Wednesday, 1 August 2007

British Saints in Krakow

It's amazing what you stumble across on your travels. My favourite church in Krakow was Corpus Christi (above), attached to a house of Canons Regular of the Lateran in the Jewish district. I was first struck by the baroque decoration, including a magnificent pulpit shaped as a ship:

As I walked around the church, guide book in hand, I discovered a huge painting of the martyrdom of St Thomas of Canterbury:

Hmmm, I thought, this is an unusual subject for a Polish church - especially given the painting's size and prominence. Looking more closely, St Thomas' followers are dressed as canons, and I remembered a painting I saw last year at Klosterneuburg in Austria (also a house of canons regular), depicting the saint of Canterbury as a canon:

The choir of Corpus Christi contains some charming seventeenth century paintings and statues of other saints who are claimed by the Canons Regular. Some are rather spurious, including a series of early Popes - such as St Eleutherius (2nd century), who may have sent missionaries to Britain, as requested by King St Lucius:

Then there was St Patrick, shown wearing a huge hat as he drove the snakes from Ireland:

It is unclear whether or not St Patrick was a monk of some sort, but it is likely that he lived in some sort of community of priests at Armagh. Likewise, in Klosterneuburg, he is included in the gallery of sainted canons.

Another Irishman included in the Krakow choirstalls is St Laurence O'Toole, the twelfth century Archbishop of Dublin, who introduced Austin Canons of Arrouaise into the diocese and wore the habit himself. Here he is shown calming a storm:

Less well-known, perhaps, is St John of Bridlington, a fourteenth century Austin canon who was one of the last Englishmen to be canonised (1401) before the Reformation (the last, in 1456, was St Osmund). Here is St John raising the dead to life:

There was one last group of English saints in the choirstalls, but as this is particularly unusual and exciting (at least for hagiologists or antiquarians!) it merits a separate post...

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Blogger Zadok the Roman said...

I was quite surprised to come across a church dedicated to San Tommaso di Canterbury.

11:21 pm  
Blogger Zadok the Roman said...

Erm... that previous post should have read:

I was quite surprised to come across a church dedicated to San Tommaso di Canterbury in Verona.

4:17 pm  
Blogger Felix Randal said...

Nice pics - you've got a keen eye! I'm pretty sure the adjective 'British' doesn't include St Laurence O'Toole though!

9:57 am  

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