Shrine of St. Frideswide, Christ Church Cathedral Oxford.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August 31, St. Aidan of Lindisfarne

Statue of St. Aidan on Holy Island
The southern part of the kingdom of Northumbria in what is now northern England had been converted by 627 when Paulinus established a bishopric at York, but by 632 the Mercians had taken over and restored paganism under King Penda. When King Oswald of Northumbria came out of exile later on he decided to bring back a mission to his kingdom. So, as Oswald had spent his exile with the Celtic Christians of Iona, St. Aidan, a monk of Iona was sent to spread the gospel to the Northumbrians. He was consecrated bishop and established an Abbey-church at Lindisfarne or Holy Island to serve as the seat of his episcopal see. He spent much time evangelizing on foot to all people he came across and was revered as wise and holy. The Venerable Bede wrote "He neither sought nor lovedanything of this world, but delighted in distributing immediately to the poor whatever was given to him by kings or rich men of the world". In 651 Aidan died at Bamburgh, two miles south of Holy Island, and is credited for converting the peoples of Northumbria and even down into Mercia. His relics were taken with Cuthbert's and Oswald's* to Chester-Le-Street and then to Durham, where they now rest in St. Cuthbert's tomb. The establishment of Durham Cathedral is descended from Aidan's foundation at Lindisfarne.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Adirondack Churches

 Church of the Transfiguration, Blue Mountain Lake
 West window, Blue Mountain Lake
 Nave window, Blue Mountain Lake
 Nave, St. Luke's Saranac
 Nave window with loon, Saranac
 South transept window, St. Eustace, Lake Placid 
(with St. Eustace, stag, and ADK landscape)
 Chapel crucifix, Lake Placid
All Soul's Chapel, St Hubert's
As I spent a couple weeks in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York this summer, I visited Episcopal churches and missions in the west-central wilderness area and in the area around Lake Placid and Saranac. Many of them in reflection of their isolated and wild locality displayed characteristics in architecture and scenery associated with the Adirondacks. One, in Blue Mountain Lake, was built of logs and was complete with stained glass windows featuring lily pads, loon and beavers. As I continued viewing more churches I noticed that many of the stained glass windows continued to depict the sweeping Adirondack landscape which, in some cases, was tied in with the more usual ecclesiastical subjects. Often the Virgin Mary could be seen on a green mountainside with a view of a land covered in green hills, lakes and pine trees; I could not help remembering some dutch Altarpieces depicting the crucifixion and behind a landscape complete with Gothic Cathedrals, pinnicled castles, and an assortment of Flemish looking cities. This is similar but with Adirondack elements.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Feast, 5 August; Oswald of Northumbria

Oswald was the King of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria in the early seventh century. Convinced that Christianity was the true faith he called to the great abbey at Iona in the Scottish kingdom of Dalriada for an Apostle to come and preach the gospel to the Northumbrians. The first monk to come from Iona was unsuccessful with his manner of teaching to produce any new followers. So Oswald sent for another monk called Aidan, who established an Abbey at Lindisfarne, a few miles north of Oswald's residence at Bamburgh, from which he was successful in several missions to convert the locals. Here Aidan became bishop, and a close friend of Oswald's. At one point, after Oswald had given the food from his own table to the poor who waited outside the royal fortress, Aidan said to him that his hands were blessed and would not perish. The hands were preserved in a reliquary for hundreds of years, fulfiling the prophecy by remaining in-corrupted. Finally in 642 in the battle of Maserfield, between the Christian Northumbrians and the Pagan Mercians lead by the King Penda, Oswald was slain while praying for the souls of his soldiers. Afterward they laid his body (which had been mutilated by the pagans) in a nearby Church, where it was said to give off light in the night's darkness. His head was later buried with the body of St. Cuthbert where it remains in the tomb of that Saint at Durham Cathedral. Above is Cuthbert with the head of St. Oswald.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Feast, July 31; Germanus of Auxerre

Saint Germanus or Germain d'Auxerre was the Gaulish bishop of Auxerre in the late fourth to early fifth centuries. After serving for a while as the Bishop of Auxerre he was sent to Britain after the Romans had left to stamp out the pelagic views that some of the British bishops had adopted. He succeeded in this but stayed in Briton, establishing several churches, and to help battle against the invading Saxons and Picts, which he did without bloodshed. Later on he defended the cause of the rebelling Bretons to the Roman Emperor. He died on July 31 in 448 in Ravenna and is remembered for his holiness and for miracles he preformed. Buried in Auxerre, the Abbey there was a pilgrimage destination throughout the Middle Ages, and remains so. His cult was popular in Britain in France where there are numerous dedication to him. At top is the Abbey of St. Germans in Cornwall, which was originally an early medieval bishopric, and below that is the Cathedral of Auxerre in Burgundy, France.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Feast, July 29; Olaf of Norway

Saint Olaf was the King of Norway in the eleventh century. Originally he was the son of a  Norwegian lord, but after fighting for King Ethelred Unread against the Danes, and becoming a christian he returned to Norway and usurped the throne. However, after doing so, he reigned kindly and justly, and succeeded in expanding the church in Norway, which included the founding of the Archdiocese of Nidaros in what is now Trondheim. Olaf was later exiled in 1029 after a rebellion against his Christian enthusiasm. In 1030 he tried to return by fighting at the battle of Stiklestad on July 29. He was buried but water springing from his grave was quickly reported along with other miracles. His body was later translated to a shrine in the Nidaros Cathedral ( where it remains behind the high alter) by Grimkell, the Archbishop. His cult was one of the most popular in the Scandinavian kingdoms, and was also popular in the British Isles, and the pilgrimage route (known as St. Olaf's way) to Trondheim is still traveled. His attributes are a crown and an ax, with which he was killed. At top is the Nidaros Cathedral and below that is a crosier depicting St. Olaf with the ax.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Feast, July 26; Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The feast of the Saints Anne and Jochim is celebrated today. Little is known about Jochim, in fact the name was supposedly given to him much later. The cult of St. Anne however is much more wide-spread as she is venerated as the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is also attributed for presenting Mary at the temple. And in the Orthodox Churches there is a lesser feast for the Dormition of Anne. In iconography she is often depicted holding the young Mary as the later is depicted holding the baby Jesus. Above is an Icon of Anne holding Mary and an eighth century Coptic image of St. Anne.