J. S. Bach’s Music

I have also found a list of compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach, but they are too numerous to list here so for those interested, this is a link to the Wikipedia page: List of compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach

A handwritten note by Bach in his copy of the Calov Bible.

The above note, written next to 2 Chronicles 5:13 reads: “NB Bey einer andächtigen Musiq ist allezeit Gott mit seiner Gnaden Gegenwart”, meaning ‘(N(ota) B(ene) In a music of worship God is always present with his grace’. From an early age, Bach studied the works of his musical contemporaries of the Baroque period and those of prior generations, and those influences were reflected in his music. Like his contemporaries Handel, Telemann and Vivaldi, Bach composed concertos, suites, recitatives, da capo arias, and four-part choral music. Some works employed a basso continuo which is used in baroque music as an accompanying part that includes a bass line and harmonies, typically played on a keyboard instrument and with other instruments such as cello or lute. The music of Bach was harmonically more innovative than his peer composers, employing surprisingly dissonant chords and progressions, often with extensive exploration of harmonic possibilities within one piece. The hundreds of sacred works Bach created are usually seen as manifesting not just his craft but also a truly devout relationship with God. He had taught Luther’s Small Catechism as the Thomaskantor in Leipzig, and some of his pieces represent it, in fact the Lutheran chorale was the basis of much of his work. In elaborating these hymns into his chorale preludes. He wrote more cogent and tightly integrated works than most, even when they were seen as massive and lengthy by some and the large-scale structure of every major Bach sacred vocal work is evidence of subtle, elaborate planning to create a religiously and musically powerful expression. For example, the St Matthew Passion, like other works of its kind, illustrated the Passion with Bible text reflected in recitatives, arias, choruses, and chorales. But in crafting this work, Bach created an overall experience that has been found over the intervening centuries to be both musically thrilling and spiritually profound, something I wholeheartedly agree with. Bach published or carefully compiled in manuscript many collections of pieces that explored the range of artistic and technical possibilities inherent in almost every genre of his time except opera. For example, The Well-Tempered Clavier comprises two books, each of which presents a prelude and fugue in every major and minor key, displaying a dizzying variety of structural, contrapuntal and fugal techniques.

“O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden”: the four-part chorale setting as included in the St. Matthew Passion.

Four-part harmonies predate Bach, but he lived during a time when modal music in Western tradition was largely supplanted in favour of the tonal system. In this, a piece of music progresses from one chord to the next according to certain rules, each chord being characterised by four notes. The principles of four-part harmony are found not only in Bach’s four-part choral music, as he also prescribes it for instance for the figured bass accompaniment. The new system was at the core of Bach’s style, and his compositions are to a large extent considered as laying down the rules for the evolving scheme that would dominate musical expression in the next centuries. Some examples of this characteristic of Bach’s style and its influence may be seen when, in the 1740s, Bach staged his arrangement of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater where he upgraded the viola part (which in the original composition plays in unison with the bass part) to fill out the harmony, thus adapting the composition to his four-part harmony style. Also, starting in the 19th century in Russia, there was a discussion about the authenticity of four-part court chant settings compared to earlier Russian traditions and Bach’s four-part chorale settings, such as those ending his Chorale cantatas, were considered as foreign-influenced models. Such influence was deemed unavoidable, however. Bach’s insistence on the tonal system and contribution to shaping it did not imply he was less at ease with the older modal system and the genres associated with it, more than his contemporaries (who had ‘moved on’ to the tonal system without much exception). Bach often returned to the then-antiquated modi and genres. In addition modulation, or changing key in the course of a piece, is another style characteristic where Bach goes beyond what was usual in his time. Baroque instruments vastly limited modulation possibilities, as with keyboard instruments, prior to a workable system of temperament, limited the keys that could be modulated to, and wind instruments, especially brass instruments such as trumpets and horns, about a century before they were fitted with valves, were tied to the key of their tuning. Bach pushed the limits, as he added ‘strange tones’ in his organ playing, confusing the singing. The major development taking place in Bach’s time, and to which he contributed in no small way, was a temperament for keyboard instruments that allowed their use in all available keys (12 major and 12 minor) and also modulation without retuning. His Capriccio on the Departure of a Beloved Brother, a very early work, showed a gusto for modulation unlike any contemporary work this composition has been compared to but the full expansion came with the Well-Tempered Clavier, using all keys, which Bach apparently had been developing since around 1720, the Klavierbüchlein für Wilhelm Friedemann Bach being one of its earliest examples.

“Aria” of the Goldberg Variations, showing Bach’s use of ornaments.

The second page of this Klavierbüchlein für Wilhelm Friedemann Bach is an ornament notation and performance guide that Bach wrote for his eldest son, who was nine years old at the time. Bach was generally quite specific on ornamentation in his compositions (where in his time much of the ornamentation was not written out by composers but rather considered a liberty of the performer), and his ornamentation was often quite elaborate. For instance, the Aria of the Goldberg Variations has rich ornamentation in nearly every measure. Bach’s dealing with ornamentation can also be seen in a keyboard arrangement he made of Marcello’s Oboe Concerto, where he added explicit ornamentation, which some centuries later is played by oboists when performing the concerto. Although Bach did not write any operas, he was not averse to the genre or its ornamented vocal style. In church music, Italian composers had imitated the operatic vocal style in genres such as the Neapolitan mass. In Protestant surroundings, there was more reluctance to adopt such a style for liturgical music. For instance Kuhnau, Bach’s predecessor in Leipzig, had notoriously shunned opera and Italian virtuoso vocal music. Bach was less moved. One of the comments after a performance of his St Matthew Passion was that it all sounded much like opera. In concert playing in Bach’s time the basso continuo, along with instruments such as organ, viola da gamba or harpsichord, usually had the role of accompaniment, providing the harmonic and rhythmic foundation of a piece. From the late 1720s, Bach had the organ play ‘concertante’ (i.e. as a soloist) with the orchestra in instrumental cantata movements, a decade before Handel published his first organ concertos. Apart from the 5th Brandenburg Concerto and the Triple Concerto, which already had harpsichord soloists in the 1720s, Bach wrote and arranged his harpsichord concertos in the 1730s, and in his sonatas for viola da gamba and harpsichord neither instrument plays a continuo part as they are treated as equal soloists, far beyond the figured bass. In this sense, Bach played a key role in the development of genres such as the keyboard concerto. Bach wrote virtuoso music for specific instruments as well as music independent of instrumentation. For instance, the sonatas and partitas for solo violin are considered the pinnacle of what has been written for this instrument, only within reach of accomplished players. The music fits the instrument, pushing it to the full scale of its possibilities and requiring virtuosity of the player but without bravura. Notwithstanding that the music and the instrument seem inseparable, Bach made transcriptions for other instruments of some pieces of this collection. Similarly, for the cello suites, the virtuoso music seems tailored for the instrument, the best of what is offered for it, yet Bach made an arrangement for lute of one of these suites. The same applies to much of his most virtuoso keyboard music. Bach exploited the capabilities of an instrument to the fullest while keeping the core of such music independent of the instrument on which it is performed.
In this sense, it is no surprise that Bach’s music is easily and often performed on instruments it was not necessarily written for, that it is transcribed so often, and that his melodies turn up in unexpected places such as jazz music. Apart from this, Bach left a number of compositions without specified instrumentation. Another characteristic of Bach’s style is his extensive use of counterpoint, as opposed to the homophony used in his four-part Chorale settings, for example. Bach’s canons, and especially his fugues, are most characteristic of this style, which Bach did not invent but contributed to so fundamentally that he defined it to a large extent. Fugues are as characteristic to Bach’s style as, for instance, the Sonata form is characteristic to the composers of the Classical period. These strictly contrapuntal compositions, and most of Bach’s music in general, are characterised by distinct melodic lines for each of the voices, where the chords formed by the notes sounding at a given point follow the rules of four-part harmony. From about 1720, when he was thirty-five, until his death in 1750, Bach’s harmony consists in this melodic interweaving of independent melodies, so perfect in their union that each part seems to constitute the true melody, and here I think Bach excels all the composers in the world. At least, I have found no one to equal him in music known to me. Even in his four-part writing we can, not infrequently, leave out the upper and lower parts and still find the middle parts melodious and agreeable. Bach devoted more attention than his contemporaries to the structure of compositions. This can be seen in minor adjustments he made when adapting someone else’s composition, such as his earliest version of the “Keiser” St Mark Passion, where he enhances scene transitions, and in the architecture of his own compositions such as his Magnificat and Leipzig Passions. In the last years of his life, Bach revised several of his prior compositions, and often the recasting of such previously composed music in an enhanced structure was the most visible change, as in the Mass in B minor. Bach’s known preoccupation with structure led to various numerological analyses of his compositions, although many such over-interpretations were later rejected. The librettos, or lyrics, of his vocal compositions played an important role for Bach. He sought collaboration with various text authors for his cantatas and major vocal compositions, possibly writing or adapting such texts himself to make them fit the structure of the composition he was designing when he could not rely on the talents of other text authors. His collaboration with Picander for the St Matthew Passion libretto is best known, but there was a similar process in achieving a multi-layered structure for his St John Passion libretto a few years earlier.

In 1950, Wolfgang Schmieder published a thematic catalogue of Bach’s compositions called the Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (Bach Works Catalogue). Schmieder largely followed the Bach-Gesellschaft-Ausgabe, a comprehensive edition of the composer’s works that was produced between 1850 and 1900. The first edition of the catalogue listed 1,080 surviving compositions indisputably composed by Bach. This BWV range of compositions comprised as BWV 1–224: Cantatas, BWV 225–231: Motets, BWV 232–243: Liturgical compositions in Latin, BWV 244–249: Passions and Oratorios, BWV 250–438: Four-part chorales, BWV 439–524: Small vocal works, BWV 525–771: Organ compositions, BWV 772–994: Other keyboard works, BWV 995–1000: Lute compositions, BWV 1001–1040: Other chamber music, BWV 1041–1071: Orchestral music, BWV 1072–1078: Canons and BWV 1079–1080: Late contrapuntal works. BWV 1081–1126 were added to the catalogue in the second half of the 20th century, whilst BWV 1127 and higher are 21st-century additions.

Bach’s autograph of the recitative with the gospel text of Christ’s death from St Matthew Passion (Matthew 27:45–47a).

