And now for something different!

Cathedral Oxford

ChristChurch Cathedral, Oxford.

In case anyone should wonder why a Blog carrying at its head the picture of two churches  yet recently appears to be solely concerned with Art Appreciation at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford  then let me explain, if not apologise!

Those two churches are the two parish churches, Ipsden and North Stoke, for which I have the privilege of being parish priest. They are part of the Langtree Team of parishes (see the Langtree Team website) headed by a Rector, Revd Kevin Davies and within which I am a Team Vicar. The other image at the top of this blog is of a famous painting (Uccello’s ‘The Hunt’) at the Ashmolean Museum – an institution for which I regularly lead adult Art Appreciation groups.

Is this a case of a cleric dabbling in Art History or an Art Historian dabbling in the Church? A reasonable question. A quick ref to my brief ‘BIO’ on this site might go some way to providing an explanation – that I am not a ‘dabbler’ in either spheres!

A basic belief of mine is that human life and its contexts are all interrelated – and that historical appreciation is essential for understanding and tackling our contemporary world. The insularities of Art and Art History and of the Church and Religion are false divisions. That is why my main thrust as an art historian and art curator, and as a Priest, has been to speak to those who are in the world at large. In my small medieval churches I regularly remind people that the present needs to understand the past.                                                                                                                     The other day I was on duty at our Cathedral of ChristChurch in Oxford as a ‘Day-Chaplain’; it is a large and ancient historic building – and I was struck again by how relevant the ancient was to the modern and the evidence of the constant evolving and sharing  of human knowledge and experience. A favourite spot for me in the Cathedral is the stone slab in the floor of the south aisle which commemorates John and Charles Wesley – an item which causes many visitors to pause and then ask the question why Methodists are commemorated in an Anglican Cathedral. The point is that the Wesleys, apart from having been students at ChristChurch, were Anglican priests and remained so all their lives – the separation called ‘Methodism’ was not their doing but others who followed. They wished to reform the Anglican Church but not to separate – bring the Church back to the realities of the present but not to throw out the past.   That memorial slab stands close by the pulpit in the Cathedral and this present and past unity was emphasised when on that day I included in the hourly prayers, pronounced to the visitors, a prayer for the victims of the bombing at the Boston Marathon which had occurred the previous day. Immediately after I was approached by several American visitors to thank me for publicly praying for their countrymen – one couple said, with tears in their eyes, that this was the first they had heard of the bombing; that ancient church had conveyed a very contemporary  and relevant message and a sense of solidarity and human sympathy which goes beyond divisions of religion or geography or of time.


Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Religion is not the confine of the ‘Religious’ or the ‘Church’ – and likewise Art is not the confine of esoteric art historians or art galleries. Putting it crudely – Religion is not for the religious and its institutions – Art is not for artists and art historians – both art and religion, if they are to mean anything, are for ‘Everyman’. Personally I cannot separate Art and Religion – they are both part of what I am.

David Addison.

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  1. sally Stringer
    Posted May 20, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Extremely interested in your comments re Lord Northwick’s collection and auction. Do you have a copy of the catalogue for that auction of 1859. My interest is that an ancestor purchased a large quantity of art at that sale and shipped it back to Sydney Australia, where he had built a private gallery. When he died the entire collection was again auctioned and the left overs found their way back to the UK. We are trying to establish the identity of a particular work of art that we believe may be by Richard Ansdell and would be grateful for any information that you may have about the catalogue. Kind regards Sally Stringer

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