Sunday 12 July 2015

Archidiaconus Asemnes

This morning's Sunday doesn't call for a long post this week. It didn't do anything outrageously biased, and even (most unusually for Sunday) featured something of interest to British Hindus - along with Sikhs, the forgotten religious minority of Radio 4's Sunday.

Other than that, there was coverage of sex abuse in the Anglican Church; an interview about Srebrenica; a report on the discontent of some in the U.S. at the Obama administration's reluctance to help minorities in the Middle East (Christians, Yazidi, etch) - and the administration's refusal to associate the violence there with Islam; and a look at Tunisia with a Tunisian-born Oxford University professor (Dr Mohamed-Salah Omri) who I thought was rather good - clear, informative and obviously on the side of the angels.

My favourite bit though was an interview about medieval church graffiti with Matthew Champion of the University of East Anglia. This was fascinating.

If you go to St Mary's Church in Ashwell, you'll see a piece of medieval graffiti, written in Latin (Matthew's own favourite), which translates as "the Archdeacon is an ass". Edward Stourton asked him if he could give us that in Latin. He couldn't remember. Well, cheating and looking at the church's website, the answer is: 'Archidiaconus Asemnes'.

Other items of graffiti from the same church (my researches tell me) include:

  • 'Quot gratias fontis tot Dolores cruces montis' ('As many joys of the font as there are sorrows of Calvary's cross')
  • 'Ebrietas frangit quicquid sapienta tangit' ('Drunkenness breaks whatever wisdom touches')
  • 'Cornua non sunt arto compugenta sputuo' ('The corners are not jointed correctly. I spit on them')
  • 'Barbara filia Barbara est'  ('Barbara is a regular young vixen')

Barbara sounds fun, doesn't she?

Another thing that Matthew Champion told Ed Stourton tickled Ed as much as it did me.

Most of the medieval graffiti found in churches aren't Latin phrases. The vast majority of it is pictorial, and a fair few of those examples are pictures involving circular lines. 

These were designed to ward off demons and other evil spirits in the belief that such demons were stupid creatures who just couldn't help following a line if they saw one. And once they started following a line they'd just have to keep on following it because they couldn't work out how to stop doing so. And if the line went round and round in circles, never reaching an end point, then Bob's your uncle!: any passing evil spirit be be successfully warded off.

Wonder if that works with Jehovah's Witnesses? 

(Or for any of you who are supposed to pay the BBC licence fee but don't, BBC licence fee inspectors?)

1 comment:

  1. Are is there one contemporary Archdeacon who isn't an ass?


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