Bach composed Passions for Good Friday services and oratorios such as the Christmas Oratorio, which is a set of six cantatas for use in the liturgical season of Christmas, whilst shorter oratorios include the Easter Oratorio and the Ascension Oratorio. With its double choir and orchestra, the St Matthew Passion is one of Bach’s most extended works and the St John Passion was the first passion Bach composed during his tenure as Thomaskantor in Leipzig. According to his obituary, Bach would have composed five year-cycles of sacred cantatas and additional church cantatas, for example weddings and funerals. Approximately 200 of these sacred works are extant, an estimated two thirds of the total number of church cantatas he composed. The Bach Digital website lists 50 known secular cantatas by the composer, about half of which are extant or largely reconstructable. Bach also wrote a range of cantatas, both church and secular. His A cappella music includes motets and chorale harmonisations but he is perhaps best known, certainly during his lifetime, as an organist, organ consultant, and composer of organ works in both the traditional German free genres (such as preludes, fantasias and toccatas as well as stricter forms such as chorale preludes and fugues. At a young age, he established a reputation for creativity and ability to integrate foreign styles into his organ works. A decidedly North German influence was exerted by Georg Böhm, with whom Bach came into contact in Lüneburg, and Dieterich Buxtehude, whom the young organist visited in Lübeck in 1704 on an extended leave of absence from his job in Arnstadt. Around this time, Bach copied the works of numerous French and Italian composers to gain insights into their compositional languages, and later arranged violin concertos by Vivaldi and others for organ and harpsichord. During his most productive period (1708–1714) he composed about a dozen pairs of preludes and fugues, five toccatas and fugues, and the Orgelbüchlein or “Little Organ Book”, an unfinished collection of 46 short chorale preludes that demonstrate compositional techniques in the setting of chorale tunes. After leaving Weimar, Bach wrote less for organ, although some of his best-known works (the six Organ Sonatas, the German Organ Mass in Clavier-Übung III from 1739, and the Great Eighteen Chorale Preludes, revised late in his life, were composed after leaving Weimar. Bach was also extensively engaged later in his life in consulting on organ projects, testing new organs and dedicating organs in afternoon recitals. The Canonic Variations on “Vom Himmel hoch da komm’ ich her” and the Schübler Chorales are organ works Bach published in the last years of his life. Bach wrote many works for harpsichord, some of which may also have been played on the clavichord or lute-harpsichord. Some of his larger works are intended for a harpsichord with two manuals, because performing them on a keyboard instrument with a single manual (like a piano) may present technical difficulties for the crossing of hands. In Books 1 and 2 of The Well-Tempered Clavier, each book consists of a prelude and fugue in each of the 24 major and minor keys, in chromatic order from C major to B minor. As a result, the whole collection is often referred to as ‘the 48’, and the term ‘Well-tempered’ in the title refers to the [temperament, or system of tuning. Many temperaments before Bach’s time were not flexible enough to allow compositions to utilise more than just a few keys. Bach’s best-known orchestral works are the Brandenburg Concertos, so named because he submitted them in the hope of gaining employment from Margrave Christian Ludwig of Brandenburg-Schwedt in 1721, however his application was unsuccessful. In his early youth, Bach copied pieces by other composers to learn from them. Later, he copied and arranged music for performance or as study material for his pupils.

The church in Arnstadt where Bach had been the organist from 1703 to 1707.

In 1935 the church was renamed “Bachkirche”. Throughout the 18th century, appreciation of Bach’s music was mostly limited to distinguished connoisseurs. Then the 19th century started with publication of the first biography of the composer and ended with the completion of the publication of all of Bach’s known works by the Bach Gesellschaft. A Bach Revival had started from Mendelssohn’s performance of the St Matthew Passion in 1829. Soon after that performance, Bach started to become regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time, if not the greatest, a reputation he has retained ever since. A new extensive Bach biography was published in the second half of the 19th century. Bach was originally buried at Old St. John’s Cemetery in Leipzig. His grave went unmarked for nearly 150 years, but in 1894 his remains were located and moved to a vault in St. John’s Church. This building was then destroyed by Allied bombing during World War II, so in 1950 Bach’s remains were taken to their present grave in St. Thomas Church and it is sad that later research has called into question whether in fact the remains in the grave are actually those of Bach. I like to think they are his.

This week…remember.
A gossip is someone with a great sense of rumour.

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Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach (21 March 1685 – 28 July 1750) was a German composer and musician of the late Baroque period. He is known for his orchestral music, instrumental compositions, keyboard works, organ works and vocal music. The Bach family already counted several composers when Johann Sebastian was born as the last child of a city musician in Eisenach. After being orphaned at the age of ten, he lived for five years with his eldest brother Johann Christoph, after which he continued his musical education in Lüneburg. From 1703 he was back in Thuringia, working as a musician for Protestant churches in Arnstadt and Mühlhausen and, for longer stretches of time, at courts in Weimar, where he expanded his organ repertory, and Köthen, where he was mostly engaged with chamber music. From 1723 he was employed as cantor at St Thomas’s in Leipzig. There he composed music for the principal Lutheran churches of the city, and for its university’s student ensemble, Collegium Musicum. From 1726 he published some of his keyboard and organ music. In Leipzig, as had happened during some of his earlier positions, he had difficult relations with his employer, a situation that was little remedied when he was granted the title of court composer by his sovereign, Augustus III of Poland in 1736. In the last decades of his life he reworked and extended many of his earlier compositions. He died of complications after eye surgery in 1750 at the age of 65. Bach enriched established German styles through his mastery of counterpoint, harmonic and motivic organisation, and his adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France. Bach’s compositions include literally hundreds of cantatas, both sacred and secular. He composed Latin church music, passions, oratorios and motets. He often adopted Lutheran hymns, not only in his larger vocal works, but for instance also in his four-part chorales and his sacred songs. He wrote extensively for organ and for other keyboard instruments, also composing works for instruments such as the violin and the harpsichord, along with suites and chamber music for orchestra. Many of his works employ the genres of both canon and fugue. Throughout the 18th century, Bach was primarily valued as an organist, whilst his keyboard music, such as “The Well-Tempered Clavier”, was appreciated for its didactic qualities. The 19th century saw the publication of some major Bach biographies and by the end of that century all of his known music had been printed. Dissemination of scholarship on the composer continued through periodicals (and later also websites) exclusively devoted to him, and other publications such as the Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (BWV, a numbered catalogue of his works) and new critical editions of his compositions. His music was further popularised through a multitude of arrangements as well as of recordings, such as three different box sets with complete performances of the composer’s body of work marking the 250th anniversary of his death.

Johann Ambrosius Bach, 1685, Bach’s father. Painting attributed to Johann David Herlicius.

Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach, the capital of the duchy of Saxe-Eisenach, in present-day Germany, on 21 March 1685 and was the eighth and youngest child of Johann Ambrosius Bach, the director of the town musicians, and Maria Elisabeth Lämmerhirt. His father likely taught him violin and basic music theory. His uncles were all professional musicians, whose posts included church organists, court chamber musicians, and composers. One uncle, Johann Christoph Bach, introduced him to the organ and an older second cousin, Johann Ludwig Bach, was a well-known composer and violinist. Bach’s mother died in 1694, and his father died eight months later. The 10-year-old Bach moved in with his eldest brother Johann Christoph Bach, the organist at St.Michael’s Church in Ohrdruf, Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg. There he studied, performed, and copied music, including his own brother’s, despite being forbidden to do so because scores were so valuable and private, and blank ledger paper of that type was costly. He received valuable teaching from his brother, who instructed him on the clavichord. Johann Christoph exposed him to the works of great composers of the day, including South Germans such as Johann Caspar Kerll, Johann Jakob Froberger and Johann Pachelbel, under whom Johann Christoph had studied). Bach also learned of Frenchmen such as Jean-Baptiste Lully, Louis Marchand and Marin Marais, even the Italian Girolamo Frescobaldi. During this time, he was also taught theology, Latin and Greek at the local gymnasium. By 3 April 1700, Bach and his schoolfriend Georg Erdmann, who was two years Bach’s elder, were enrolled in the prestigious St. Michael’s School in Lüneburg, some two weeks’ travel north of Ohrdruf. Their journey was probably undertaken mostly on foot. His two years there were critical in exposing Bach to a wider range of European culture. In addition to singing in the choir, he played the school’s three-manual organ and harpsichords. He also came into contact with sons of aristocrats from northern Germany who had been sent to the nearby ‘Ritter-Academie’ to prepare for careers in other disciplines.

The Wender organ Bach played in Arnstadt.

In January 1703, shortly after graduating from St. Michael’s and being turned down for the post of organist at Sangerhausen, Bach was appointed court musician in the chapel of Duke Johann Ernst III in Weimar. His role there is unclear, but it probably included menial, non-musical duties. During his seven-month tenure at Weimar, his reputation as a keyboardist spread so much that he was invited to inspect the new organ and give the inaugural recital at the New Church (now Bach Church) in Arnstadt, located about 19 miles (30 kilometres) southwest of Weimar. On 14 August 1703, he became the organist at the New Church, with light duties, a relatively generous salary, and a new organ tuned in a temperament that allowed music written in a wider range of keys to be played. Despite strong family connections and a musically enthusiastic employer, tension built up between Bach and the authorities after several years in the post. Bach was dissatisfied with the standard of singers in the choir. He called one of them a “Zippel Fagottist” (weenie) bassoon player. Late one evening this student, named Geyersbach, went after Bach with a stick. Bach filed a complaint against Geyersbach with the authorities. They acquitted Geyersbach with a minor reprimand and ordered Bach to be more moderate regarding the musical qualities he expected from his students. Some months later Bach upset his employer by a prolonged absence from Arnstadt as after obtaining leave for four weeks, he was absent for around four months in 1705–1706 to visit the organist and composer Dieterich Buxtehude in the northern city of Lübeck. The visit to Buxtehude involved a 280-mile (450-kilometre) journey each way, reportedly on foot. In 1706, Bach applied for a post as organist at the Blasius Church in Mühlhausen and as part of his application he had an Easter cantata performed at 24 April 1707. A month later Bach’s application was accepted and he took up the post in July. The position included significantly higher remuneration, improved conditions, and a better choir. Four months after arriving at Mühlhausen, Bach married Maria Barbara Bach, his second cousin. Bach was able to convince the church and town government at Mühlhausen to fund an expensive renovation of the organ at the Blasius Church and in 1708 Bach wrote a festive cantata for the inauguration of the new council which was published at the council’s expense.

Organ of the St. Paul’s Church in Leipzig, tested by Bach in 1717.

Bach left Mühlhausen in 1708, returning to Weimar this time as organist and from 1714 ‘Konzertmeister’ (director of music) at the ducal court, where he had an opportunity to work with a large, well-funded contingent of professional musicians. Bach and his wife moved into a house close to the ducal palace. Later the same year, their first child, Catharina Dorothea, was born, and Maria Barbara’s elder, unmarried sister joined them. She remained to help run the household until her death in 1729. Three sons were also born in Weimar. Johann Sebastian and Maria Barbara had three more children, who however did not live to their first birthday, including twins born in 1713. Bach’s time in Weimar was the start of a sustained period of composing keyboard and orchestral works. He attained the proficiency and confidence to extend the prevailing structures and include influences from abroad. He learned to write dramatic openings and employ the dynamic rhythms and harmonic schemes found in the music of Italians such as Vivaldi, Corelli and Torelli. Bach absorbed these stylistic aspects in part by transcribing Vivaldi’s string and wind concertos for harpsichord and organ, happily many of these transcribed works are still regularly performed. Bach was particularly attracted to the Italian style, in which one or more solo instruments alternate section-by-section with the full orchestra throughout a movement. In Weimar, Bach continued to play and compose for the organ and perform concert music with the duke’s ensemble. He also began to write the preludes and fugues which were later assembled into his monumental work The Well-Tempered Clavier, “clavier” meaning clavichord or harpsichord) consisting of two books, each containing 24 preludes and fugues in every major and minor key. Bach also started work on the Little Organ Book in Weimar, containing traditional Lutheran chorale tunes set in complex textures. In 1713, Bach was offered a post in Halle when he advised the authorities during a renovation of the main organ in the west gallery of the Market Church of Our Dear Lady. In the spring of 1714, Bach was promoted to ‘Konzertmeister’, an honour that entailed performing a church cantata monthly in the castle church. Bach’s first Christmas cantata was premiered in either 1714 or 1715, then in 1717 Bach eventually fell out of favour in Weimar and, according to a translation of the court secretary’s report, was jailed for almost a month before being unfavourably dismissed. The official notice was “On November 6, 1717, the quondam (former) concertmaster and organist Bach was confined to the County Judge’s place of detention for too stubbornly forcing the issue of his dismissal and finally on December 2 was freed from arrest with notice of his unfavourable discharge.”

