Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Camelot, stocks and two smoking cauldrons: Guy Ritchie set for King Arthur film

The Sherlock Holmes director is said to be eyeing a new attempt to turn the Arthurian legends into a movie franchise  


Guy Ritchie is in talks to direct a film based on the legend of King Arthur which could be the first of a planned double trilogy of movies, reports Deadline.
Ritchie, these days considered a safe pair of hands in Hollywood following the blockbuster success of his pair of Sherlock Holmes movies, would work from a screenplay by Awake's Joby Harold. The project is being put together at studio Warner Bros, which has been trying to deliver an Arthurian film franchise for a number of years.
One take, titled Arthur and Lancelot, would have seen Game of Thrones' Kit Harington and the US The Killing's Joel Kinnaman in the title roles. It was shelved over budget concerns. Another idea was to remake 1981's Excalibur, with X-Men director Bryan Singer in charge of the cameras.
No details of the plot for Ritchie's film have yet been unveiled. The British director is currently filming The Man From U.N.C.L.E., a big screen remake of the 1960s TV spy show with Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander and Hugh Grant.

Devotion to St George


Today is the liturgical commemoration of St George this year - but on that point do look at Fr Hunwicke's post S George??. To mark the feast of the national patron saint here are some late medieval English depictions of him. This was the period in which his cult was widespread and images of him must have been plentiful. However time and chance as well as religious and political upheavels have robbed us of most of them. Those which do survive are often damaged.

File:Saint George and the Dragon alabaster sculpture.jpg 

St George and the Dragon
English polychromed alabaster, 1375-1420
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.


Altar with St George and the Dragon, presented to Queen Margaret of Anjou, wife of King Henry VI by the first Earl of Shrewsbury, and made in Rouen in 1445. Kneeling at the altar are the Knights of the Garter

This looks similar as acomposition to the statue above,and to such spectaular surviving pieces as the statue of St George which survives in Stockholm, and about which I have posted beforehand in

Image: wars of

Medieval glass from St Winnow, Cornwall

Haddon Hall in Derbyshire has this figure, notable for his ginger moustache

Images: aclerkofoxford.blogspot.  


This fine mid-fifteenth century figure of St George, in St Martin Coney Street in York.
Originally in the clerestory of the church the figure survived the bombing of 1942 and has been re-set in a window in the restored south aisle

Image;Steve Day on Flickr 


The figure in its original situation before 1942
Left to right: St Christopher, St Gabriel, the Virgin Mary and St George, with donors below.

Image: jmc4 - Church Explorer on Flickr

If stained glass has been vulnerable to iconoclastic reformers and revolutionaries, not to mention bombs and neglect, so too have been wall paintings. In addition to the one I featured in Medieval Wall paintings uncovered in Wales, here is one of the best surviving examples from England:

St George St Gregory Church Norwich c1500

 St. George, wall-painting in St. Gregory's Church, Norwich, c.1500 

St George and the dragon (watercolour detail)

St George and the Dragon

This detail is from a watercolour painting by the Great Yarmouth artist Cornelius Jansson Walter Winter (1821-1891), drawn from the wall-painting discovered in St Gregory's Norwich in 1861.
The wall-painting is thought to be one of the finest and most complete medieval depictions of St George to be found in England, and this painting gives an idea of what its original appearance may have been.

Image: BBC - Picture courtesy of the Norwich Castle Museum And Art Gallery

St George pray for us


Strange goings on in Yorkshire

As I understand it last Sunday, Easter Day, there came into being the merger of three Anglican dioceses in Yorkshire to create a new see of West Yorkshire and the Dales. 

This has been done by amalgamating the Diocese of Ripon, founded in 1836, and in recent years styled Ripon and Leeds, whose territory was the western half of the North Riding and the north-eastern part of the West Riding, with the diocese of Wakefield, founded in 1888 - a strip of the central West Riding including Halifax, Huddersfield, Barnsley and Pontefract - and that of Bradford, founded in 1926, which comprised the north-west West Riding up to Skipton and Sedbergh.

Under the scheme the diocese will have three co-cathedrals - Ripon, Wakefield and Bradford plus the recently elevated pro-cathedral in Leeds - and the new Bishop will be assisted by at least two suffragans. the existing diocesan Bishops have retired and the suffragans of Knaresborough and Pontefract have stepped up to take the titles of Ripon and Wakefield respectively. The other West Riding diocese, Sheffield has been left alone. All clear so far?

