Supple Doctor Lives!
The Supple Doctor is not dead, as you may have feared, but has been
sleeping, as far as the list is concerned. Since we last spoke, much
has happened to me. Having returned from a holiday in Crete, (about
which I might say much, if this were a Minoan or a Classical list) I
find myself uprooted and replanted as parish priest of Pickering. This
is a small town in North Yorkshire, England, U.K., Europe, of
considerable interest to medievalists, and it will not be inopportune
to tell you a little about it.
To begin with, my parish is the birthplace of Richard Rolle. Most
medieval people are known by the place of their birth; Rolle,
unusually, is often referred to by the place of his death: "Richard
Rolle of Hampole." He ended his days as spiritual director to a
convent of nuns at Hampole, which is not very near to Pickering. But
he was born in Thornton le Dale, a small village just outside
Pickering, and very much part of my parish. Pickering is celebrating
the 700th anniversary of Rolle's birth, and the local papers and
magazines are full of articles about him. For example, the "Pickering
Beacon" (no less), pushed through my door yesterday, contains an
article entitled "Richard Rolle - Hermit and Mystic. Born 1300
Thornton Dale" (the locals tend to drop the "le").
The (Anglican) parish church is medieval, and contains some celebrated
wall paintings, which I have yet to see. I note that the vicar, Canon
Hewitt, is giving a talk about them, and I shall try to attend. It may
be that they will provide matter of interest to this list.
My own church, St Joseph's, is not of course medieval; it dates from
the beginning of the 20th century. It does have a few features which
may however be of interest to members (I hope nobody will be offended
if I stretch the "longue durée" of the Middle Ages a little longer than
usual). A great hero of the Catholic Church in penal times was Fr
Nicholas Postgate, the "Priest of the Moors" who held a long ministry
in this area in the seventeenth century. He was at last arrested as a
result of the frenzy stirred up by Titus Oates' "Popish Plot" and hung,
drawn and quartered on the Knavesmire, in York. We have a relic of him
in St Joseph's, namely his altar stone, which is hung in the front of
our altar, so that every time I say Mass, I am saying it on the same
altar as the martyr did. He has been beatified (that is, he is the
"Blessed" Nicholas Postgate) and we look forward to his eventual
canonisation. St Joseph's also has a font by the sculptor Eric Gill,
of considerable interest, though in no way medieval, so I shall say no
Besides being Parish Priest of Pickering, I have been created -
mirabile dictu! - Dean of Ryedale. This makes me a Very Reverend as
opposed to a simple Reverend. Who'd have thunk it? My deanery
includes some notable places - Ampleforth; Rievaulx (Aelred, if he
lived, would be under my Deansmanship!); Helmsley, the manor of Walter
Espec; Malton, where the Cathlic Church, St Leonard's, is one of our
few medieval churches, given back by the Church of England some years
ago; Oswaldkirk, Thirsk, Kirkbymoorside, Filey. Lastingham,
associated with the great St Cedd (or was it Chad - members will remind
me) is part of my deanery, and indeed not far from my parish. And many
other medieval religious sites lurk in my deanery - Byland Abbey is
I look forward to sharing such of my experiences as are relevant to a
disciplined and scholarly medieval religion list.
The Very Supple Doctor.
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