Bach’s autograph of the first movement of the first sonata for solo violin, BWV 1001.

Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen, hired Bach to serve as his Kapellmeister (director of music) in 1717. Prince Leopold, himself a musician, appreciated Bach’s talents, paid him well and gave him considerable latitude in composing and performing. The prince was a Calvinist and did not use elaborate music in his worship, so most of Bach’s work from this period was secular, including the orchestral suites, cello suites, sonatas and partitas for solo violin and his Brandenburg Concertos. Bach also composed secular cantatas for the court. Despite being born in the same year and only about 80 miles (130 kilometres) apart, Bach and Handel never met. In 1719, Bach made the 22 mile (35 kilometre) journey from Köthen to Halle with the intention of meeting Handel, however, Handel had left the town. In 1730, Bach’s oldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann, travelled to Halle to invite Handel to visit the Bach family in Leipzig, but the visit did not take place. On 7 July 1720, whilst Bach was away in Carlsbad with Prince Leopold, Bach’s wife suddenly died. The following year, he met Anna Magdalena Wilcke, a young, highly gifted soprano 16 years his junior, who performed at the court in Köthen and they married on 3 December 1721. Together they had 13 children, six of whom survived into adulthood, these being Gottfried Heinrich, Elisabeth Juliane Friederica, Johann Christoph Friedrich and Johann Christian who both, especially Johann Christian, became significant musicians, also Johanna Carolina and Regina Susanna. In 1723, Bach was appointed Thomaskantor (Cantor) of the St. Thomas School at the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, which provided music for four churches in the city, the St. Thomas Church and St. Nicholas Church and to a lesser extent the New Church and St. Peter’s Church. This meant he was “the leading cantorate in Protestant Germany”, located in the mercantile city in the Electorate of Saxony, a post which he held for 27 years until his death. During that time he gained further prestige through honorary appointments at the courts of Köthen and Weissenfels, as well as that of the Elector Frederick Augustus (who was also King of Poland) in Dresden. Bach frequently disagreed with his employer, Leipzig’s city council, which he regarded as “penny-pinching”.

Statue of Bach in front of the Thomaskirche in Leipzig.

Johann Kuhnau had been Thomaskantor in Leipzig from 1701 until his death on 5 June 1722. Bach had visited Leipzig during Kuhnau’s tenure and in 1714 he attended the service at the St. Thomas Church on the first Sunday of Advent. In 1717 he had tested the organ of the St. Paul’s Church. In 1716 Bach and Kuhnau had met on the occasion of the testing and inauguration of an organ in Halle. After being offered the position, Bach was invited to Leipzig only after Georg Philipp Telemann indicated that he would not be interested in relocating to Leipzig. Telemann went to Hamburg, where apparently he had his own struggles with the city’s senate.
Bach was required to instruct the students of the ‘Thomasschule’ in singing and provide church music for the main churches in Leipzig. He was also assigned to teach Latin but was allowed to employ four ‘prefects’ (deputies) to do this instead. The prefects also aided with musical instruction. It seems too that a cantata was required for the church services on Sundays and additional church holidays during the liturgical year. Bach usually led performances of his cantatas, most of which were composed within three years of his relocation to Leipzig. Bach collected his cantatas in annual cycles. Five are mentioned in obituaries, three are extant. Sadly, of the more than 300 cantatas which Bach composed in Leipzig, over 100 have been lost to posterity. Most of these works expound on the Gospel readings prescribed for every Sunday and feast day in the Lutheran year. Bach started a second annual cycle the first Sunday after Trinity of 1724 and composed only chorale cantatas, each based on a single church hymn. Bach drew the soprano and alto choristers from the school and the tenors and basses both from the school and elsewhere in Leipzig. Performing at weddings and funerals provided extra income for these groups and it was probably for this purpose, and for in-school training, that he wrote at least six motets. As part of his regular church work, he performed other composers’ motets, which served as formal models for his own. Bach’s predecessor as cantor, Johann Kuhnau, had also been music director for the St. Paul’s Church, the church of Leipzig University but when Bach was installed as cantor in 1723, he was put in charge only of music for festal (church holiday) services at the St. Paul’s Church. His petition to also provide music for regular Sunday services there (for a corresponding salary increase) went all the way to the Elector but was denied. After this, in 1725, Bach ‘lost interest’ in working even for festal services at the St. Paul’s Church and appeared there only on special occasions. The St. Paul’s Church had a much better and newer organ than did the St. Thomas Church or the St. Nicholas Church. Bach was not required to play any organ in his official duties, but it is believed he liked to play on the St. Paul’s Church organ “for his own pleasure”. Bach broadened his composing and performing beyond the liturgy by taking over, in March 1729, the directorship of the Collegium Musicum, a secular performance ensemble started by Telemann. This was one of the dozens of private societies in the major German-speaking cities that were established by musically active university students; these societies had become increasingly important in public musical life and were typically led by the most prominent professionals in a city. In the words of Christoph Wolff, assuming the directorship was a shrewd move that consolidated Bach’s firm grip on Leipzig’s principal musical institutions. Every week the Collegium Musicum would give two-hour performances in winter at the Café Zimmermann, a coffee house on Catherine Street off the main market square and during the summer months in the proprietor’s outdoor coffee garden just outside the town walls, near the East Gate. The concerts, all free of charge, ended with Gottfried Zimmermann’s death in 1741. Apart from showcasing his earlier orchestral repertoire such as the Brandenburg Concertos and Orchestral Suites, many of Bach’s newly composed or reworked pieces were performed for these venues, including parts of his Clavier-Übung (Keyboard Practice), his violin and keyboard concertos and of course the eponymous Coffee Cantata.

Bach’s seal (centre), used throughout his Leipzig years. It contains the superimposed letters J S B in mirror image topped with a crown. The flanking letters illustrate the arrangement on the seal.

In 1733, Bach composed a Kyrie–Gloria Mass in B minor which he later incorporated in his Mass in B minor and he presented the manuscript to the Elector in an eventually successful bid to persuade the prince to give him the title of Court Composer. He later extended this work into a full mass by adding a Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei, the music for which was partly based on his own cantatas and partly original. Bach’s appointment as Court Composer was an element of his long-term struggle to achieve greater bargaining power with the Leipzig council. Then in 1735 Bach started to prepare his first publication of organ music, which was printed as the third Clavier-Übung in 1739. From around that year he started to compile and compose the set of preludes and fugues for harpsichord that would become his second book of ‘The Well-Tempered Clavier’. He received the title of ‘Royal Court Composer’ from Augustus III in 1736. It was during his final years from 1740 to 1748 Bach copied, transcribed, expanded or programmed music in an older polyphonic style, showing an increased integration of polyphonic structures and canons and other elements. His fourth and last ‘Clavier-Übung’ volume, the Goldberg Variations for two-manual harpsichord, contained nine canons and was published in 1741. Throughout this period, Bach also continued to adopt music of contemporaries such as Handel and Stölzel, giving many of his own earlier compositions such as the St Matthew and St John Passions and the Great Eighteen Chorale Preludes their final revisions. He also programmed and adapted music by composers of a younger generation, including Pergolesi and his own students such as Goldberg. Two large-scale compositions occupied a central place in Bach’s last years. From around 1742 he wrote and revised the various canons and fugues of The Art of Fugue, which he continued to prepare for publication until shortly before his death. After extracting a cantata from his 1733 Kyrie-Gloria Mass for the Dresden court in the mid-1740s, Bach expanded that setting into his Mass in B minor in the last years of his life. Although the complete mass was never performed during the composer’s lifetime, it is considered to be among the greatest choral works in history. Becoming blind, Bach underwent eye surgery in March 1750 and again in April by the British eye surgeon John Taylor, a man widely understood today as a charlatan and believed to have blinded hundreds of people. Bach died on 28 July 1750 from complications due to the unsuccessful treatment. The composer’s son Carl Philipp Emanuel saw to it that ‘The Art of Fugue’, although still unfinished, was published in 1751. Together with one of the composer’s former students, Johann Friedrich Agricola, the son also wrote an obituary which was published in Mizler’s Musikalische Bibliothek, a periodical journal produced by the Society of Musical Sciences, in 1754. There is so much more that can be written about Bach, like his musical style, along with detail of his many and varied works, but that may be for another time.

This week… Alternative responses.

Statement: “I’m looking for a lift.”
Response 1: “Walk around that corner and there’s a taxi ahead of you.”
Response 2: “Where is it you want to get to?”
Response 3: “You’re a beautiful person with a wonderful personality!”

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The Royal Albert Hall

This is a concert hall on the northern edge of South Kensington, London. One of the UK’s most treasured and distinctive buildings, it is held in trust for the nation and managed by a registered charity which receives no government funding. It can seat 5,27 and since its opening by Queen Victoria in 1871, the world’s leading artists from many performance genres have appeared on its stage. The hall was originally supposed to have been called the ‘Central Hall of Arts and Sciences’, but the name was changed to the ‘Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences’ by Queen Victoria upon laying the Hall’s foundation stone in 1867, in memory of her husband Prince Albert, who had died six years earlier. It forms the practical part of a memorial to the Prince Consort, as the decorative part is the Albert Memorial which situated directly to the north in Kensington Gardens, now separated from the Hall by Kensington Gore, the name of a U-shaped thoroughfare on the south side of Hyde Park. The streets connect the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal College of Art, the Royal Geographical Society, and in Kensington Gardens the Albert Memorial. The area is named after the Gore estate which occupied the site until it was developed by Victorian planners in the mid nineteenth century. A ‘gore’ is a narrow, triangular piece of land, in this case the wedge-shaped piece of land which divides them, and which has been known by this name from Anglo-Saxon times. In 1851 the Great Exhibition, organised by Prince Albert, the Prince Consort, was held in Hyde Park. The Exhibition was a success and led Prince Albert to propose the creation of a group of permanent facilities for the public benefit, which came to be known as ‘Albertopolis’. The Exhibition’s Royal Commission bought Gore House but it was slow to act and in 1861 Prince Albert died without having seen his ideas come to fruition. However, a memorial was proposed for Hyde Park, with a Great Hall opposite. The proposal was approved, and the site was purchased with some of the profits from the Exhibition. The Hall was scheduled to be completed by Christmas Day 1870, and the Queen visited a few weeks beforehand to inspect it.

The first performance at the Hall. The decorated canvas awning is seen beneath the dome.

The official opening ceremony of the Hall was on 29 March 1871, and a welcoming speech was given by Edward, the Prince of Wales because the Queen was too overcome to speak. Her only recorded comment on the Hall was that it reminded her of the British constitution. In the concert that followed, the Hall’s acoustic problems immediately became apparent. Engineers first tried to remove the strong echo by suspending a canvas awning below the dome. This helped and also sheltered concert-goers from the sun, but the problem was not solved, in fact it may have even been jokingly said the Hall was “the only place where a British composer could be sure of hearing his work twice”. Initially lit by gas, the Hall contained a special system by which thousands of gas jets were lit within ten seconds. Though it was demonstrated as early as 1873 in the Hall, full electric lighting was not installed until 1888. In May 1877, Richard Wagner himself conducted the first half of each of the eight concerts which made up the Grand Wagner Festival. After his turn with the baton, he handed it over to conductor Hans Richter and sat in a large armchair on the corner of the stage for the rest of each concert. Wagner’s wife Cosima, the daughter of Hungarian virtuoso pianist and composer Franz Liszt, was among the audience. I have also learned that The Wine Society was founded at the Hall on 4 August 1874, after large quantities of cask wine were found in the cellars. A series of lunches were held to publicise the wines and General Henry Scott proposed a co-operative company to buy and sell wines.

