26 March 2024

‘The Mother and Child’
sculpture is among
450 art works on display
in Milton Keynes Hospital

‘The Mother and Child’ sculpture by Glynn Williams in a courtyard in Milton Keynes University Hospital (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Patrick Comerford

During our visit to Milton Keynes University Hospital last week, to mark the second anniversary of my stroke, I was taken by ‘The Mother and Child’ sculpture by Glynn Williams in a courtyard near the ward where I stayed in 2022 and close to the magnolia where sat sitting coffee on many afternoons during those two weeks two years ago.

This sculpture was originally in a local park in Conniburrow, near central Milton Keynes. It has since been moved to the hospital grounds, where ‘The Mother and Child’ is now part of the hospital’s art collection.

The artist Glynn Williams was Head of Sculpture at the Royal College of Art from 1990 and then Head of Fine Art from 1995 to 2000. He has monumental pieces on public display, including a portrait of Lloyd George in Parliament Square and the Henry Purcell Memorial in Westminster.

His works are in collections in the Tate and the National Portrait Gallery in London, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, and among the 450 works that form the art collection in Milton Keynes University Hospital.

The Milton Keynes University Hospital art collection includes sculptures from nationally and internationally renowned artists, including Peter Randall-Page, Jon Buck and Glynn Williams. The collection ranges from paintings, prints and drawings to sculptural pieces, photography and commissioned works that are on public display in the corridors, waiting rooms, courtyards and wards.

The architecture of the hospital reflects the original ethos of the new town, where no building was to be taller than the tallest tree, and with great value placed on green spaces and natural light. This means the hospital is full of courtyard gardens. Four of the courtyards are looked after by Arts for Health, and they feature engaging sculptures within creative garden designs.

Since the hospital opened in 1984, evidence has built to show that artwork on display can and does have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of patients, visitors and staff in healthcare settings. The collection is looked after with this in mind, and careful thought is given to what artworks are placed where.

As well as improving the clinical environment, many of the artworks in the collection link the hospital to the local community by telling stories from the birth and development of the new town.

Some pieces were commissioned to mark special anniversaries of the hospital, others were donated by artists or individuals to thank the NHS for caring for their family.

I am back in the hospital tomorrow morning for yet another check-up, and two years after my stroke I am acutely aware of how much I have to be thankful for.

‘The Mother and Child’ sculpture by Glynn Williams … part of the art collection in Milton Keynes University Hospital (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)


Daily prayer in Lent with
early English saints:
42, 26 March 2024,
Saint Robert of Lincoln

A 14th century portrait of Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln (British Library Harley MS 3860, f. 48)

Patrick Comerford

This the last week of Lent, and today is Tuesday in Holy Week (26 March 2024), known in many places as Holy Tuesday, and also as Temple Tuesday.

Throughout Lent this year, I am taking time each morning to reflect on the lives of early, pre-Reformation English saints commemorated in Common Worship.

We are in Norwich today, and stayed overnight in the Saint Giles House Hotel, close to the cathedral and the city centre. Before today begins, I am taking some quiet time this morning to give thanks for reflection, prayer and reading in these ways:

1, A reflection on an early, pre-Reformation English saint;

2, today’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Robert Grosseteste has been described as ‘the greatest product of Oxford University’ and the real founder of the tradition of scientific thought in mediaeval Oxford’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Early English pre-Reformation saints: 42, Saint Robert of Lincoln

Saint Robert Grosseteste (1253), Bishop of Lincoln, Philosopher and Scientist, is remembered in Common Worship on 9 October.

Robert Grosseteste has been described as ‘a mediaeval Dr Johnson in his powers of mind and personality.’ A leading Biblical scholar and commentator, he also wrote extensively on philosophy and science, and translated Aristotle. His biographer, Sir Richard Southern, said he was the greatest product of Oxford University but a man who ‘difficult to please and difficult to follow.’ AC Crombie, the Australian historian of science, describes him as ‘the real founder of the tradition of scientific thought in mediaeval Oxford.’

Robert Grosseteste (meaning ‘large-head’) was born at Stradbroke in Suffolk ca 1175. He studied at Oxford and Paris and held various posts until, after a grave illness, he returned to Oxford, where he taught at the Franciscan house of studies. He became the Chancellor of Oxford University in 1224, and at the same time he was Archdeacon of Leicester and a canon of Lincoln Cathedral.

He became Bishop of Lincoln in 1235, then the largest diocese in England, which received from him a thorough visitation soon after his arrival. He met opposition in his attempts at vigorous reforms in the shape of the dean and chapter in the cathedral in Lincoln, who saw themselves as beyond his jurisdiction. The dispute was settled in 1245 when the Pope issued a bull giving the bishop full power over the chapter. Robert attended the Council of Lyons that year.