Now this is my home area, and I can see there was a case for adjusting diocesan boundaries to align with local government ones and social realities and patterns. I can see a case for combining the cities of Bradford and Leeds in one urban diocese, rather like the Anglican dioceses of Birmingham or Manchester, with a cathedral and a pro-cathedral to keep both cities happy. If that were done the rural part of Bradford diocese could be returned to Ripon to create a large, essentially rural/market town diocese, and Wakefield might take in part of the adjacent southern bits of Ripon, and its boundary with Sheffield adjusted in the outskirts of Barnsley. That might well make sense, even good sense.

However what has been done, to my tiny mind, makes no sense whatsoever. There will be a vast new unwieldy diocese, whose people will not know one another. I recall from my days in the Wakefield diocese that the Anglo-Catholic inclined deaneries of Pontefract and Barnsley had little in common with those around Huddersfield and Halifax; when I was on the Diocesan Synod it was a meeting of strangers, guarding our own interests, rather than of a genuine corporate body. 

There will still be three bishops at least, and three cathedrals and a pro-cathedral with their establishments, and doubtless as many Archdeacons etc, not to mention all the diocesan bureaucracy of boards for parsonages, education, ministry..... So the case for economies of scale looks pretty thin.

I am told that one bright idea was to call this monstrosity the diocese of Leeds - until it dawned on the organisers that there is such a body, the Catholic diocese created in 1878 for the West Riding (now minus the fairly recent Sheffield-based diocese of Hallam). Since when did Church of England dioceses have such territorial names as "West Yorkshire and the Dales" rather than using the name of the See city? Since now obviously. How we used to smile slightly, if politely, at the titles of colonial bishoprics such as The Gambia and the Rio Pongos, or even Australian dioceses such as Wangaratta...

There will, I can well imagine, be twenty years of telling parishioners how wonderful this barmy scheme is, despite all the evidence to the contrary, followed by a twenty year long period of divorce and dissolution, back to three separate dioceses...

I know the Church of England has an unfortunate predilection these days for daft ideas - the ordination of women is not a unique aberration - but this one really is a classic. Whoever had this bright idea will, no doubt, get a mitre or an O.B.E. out of it, but they certainly will not deserve it.


Return of the Bourbons in 1814

File:Louis XVIII relevant la France.jpg

Allegory of the Return of the Bourbons on 24 April 1814:Louis XVIII Lifting France from Its Ruins 

A painting by Louis-Philippe Crépin at Versailles


Today is the two hundredth anniversary of the return of the Bourbon dynasty to France in the restoration of 1814. King Louis XVIII returned to his kingdom at Calais, entering Paris on May 3rd.

In this allegorical painting the King, robed and crowned - he was in fact never to be have a coronation at Rheims due to his physical incapacity - is shown raising a somewhat distree personification of France. He is surrounded by his relatives, with, on the left, the seated figure of Madame Royale, Marie-Thérèse, daughter of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, who had been married to her cousin Louis, Duc d'Angoulème, who stands beside her, and who was the elder son of the King's younger brother Count of Artois, the future King Charles X, who was acting as Lieutenant -General of the Realm in anticipation of King Louis' return.

At Burton Constable Hall in Yorkshire there is a small painting of the return of the French royal family which is not an allegory but appears to be a more direct, if dramatic, representation of the return. In it the seated King Louis XVIII and Madame Royale are presented with three lilies, symbolic of the kingdom whilst still on board their ship, the Royal Sovereign. A fascinating little picture to find amongst the other treasures of that very interesting country house.

The Arrival of King Louis XVIII of France in Calais in 1814 

The Arrival of King Louis XVIII at Calais in 1814

Edward Bird (1772-1819)

Image: BBC Your Pictures

The misfortune of France, in my opinion, since 1814 is that the Restoration celebrated in these images was not to last - consolidated under King Louis XVIII, jeopardised by King Charles X and his advisors, but not such that it might not have endured it was to be followed by a whole series of constitional experiments from 1830 onwards that have done little for the country, and at times its survival has indeed been in question. It is the enduring strengths of France, and they are far older than anything set off in 1789, which have enabled it to survive, and it is those which attract me on my visits.

Vive le Roi!


The Martyrdom of St George

This year we get, in effect, two celebrations of St George. Today, April 23rd is his usual feast day, and most people who do so at all will recall that this is indeed the day of our national patron, and might fly his flag or, even, wear a red rose in his honour. However this year today is also Wednesday in Easter Week, and therefore St George is displaced liturgically until next Monday. Not being too phased by such matters, and I assume St George himself is n't, it gives me a potential opportunity to post about him twice.