Acoustic diffusing discs (lit in purple/blue) hanging from the roof of the Hall. The fluted aluminium panels are seen behind.

In 1906 the Central School of Speech and Drama was founded at the Hall, using its West Theatre, now the Elgar Room, as the school’s theatre. The school moved to Swiss Cottage in north London in 1957. Whilst the school was based at the Royal Albert Hall, several famous people graduated from its classes. From the start, the Hall was used for different concerts, meetings and rallies. In October 1942, the Hall suffered minor damage during World War II bombing, but in general it was left mostly untouched as German pilots used the distinctive structure as a landmark. Then in 1949 the canvas awning was removed and replaced with fluted aluminium panels below the glass roof, in an attempt to cure the echo, however the acoustics were not properly tackled until 1969 when large fibreglass acoustic diffusing discs were installed below the ceiling. Later the Hall became the venue for the Eurovision Song Contest and from 1969 to 1988 the Miss World contest was staged in the venue. From 1996 until 2004, the Hall underwent a programme of renovation and development supported by a £20 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £20 million from Arts Council England to enable it to meet the demands of the next century of events and performances. Thirty ‘discreet projects’ were designed and supervised, including improved ventilation to the auditorium, more bars and restaurants, improved seating, better technical facilities and improved backstage areas. Internally the Circle seating was rebuilt during June 1996 to provide more leg-room, better access, and improved sight-lines. The largest project of the ongoing renovation and development was the building of a new south porch from door twelve, accommodating a first-floor restaurant, new ground floor box office and subterranean loading bay. Although the exterior of the building was largely unchanged, the south steps leading down to Prince Consort Road were demolished to allow construction of underground vehicle access and a loading bay with accommodation for three HGVs carrying all the equipment brought by shows. The steps were then reconstructed around a new south porch and was built on a similar scale and style to the three pre-existing porches at Doors three, six and nine. On 4 June 2004, the project received the Europa Nostra Award for remarkable achievement. The East (Door three) and West (Door nine) porches were glazed and new bars opened along with ramps to improve disabled access. The Stalls were rebuilt in a four-week period in 2000 using steel supports allowing more space underneath for two new bars. 1,534 unique pivoting seats were laid, with an addition of 180 prime seats. The Choirs were rebuilt at the same time. The whole building was redecorated in a style that reinforces its Victorian identity. 43,000 square feet of new carpets were laid in the rooms, stairs, and corridors and these were specially woven with a border which followed the oval curve of the building. Between 2002 and 2004 there was a major rebuilding of the great organ, known as the Voice of Jupiter, built by “Father’ Henry Willis in 1871 and rebuilt by Harrison & Harrison in 1924 and 1933. The rebuilding was performed by Mander Organs and it is now the second-largest pipe organ in the British Isles with 9,999 pipes in 147 stops. The largest is the Grand Organ in Liverpool Cathedral, which has 10,268 pipes. During the first half of 2011, changes were made to the backstage areas to relocate and increase the size of crew catering areas under the South Steps away from the stage and create additional dressing rooms nearer to the stage.

The Royal Albert Hall as seen from Prince Consort Road.

From January to May 2013, the Box Office area at Door twelve underwent further modernisation to include a new Café Bar on the ground floor, a new Box Office with shop counters and additional toilets. In Autumn 2013, work began on replacing the Victorian steam heating system over three years and improving and cooling across the building. This work followed the summer Proms season during which temperatures were unusually high. In 2017 work began on a two-storey 11,000-square-foot basement extension for use as backstage and archival space to the south-west quadrant of the building. The project was nicknamed the ‘Great Excavation’, in reference to the Great Exhibition of 1851, and was planned to be complete for the Halls 150th anniversary in 2021. In 2018 a Walk of Fame was unveiled at the Hall, with the first eleven recipients of a star including the Suffragettes, who held meetings at the Hall, Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein,Muhammad Ali (who had held exhibition events at the venue which he dubbed a ‘helluva hall’), and Eric Clapton, who has played at the venue over 200 times. There are also others, all of whom are viewed as ‘key players’ in the building’s history. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions meant the Hall was closed for the first time since the Second World War. During winter 2020 it reopened for three socially distanced performances but was later closed for a second period.

‘A Triumph of Arts and Sciences’

The Hall, a Grade I listed building, was originally designed with a capacity for 8,000 people and has accommodated as many as 12,000, although present-day safety restrictions mean the maximum permitted capacity is now 5,272, including standing in the Gallery. Around the outside of the building is 800-foot–long terracotta mosaic frieze, depicting ‘The Triumph of Arts and Sciences’, in reference to the Hall’s dedication. Interestingly, below the Arena floor there is room for two 4000 gallon water tanks, which are used for shows which can flood the arena.

The Hall at the opening ceremony, seen from Kensington Gardens.

The Hall has been affectionately titled ‘The Nation’s Village Hall’. The first concert was Arthur Sullivan’s cantata ‘On Shore and Sea’, performed on 1 May 1871. Indeed, a great many events have been held at the Hall which include boxing, the Eurovision Song Contest which was broadcast in colour for the first time and the first Miss World contest broadcast in colour was also staged there in 1969 and remained at the Hall every year until 1989. Between 1996 and 2008 the Hall hosted the annual National Television Awards, all of which were hosted by Sir Trevor McDonald. Benefit concerts include the 1997 Music for Montserrat concert, an event which featured a range of various artists. On 2 October 2011, the Hall staged the 25th-anniversary performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ which was broadcast live to cinemas across the world and filmed for DVD. Then on 22 September 2011, Adele performed a one-night-only concert as part of her tour. And this concert was filmed for DVD and screened at cinemas in 26 cities around the world. On 24 September 2012, Classic FM celebrated the 20th anniversary of their launch with a concert at the Hall. On 19 November 2012, the Hall hosted the 100th-anniversary performance of the Royal Variety Performance, attended by the HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH Duke of Edinburgh. Then at a press conference held at the Hall in October 2016, Phil Collins announced his return to live performing with a tour which began in June 2017. This tour included five nights at the Hall which sold out in fifteen seconds. Also in 2017, the Hall hosted the 70th British Academy Film Awards for the first time in 20 years, replacing the Royal Opera House at which the event had been held since 2008. Many performances were held at the Hall in subsequent years, right up until November 2020, when One Direction member Niall Horan performed a one off live-streamed show in an empty Hall during the COVID-19 pandemic to raise money for charity. In 2022, Venezuelan comedian José Rafael Guzmán became the first Spanish-speaking comedian to perform at the concert hall. But there are regular events held there too. The Royal Choral Society is the longest-running regular performer at the Hall, having given its first performance as the Royal Albert Hall Choral Society on 8 May 1872 and from 1876 it established an annual Good Friday performance of Handel’s Messiah.

A promenade concert as seen from the Circle.

The BBC Sir Henry Wood Promenade Concerts, known as ‘The Proms’, is a popular annual eight-week summer season of daily classical music concerts and other events at the Hall. In 1942, following the destruction of the Queen’s Hall during an air raid, the Hall was chosen as the new venue for the proms but in 1944, with increased danger to the Hall, part of the proms were held in the Bedford Corn Exchange. Following the end of World War II the proms continued in the Hall and have done so annually every summer since. The event was founded in 1895, and now each season consists of over 70 concerts, in addition to a series of events at other venues across the United Kingdom on the last night. In 2009, the total number of concerts reached 100 for the first time. Interestingly ‘Proms’, short for [promenade concerts, is a term which arose from the original practice of the audience promenading, or strolling, in some areas during the concert. As such, the Proms concert-goers, particularly those who stand, are sometimes described as ‘Promenaders’, but are most commonly referred to as ‘Prommers’. Other events are held here regularly, such as ‘Cirque du Soleil’, the Classic Brit Awards, the Institute of Directors Annual Convention, the Teenage Cancer Trust, the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain and the The Salvation Army Christmas Concert. Since 1998 the English National Ballet has had several specially staged arena summer seasons there and The Royal British LegionFestival of Remembrance is held annually the day before Remembrance Sunday. The Hall is used annually by the neighbouring Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art for graduation ceremonies. The venue has screened several films since the early silent days, in fact it was the only London venue to show William Fox’s ‘The Queen of Sheba’ in the 1920s. The Hall has also hosted a great many premières too numerous to mention here. In addition, the Hall hosts hundreds of events and activities beyond its main auditorium. There are regular free art exhibitions in the ground floor Amphi corridor, which can be viewed when attending events or on dedicated viewing dates. Visitors can take a guided tour of the Hall on most days. The most common is the one-hour Grand Tour which includes most front-of-house areas, the auditorium, the Gallery and the Royal Retiring Room. Other tours include Story of the Proms, Behind the Scenes, Inside Out and School tours. Children’s events include Storytelling and Music Sessions for ages four and under. These take place in the Door 9 Porch and Albert’s Band sessions in the Elgar Room during school holidays. ‘Live Music in Verdi’ takes place in the Italian restaurant on a Friday night featuring different artists each week. ‘Late Night Jazz’ events in the Elgar Room, generally on a Thursday night, feature cabaret-style seating and a relaxed atmosphere with drinks available. Classical Coffee Mornings are held on Sundays in the Elgar Room with musicians from the Royal College of Music, accompanied with drinks and pastries. Sunday brunch events take place in Verdi Italian restaurant and feature different genres of music. Consequently the Hall has won many awards across several different categories. It truly is a remarkable place.

This week…

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Friday The Thirteenth

This date combination is considered an unlucky day by many in Western superstition and it occurs when the 13th day of the month in the Gregorian calendar falls on a Friday. This happens at least once every year, but can occur up to three times in the same year. For example, 2015 had a Friday the thirteenth in February, March, and November; each year from 2017 to 2020 had two Friday the thirteenth’s each; 2016, 2021 and 2022 had just one occurrence of Friday the thirteenth each whilst 2023 and 2024 will have two Friday the thirteenth’s each. In each year they are easy to identify, as Friday the thirteenth occurs in any month that begins on a Sunday. The unluckiness of the number thirteen, also known as ‘Triskaidekaphobia’ originated, according to folklore historian Donald Dossey, with a Norse myth about twelve gods having a dinner party in Valhalla. The trickster god Loki, who was not invited, arrived as the thirteenth guest, and arranged for Höðr to shoot Balder with a mistletoe-tipped arrow. According to Dossey, Balder died and the whole Earth got dark. The whole Earth mourned. It was a bad, unlucky day. This major event in Norse mythology thus caused the number thirteen to be considered unlucky.

‘The Last Supper’ by Leonardo da Vinci.

