Page 2, 12th August 1955

12th August 1955
Page 2
Page 2, 12th August 1955 — Relics and the Assumption

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Organisations: Oxford University
People: Wilhelm Levison
Locations: Bristol, Rome


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Relics and the Assumption

Sir,—In connection with the very interesting note in a recent issue about church dedications to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin and early belief in this doctrine, may I quote an interesting passage from Wilhelm Levison's distinguished book England and the Continent in the Eighth Century (Oxford University Press, 1946) delivered as the Ford Lectures at Oxford in 1943. Having explained that relics of the saint to whom a church was dedicated were contained in the principal altar, Levison (not a Catholic) continues: " The widespread veneration of the Virgin is shown by her patronage of many churches (later more numerous than those of St. Peter). . . It is impossible to trace the origins and wanderings of relics of St. Mary which these dedications suggest; one may imagine for example that Gregory's disciples brought relics from Santa Maria Maggiore. But it is better to abstain from random speculation. . . " Thus another cat has jumped out of the bag of dogmatic accretion. We read of how St. Gregory sent " relics of Apostles and martyrs" to his disciples (Epistolach of how St. Benedict Biscop returned from every journey to Rome with a " great number of relics of Christ's apostles and martyrs. all likely to bring a blessing on many an English church "; and of how Acca. St. Wilfrid's successor at Hexham, procured " relics of the blessed apostles and martyrs of Christ from all parts. to place them on altars." (Bede.) But nowhere do we read about relics of Our Lady.

Scholarly historians have been far from remiss in the remarkable emphasis which they have laid upon the superstitious element in early English Christianity. To these, the excessively abundant relics of apostles and martyrs on the one hand and the complete absence of this sort of " trapping " from devo !ion to St. Mary on the other, will indeed present a striking and puzzling contrast. H. Mayr-Harting. II, Henleaze Avenue,

Henleaze, Bristol.

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