As today is the calendric anniversary of his martyrdom here is a fourteenth century depiction of that event, which is both afine example of its period and an intersting visual source for its own time:

The Beheading of Saint George 

Altichiero da Zevio circa 1380 

Oratorio of San Giorgio, Padua

I have posted on several occasions about St George and his cult as can be seen at St George's DayOrders of the DayHymn to St GeorgeSt GeorgeSt George and the DragonSt George at FordingtonPraying to St GeorgeSt George in art - dragon slaying and martyrdomRelics of St GeorgeSt George Altarpiece andMedieval Wall paintings uncovered in Wales.


Observing the Triduum in Oxford

I kept the Triduum here in Oxford, principally at the Oratory but also with some time spent at Blackfriars.

I began with the Dominicans by attending Tenebrae there on Maundy Thursday morning, something I usually do, but this year I was able to attend the service on both Good Friday and Holy Saturday as well. In the rather austere but elegant setting that is the church at Blackfriars - an excellent composition in Perpendicular style from just under a century ago, the singing of the psalms and propers and the gradual extinguishing of the candles on the tenebrae hearse is always striking and thought provoking in the right way, as well as the prostrations of the cantors at the conclusion of the Office.

After time sitting in front of the computer getting this blog up to date or even prepared in advance, I went to the Oratory for the liturgy of Maundy Thursday. I think the congregation was rather larger than in previous years, although perhaps fewer stayed to participate in the watch at the Altar of Repose. I did stay - I am able to do so being free of family or other commitments so it is something I can offer - even if like the Apostles I have to fight drowsiness, and found myself meandering more than usual in reciting the Rosary - and am glad that I can do that on behalf of others. The chapel of the Sacred Heart had been transformed to the Altar of Repose with particular elegance I thought - not too fussy, but very dignified with standard candles flanking the space immediately in front of the altar.

Good Friday began at Blackfriars - looking especially plain after the stripping of the altar - and then after a visit to the Oratory to see if any help was needed ( the standing Crucifix that is set up each year in the forecourt was still awaiting installation as the supporting btrackets were temporarily mislaid, so I could not help with that as I have in  past years - nonetheless it was in place by the afternoon), I had one of my small collations for the day before going back for the Solemn Liturgy.

This always attracts large numbers - and they may again have been up. I think more than usual of the ladies in the congrgation were dressed in black as for a funeral, and some men were wearing black ties - I have managed to mislay mine, so I was unable to do so.The Veneration of the Cross moved quickly, and the whole liturgy was accomplished with dispatch - as one does rather expect there.

After a restorative pot of tea I went back to the Oratory for the Stations of the Cross which concluded with the blessing of individuals with a relic of the True Cross.

Holy Saturday started at Blackfriars again with Tenebrae, then I was back to the Oratory, which was having a more than usually thorough spring-clean with Fr Provost hoovering down the accumulated dust on the clerestory window sills, to sit in the porters's lodge and deal with enquiries and sales before midday.

I then broke off to meet some new Irish friends and to give a tour of Newman's Oxford, taking them to Trinity, St Mary's and Oriel before having a very enjoyable lunch with them.

Then back to the Oratory, another session portering, followed by making my Easter confession and attending Vespers at Blackfriars, and having a meal to set me up for the Vigil.

For this I was again at the Oratory, and I think the congregation, always a large one for this liturgy, was bigger than in previous years. As I said last year I do slightly regret that due to practical necessities in a parish church the shorter form of the Exsultet is sung and that we only have four Prophetic readings rather than seven, but this was a splendid celebration, with four baptisms and two receptions into the Church.


The Oratory Pascal Candle for 2014
Designed and painted by Mrs Freddie Quartley

Image: Oxford Oratory

As I walked home I was surprised to see lights on in the church of St Thomas - my old haunt as churchwarden - and then saw a great procession of the faithful - Orthodox as I realised - who were walking round the church and bearing candles as part of their liturgy. I was delighted to see the church being used by the Orthodoc community - I am not sure which one, but they were alarge crowd.

Easter morning I was at the last minute arriving at the Oratory - my fault entirely - so I had to stand for the whole of the Solemn Mass, but I felt numbers were again slightly up, though it is not easy to say definitely on a day when so many crowd into the church, or indeed in some cases had to stand outside. All was very splendid, the choir supported by an orchestra and the Mass  ended, as is our custom, with the Hallelujah Chorus. Then round to the parish social centre for a celebratory gin and tonic...

Solemn Vespers was, again as is the custom, sung by the Oratorians and with the Choir responding, and again suitably splendid. For Easter Day the church looked very fine with the best altar hangings, ornaments - including the figure of the Resurrected Lord above the Tabernacle - and flowers.

All in all a fine celebration of the Triduum, and for all the work involved, a sense that it is pity it is all over until next year. Meanwhile we can, and should, enjoy Eastertide. Once again, a happy Easter to you all.

