Church History VIII

The Reredos behind the Altar


The Reredos was designed by Temple Moore, and built by Thompson & Sons of
Peterborough It was dedicated on 14th December 1905.
The Reredos contains in all 21 figures, of which 18 are men and women who in one
way or another played a large part in the foundation or development of the Church
in this part of England between the fourth and eighth centuries.
Key to the figures in the Reredos:
1 2 3 4 A 5 6 7 8
9 B 10 11 C 12
13 14 15 16 17 18
A. Jesus enthroned with His hand raised in blessing.
B. St Michael the Archangel. His great battle against the dragon, Satan, is described
in Revelation ch. 12.
C. St George the Patron Saint of England. He was a martyr of the fourth century
becoming highly popular as a soldier-saint after the Crusades.
1. St. Chad: a Northumbrian by birth, second Bishop of York, 664-669. He resigned
his See to prevent further complications with the fiery St Wilfrid and became
Bishop of Lichfie1d in 669. He died on 2nd March 672. St Chad is portrayed holding
a model of Lichfie1d Cathedral in his hand.
2. St. Aidan: the Apostle of Northumbria. He came from Iona in answer to King
Oswald's request for Christian teachers, after a former missionary named Corman
had failed. St Aidan's exemplary character had won many converts to the Faith, and
he established a Bishopric (which he held from 635 to 651) at Lindisfarne (Holy
Island), for the kingdom of Bernicia, which corresponds roughly with the modem
counties of Durham and Northumberland. He enjoyed a close friendship with King
Oswald and once, after Oswald had performed an act of charity, Aidan took the
King's right hand and blessed it. After Oswald was killed in battle his arm and hand
were preserved as a holy relic. St Aidan died in 651 and is shown holding the arm
which he had blessed.
3. St. Oswald: King of Northumbria. He was born in 605 and brought up a Christian
in Scotland. When the battle of Heavenfie1d (near Hexham) had made him master
of his kingdom in 634, he sent to Iona for Christian teachers. He and St Aidan are
the real founders of the Church in the north of England. St Oswald was defeated and
killed by Pend a, the heathen King of Mercia, at Oswestry in Shropshire on 5th
August, 642.
4. St. Ninian: Born in 360, he was a British prince from Cumbria. St Ninian taught
in Rome under St Jerome, and was consecrated Bishop by Pope Siriacus. Returning
home through France, he worked with St Martin of Tours. After his death in 431, his
burial place at Whithorn became a centre of pilgrimage. He
holds a copy of the Scriptures enclosed in an elaborately worked case marked with
the cross of St Andrew, to show his connection with Scotland.
5. St. Columba: a native of Ireland, born in 521. In 563, he was compelled to leave
the country on account of disturbances that arose in connection with the ownership
of a copy of the Psalter. He settled on the little island of Hy, which under the name
of Iona became famous as a centre of religion and learning. He died on 9th June 597.
As Columba is the Latin for a dove, he is represented with a dove perched on his
shoulder.
6. St. Paulinus: He had been sent from Rome in 601 to reinforce St Augustine in
Kent, and by him was made first Bishop of York in 625. St Paulinus is believed to
have preached and baptised at Dewsbury. On l2th October 633 Eadwine, the Jesusian
King of Northumbria, was defeated and killed at the battle of Heathfield (probably
near Doncaster) by the heathen Penda. Paulinus then returned to Kent, where he
died.
7. St.Oswin: Jesusian King of Northumbria, 642-671. He united the two kingdoms of
Bernicia and Deira into which Northumbria had been divided after the death of
Oswald, and by holding them successfully against heathen attack enabled the newly
planted Church to grow and flourish. He was buried at Whitby.
8. St. Eata: After being a pupil of St Aidan, Eata became Abbot of Melrose. With St
Cuthbert, whom he trained, he came south to start a small community at Ripon. In
663 he became the fifth Bishop of Lindisfarne and later removed the See to Hexham,
where he died in 686.
9. St. Hilda: daughter of King Oswin. In 657 she founded, and was head of, Whitby
Abbey, a model of which she holds in her hand. This was a double house, with
separate communities of men and women under the final authority of an abbess. In
