Saturday, December 5, 2015

HERALDRY: St Benet's Hall, Oxford (Updated Feb 15, 2017)

Shield of Ampleforth Abbey
 and College, and of St
Bennett's Hall, Oxford.
This extends the coverage of my article (Oxford Today, Vol. 28, No. 1, 45-50) on the heraldry of the Oxford colleges to include St. Benet's Hall, one of Oxford's six Permanent Private Halls (PPHs).

Blazon: Per fesse dancetté Or and Azure a chief per pale Gules and of the second charged on the dexter with two keys in saltire Or and Argent and on the sinister with a Cross Flory between five martlets of the first.

Authority: Arms were granted to the Abbey by the College of Arms in 1922. The Abbey applied to the College of Arms for the grant to conform to proper authority and thus secure its place among other post-Reformation bodies bearing variants of the Westminster arms. The Abbey arms in their full achievement include the abbot’s crozier and his valero (ecclesiastical hat with tassels). The Ampleforth College and St. Benet's arms include only the shield. In Ampleforth and Its Origins (p. 261), then-Guestmaster Fr. James Forbes writes that "In medieval times this coat [of arms] was used with a crozier dexter and a mitre sinister in the chief, both gules, as "on the [Abbey] tombs of Abbot Fascet and Cardinal Langham." (Thanks to my brother Randal Marlin for this reference.)

Nominees of Arms: The name St Benet is an abbreviation of St. Benedict, referring to St Benedict of Nursia, born in A.D. 480 in what is today called Norcia, near Perugia in Umbria, Italy. He died in 547 in Monte Cassino. He is recognized as a saint by both the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches and is the patron saint of students and of Europe; he is the person after whom the 16 popes called Benedict are named. The arms  refer not to St Benedict but, using the terminology of my Oxford Today article, they reference two revered persons (saints) and a revered group of people (abbots):
  • St Peter, the apostle of Jesus who is considered the first leader of the Christian Church after the death of Jesus, is signified, as he is in the pre-Reformation arms of the City of Westminster, by his keys at top left (i.e., dexter in heraldic terminology, which looks out from the perspective of the person carrying the shield). He is the person to whom Westminster Abbey is dedicated.
  • St Edward the Confessor, the last Anglo-Saxon King of England (1042-1066) is signified at top right (sinister) by the gold cross flory and the five martlets (arms attributed to Edward) for being the chief patron and founder of Westminster Abbey. Since 1066 all of England kings have been crowned in Westminster Abbey. Westminster is so called to distinguish it from St. Paul's Cathedral, which is the East Minster.
  • The Pre-Reformation Benedictine Abbots of Westminster, signified by the gold and blue divided dancetté (the zigzag line), which were the base of the arms of the pre-Reformation Abbots of Westminster, who placed their personal coat of arms in the chief. The last Benedictine Abbot of Westminster to use this coat of arms was John Feckenham (c. 1515-1584), whose abbey was suppressed finally by Elizabeth I in 1560; minus the abbey, the abbey church became officially known as the Collegiate Church of St Peter, Westminster.
Institutional History: Ampleforth Abbey claims direct succession from the monks of Westminster Abbey because of the dies mirabilis when the last surviving monk of Westminster ordained a priest who continued the English Benedictine tradition first in France and then at Ampleforth Abbey. The English Benedictines were dissolved by Henry VIII in the 1530s, but a monastery was re-established in Westminster Abbey by the Catholic Mary Tudor, 20 years later. After a few years, her half-sister Queen Elizabeth dissolved this monastery and by 1607 only one of the Westminster monks was left alive – Fr Sigebert Buckley. On the dies mirabilis he professed a group of English monks (described to me multiple times by monks over the last 63 years as an event that seems to have occurred either in an English prison or in France) before he died, and so passed onto them the rights and privileges of the English Benedictine Congregation. In 1615, these monks established themselves in an abandoned church of St Lawrence at Dieulouard, near Nancy, the one-time capital of the Duchy of Lorraine in France. Catholic priests were illegal in England, but many of the monks were allowed to leave their monasteries in France to work secretly in England as priests. One such monk was St. Alban Roe, executed in 1642.  In 1792 the monks were expelled from France by leaders of post-Revolutionary France and they moved to Ampleforth, in 1803 opening a monastery school. English Catholics had sent their boys to France to be educated during penal times, and many of these boys became monks and priests. During the next century the monks worked both in Ampleforth College (which started with about 70 boys), and on missions to town parishes. In 1900 the major monastic houses became independent, with their own elected abbots. Ampleforth Abbey was by then a community of nearly 100 monks. The first Abbot was Fr Oswald Smith, who died in office in 1924. He was succeeded as Abbot by Fr Edmund Matthews, who appointed Fr Paul Nevill as the college's Headmaster. These two men together made the college a great public school. At its height in the mid-1960s the community had 169 monks; the number at the Abbey has since fallen to about 60. The eighth Abbot of Ampleforth, Fr Cuthbert Madden, OSB was elected in 2005. St. Benet's Hall, administered by the St. Benet's Trust, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ampleforth Abbey. The Chairman of the Trust is Abbot Cuthbert. I have had the privilege of getting to know Professor Werner Jeanrond, since as an alumnus of Ampleforth College (1952-55), I have met with incumbent St. Benet's Hall and Ampleforth College officials when they come to New York to renew their contacts with alumni and to seek contributions.