There are Christian associations to the number, for example the story of Jesus and the last supper in which there were thirteen individuals present in the Upper Room on the thirteenth of Nisan (Maundy Thursday), the night before Jesus’ death on Good Friday. However, whilst there is evidence of both Friday and the number thirteen being considered unlucky, there is no record of the two items being referred to together as especially unlucky before the nineteenth century. It was in France that Friday the thirteenth might have been associated with misfortune as early as the first half of the nineteenth century. A character in the 1834 play ‘Les Finesses des Gribouilles’ states, “I was born on a Friday, December thirteenth, 1813 from which come all of my misfortunes”. An early documented reference in English occurs in a biography of Gioachino Rossini, who died on a Friday thirteenth which states: “Rossini was surrounded to the last by admiring friends; and if it be true that, like so many Italians, he regarded Fridays as an unlucky day and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that on Friday thirteenth of November he passed away.” It is also possible that the publication in 1907 of businessman T. W. Lawson’s popular novel ‘Friday, the Thirteenth’ contributed to popularising the superstition. In the novel, an unscrupulous broker takes advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on a Friday the thirteenth. In fact, similar dates are prevalent in many cultures, although it is unclear whether these similarities are in any way historically connected or only coincidental. For example, in countries where Spanish is the main language, then Tuesday the thirteenth (martes trece) is considered a day of bad luck rather than Friday. The Greeks also consider Tuesday (and especially the thirteenth) an unlucky day. Tuesday is considered dominated by the influence of Ares the god of war, or Mars, the Roman equivalent. The fall of Constantinople to the Fourth Crusade occurred on Tuesday 13 April 1204, and the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans happened on Tuesday 29 May 1453, events that strengthen the superstition about Tuesday. In addition, in Greek the name of the day is ‘Triti’, meaning the third day of the week, adds weight to the superstition since bad luck is said by many to ‘come in threes’.. Tuesday the thirteenth occurs in a month that begins on a Thursday. Some also attribute the origins of fearing Friday the thirteenth to the Code of Hammurabi, one of the world’s oldest legal documents, which may or may not have superstitiously omitted a thirteenth rule from its list. Others claim that the ancient Sumerians, who believed the number twelve to be a ‘perfect’ number, considered the one that followed it decidedly non-perfect.
One of the most popular theories, however, links Friday the thirteenth with the fall of a fearsome group of legendary warriors, the Knights Templar which was founded around 1118 as a monastic military order devoted to the protection of pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land following the Christian capture of Jerusalem during the First Crusade. The Knights Templar quickly became one of the richest and most influential groups of the Middle Ages, thanks to lavish donations from the crowned heads of Europe, eager to curry favour with the fierce Knights. By the turn of the fourteenth century, the Templars had established a system of castles, churches and banks throughout Western Europe. And it was this astonishing wealth that would lead to their downfall. For the Templars, that end began in the early morning hours of Friday, October 13, 1307 when a month earlier, secret documents had been sent by couriers throughout France. The papers included lurid details and whispers of black magic and scandalous sexual rituals. They were sent by King Philip IV of France, an avaricious monarch who in the preceding years had launched attacks on the Lombards (a powerful banking group) and France’s Jews (who he had expelled so he could confiscate their property for his depleted coffers).

A ‘Knight Templar’.

In the days and weeks that followed that fateful Friday, more than six hundred Templars were arrested, including Grand Master Jacques de Molay, and the Order’s treasurer. But while some of the highest-ranking members were caught up in Philip’s net, so too were hundreds of non-warriors. These were middle-aged men who managed the day-to-day banking and farming activities that kept the organisation humming. The men were charged with a wide array of offences including heresy, devil worship and spitting on the cross, homosexuality, fraud and financial corruption. The Templars were kept in isolation and fed meagre rations that often amounted to just bread and water. Nearly all were brutally tortured in ways I do not wish to detail here. Given the extreme conditions, it is not surprising that within weeks, hundreds of Templars confessed to false charges, including Jacques de Molay. Pope Clement V was horrified. Despite the fact that he had been elected almost solely because of Philip’s influence, he feared crossing the extremely popular Templars. The Knight’s coerced ‘confessions’ however, forced his hands. Philip, who had anticipated Clement’s reaction, made sure the allegations against the Templars included detailed descriptions of their supposed heresy, counting on the gossipy, salacious accounts to carry much weight with the Church. Clement issued a papal bull ordering the Western kings to arrest Templars living in their lands. Few followed the papal request, but the fate of the French Templars had already been sealed. Their lands and money were confiscated and officially dispersed to another religious order, the Hospitallers, although greedy Philip did get his hands on some of the cash he’d coveted. Within weeks of their confessions, many of Templars recanted, and Clement shut down the inquisition trials in early 1308. The Templars lingered in their cells for two years before Philip had more than 50 of the them burned at the stake in 1310. Two years later, Clement formally dissolved the Order, though he did so without saying they had been guilty as charged. In the wake of that dissolution, some Templars again confessed to gain their freedom, whilst others died in captivity. In the spring of 1314, Grand Master Molay and several other Templars were burned at the stake in Paris, bringing an end to their remarkable era, and launching an even longer-lasting theory about the evil possibilities of Friday the thirteenth.

An Alitalia aircraft without the row 17.

However, in Italian popular culture Friday the seventeenth, rather than the thirteenth, is considered a bad luck day. The origin of this belief could be traced in the writing of the number seventeen in Roman numerals, it being XVII. By shuffling the digits of the number one can easily get the word ‘VIXI’, meaning ‘I have lived’, implying death at present, an omen of bad luck. In fact in Italy, thirteen is generally considered a lucky number. Due to the effects of superstition from other countries, some younger Italian people consider Friday the thirteenth unlucky as well, but when the 2000 parody film “Shriek if You Know What I Did Last Friday the Thirteenth’ was released in Italy it had the title “Shriek – Hai impegni per venerdì 17?”, translating to “Shriek – Do You Have Something to Do on Friday the 17th?”). Friday the seventeenth occurs on a month starting on Wednesday. It seems that Friday the thirteenth has a social impact, as according to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the United States are affected by a fear of this day, making it the most feared day and date in history. Some people are so paralysed by fear that they avoid their normal routines in doing business, taking flights or even getting out of bed. It has been estimated that between eight hundred and nine hundred million dollars is lost in business on this day, but despite this representatives for both Delta Air Lines and Continental Airlines (the latter now merged into United Airlines) have stated that their airlines do not suffer from any noticeable drop in travel on those Fridays. In Finland, a consortium of both governmental and non-governmental organisations led by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health promote their National Accident Day (‘kansallinen tapaturmapäivä’) to raise awareness about automotive safety, which always falls on a Friday the thirteenth. The event is coordinated by the Finnish Red Cross and has been held since 1995. Back in 1993, a study was made in the South-West Thames region of the UK where its objective was “To examine the relation between health, behaviour, and superstition surrounding Friday the thirteenth in the United Kingdom”. Its design was a retrospective study of paired data comparing driving and shopping patterns and accidents, its subjects were drivers, shoppers, and residents in the region and its main outcome measures were the numbers of vehicles on motorways, the numbers of shoppers in supermarkets and hospital admissions due to accidents. The results they had were that there were consistently and significantly fewer vehicles on the southern section of the M25 on Friday the thirteenth compared with Friday the sixth. The numbers of shoppers were not significantly different on the two days. Admissions due to transport accidents were significantly increased on Friday thirteenth (total 65 v 45). Their conclusions were that Friday the thirteenth is unlucky for some. The risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52% and that staying at home is recommended. However, subsequent studies have disproved any correlation between Friday the thirteenth and the rate of accidents. On 12th June 2008 the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics stated to the contrary, that “fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft occur when the thirteenth of the month falls on a Friday than on other Fridays, because people are preventatively more careful or just stay home. Statistically speaking, driving is slightly safer on Friday the thirteenth, at least in the Netherlands in the last two years, as Dutch insurers received reports of an average 7,800 traffic accidents each Friday but the average figure when the thirteenth fell on a Friday was just 7,500.” Each four-hundred year Gregorian solar cycle contains 146,097 days, with 97 leap days or exactly 20,871 weeks. Each cycle contains the same pattern of days of the week and therefore the same pattern of Fridays that are on the thirteenth. Any month that starts on a Sunday contains a Friday the thirteenth and on average, there is a Friday the thirteenth once every 212.35 days. Equally, there can be no more than three Friday the thirteenths in a single calendar year; either in February, March, and November in a common year starting on Thursday (such as 2009, 2015, or 2026), or January, April, and July in a leap year starting on Sunday (such as 1984, 2012, or 2040). We shall see what the day brings, won’t we!

This week…a request please.
The other day I saw a picture on Facebook of a person I had never seen before with the word GOAT above the image. I considered it to be a disparaging comment against that person, but I was corrected as in fact the one sharing the image meant G.O.A.T., or Greatest Of All Time. So please, with all respect, kindly remember that not everyone watches the same sport to the degree that I know many do.

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It is said that those who prefer to be alone have particularly unique personality traits. There may be more, but here are some. For a start, not everyone can be outgoing. Some of us prefer to be alone, and that’s fine too. Research does show there are so many reasons why being alone (and liking it!) isn’t such a bad thing.

Every individual has a variety of ideas, characteristics, perspectives and preferences unique to them. Some, a bit like me, can have a difficult time finding common ground with certain ‘outgoing’ individuals who come across as the life of the party, natural-born leaders, always wanting the spotlight types. It might be because you can’t relate to them, as not every person enjoys having the attention solely on them or feels the most comfortable in a group setting. There are some who prefer to have more intimate conversations or deeper relationships and aren’t able to find that with many people. If you’re someone who finds yourself avoiding large crowds or group settings and feel most comfortable when you’re alone with your own thoughts, you might be something of an introvert. The problem with being an introvert is we are presently living in a society that promotes opening our lives to others, no matter how it may be through outlets such as social media. Introverts are often thought of as having stereotypical ways and are therefore misunderstood by others, making it hard for them to see their nature as something positive. However research shows that these stereotypes aren’t accurate. People who prefer to be alone may be introverted, but the negative connotations associated with being introverted are far from the truth. People who can appreciate and enjoy being alone actually possess a strength, confidence, and understanding of themselves that extroverts might not possess. Often this ability to enjoy being alone is actually because they have a better sense of self. There are times when we are made to feel like being alone is weird or wrong. Society projects the idea that the ‘average’ or ‘normal’ person should want to socialise, be around people and make as many friends as possible and this is a common perception reinforced by society. For those who do enjoy simply being alone, maybe even more so than being around people, this lack of desire to socialise or build multiple relationships can become confusing for not only them but the people around them. So although socialising can be important, and relationships can be healthy and beneficial, there are a number of benefits and personality traits people who enjoy being alone also gain by taking that extra time for themselves. So here are some reasons why wanting to be alone can actually be good for you.


For a start, it can provide increased emotional strength. People who like to be alone are better able to accept, understand and identify their emotions because they spend more time observing and evaluating their own thoughts and feelings. Because they have taken this extra time to understand their emotions, they have a better sense of how to deal and manage them. Having this ability to better understand, handle and channel their emotions in a positive way is not only empowering, but it is also a sense of strength that many don’t take the time to create and build upon. They are naturally empathetic and studies suggest that people who prefer to be alone are more in touch with the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of others around them, making them more empathetic. This awareness of the emotions of others as well as their own allows them to not only empathise but show more compassion for those around them. Empathetic people are able to identify, acknowledge and experience the feelings of others, which can increase their sensitivity towards other human beings and allow them to care about people on more than just a surface level. One aspect I have noticed is having a strong moral compass, as those who prefer to spend time alone often have a better understanding of what they consider right and wrong. This is because they have taken the time to analyse and determine their perspectives and moral beliefs, so their moral compass is more developed than those affected and shaped by the opinions of others. This definitive moral compass also makes it easier for them to make decisions and be satisfied with the decisions they make. There is also an element of open-mindedness. Even though some people would assume introverts are more likely to be close-minded because they’re not as affected or exposed to the opinions of others, many people who prefer solitude are actually very open to new experiences and different perspectives. People who enjoy spending time alone don’t automatically have a mind closed off to the ways of the world around them, they just choose to gather a better understanding of the world in different ways that suit their personality. Then there isn’t the need for acceptance of our peers to the degree that other characters seem to have. Considering how our modern society is so influenced by the internet and social media, feeling like we have gained the respect of our peers can become an overwhelming need and some will do almost anything to satisfy that need. Popularity and acceptance have become one of the most pressing concepts we associate with success, and this can be a harmful measure of success to live by, particularly for our mental health. However, those who prefer to be alone feel this need less than those who get satisfaction out of attention and socialising because they have taken the time to get to know and understand their own sense of self. Because they have a better understanding of who they are, they are better able to separate their self-worth from the views of others. Associated with that is an admittance of their flaws. People who prefer to be alone are more likely to be comfortable with this and are more in-tune and comfortable with the fact that they are imperfect beings. This goes back to the sense of self they gain from being comfortable with themselves and with being alone. Being able to own up to our flaws and faults is an important step towards positive personal growth. Some do say that they prefer the company of other intellectual people. I’m not too sure on that point, but I will admit that I do not bother with what I consider to be ‘idle gossip’. Whilst working in an office some years ago I heard two people talking animatedly about someone who was apparently very ill, so unusually for me I politely enquired whether the person who was ill also worked at the same firm. I learned that these two were in fact talking about a character in the tv series ‘Coronation Street’ – but they were behaving as if the character was a real person! It takes all sorts to make a world. So being comfortable with being alone allows many introverts to be more selective about who they choose to spend their time with. Because they don’t feel a constant or incessant need to be around many people, they value their time and can be more selective of how they choose to spend it. This is because they know that with or without the company of others, they’d be fine either way. As a result, many people who prefer to be alone are more likely to be uninterested in small talk or meaningless conversation and prefer people who match them intellectually and have more challenging conversations. Such people who prefer to spend time on their own also understand the true value of time, an asset in our lives that many overlook or overshadow when among others. Not only do they value their own time, but they usually have more respect for the value and time of others.

