Why Co Abroad When the Riches England Surround You? of Christian
THE English Parish Church owed its inception to the Lord of the Manor, by whom it was erected in order to supply the spiritual wants of himself and of that family of folk for whom he was responsible to his overlord, the King. Thus the first parishes were co-extensive with the estates of the founders of their churches, each one of which was a plain erection comprised of a chancel and a nave-the priests portion, the people's part. Such, too, was the division of the responsibility for the upkeep of the fabric, for over a thousand years-until the incumbent became relieved of his share of the cost of maintenance by the Ecclesiastical Dilapidations Act of 1923.
How, then, did so simple a structure expand into the elaborate edifice aisled, transepted, and chapelled-which has come down to us as a legacy from the Middle Ages? The answer to this queryand to many another one-may he found in the fascinating, and finely pictured pages of Mediaeval Chantries and Chantry Chapels, by C.i. H. Cook (Phoenix House, Ltd.). The price is one guinea, but it contains a precious store of never-more needed-than now knowledge of that Christian tradition which made Old England great-and the discarding of which is rapidly enabling the " Pew " British to prove themselves to be of all pagan peoples the most petty.
Establishment of Chantries Not that the movement is modern, symptoms of the same selfishness became early evident in the falling off of further interest in the founding of Religious Houses, for the benefit of the many, and the increasing establishment of chantries, for the sake of the few. It is not without significance that the century which furnished by far the greater number of these institutions should have been immediately followed by that which witnessed their entire suppression. A Chantry was a service endowed to be performed either at an already established altar, or at one newly erected within, or without, the parish church by a priest particularly provided for the purpose of ensuring that the Eternal Sacrifice should be offered up in perpetuity for the well-being both in this life and in the world to come of the patron and his family, or the patrons and their fellow-members of a trade, Guild, or charitable association.
To accommodate such chantries as were founded in existing churches. aisles were added, at the east end of which were placed the new altars -surrounded (by Canon Law) with screenwork to form a chantry
chapel. Separate buildings, however, were often erected by those more public-spirited founders to whose faith was added the virtue of such good works as the maintenance of a bridge-on that of London stood the magnificent Chapel of St. Thomas of Canterbury, served by two priests and four chap!ainsor the provision of an educational establishment; to that which was attached to the Guild Chantry of the Holy Cross and St. John at Stratford-on-Avon, came
" with his satchel And shining morning face, creeping like snail Unwillingly to school," a child called William Shakespeare.
Personal Notes To return to our book. it is so replete with matter reprintable that in order to resist all temptation to over-quote, 1 v, ill confine myself to three references of personal interest. The foundation, in connection with the upkeep of the bridge which crosses the Ouse at that place, of a chantry at 13iddenham is news to me, for the chapel thereof was undoubtedly on the other side of the river, at Bromham, where its remains are incorporated into the relatively modern Mill House-occupied a century since by certain of my own kinsfolk. Incidentally, Mr. Cook might have mentioned, having got so close to it, that other chantry chapel which stood until late into the seventeenth century upon the very next bridge, at Bedford; wherein, while used as a prison, was written one of the world's masterpieces by a tinker named Bunyan. It is nice to note that the author has dealt fully and feelingly with that most gracious survival of its kind in England-the combined establishment of school, almshouses, and church, all of the fifteenth century, which hangs upon the hillside of Ewelme at. the foot of the western Chilterns, and of which, for one who has known it since childhood. it is hard to decide what furnishes, at the close of day, the most moving sight, the scholars rushing laughingly homeward through the ancient doorway, the glimpse of the aged folk climbing the deep-worn steps of the covered way that leads from their cloistered courtyard up to the church, or the conternplation therein of the lovely effigy of the foundress. Chaucer 's widowed granddaughter. who lies (her husband having been treacherously slain at sea) alone in that tomb " which," as the author so rightly remarks, is unsurpassed in splendour and craftsmanship by any to be seen in a parish church in the country."
However, as a Freeman of the Ancient and Worshipful Company in question, I am in duty bound to protest at the omission from an otherwise excellent note on the various chantries established in the now non-existent Chapel of the Guildhall of all reference to the fact that, as Stowe has it, " Henry VI in the 27th of his reign granted to the Parish Clerks in London a Guild of St. Nicholas, for two chaplains, by them to be kept in the said chapel of St. Mary Magdalene next unto Guildhall. and to keep seven alms people." The chantry is now no more. but its spirit hes continued through the centuries, at the conclusion of the annual commemorative recital of the names of our Patrons and Benefactors, the Clerk adds: " May their souls rest in peace, Amen." One of the most interesting of "Catholic survivals."
