Master of Manchester Grammar School. Jeremiah Finch Smith was the Rector of Aldridge, Staffordshire, from 1849, Rural Dean of Walsall from 1862, and a prebendary of Lichfield Cathedral. He published sermons and tracts, and edited Admission Register of the Manchester School (3 vols, 1866-1874), and Notes on the Parish of Aldridge, Staffordshire (1884-1889, 2 parts).

The lower parts of the window show Archbishop Aldulf renouncing his metropolitan powers, and Bishop Roger de Clinton building a new cathedral in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

John 15: 9-11 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 9 ‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.’

A late 19th century bookplate for Canon Jeremiah Finch Smith

Today’s prayer:

The theme this week in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘The Work and Mission of the Laity.’ USPG’s Regional Manager for Africa, Fran Mate, reflected on Sunday on the work and mission of the laity.

The USPG Prayer invites us to pray this morning (Thursday 11 May 2023):

Let us pray for a mutuality of relationship between lay and ordained. May those in positions of power honour their responsibility and work to build up the body of Christ.


Almighty God,
who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ
have overcome death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life:
grant that, as by your grace going before us
you put into our minds good desires,
so by your continual help
we may bring them to good effect;
through Jesus Christ our risen Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

Eternal God,
whose Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life:
grant us to walk in his way,
to rejoice in his truth,
and to share his risen life;
who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.

The coats-of-arms of Bishop John Hackett and of the Diocese of Lichfield, representing the arms of Bishop Roger de Clinton, two bishops who rebuilt Lichfield Cathedral, on the railway bridge at Upper John Street, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

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

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