Another aspect I have found to be true is that people who prefer to be alone are more in-tune with their gut feelings and they trust them. Since they spend more time getting to know themselves, they are better able to understand, recognise and tap into their intuition and ultimately trust it. In addition, they are highly loyal, because they are more selective about who they spend their time with. They still understand the value of friendship, they’re just more selective about who those friends are. But fewer friends usually means that it is easier to value and stay loyal to those friends. That said, they are independent souls. They have made a more defined line of when to reach out to others for help and when to depend on themselves. This line distinguishes between connecting with others and their actual dependence. Learning to face the world on their own, people who enjoy their own company don’t need people as much as they choose to have them around. They also, generally at least, have well thought-out opinions on the world. A misconception often associated with those that prefer to be alone is that they are more likely to come off as being indifferent to outside or worldly matters, but that is not the case. Actually, they’ve probably spent more time sitting back and assessing the world and have developed incredibly strong and well-thought-out opinions, but they just don’t always choose to share them. Which means that they can spend a great deal of time with their own thoughts, creating and developing a level of self-awareness incomparable to others. With this self-awareness, by stepping back and looking at the world around them and becoming more empathetic individuals, people that like to be alone are able to see the world from a kinder perspective, one that is more in-tune to the needs of those around them. This allows them to act on their compassion. They respect healthy boundaries and understand the importance of these clear, healthy boundaries to the benefit of both themselves and those around them. Interestingly they are courageous too, because they are comfortable with themselves so are not afraid to stand up alone in the world, a form of courage not many possess. Their confidence can be confusing or off-putting to others, but is ultimately admirable. They’re less likely to feel defeated, give up or back down. Added to this, their awareness and ability to focus allows independent individuals to analyse a situation with a calm, rational, level-headed mindset and efficiently find a solution. Another aspect of such people is that those who prefer to be alone place a higher value on the importance of finding the right person, because they’re not afraid of being single. They don’t waste time dating for the sake of company. If they are dating someone it is because they see the potential. They also have a strong idea of what they’re looking for in a partner and will hold out until they find that person that fits their criteria. Leading on from that, they are aware of their strengths and weaknesses, as people who have a better understanding of themselves are less likely to be ignorant to their weaknesses, and less likely to feel the need to compensate for them by exaggerating their strengths. It has been said by many that being honest with yourself as to what your strengths and weaknesses are is crucial to your personal development. You should also find that they are highly reliable. If they give their word that they are going to do something for you, they will follow it through. They don’t volunteer their time for just anything so if they commit to something they will place value on that commitment. So perhaps being alone isn’t so bad after all…

This week… memories
Many years ago, when I was but a lad, we would go on holiday as a family to North Devon. My mother’s family came from Truro and I knew that we had elderly relatives in Plymouth. We would visit them whilst on holiday and one year my parents and I were invited to a celebration arranged by some friends for my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary. I would have been about thirteen. We first visited our elderly relatives and whilst there I was told to put on a clean shirt and tie for the occasion. So there I was, putting on my tie and one of our relatives, an elderly ‘maiden aunt’ I suppose would be the correct term, saw me doing this and commented “Ooh, I’ve never seen a man get dressed before!” That aunt always seemed the quiet one, but she taught me much about gentle, good-natured humour!

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Living In A Care Home

I have been living in this Care home for a while now and have been writing a blog post almost every week since I arrived. In fact the only times I have missed were when I was in hospital. This week one of the Senior carers came to see me and asked if I would consider moving to a different room, down the other end of the building, because when I first arrived in this Care home I was given a choice of rooms, but to get to one of them was impossible for me at that time because it involved going up two small steps. Back then I was only able to walk with the aid of a walking frame, so that meant the going to the other one that was available. So I moved in to room 16, but with some effort my mobility improved and after a year I was able to put aside the walking frame and use a single stick, which pleased me as well as the Care home staff. I think they were happy to see my progress. However, I had a couple of setbacks, diagnosed as strokes, which meant I was in hospital for a short while each time. But I persevered, mainly by setting myself targets as to how many steps per day I managed. Some days were better than others! I learned more about the people staying in this Care home, which is staffed twenty-four hours a day, I saw some of the improvements made to the home like an updated alarm system so if any person needed assistance they could press a button and a carer would attend. The old system had worked, but this one was better as there was even an ‘emergency’ button for urgent assistance if it were needed. With my sense of humour I referred to those of us resident here as ‘inmates’ – mainly because for a while we were virtual prisoners, due to Covid. Even now, if there is any sign of a health issue like a tummy upset affecting a few inmates, we are requested to stay in our rooms, although that isn’t always easy. I have mentioned before that some inmates have dementia in varying stages and sadly at times must be treated a little like young children – politely but firmly. What has also been sad to see is the gentle ‘turnover’ of people, mainly due to the effects of dementia on them though some perhaps pass away through natural ageing and some through the effects of Covid and the relevant medication. I do not know. But I continue with my research and my writing, which I hope you enjoy, though perhaps not always as I do try to vary it a bit! If you read last week’s blog post you will have gathered that I am no great fan of football, but I still found it an interesting subject to research and write about! So I try to do the same with other things, but not politics – I do draw the line at that as it is a subject which can be long and drawn out with many different views. So I have been moved to room 34.

Care homes.

As to Care homes themselves, the history of these in Britain began in 936AD, when the first-known almshouse was built in York. The story goes that King Aethelstan, at that time King of the English, provided funding for it after seeing clergymen of an older incarnation of York Minster using their own money to care for the elderly. ‘Alms’ means to give to others, through virtue or compassion. Also known as bedehouses, from the Anglo-Saxon word for prayer, these houses were funded by wealthy people hoping that their funding would increase their chances of being accepted into Heaven. Almshouses were religious places and their aim was to nurture the soul as well as the body. Residents, known as Bedesmen and Bedeswomen, would have to live under a strict regime of prayer and worship as part of their care. Those who were Ill, disabled or elderly people could also be given residence in monasteries and later the first hospitals. The first hospital known to care for people long-term was St. John’s Hospital in Canterbury, founded around 1087AD. In these hospitals, long-term residents were cared for alongside short-term patients, with leprosy being a common reason for temporary admission. As leprosy rates waned, many smaller hospitals were converted into almshouses while large hospitals were established to care for temporarily ill people and wounded soldiers. In Elizabethan times, the 1601 Act of Relief for the Poor, now known as the Old Poor Law made that every parish in England and Wales’ responsibility to house people who could not work. The ‘impotent poor’ included people who were too ill, disabled or old to maintain employment. Some were sent to almshouses and some to early workhouses. By Victorian times, care for the elderly still fell under the same category as care for the sick and for the poor. Then the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act, also known as the New Poor Law, put stricter methods in place for helping the poor. It got rid of ‘outdoor relief’, i.e. providing food and clothing to poor people and made the workhouse the main source of aid for anyone unable to work. However, workhouses were grim and designed as a deterrent, making conditions so bad people would do anything to avoid them. Older people would be made to work for 11 hours a day to earn their keep, with elderly women often working as nurses to other inmates, despite having no medical training whatsoever. Then the twentieth century saw significant reforms in care for older people. The 1908 Old Age Pensions Act brought in the first pension for anyone over 70 years old. It was means-tested and deliberately low to encourage people to save privately towards their retirement and included a behavioural test in order to redeem it. The 1925 Widows, Orphans and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act introduced the first contributory-pension, where some of the person’s wages went into their pension pot, as opposed to solely the employer contributing. In 1927, parliament passed the Nursing Homes Registration Act, with Scotland following suit in 1938. At this time, as defined by the latter, a ‘nursing home’ meant a home “providing of nursing for persons suffering from any sickness, injury, or infirmity, and includes a maternity home”. These laws made it compulsory to register nursing homes so they could be inspected, and introduced penalties for those who failed to do so. Homes also now had to keep proper records of every patient.

The Second World War brought a need for a new solution for housing for the elderly. Many were still confined to hospitals, but the huge number of casualties, both of soldiers and citizens during air raids, meant hospitals were crowded. At this time, medical care was still privatised and with men away fighting, affording it was extremely difficult. So shortly after the war the Labour Party came into power and started to lay foundations for the Welfare State. Prime Minister Clement Atlee created National Insurance, and his Minister for Health, Aneurin ‘Nye’ Bevan, formed the NHS in 1948. This was followed by the 1948 National Assistance Act that abolished the Old Poor Law, and this legislation made local authorities responsible for assisting ill, disabled and older people with care. Then a twentieth-century hero of social care named Professor Peter Townsend (not to be confused with Group Captain Peter Townsend, one-time love interest of Princess Margaret) appeared. He was a sociologist who visited 174 care homes in England and Wales in the late 1950s and the resulting book that described his findings, ‘The Last Refuge’, showed the inequality of standards of care between those in private homes and those receiving support. He was alarmed by the treatment of those whose care homes were former workhouses, finding that the old workhouse ways still haunted the homes, such as deaths being kept secret from other residents. His findings led to widespread reform in improving the standard of care for older people who were unable to pay for care privately, including central heating and single-occupancy rooms becoming standard. Then in the 1980s, under the new Conservative Government residential care homes became big business. Prior to this, local authority homes had been the majority, but self-funded care homes increased and the number of places in them tripled over the course of the decade. Whilst some were against privatisation, this did free up more places in local-authority funded homes for those that really needed them. The Registered Homes Act 1984 ensured that all private homes were still regulated. The 1990 NHS and Community Care Act Reform, implemented in 1993, brought in the idea of care cantering on individual needs and the care needs assessment was introduced. In 2000, the Care Standards Act, though not enforced until 2002, replaced the Registered Homes Act and for the first time considered nursing homes to be a form of care homes for the elderly. The legislation also established care councils in England and Wales, regulated the training of care workers and introduced a new set of minimum standards that all forms of care home were legally obliged to comply with. The Health and Social Care Act of 2008 aimed to combine the three existing regulatory bodies into one all-powerful inspectorate. This resulted in the Care Quality Commission (CQC), that inspects medical practices and care homes in England, beginning in 2009. In 2011, Scotland introduced the Care Inspectorate, but both lagged behind Wales, who had had the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) in place since 2002. In 2018, the CCSIW changed its name to Care Inspectorate Wales. But I learn that the landscape for care homes is still changing. According to an IPPR think-tank report, 84% of care home beds occupied by older residents are in for-profit homes, while 13% provided by the voluntary sector with just 3% offered by local councils. In recent years there has been a push from developers for more luxury care homes, with the number of small care homes falling. These large builds offer luxury living with fine dining at every meal, facilities like salons, spas and cinemas and services like chauffeur-driven cars. Some even have built-in high streets to provide a safe community for their residents. There has also been an increase in demand for retirement villages, as people look to find a balance between independence and support. Me, I like what I have here. We shall see. My blog this week is deliberately short, last week’s was quite long and it is Christmas time, so I hope you are having a good time and maybe a bit of a break, as it is meant to be. I wish you all a happy New Year.