Physical History:  Ampleforth Abbey is located where it is because of a gift just before she died from Lady Anne Fairfax of Gilling Castle to her chaplain, Fr Anselm Bolton, of a lodge at Ampleforth. The local pub in Gilling is the Fairfax Arms. Gilling is now the home of Ampleforth's prep school; I was a resident there for one year, and then was two more years at what was then called The Junior House. In 1802 Fr Anselm gave the lodge to his fellow monks to be their new monastery. and school. St Benet's Hall was founded in Oxford in 1897 as a place for the monks of Ampleforth and other monasteries to live while they read for Oxford degrees.

Intellectual and Religious History:  Abbot Cuthbert says:
Our journeys diverge, but we [Ampleforth and St. Benet's] walk in the same direction. (Source: St. Benet's Hall capital campaign "Joining Our Journey", p. 2.) 
 Prof. Jeanrond says:
In the twelfth century, students at Oxford gathered around a Master to grow in knowledge and wisdom. [...] Nine hundred years later, St Benet's Hall is an echo, perhaps the closest there is, of that way of life. [...] Today we are unique in Oxford – a vibrant Catholic Christian community that provides a Benedictine context for graduate and undergraduate study, yet welcomes students of all faiths and none. (Emphasis added. Source: St. Benet's Hall capital campaign "Joining Our Journey", p. 6.)
Until 2015, St Benet’s Hall has admitted only male undergraduates but will accept applications from both male and female applicants – of any age – for entry in 2016 or deferred entry in 2017. In the fall of 2016 I attended the first post-coeducational brunch. Ampleforth College has been coeducational for many years.

The Six PPHs. The physical or institutional origins of almost all of the 38 Oxford colleges are partly religious. Yet today the colleges are independent of religious control. The six Permanent Private Halls (PPHs), on the other hand, have a current or historic religious affiliation. A number of Oxford colleges and all of the PPHs originated in a desire to support Oxford students of a particular religious belief, as did many universities in Britain and the United States. Some were created to prepare new ministers, priests or monks to participate in the intellectual life of their congregations, parishes or monasteries.

Unlike the colleges, which have evolved into institutions that are largely independent of their religious affiliation, the six PPHs have a strong religious origin and some degree of external control by, or affiliation with, a religious institution. In order to attract a strong pool of applications, all six of the PPHs make clear to prospective students that a particular religious affiliation is not required either for entrance or for full participation in college life.

The PPHs may therefore include a core of students who are there because their religious beliefs match the PPH's affiliation, but given the secular orientation of most of the Oxford student body the majority of students at the PPHs are not religious.

The existing six PPHs are all controlled by or affiliated with, as many colleges once were, a religious denomination:

1. St. Benet's - Roman Catholic (Benedictine)
2. Regent's Park College - Baptist
3. Blackfriars - mature (21+) students, Roman Catholic (Dominican)
4. St Stephen’s House - mature students, Church of England (Anglo-Catholic)
5. Wycliffe Hall - mature students, Church of England (Evangelical)
6. Campion Hall - postgraduate students only, Roman Catholic (Jesuit) 

Sadly, a seventh PPH has recently fallen by the wayside – Greyfriars, with its important Roman Catholic Franciscan heritage. Ironically, if it had held on a few more years perhaps it might have survived under Pope Francis, who has made clear he named himself not for the Francis who founded his Jesuit order but for the man of Assisi. However, a commitment to poverty may not be a brand that competes well among current Oxford students.

Other Posts on the Arms of Oxford Colleges and PPHs: Original Article in Oxford Today . Heraldry as Branding . Heraldry as Fun .  Coat of Arms vs. Crest . Sinister Questions . Visit to the College of Arms . Windsor Herald Talks to New Yorkers . Shaming of Harvard Law Shield :: Rapid Expansion of Oxford's Colleges and Halls . Oxford Stars . Links to Heraldry, Oxford, GW . Harris Manchester College . Linacre College . St Catherine's . St Cross College . St Edmund Hall . Trinity College :: Regent's Park College . St Benet's Hall . 

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