663 the abbey hosted the important Synod of Whitby. She died on 27th November
680.
10. St. Cuthbert: He was born near Dunbar in Scotland, and as a child is said to have
seen a vision of angels bearing the soul of St Aidan to Heaven. He became a monk
of Melrose, and eventually Bishop of Lindisfarne. He was a man of very saintly
character, and passed the last ten years of his life (677-687) as a hermit on Fame
Island. During the Danish invasion, his coffin was taken from place to place to avoid
capture, until it found a permanent home on the site of what is now Durham
Cathedral. He is the Patron Saint of Durham; the small kneeling figure represents the
monks of Durham who enjoyed his especial protection.
11. St. Wilfrid: 634-709, Abbot of Ripon and subsequently Bishop of York. Some
remains of the church that he built at Ripon can be seen in the crypt of the present
cathedral. He was a great traveller, and is therefore represented with a ship in his
hand. He was once wrecked on the coast of Sussex, where the people
were still heathen; he did much to bring them to Christianity. When disputes arose,
he was the great champion of Roman views and customs, as against the practices of
lona and the Celtic Churches. He had an uncompromising commitment to the role of
the Church as a public and political power.
12. St. Etheldreda: an East Anglian princess who married Egfrith, Prince of
Northumbria. When he became king in 671, she, encouraged by Bishop Wilfrid, left
him and founded an abbey at Ely, on the site of the present Ely Cathedral.
13. The Venerable Bede: 673-735. He was a monk of Jarrow on the Wear, and a
man of great learning. He wrote a "History of the English Church and People" which
is still an important source of information on this period. He also translated the
Gospels into English, dying just as he had completed his task. It is to Bede too that
we owe the practice of dating things from the birth of Christ (A.D: Anno Domini).
He holds a book in his hand to indicate the nature of his life's work.
14. St. Willibrord: a native of the East Riding. He was born about 658 and educated
at Ripon. He went as a missionary to the heathen tribes around the mouth of the
Rhine, where he worked with great courage and success. He became Archbishop of
Utrecht, and is sometimes called "the Apostle of the Frisians". He died about 739 in
a monastery he had founded at Epternach, a model of which he holds in his hand. He
was the first Englishman to devote his life to missionary work outside his own
country.
15. Caedmon: a monk of Whitby Abbey at the time of St Hilda. A man of lowly
origin, who turned large parts of the Bible into English poetry. He is shown holding
a pen and scroll, which he would not have used, as the poetry of his time was oral
and social, sung to the harp on festive occasions and probably composed in the very
act of singing.
16. St. John of Beverley: a native of East Yorkshire, he was a monk of Whitby who
became Bishop of Hexham, and from 705 to 718 was Bishop of York. (York became
an Archbishopric in 735). He retired to his newly founded monastery of Beverley
where he died in 721.
17. Benedict Biscop: 628-690. He founded a monastery at Jarrow-on-Tyne, and did
much to organise monastic institutions. He made six joumerys to Rome, bringing
back books to stock his new monasteries and creating some of the finest libraries in
the land. His body is buried in St Peter's Church at Wearmouth. The work of Bede
would have been impossible without Benedict Biscop.
18. Alcuin: born 735. A leading scholar in the early church, who became head of a
school in York (St Peter's), and the first Archbishop of York. His fame spread into
Europe and he became religious adviser to the Emperor Charlemagne. He helped to
revise the Vulgate (Latin Bible), and to make the Roman Missal (Prayer Book). His
figure is shown holding a large holy book.
At the bottom of the reredos are a number of shields that, by a slight stretch of the
imagination, may be considered to display the arms of the saints represented above.
Set into the reredos is a blue and gold cloth designed and woven by Theo Moorman
(the sister of Rt Rev'd John Moorman, Bishop of Ripon), who became one of the
most influential handweavers in Britain in the 1960s. It was presented by the
Mothers' Union in 1958.


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