This week…a little poem

As we gently look back,
At the days that have passed,
As an old year now finishes,
To the knowledge we’ve gained.

Some doors have closed,
Some doors have opened,
Some lives have ended,
Some lives have begun.

Some chances were taken,
Some mistakes were made,
Some lessons were learned,
Some changes were made.

Now we look to the new year,
Now with peace in our heart,
Now we go with enlightenment,
Now we wake with a smile!

© Andrew D Williams 2018

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A History Of Football

With all that has been happening over the last few weeks on this sport, I thought I might add a little bit of history into it. So this blog might be slightly longer than usual, but there is more to the sport than I certainly realised! In fact the name ‘Football’ actually refers to a family of team sports that involve, to varying degrees, kicking a ball to score a goal. Unqualified, the word football normally means the form of football that is the most popular where the word is used. Sports commonly called ‘football’ include Association football (known mainly as ‘soccer’ in North America and Australia), gridiron football (specifically American or Canadian football), Australian rules football, rugby union, rugby league and Gaelic football. These various forms of football share to varying extent common origins and therefore share basic ‘football codes’. There are a number of references to traditional, ancient, or prehistoric ball games played in many different parts of the world. Contemporary codes of football can be traced back to the codification of these games at English public schools during the 19th century. The expansion and cultural influence of the British Empire allowed these rules of football to spread to areas of British influence outside the directly controlled Empire and by the end of the 19th century, distinct regional codes were already developing. Gaelic football, for example, deliberately incorporated the rules of local traditional football games in order to maintain their heritage. In 1888, The Football League was founded in England, becoming the first of many professional football associations. During the 20th century, several of the various kinds of football grew to become some of the most popular team sports in the world. The various codes of football share certain common elements and can be grouped into two main classes of football: ‘carrying’ codes like American football, Canadian football, Australian football, rugby union and rugby league, where the ball is moved about the field whilst being held in the hands or thrown, and ‘kicking’ codes such as Association football and Gaelic football, where the ball is moved primarily with the feet, and where handling is strictly limited. Common rules among the sports include two ‘teams’ of usually between 11 and 18 players, though there are some variations that have fewer players (five or more per team) which are also popular. There is usually a clearly defined area in which to play the game, scoring either goals or ‘points’ by moving the ball to an opposing team’s end of the field and either into a goal area, or over a line, goals or points resulting from players putting the ball between two goalposts and the goal or line being ‘defended’ by the opposing team. Also players only use their body to move the ball, i.e. no additional equipment such as bats or sticks are used. In all codes, common skills include passing, tackling, the evasion of tackles, catching and kicking. In most codes, there are rules restricting the movement of players including ‘offside’, and players scoring a goal must put the ball either under or over a crossbar between the goalposts. There are conflicting explanations of the origin of the word ‘football’. It is widely assumed that the word or phrase ‘foot ball’ refers to the action of the foot kicking a ball. There is an alternative explanation, which is that football originally referred to a variety of games in medieval Europe which were played ‘on foot’. There is no conclusive evidence for either explanation.

A painting depicting Emperor Taizu of Song playing ‘cuju’, or Chinese football with his prime minister Zhao Pu and other ministers, by the Yuan dynasty artist Qian Xuan (1235–1305)

The Chinese competitive game ‘cuju’ resembles modern association football or soccer and descriptions appear in a military manual dated to the second and third centuries BC. It existed during the Han dynasty and possibly the Qin dynasty, in the second and third centuries BC. The Japanese version of ‘cuju’ is ‘kemari’ and was developed during the Asuka period and this is known to have been played within the Japanese imperial court in Kyoto from about 600AD. In ‘kemari’, several people stand in a circle and kick a ball to each other, trying not to let the ball drop to the ground, much like ‘keepie uppie’!

An ancient Roman tombstone of a boy with a ‘Harpastum’ ball from Tilurium (modern Sinj, Croatia)

The Ancient Greeks and Romans are known to have played many ball games, some of which involved the use of the feet. The Roman game ‘harpastum’ is believed to have been adapted from a Greek team game known as ‘Episkyros’ or ‘Phaininda’. These games appear to have resembled rugby football. Roman ball games already knew the air-filled ball, the follis. ‘Episkyros’ is recognised as an early form of football by FIFA. In fact there are a number of references to traditional, ancient or prehistoric ball games, played by indigenous peoples in many different parts of the world. For example, in 1586, men from a ship commanded by an English explorer named John Davis went ashore to play a form of football with the Inuit in Greenland. There are later accounts of an Inuit game played on ice, called ‘Aqsaqtuk’, where each match began with two teams facing each other in parallel lines, before attempting to kick the ball through each other team’s line and then at a goal. In 1610, William Strachey, a colonist at Jamestown, Virginia recorded a game played by Native Americans called ‘Pahsaheman’. Northeastern American Indians, especially the Iroquois Confederation, played a game which made use of net racquets to throw and catch a small ball. However, although it is a ball-goal foot game, lacrosse (as its modern descendant is called) is likewise not usually classed as a form of football. On the Australian continent, several tribes there played kicking and catching games with stuffed balls which have been generalised by historians as ‘game ball’. The earliest historical account is an anecdote from the 1878 book by Robert Brough-Smyth in ‘The Aborigines of Victoria’, where a man is quoted as saying, in about 1841 in Victoria, Australia that he had witnessed Aboriginal people playing the game, which describes how the foremost player will drop kick a ball made from the skin of a possum and how other players leap into the air in order to catch it.” Some historians have theorised that this was one of the origins of Australian rules football. These games and others may well go far back into antiquity, however the main sources of modern football codes appear to lie in western Europe, especially England.

The Middle Ages saw a huge rise in popularity of annual Shrovetide football matches throughout Europe, particularly in England. An early reference to a ball game played in Britain comes from the 9th-century Historia Brittonum which describes ‘a party of boys playing at ball’.

An illustration of so-called ‘mob football’

The early forms of football played in England, sometimes referred to as ‘mob football’, would be played in towns or between neighbouring villages, involving an unlimited number of players on opposing teams who would clash ‘en masse’, struggling to move an item, such as inflated animal’s bladder to particular geographical points, such as their opponents’ church, with play taking place in the open space between neighbouring parishes. The game was played primarily during significant religious festivals, such as Shrovetide, Christmas, or Easter, with Shrovetide games surviving into the modern era in a number of English towns. The first detailed description of what was almost certainly football in England was given by William FitzStephen in about 1174–1183. He described the activities of London youths during the annual festival of Shrove Tuesday: “After lunch all the youth of the city go out into the fields to take part in a ball game. The students of each school have their own ball; the workers from each city craft are also carrying their balls. Older citizens, fathers, and wealthy citizens come on horseback to watch their juniors competing, and to relive their own youth vicariously: you can see their inner passions aroused as they watch the action and get caught up in the fun being had by the carefree adolescents.” Most of the very early references to the game speak simply of “ball play” or “playing at ball”. This reinforces the idea that the games played at the time did not necessarily involve a ball being kicked. An early reference to a ball game that was probably football comes from 1280 at Ulgham, Northumberland, England: “Henry, while playing at ball, ran against David”. Football was played in Ireland in 1308, with a documented reference to John McCrocan, a spectator at a ‘football game’ at Newcastle, County Down being charged with accidentally stabbing a player named William Bernard. Another reference to a football game comes in 1321 at Shouldham, Norfolk, England: “during the game at ball as he kicked the ball, a lay friend of his ran against him and wounded himself”. In 1314, Nicholas de Farndone, Lord Mayor of the City of London issued a decree banning football in French which was used by the English upper classes at the time. A translation reads: “Forasmuch as there is great noise in the city caused by hustling over large foot balls ‘rageries de grosses pelotes de pee’ in the fields of the public from which many evils might arise which God forbid: we command and forbid on behalf of the king, on pain of imprisonment, such game to be used in the city in the future.” This is the earliest reference to football. In 1363, King Edward III of England issued a proclamation banning “handball, football, or hockey; coursing and cock-fighting, or other such idle games”, showing that ‘football’ – whatever its exact form in this case – was being differentiated from games involving other parts of the body, such as handball. A game known as ‘football’ was played in Scotland as early as the 15th century, though it was prohibited by the Football Act 1424 and although the law fell into disuse it was not repealed until 1906! There is evidence for schoolboys playing a ‘football’ ball game in Aberdeen in 1633 (some references cite 1636) which is notable as an early allusion to what some have considered to be passing the ball. The word ‘pass’ in the most recent translation is derived from ‘huc percute’ (strike it here) and later ‘repercute pilam’ (strike the ball again) in the original Latin. It is not certain that the ball was being struck between members of the same team. The original word translated as ‘goal’ is ‘metum’, literally meaning the ‘pillar at each end of the circus course’ in a Roman chariot race. There is a reference to ‘get hold of the ball before [another player] does’ (Praeripe illi pilam si possis agere) suggesting that handling of the ball was allowed. One sentence states in the original 1930 translation ‘Throw yourself against him’ (Age, objice te illi). King Henry IV of England also presented one of the earliest documented uses of the English word ‘football’, in 1409, when he issued a proclamation forbidding the levying of money for ‘foteball’. There is also an account in Latin from the end of the 15th century of football being played at Caunton, Nottinghamshire. This is the first description of a ‘kicking game’ and the first description of dribbling, where ’the game at which they had met for common recreation is called by some the foot-ball game. It is one in which young men, in country sport, propel a huge ball not by throwing it into the air but by striking it and rolling it along the ground, and that not with their hands but with their feet, kicking in opposite directions.’ The chronicler gives the earliest reference to a football pitch, stating that: ‘the boundaries have been marked and the game had started.’