This work being devoted to the story of the foundation of chantries (as are the illustrations to the magnificence of their architectural remains), touches only lightly upon the tale of the chantry priest, but his importance in solving the ever acute problem of the shortage of clergy was very great, for, as Cardinal Gasquet has said: " By universal custom, and even by statute law of the English Church, every chaplain and chantry priest besides the fulfilment of the functions of ads own special benefice was bound to be at the disposition of the parish priest in the common services of the parish church." Not that thc former were always acceptable to the latter: records of differences between parochus and capellimos are as frequently found as the evidences of that other quarrel of those days, betwixt the secular and the regular clergy, and the often unsatisfactory character of the chantry priest is borne witness to by responsible writers, like Langland and Chaucer-but of the number of the elect were Grocyn, the first teacher of Greek in this Realm, and he who propounded that problem of his (and our) day: "When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman ?" John Ball, " St. Mary prist."
"St. Mary Prist "
With the Editor's indulgence-and to encourage Mr. Cook to now furnish us with the story of " The Chantry Priest," I would wish to record again what is both as a tribute to a worthy " St. Mary prise" and a recital of the virtues of a good man, as tenderly touching as anything that I have encountered in
a lifetime of reading. Our author cannot know of it or he anus/ have printed it. The source is the Parish Register of Much Wenlock, in Shropshire: " 1546, 26 May. Hei.e was buryed Out of the Striae called Nardfold out of the two Tenements nexte unto Sane! Owens. Well on the same side of the well, the body of .Si,' William Corvehill Priest of the Service of Our Blessed Lady St. Marie, within the C'hurche of the Holy Trinitie, whielt two host's belonging to the said Service he had in his occupacion, with their tippertanences, and parte of his wages, which was viij markes, and the said bows an overplus: whose body was ',toyed in the chancel of our blessed Ladie before th ahem . . . in a tomb of lyme and ston which he' caused to be made for himself for that intent, after the rerying and bandying of the new Ruff of the said chansell which rerying, !rain. yng, and new reparying of 'th altare and chanceil was don throw the council of the said Sir Will Carvehill whoo was excellently and singularly' experte in dyvers of the vij liberal sciences and especially in geometric', not greatly by speculacivil. but by experience; and few or none of handy crafty but thin he had a very gird insight in them. as the ntaking of Organs, of a clocke and chimes, an in kerring, in Masonrie. and weving of Like, an in peynting: and noe instrumente of musike beying but that lie cost/dc mende it, and many grid ghifls the man had, and a very pacient man, and full honest in his con versacon and lyvng; Borne here. in this Borowe of Moche Weillock and sometyme moncke in the tnortastrie of St. Wylburghe here. Two brothers Ire had. One called Dominus John, Monke in the said monastrie, and a Secular prieste called Fr. Andrew Corvehill who dyed at Croydon beside London, on whose soule and all Christian smiles Almighty God have nic,v. Ante. All
this countrey hath a great loss of the death of the sd. Sir Wrn Carvehill for he was a 'gad Bell founder and a tnakr. of the frame for bells."
Lastly, but by no means leastly, the splendid illustrations should serve to stem for all time the spate of arrant ignorance spoken and written, anent the effect of the Reformation upon the churches of our land both sides have for too long believed that in the interval between two certain Sundays the
" exceeding magnifical fabrics were desecrated into whitewashed conventicles. Actually the amazing store of beauty in stone and wood still surviving in situ would be a hundred-fold greater in quantity and quality but for the happenings under the second Cromwell; and, alas ! at the hands of the overzealous and ill-inspired restorers of the " Oxford Movement." Let any who disbelieve the writer read Master Dowsing's Journal and discover-and weep for-the wealth of Catholic decoration which that devilish iconoclast found to " break down " in the churches of East Anglia a full century after " the fseformation."
In the eyes of the alien the unique feature of the English landscape is the number and nature of our ancient parish churches: a host of visitors to England through the ages have borne testimony to this truism. Here to make that foreign viewpoint as clear to the native is an important work, finely written by an Englishman for his fellow-countrymen-who may, in God's good time. come to realize the superiority of many of the beauties about them to those entailing the toil of that travel which is now lawfully limited to the expenditure thereon of seventy-five pounds (sterling).
Apud Wycombe Magnam in comit. Buckingham. in die Fest. Set. Bart. Ap. et Mar. MCXXXXXLVII. The Collegiate Chapel of St. Mary Magdalen and All Saints', Guildhall, London (from an 1815 Print in the possession of G. Potter, Esq.)