28 March 2024

Schubert’s Mass reminds me of
a missing image of the ‘Last Supper’
on Quonians Lane in Lichfield

‘The Last Supper’ … a missing Maundy Thursday image once seen on Quonians Lane in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I am about to take part with the choir in the Maundy Thursday Liturgy in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford, this evening, with the traditional foot washing and the Maundy Thursday Eucharist.

Because this is Holy Week, there was no choir rehearsal last week. But in recent weeks we have been adding to our repertoire for the future, including working the director of music, Jonathan Kingston, on Franz Schubert’s Mass No 6 in E flat.

This has been a controversial work ever since its first performance in 1829. It was commissioned for Holy Trinity Church, Vienna, the same church where Beethoven’s funeral had taken place two years earlier in 1827.

Schubert removed several lines from the Gloria and Credo while repeating other lines – as he did in all of his concert masses. It was quite a bold decision, considering the Mass was commissioned for Roman Catholic worship.

Schubert died soon after completing t Mass and he never heard it performed. Eventually, in 1897, because of his omissions from the text and his adaptations, Schubert’s masses were specifically barred from use as liturgical music.

As we were rehearsing the Gloria in Latin, my mind was brought back to Lichfield, and I started wondering about a stucco image that has been missing for some years but one that is appropriate to think about on this Maundy Thursday.

The Latin words include the lines:

Quoniam tu solus Sanctus,
tu solus Dominus,
Tu solus Altissimus

(For you alone are the holy one,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High

Quonians Lane in Lichfield … Bridgeman’s sign was still in place (below) in 2022 (Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2024 and 2022)

Quonians Lane in Lichfield, between Dam Street and Stowe Pool and between the Cathedral and the Market Square, is a much-photographed corner of Lichfield. The lane is mentioned as early as 1325 in the Book of Dean and Chapter Possessions, when it was said to lead to a well. This may have been a pilgrims’ path from the city to the Well of Saint Chad at Stowe.

The buildings on the left-hand or north side of Quonians Lane date from the 16th century. The best-known building, now an antiques shop, still retains the sign of R Bridgeman and Sons, the stonemasons’ firm founded by Robert Bridgeman in 1879.

The firm had worked on Lichfield Cathedral and continued to work on churches, ancient buildings and city walls all over the world until it closed in 2011.

Samuel Johnson attended Dame Oliver’s School on the corner of Dam Street and Quonians Lane.

Because the lane is so close to Lichfield Cathedral, I had presumed all along that Quonians Lane off Dam Street was a misspelling of that Latin word in a phrase in the Creed, Quoniam tu solus Sanctus. Certainly, it was called Quoniames Lane in the 14th century.

But Joss Musgrove Knibb points out in her recent book, Lichfield in 50 Buildings (2016), that the word quoniam ‘was used as a euphemism for a woman’s “nether-regions” by the Wife of Bath in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.’ And she asks: ‘Could Quonians Lane have been a Middle Ages haunt of “ladies of the night”?’

A stucco plaque depicting Saint Christopher in Quonians Lane in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Quonians Lane is attractive and photogenic with its strange name, its Tudor timber-framed buildings and its carvings and plaques. None of that charm is lost despite the closure of Bridgeman’s and the recent development at the east end of Quonians Lane by Pegasus of Lichfield Bonds Retirement Housing.

The apartments, with views across Stowe Pond and of Lichfield Cathedral, are spread across three buildings, with 64 one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, and with an owners’ lounge, social kitchen and communal garden. Figures available last week quoted £1,754 as the monthly rent for a ground-floor one bedroom apartment, and £2,297 a month for a two-bedroom apartment.

A fading and peeling stucco roundel depicting the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child at Lichfield Bonds Retirement Housing at the east end of Quonians Lane (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

The hanging sign with Bridgeman’s name disappeared some time in the last 20 months, between August 2022 and November 2023. But, at one time, Bridgeman’s remaining legacy included a number of statues and stucco works, including statues of Christ and an angel, and peeling, faded stucco plaques of the Last Supper, Saint Christopher carrying the Christ Child on his shoulder, and the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child.

During a recent afternoon walk along Quonians Lane, I could only find the small plaque of Saint Christopher in a niche, and the faded, peeling roundel displaying the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child hidden behind heavy green growth at the east end of the lane, railed off public view.

But are they going to remain in situ for much longer?

The stucco plaque depicting the Last Supper, which has been missing from Quonians Lane for some time, would have been so appropriate in its original position and on public view today, Maundy Thursday.

‘Quoniam tu solus Sanctus’ … rehearsing Schubert’s ‘Mass No. 6 in E flat’ in Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Daily prayer in Lent with
early English saints:
44, 28 March 2024,
Richard Rolle of Hampole

Christ washes the feet of the Disciples … a fresco on a pillar in a church in Thessaloniki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

We are reaching the climax of Lent and Holy Week, with Maundy Thursday today (28 March 2024) and Good Friday tomorrow (29 March 2024).

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.

Another hospital appointment in Milton Keynes University Hospital later today means I am going to miss the Chrism Eucharist in Christ Church, Oxford, with the renewal of ordination vows for deacons, priests and bishops in the diocese. Later this evening, I hope to be involved in the Maundy Thursday Liturgy in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford, with the Maundy Eucharist and the traditional foot-washing, followed by the Watch of the Passion.

But, before this busy day 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.

The passageway to the chapter house in Lichfield Cathedral … the mediaeval pedilavium is where feet are washed on Maundy Thursday (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Early English pre-Reformation saints: 44, Richard Rolle of Hampole

Richard Rolle of Hampole is remembered in Common Worship on 20 January as a Spiritual Writer.

Richard Rolle was born ca 1300 in Thornton, Yorkshire, where he first began to live the life of a hermit life at the age of 18, having broken off his education at the University of Oxford. After moving his hermitage to several other sites, he finally settled close to the Cistercian nuns at Hampole, where he undertook much of his prolific writing on mysticism and asceticism. He wrote in Latin but also produced many texts directly in English and even in the Northumbrian dialect.

His writings were widely influential and he was venerated for at least 300 years after his death on 20 January 1349.

An icon of the Last Supper, known in Orthodoxy as the Mystical Supper (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 13: 1-17, 31b-35 (NRSVA):

1 Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ 7 Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ 8 Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ 9 Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ 10 Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’ 11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’

12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants[d] are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

31b ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

Oils for the sick and dying, the oil for signing with the Cross at Baptism and the oil of chrism at a recent Chrism Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayers (Thursday 28 March 2024, Maundy Thursday):

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 (28 March 2024) invites us to pray in these words:

May we be humble in our attitude to each other and truly love one another.

The Collect:

God our Father,
you have invited us to share in the supper
which your Son gave to his Church
to proclaim his death until he comes:
may he nourish us by his presence,
and unite us in his love;
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,
we thank you that in this wonderful sacrament
you have given us the memorial of your passion:
grant us so to reverence the sacred mysteries
of your body and blood
that we may know within ourselves
and show forth in our lives
the fruit of your redemption,
for you are alive and reign, now and for ever.

Additional Collect:

God our Father,
your Son Jesus Christ was obedient to the end
and drank the cup prepared for him:
may we who share his table
watch with him through the night of suffering
and be faithful.

Yesterday: William of Ockham

Tomorrow: Walter Hilton of Thurgarton

Christ Church, Oxford … the venue for today’s Chrism Eucharist for bishops, priests and deacons in the Diocese of Oxford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

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