At the papal court in Lyons in 1250, he denounced the Pope and the cardinals for ‘acting contrary to Christ’. The papal see, he told them, ‘the throne of God, the sun of the whole world … has been perverted and it has become a source of perdition and destruction.’

His wide-ranging interests covered mathematics, optics and many of the sciences; he translated large numbers of theological works from Greek and wrote his own theological commentaries and philosophical works.

It has been argued that Grosseteste played a key role in the development of the scientific method. His ideas about how the universe was created are close to the Big Bang Theory, he was the first scientist to identify the cause of the rainbow as refraction and he seems to have understood centuries before anyone else that the universe is expanding.

He introduced to the Latin West the notion of controlled experiment and related it to demonstrative science, as one among many ways of arriving at scientific knowledge. He was the first of the Scholastics to fully understand Aristotle’s vision of the dual path of scientific reasoning: generalising from particular observations into a universal law, and then back again from universal laws to prediction of particulars.

Grosseteste worked from Latin translations of Arabic versions of Aristotle’s texts. These had been translated from the original Greek by Islamic scholars. Jewish scholars based in southern Europe curated and distributed the texts to western scholars.

His commentary on Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics was one of the first and most influential of the mediaeval commentaries on this fundamental work. Other important writings belonging to the first period are his commentary on Aristotle’s Physics; independent treatises on astronomy and cosmology, the calendar (with proposals for the reform of the inaccurate calendar then in use), sound, comets, heat, optics, and other scientific subjects; and his scriptural commentaries, especially the Moralitates in evangelica, De cessatione legalium, Hexaëmeron and commentaries on the Pauline Epistles and the Psalms.

He began to study Greek in 1230-1231, and used this learning by translating into Latin translations of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and De caelo, of the De fide orthodoxe of Saint John of Damascus, of Pseudo-Dionysius and of other theological writings. He brought assistants who knew Greek to Lincoln to work with him, and also arranged for a translation of the Psalms from the Hebrew.

His writings on the first chapter of Genesis anticipate of modern cosmological ideas. He read that the first thing created was light, and said that the universe began with pure energy exploding from a point source.

In a paper in the journal Nature Physics ten years ago [July 2014], a group of scientists discussed how they are re-examining Grosseteste’s work. They showed his contributions to the field of optics have yet to be assimilated into the canon of science. For example, his insight into the physics of rainbows enabled the researchers in the Ordered Universe Project at Durham and Oxford Universities to create a new co-ordinate system for colour.

Robert Grosseteste died at Buckden in Huntingdonshire on 9 October 1253. He is buried in a tomb in his memorial chapel in Lincoln Cathedral. The plaque on his tomb says: ‘He was a man of learning and an inspiration to scholars a wise administrator while a true shepherd of his flock, ever concerned to lead them to Christ in whose service he strove to temper justice with mercy, hating the sin while loving the sinner, not sparing the rod though cherishing the weak.’

Dr Jack Cunningham, a theology lecturer at Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln, recently launched a campaign for a statue to be erected in Lincoln to Bishop Robert Grosseteste. ‘Grosseteste was revolutionary in the history of science because he knew that everything was about mathematics and that good scientists should base their knowledge on what they observe and not what they think,’ he says.

Robert Grosseteste wrote important commentaries on Aristotle’s texts … the statue of Aristotle in Aristotelous Square in Thessaloniki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 12: 20-36 (NRSVA):

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.

27 ‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say – “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ 30 Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34 The crowd answered him, ‘We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?’ 35 Jesus said to them, ‘The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.’

Robert Grosseteste’s insight into the physics of rainbows enabled researchers at Durham and Oxford to create a new co-ordinate system for colour … a double rainbow over the Burrow Beach at Portrane, Co Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayers (Tuesday 26 March 2024):

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘Holy Week Reflection.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by the Revd Canon Dr Peniel Rajkumar, Theologian and Director of Global Mission, USPG.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (26 March 2024) invites us to pray in these words:

O Lord, we pray for all those actively pursuing the vision of a different world marked by justice, peace and joy for all.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
who in your tender love towards the human race
sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ
to take upon him our flesh
and to suffer death upon the cross:
grant that we may follow the example of his patience and humility,
and also be made partakers of his resurrection;
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 Jesus Christ,
you humbled yourself in taking the form of a servant,
and in obedience died on the cross for our salvation:
give us the mind to follow you
and to proclaim you as Lord and King,
to the glory of God the Father.

Additional Collect:

True and humble king,
hailed by the crowd as Messiah:
grant us the faith to know you and love you,
that we may be found beside you
on the way of the cross,
which is the path of glory.

Yesterday: Saint Richard of Chichester

Tomorrow: William of Ockham

Robert Grosseteste became Chancellor of Oxford University in 1224 and Bishop of Lincoln in 1235 … the arms of Lincoln College Oxford incorporate the arms of the Bishop of Lincoln (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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