IMG_2074 - Version 2

The figure of the Resurrected Lord at the Oratory

Image: Oxford Oratory 


Happy birthday Ma'am

Today is the 88th birthday of Her Majesty The Queen, and this is a way for me to express loyal greetings and good wishes to her on the occasion.

H.M. The Queen
A Golden Jubilee photographic portrait

It is an obvious and well-worn cliché to say that the world has changed much in the years since 1926, but that the Queen has remained a constant in our national life - it is true, but it is a very familiar notion in writings about such anniversaries. One might add that both she and the institution she embodies have over her lifetime shown an adaptability, but also a stamina and an endurance, that is both impressive in an individual and in a ruling mechanism.

Less frequently pointed out is the centrality of that ability to the process of monarchy at all times and in all nations. On occasion that skill has been neglected with serious, even disastrous results. The tragedy of some nations - far too many indeed - has been the abandonment of the system for the failings of an individual or their advisors.

That, happily, has not been the case with Queen Elizabeth II. She continues to display not only skill as a Sovereign but seemingly, an enviable zest for life. Long may she reign, happy and glorious.


He is Risen, Alleluia

Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

Resurrection Raffaelino del Garbo 1510 He is Not Here: for He is Risen, as He Said.

The Resurrection
Raffaellino del Garbo (1466/76 - 1527)
Painted in 1510 for the abbey of Monte Oliveto, now in the
Galleria dell' Accademia, Florence


A happy, blessed and joyful Easter to you all

He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon To Be Adapted By Steven Spielberg


The news that Steven Spielberg is to produce Stanley Kubrick's infamous unrealised Napoleon film, has been met with trepidation.
Of course, the last time Spielberg attempted such a project, the result was the much maligned A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001).
But, the Jaws director is looking to side-step such criticisms, and obvious comparisons with his former friend, by adapting the subject matter for television.
Film aficionados will view the finished product with great interest, as the original Kubrick project has built up a mythology all of its own. In fact, the story behind it illustrates the frustration that surrounded the latter half of Kubrick's career and proves once again that even the greatest filmmakers are not immune to market pressures.
Kubrick had started work on the Napoleon film soon after 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). And, when faced with studio resistance the director famously wrote that it would be "the best movie ever made".
Whether this claim was simply bluster, made in retaliation to studio impotence, will of course never be known. While Kubrick obsessively researched the project, a rival Napoleon film, Waterloo, starring Roy Stieger, bombed at the box-office. Waterloo's failure, costing a sizeable $25million in 1970, meant that Kubrick had his budget slashed to around $4million, shelving the film indefinitely.
Kubrick's work was as sporadic as it was brilliant. Indeed, the reason he only made 8-films in the last 40-years of his life was because of his obsessive approach to filmmaking. And, even though his meticulousness meant that his films were often groundbreaking, it ultimately hindered him in the fast moving world of Hollywood.
In 1980, after the critical success of Francis Ford Coppola's subversive Apocalypse Now, Kubrick started preproduction on his own Vietnam film. But, after seven years of painstaking research, he was usurped by a raft of politically charged Vietnam epics, most notably Oliver Stone's semi-autobiographical Platoon which won four Academy Awards.
When Full Metal Jacket was released in 1987, it seemed Kubrick had come too late to the party. But, while the film was commercially underwhelming, it still contained all the technical brilliance that critics had come to expect from one of cinema's great masters.
Throughout the 1980s, Kubrick had developed the idea of a real life Pinocchio film, based on Brian Aldiss's short story Super-Toys Last All Summer Long. This of course was posthumously adapted by Steven Spielberg, resulting in the terribly uneven A.I.
Any chance of a Napoleon reprisal was put to rest after the box-office disasters of two Christopher Columbus films in 1992. Kubrick then turned his attention to a Holocaust film he had been developing since the 1970s, titled The Aryan Papers, however that to was scrapped after Spielberg disclosed his plans for Schindler's List.
Kubrick ended his career with the misunderstood Eyes Wide Shut in 1999, dying suddenly that year at the age of 70.
As for Spielberg's intentions to once again adapt a lost Kubrick masterpiece, the uninitiated may smirk, but there is still no questioning his skill as a director. In fact, while Spielberg could have benefited from his colleague's artistic prudence, his powers as a producer and his ability to get projects made are second to none.
Whatever the outcome, fans will always wonder if Kubrick would have made good on his assertion that his historical epic would be the best film ever made. Although, only a director of his lofty standing could get away with such a remark. There has never been another filmmaker, before or since, with the ability to adapt populist genre material so brilliantly to the screen.
"If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed." Stanley Kubrick