Category Archive 'Society of Jesus'

15 Jul 2011

Stonyhurst Gospel Sold to British Library

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St. Cuthbert’s Gospel

The British Province of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) is clearly determined to raise a great deal of money. The Jesuits have arranged to sell to the British Library for £9m ($14.3m) the oldest surviving European book, the Stonyhurst Gospel, St. Cuthbert‘s own copy of the Gospel of St. John, a 7th century manuscript originally buried with the saint on the island of Lindisfarne in 687.

Lindisfarne was depopulated of its monks when the Danes sacked the island in 875. The saint’s relics were carried away and moved from one location in the north of England to another over the course of the next century. St. Cuthbert was finally reburied in the “White Church” built in 995 as the predecessor to Durham Cathedral.

The manuscript was discovered in 1104 when St. Cuthbert’s coffin was opened in the course of transporting his remains to a shrine behind the altar of the newly built cathedral.

St. Cuthbert’s shrine was destroyed in the time of the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, and the gospel manuscript at that point passed into private hands. George Lee, the third Earl of Lichfield (d. 1772) is the first recorded modern owner. Lichfield gave the manuscript to Reverend Thomas Phillips (d. 1774) who donated it to the English Jesuit College at Liège on 20 June 1769. The manuscript has been owned since 1769 by the Society of Jesus (British Province) and was formerly in the library of Stonyhurst College. The manuscript has been on loan to the British Library since the 1970s.

Christie’s negotiated the sale, as a result of which the manuscript will continue to be displayed half the time at the British Library and the other half at Durham Cathedral, referred to in the news articles as (God help us!) a UNESCO world heritage site in Durham.

BBC story and 1:22 video.


Twelfth century painting of St Cuthbert in Durham Cathedral.

St. Cuthbert (feast day: March 20) is the patron saint of the North of England and was England’s most popular saint in the period before the martyrdom of Thomas Becket in 1170. His banner was carried into battle against the Scots up to the time of the Reformation, and in the Middle Ages the inhabitants of the Palatinate of Durham were referred to as haliwerfolc “the saint’s people.”

23 Feb 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

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Ten rules (sometimes fewer) for writing fiction from Elmore Leonard, Dianna Athill, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Helen Dunmore, Geoff Dyer, Anne Enright, Richard Ford, Jonathan Franzen, Esther Freud, Neil Gaiman, David Hare, P.D. James, AL Kennedy, Hilary Mantel, Michael Moorcock, Michael Morpurgo, Andrew Motion, Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Proulx, Philip Pullman, Ian Rankin, Will Self, Helen Simpson, Zadie Smith, Colm Tóibín, Rose Tremain, Sarah Waters, Jeanette Winterson.


Col. George Washington, Foxhunter (Ralph Boyer, aquatint, Fathers of American Sport, Derrydale Press, 1931)

One day belated notice of the birthday of our neighbor and compatriot in the hunting fields of Clarke County, George Washington.

When he was 14 or 15 years old, George Washington copied out by hand 110 “Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation.”

Washington’s maxims came from a translation of a treatise Bienseance de la Conversation entre les Hommes produced by the pensonnaires of the Jesuit Collège Royal Henry-Le-Grand at La Flèche in 1595. René Descartes studied at the same college just a few years later, 1607 to 1615.

The case of George Washington, I would suggest, can be taken to demonstrate that residence at Harvard, Yale, or even La Flèche is not an absolute requirement for leadership success or good manners.


WSJ comments on the Obama plan to ram the health care bill through, damn the rules of the Senate and the wishes of the public.

The larger political message of this new proposal is that Mr. Obama and Democrats have no intention of compromising on an incremental reform, or of listening to Republican, or any other, ideas on health care. They want what they want, and they’re going to play by Chicago Rules and try to dragoon it into law on a narrow partisan vote via Congressional rules that have never been used for such a major change in national policy. If you want to know why Democratic Washington is “ungovernable,” this is it.


David Brooks discovered that something has gone wrong with the meritocratic revolution, and wonders if this might have something to do with the new elite not being quite so meritorious as had been supposed.

[H]ere’s the funny thing. As we’ve made our institutions more meritocratic, their public standing has plummeted. We’ve increased the diversity and talent level of people at the top of society, yet trust in elites has never been lower.

It’s not even clear that society is better led. Fifty years ago, the financial world was dominated by well-connected blue bloods who drank at lunch and played golf in the afternoons. Now financial firms recruit from the cream of the Ivy League. In 2007, 47 percent of Harvard grads went into finance or consulting. Yet would we say that banks are performing more ably than they were a half-century ago?

Government used to be staffed by party hacks. Today, it is staffed by people from public policy schools. But does government work better than it did before?

Journalism used to be the preserve of working-class stiffs who filed stories and hit the bars. Now it is the preserve of cultured analysts who file stories and hit the water bottles. Is the media overall more reputable now than it was then?

The promise of the meritocracy has not been fulfilled. The talent level is higher, but the reputation is lower.

01 Dec 2007

Anthropodermic Book Associated with Gunpowder Plot to be Auctioned Tomorrow

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Wilkinson’s Auctioneers in Doncaster will be selling in tomorrow’s auction a book believed to be bound in the skin of FatherHenry Garnet, a Jesuit priest convicted of high treason in connection with his knowledge of Guy Fawkes’ conspiracy to blow up the Houses of Parliament and assassinate King James I. Garnet was executed by hanging May 3, 1606.

Blood-stained straw from Garnet’s execution came into the hands of Catholic sympathisers who reported that it had congealed into a portrait of the deceased Jesuit. This relic was preserved by the Jesuit Order at Liège until the time of the French Revolution. The story of the image of Garnet’s face in blood-stained straw was, at some point, also associated with this volume allegedly bound in his skin.

BBC news.

Lot 181 A Rare & Macabre Early 17th Century Anthropodermic Bound Book in carrying box. The book entitiled; ‘A True and Perfect Relation of The Whole Proceedings against the Late most barbarous Traitors, Garnet a Jesuit and his Confederats’; Printed London 1606 by Robert Barker, printer to the King and believed to be bound in human skin, possibly that of the aforementioned Jesuit Priest; Father Henry Garnet. The box having a rectangular handle to the centre with the corners having clusters of brass stud flowers, and the front having an iron clasp and lockplate, 11 ins x 7½ ins x 5 ins (28 cms x 19 cms x 13 cms).

Another Anthropodermic binding, posted 07 Jan 06.

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