10 June 2023

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (13) 10 June 2023

Inside the chapel in Trinity College, Oxford, facing the Altar (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

This week began with Trinity Sunday (4 June 2023). The calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship today (9 June) recalls Columba, Abbot of Iona, Missionary (597), and Ephrem of Syria, Deacon, Hymn Writer, Teacher of the Faith (373).

Over these few weeks after Trinity Sunday, I am reflecting each morning in these ways:

1, Looking at relevant images or stained glass window in a church, chapel or cathedral I know;

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

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

The chapel in Trinity College, Oxford … the college was founded in 1555 by Sir Thomas Pope (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The Chapel, Trinity College, Oxford:

My photographs this morning are from Trinity College, Oxford. Its full or formal name is the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity in the University of Oxford, of the foundation of Sir Thomas Pope (Knight). The college was founded in 1555 by Sir Thomas Pope, on the site of the former Durham College, home to Benedictine monks from Durham Cathedral.

Durham College was originally dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Saint Cuthbert, and the Trinity, and Trinity College takes its name from the last part of this dedication.

The main entrance to Trinity College is on Broad Street, between Balliol College and Blackwell’s bookshop, and opposite Turl Street. The rear of the college backs onto Saint John’s College, and has entrances on both Saint Giles’ and Parks Road. As well as its four major quadrangles, the college also has a large lawn and gardens, including a small area of woodland. Despite its large physical size, the college is relatively small, with about 400 students.

Durham Quadrangle, the oldest part of Trinity College, occupies the site of the mediaeval Durham College, founded in the late 13th century as a house of studies for Benedictine monks from Durham Cathedral. Durham College closed in 1544 and the buildings were bought by Sir Thomas Pope.

The four sides of Durham Quadrangle incorporate the Chapel, the Hall, the Library and an accommodation block. The Old Library, built in 1417, is the only surviving part of the original Durham College buildings. An effigy of Sir Thomas Pope looks down into the Quadrangle from above the Hall entrance.

Pope was a successful lawyer during the reign of Henry VIII. He amassed a fortune during the Reformation through his work as treasurer of the Court of Augmentations, which handled the revenues of the dissolved monasteries, including that at Durham. Pope was a prominent civil servant to Queen Mary I, and he founded Trinity College as a training house for Catholic priests.

Pope was married twice but had no surviving children. He intended that he, his parents, and both his wives would always be remembered in the prayers of Trinity’s members. Pope and his two wives Margaret and Elizabeth are buried in a tomb at the top left-hand corner of the chapel.

The chapel is relatively modest in size compared with its Oxford counterparts. It was built in 1691-1694 to replace the mediaeval chapel of Durham College. It was designed by Henry Aldrich, with advice from Sir Christopher Wren. It was consecrated in 1694.

The magnificent chapel interior is the product of a collaboration between the woodcarver Grinling Gibboris, the Huguenot artist Pierre Berchet, and a skilled but unknown plaster sculptor. It was the first chapel in Oxford designed on purely classical principles, and is a masterpiece of English baroque. The architectural historian Sir Niklaus Pevsner called the chapel ‘one of the most perfect ensembles of the late 17th century in the whole country.’

Five different woods are used inside the chapel: walnut, oak, pear, lime, and Bermuda Cedar. The exquisite woodcarvings by Grinling Gibbons are among his finest work. This work includes intricately carved fruits and flowers in the panels between the chapel and ante chapel and in the limewood swags behind the altar. The carved gospel writers are perched above the screen and gaze upwards taking inspiration from the figure of Christ at the centre of Pierre Berchet’s painting in the ceiling of the Ascension.

Opposite Pope’s tomb is a concealed pew where once the college president’s wife could see the services and receive Holy Communion without being seen in an otherwise all-male college.

The only changes to the chapel since 1694 have been the addition of the organ loft and the stained glass. A fine window of Munich glass was inserted in the antechapel in 1870 as a memorial to the theologian Isaac Williams, and the remaining windows were filled in 1885 with figures of northern saints associated with Durham College.

The four statues on the Tower are attributed to Caius Cibber, and represent Geometry, Astronomy, Theology and Medicine.

After a year’s closure, Trinity’s Grade I listed chapel was opened again in April 2016 and, after a great deal of painstaking work, is once again resplendent in its refurbished glory. The chapel remains at the heart of college life. Services are held regularly in term, and Evensong is celebrated with the college choir on Sundays. The Revd Joshua Brocklesby, the College Chaplain and Fellow, came to college in 2022. The chapel is open to members and visitors for prayer and reflection, and is used regularly for musical events. Members of the public are welcome at Evensong.

Trinity Monday is the most important feast day in the life of Trinity College Oxford ever since the foundation of the college. There is a special service of thanksgiving for the college’s benefactors, and Trinity Monday was celebrated earlier this week (5 June) with Evensong at 7 pm. There is a pre-tour Choral Recital in the chapel at 3 pm this afternoon (10 June) to help raise funds for the choir’s summer tour to Ljubljana.

The tomb of Sir Thomas Pope in the chapel … Trinity College Oxford is the only college in Oxford or Cambridge to have the tomb of its founder (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Mark 12: 38-44 (NRSVA):

38 As he taught, he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, 39 and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets! 40 They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’

41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’

Pierre Berchet’s painting in the chapel ceiling of the Ascension (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Today’s prayer:

The theme in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) this week been has ‘Protecting the Environment in Zambia. This theme was introduced on Sunday by USPG’s Regional Manager for Africa, Fran Mate, with a reflection from Zambia for the United Nations World Environment Day on Monday.

The USPG Prayer invites us to pray this morning (Saturday 10 June 2023):

Let us give thanks for the Church of the Province of Central Africa. May its dioceses support one another and be resourced to meet the region’s environmental challenges.


Almighty and everlasting God,
you have given us your servants grace,
by the confession of a true faith,
to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity
and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity:
keep us steadfast in this faith,
that we may evermore be defended from all adversities;
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.

Post Communion:

Almighty and eternal God,
you have revealed yourself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
and live and reign in the perfect unity of love:
hold us firm in this faith,
that we may know you in all your ways
and evermore rejoice in your eternal glory,
who are three Persons yet one God,
now and for ever.

Inside the chapel in Trinity College, Oxford, facing the ante-chapel and the organ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

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

Front Quad in Trinity College, Oxford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

No comments: