8th January 1198. Foundations of Faith.

Medieval clergy in Britain spent a lifetime in chantry chapels and churches using the stone basin piscine, whilst reciting verses from Psalm 26: ‘I will wash mine hands in innocence: so will I compass thine altar, O Lord’.

Alongside the piscine would be stone sedilia or seats, with both sited on the right (epistle-side) of the chancel, for those officiating at the Mass.(1)

Sedilia at Belgrave. Leicester.

Sedilia at Belgrave. Leicester.

It was Today in 1198 that the reforming Innocent III became Pope, at a time when a new liturgy reflected changed patterns in belief to be seen in a sacramental worship, a feature today in Catholicism.

Back to its foundation in the 4th century, the Roman Church with ruthless efficiency demanded orthodoxy now that Constantine in 397 had committed the Empire to Christianity.

Rome saw a future controlled, less by secular power now in decline, to one based on a universal church under a Papacy, the Bishop of Rome. Shrines of local fanes or centres of classical pagan worship, were now sacrificed to a new order.

It was an order later to acquire its own genealogy of authority, as the Saxon kings who traced a line back to Adam, so Rome looked back to the Apostle St. Peter, the Biblical granter of the keys of heaven, in an Apostolic Succession.

The 9th century was the age of Papal decree when Leo IV ordered that piscinae be installed to dispose of holy water. This was followed at the instigation of Innocent III, in the late 13th century by double piscinae when it was thought that the disposal of water from ablutions at the lavabo and sacred vessels should be segregated.

Single Piscina, at Rothesay, Bude, Scotland.

Single Piscina, at Rothesay, Bude, Scotland.

These piscinae were installed where the paten and chalice were washed and the cruet stored on a shelf, a practice resulting from the importance of transubstantiation, first taught in the 9th century, and generally received in the 11th century, as an article of faith in the western world.(2)

Meanwhile by 964 in Britain, Bishop Ethelwold was giving the monks of Winchester a choice between celibacy or wives; if they chose the latter, they were replaced by monks from Abingdon.

Canon Law transgression resulted in anything from penance or excommunication, and we now see the forced subventions of tithes. A uniform sacramental liturgy was evolving in the Mass, baptism (based on original sin) and marriage signifying Christ and his Church), and when notions of heaven and hell gained in force.

Thus was the Universal Catholic Church re-invented with basic tenets which are still observed today.

(1) There are many fine examples of piscinae the Britain’s’ churches, including Whepstead, Suffolk and St. Helen’s, Cliffe, Kent, where the 14thc Decorated style chancel is richly expressed in the sedilia (alcove seats for the clergy).

Changing practice in the middle ages, rendered the piscinae obsolete, with cleansing of vessels and ablutions, being done on the altar.

(2) Transubstantiation where the elements of bread and wine were assumed to change their nature into the body and blood of Jesus.

Ref: Pic Ref: britainexpress.com/churchhistory. Pics of sedilia and piscina.

Ref: The White Robe of the Church of the 11thc; Rev HDM Spence.

Ref: The Archaeology of the medieval church in England and Wales, John Stearne.

Ref: one-evil.org/content/acts_forgery. One Evil, Acts of Forgery.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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