Oldest known painting of foot-ball in Scotland, by Alexander Carse, c. 1810

There have been many attempts to ban football, from the Middle Ages through to the modern day. The first such law was passed in England in 1314, it was followed by more than 30 in England alone between 1314 and 1667. Women were banned from playing at English and Scottish Football League grounds in 1921, a ban that was only lifted in the 1970s. Female footballers still face similar problems in some parts of the world. Whilst football continued to be played in various forms throughout Britain, its public schools (equivalent to private schools in other countries) are widely credited with four key achievements in the creation of modern football codes. First of all, the evidence suggests that they were important in taking football away from its ‘mob’ form and turning it into an organised team sport. Second, many early descriptions of football and references to it were recorded by people who had studied at these schools. Third, it was teachers, students, and former students from these schools who first codified football games, to enable matches to be played between schools. Finally, it was at English public schools that the division between ‘kicking’ and ‘running’ (or “carrying”) games first became clear. The earliest evidence that games resembling football were being played at English public schools, mainly attended by boys from the upper, upper-middle and professional classes, comes from the ‘Vulgaria’ by William Herman in 1519. Herman had been headmaster at Eton and Winchester colleges and his Latin textbook includes a translation exercise with the phrase “We wyll playe with a ball full of wynde”. Richard Mulcaster, a student at Eton College in the early 16th century and later headmaster at other English schools, has been described as “the greatest sixteenth Century advocate of football”. Among his contributions are the earliest evidence of organised team football and his writings refer to teams (‘sides’ and ‘parties’), positions (‘standings’), a referee (‘judge over the parties’) and a coach (‘trayning maister’). Mulcaster’s ‘footeball’ had evolved from the disordered and violent forms of traditional football into: “some smaller number with such overlooking, sorted into sides and standings, not meeting with their bodies so boisterously to trie their strength: nor shouldring or shuffing one an other so barbarously … may use footeball for as much good to the body, by the chiefe use of the legges.” In 1633, David Wedderburn, a teacher from Aberdeen, mentioned elements of modern football games in a short Latin textbook called ‘Vocabula’. Wedderburn refers to what has been translated into modern English as ‘keeping goal’ and makes an allusion to passing the ball (‘strike it here’). There is a reference to ‘get hold of the ball’, suggesting that some handling was allowed. It is clear that the tackles allowed included the charging and holding of opposing players (‘drive that man back’). English public schools were the first to codify football games. In particular, they devised the first ‘offside’ rules, during the late 18th century. In the earliest manifestations of these rules, players were “off their side” if they simply stood between the ball and the goal which was their objective. Players were not allowed to pass the ball forward, either by foot or by hand. They could only dribble with their feet, or advance the ball in a scrum or similar formation. However, offside laws began to diverge and develop differently at each school, as is shown by the rules of football from Winchester, Rugby, Harrow and Cheltenham, between 1810 and 1850. The first known codes – in the sense of a set of rules – were those of Eton in 1815 and Aldenham in 1825.

The boom in rail transport in Britain during the 1840s meant that people were able to travel further and with less inconvenience than they ever had before. Inter-school sporting competitions became possible. However, it was difficult for schools to play each other at football, as each school played by its own rules. The solution to this problem was usually that the match be divided into two halves, one half played by the rules of the host ‘home’ school, and the other half by the visiting ‘away’ school. The modern rules of many football codes were formulated during the mid or late 19th century. This also applies to other sports such as lawn bowls, lawn tennis, etc. The major impetus for this was the patenting of the world’s first lawnmower in 1830! This allowed for the preparation of modern ovals, playing fields, pitches and grass courts. Public schools’ dominance of sports in the UK began to wane after the Factory Act of 1850, which significantly increased the recreation time available to working class children. Before 1850, many British children had to work six days a week, for more than twelve hours a day. From 1850, they could not work before 6am (7am in winter) or after 6pm on weekdays (7pm in winter) and on Saturdays they had to cease work at 2pm. These changes meant that working class children had more time for games, including various forms of football. During the nineteenth century, several codifications of the rules of football were made at the University of Cambridge, in order to enable students from different public schools to play each other. The Cambridge Rules of 1863 influenced the decision of Football Association to ban Rugby-style carrying of the ball in its own first set of laws. By the late 1850s, many football clubs had been formed throughout the English-speaking world, to play various codes of football. Sheffield Football Club, founded in 1857 was later recognised as the world’s oldest club playing association football. However, the club initially played its own code of football. The code was largely independent of the public school rules, the most significant difference being the lack of an ‘offside’ rule. This code was responsible for many innovations that later spread to association football and included free kicks, corner kicks, handball, throw-ins and the crossbar. By the 1870s they became the dominant code in the north and midlands of England. At this time a series of rule changes by both the London and Sheffield Associations gradually eroded the differences between the two games until the adoption of a common code in 1877. So the need for a single body to oversee association football had become apparent by the beginning of the 20th century, with the increasing popularity of international fixtures. The English Football Association had chaired many discussions on setting up an international body, but was perceived as making no progress. It fell to associations from seven other European countries: France, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland, to form an international association. The ‘Fédération Internationale de Football Association’ (FIFA) was founded in Paris on 21 May 1904. Its first president was Robert Guérin. The French name and acronym has remained, even outside French-speaking countries. Several of the football codes are the most popular team sports in the world. Globally, association football is played by over 250 million players in over 200 nations and has the highest television audience in sport, making it the most popular in the world. Will we ever know just how many people watched the games over the last few weeks…

This week….
Some of you may have seen this before, but it still makes me smile. When we know the size of the small computer memory available now in Terabytes (Tb), compared to the one pictured below, which is just 5 Megabytes (Mb) in size and then consider there are in fact 1,000,000 Mb in just 1 Tb… The 4Tb external storage drive I have now is just 4 inches long, 3 inches wide and less than one inch thick!

Loading 5MB of memory into a Pan-Am Jet, in 1956.

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Clay Cross

First, a sort of historical introduction, not perhaps what you would expect though. I begin this tale of writing from around 1990, when I was working for British Telecom and, as they are prone to do every few years, we had another reorganisation. My job relocated from Leicester to Nottingham and I, having recently married, was looking for a place to live. My partner, later my wife, saw details of a new development in a place which was just outside Clay Cross and despite the need for us to travel to and from there to Nottingham and back each workday, I was persuaded to buy a house there. My marriage did not last, but circumstances enabled me to stay in the house and it became my home for over a dozen years, what with a downturn in the housing market and further reorganisations within British Telecom. The house was barely a mile from Clay Cross, so well within walking distance of the shops. I was therefore around six miles from Chesterfield and the nearest railway station. Clay Cross is unusual, as it has a railway tunnel going directly beneath the centre of it. The town was developed by the ‘Father of the Railways’ George Stephenson, who discovered coal whilst building the Clay Cross Tunnel and so he founded the Clay Cross Company. The tunnel still survives today and is known locally as the Mile Long. The town is a civil parish in the North East district of Derbyshire, it is a former industrial and mining town, about 5 miles (8km) south of Chesterfield and is directly on the A61. Surrounding settlements include Danesmoor, North Wingfield, Tupton, Pilsley and Ashover. Clay Cross High Street was built over a pre-dating Roman road that may have been called Rykneild Street, where a tollhouse (1786-1876) was situated. The discovery of coal in the area introduced the village to the Industrial Revolution and packhorses at first transported the ‘black gold’ over the Peaks on a turnpike road opened in 1756 between the iron foundries of Derby and Sheffield. Until the early 19th century, Clay Cross was a small village known as Clay Lane, but increasing demand for coal and other minerals trebled the population by 1840 or so, the oldest building being the George and Dragon Inn. Whilst driving the tunnel for the North Midland Railway, George Stephenson discovered both coal and iron which, together with the demand for limestone, caused him to move into Tapton House, near Chesterfield, and set up business as George Stephenson and Co.

Tapton House, Chesterfield.

A map of 1833 showed Thanet Street and Clay Lane, but the railway ‘mania’ of 1840s witnessed expansion northwards facilitated by the Clay Cross tunnel dug in 1837–38 and it was whilst tunnelling over a mile underground they then discovered vast quantities of commercial grade coal. Clay Cross became a boom town. The ‘Liverpool Party’ of Stephenson engineers formed the Clay Cross Company in 1839, which they funded from their considerable resources. As well as sinking a number of shafts with colliery support, there were coke oven works, brickworks, limeworks, irons furnaces and foundry. The ductile pipe was developed into an internationally sold product, making Clay Cross renowned for its iron and coal industry worldwide. Although the company had been formed to mine coal and manufacture coke from the railway, the supplies from Durham were preferred and the works turned to iron working and brick making. When Stephenson died in 1848, his son Robert took over, leaving the company in 1852 when it became formally known by the name of the Clay Cross Company. In 1871 the Jackson family acquired 100% of the stocks and shares. They continued as owners until 1974. For many years, the company was the town’s major employer and in 1985 Biwater took it over. Then in December 2000 Biwater sold the site to French company, Saint-Gobain. Sadly some months later, it was closed down with the loss of around 750 jobs. Demolition of the vast Biwater site began in late 2008, with new houses and shops appearing in the town. Back in 1925 the Ashover Light Railway was opened to transport minerals from the quarries at Ashover Butts to the Clay Cross Company at Egstow. The passenger services on the narrow gauge line were closed in 1936 and the mineral traffic ceased in 1950.

Eldon House.

In 1840 the Stephensons built Eldon House as its office headquarters, which latterly was converted into a private dwelling-house. The Stephensons also built more than 400 miners’ cottages. In addition they set up elementary schools and consecrated new churches. The company provided the town with almost all its energy needs in gas and electricity.

Clay Cross Hall.

The largest house, Clay Cross Hall, was built in 1845 for the company’s General Manager Charles Binns. Stephenson’s workers’ houses were of high quality for their time, having four rooms compared to the normal two and by 1850 there were three chapels, a church and an institute – but no constable. One such construction of 1847 was the Wesleyan Chapel in use until at least 1900 on Holmgate Road. They also provided a company bowling green with a clubhouse. A Mechanics Institute was opened which was handed over to the Clay Lane Urban Districts School Board in 1893. The Board’s Senior School for Boys was opened in 1884, converted to a junior school in the 1930s. Sadly my research suggests that although in use up to 2009, the building has since been declared as ‘unsafe’ and would be demolished to make way for new, ‘greener’ housing. During the late Victorian era middle class villa style houses were also built in a new part of the town. Colliery owner Thomas Houldsworth, also a churchwarden for 25 years, built Alma House which stood in extensive parklands. The house was surrounded by railings and flat roof of indeterminate date. He was responsible developer of Clay Cross pits until 1850, and then the Alma Colliery in North Wingfield, after the Crimean War. Springfield House was built by the Clay Cross Company for engineer William Howe by the company. He was the resident from 1866 until his death in 1872. An even earlier event was Hill House built by 1833 it was purchased by the North Midland Railway Company in 1837 as an office for resident engineer Frederick Swanwick.

Clay Cross Tunnel vent, next to the Job Centre in Market Street.

When the tunnel was completed, it is said that Swanwick left town, but the house was passed to engineers James Campbell and William Howe, and by the 1860s, Dr. Wilson, the local medical practitioner was in residence. The North Midland Railway tunnel sank nine ventilator shafts through which smoke wafted across the Peaks. Clay Cross is situated at the highest point on the line 361 feet above sea level, when it opened in 1840. Interestingly a narrow gauge line transported coal up the incline to the works. Another mile north along the ‘Black Path’ was Clay Cross railway station, between the halts at Tupton and Hepthorne Lane. Sadly Clay Cross station was closed as part of the Beeching cuts in 1967. That would have been really useful to me, had it still been there!

St Bartholomew’s Church, Clay Cross.

The Anglican church of St Bartholomew was built and consecrated in 1851. Six years later a spire was added. The Rev. Joseph Oldham and his wife, Emma were the first conscientious incumbents. Her brother was radical designer and founder of the Arts and Crafts movement, William Morris, who was commissioned to install a saintly stained glass window. Other places of worship in the town are the Methodist Church on High Street, the Baptist Church on Market Street (now closed), Clay Cross Community Church (Assemblies of God) on Market Street, the Roman Catholic Church of St. Patrick and St. Bridget on Thanet Street, the Salvation Army on Thanet Street, the Community of Christ on Thanet Street, St Barnabas Church, and an Anglican congregation meeting place at the St Barnabas Centre on Pilsley Road, Danesmoor. I didn’t know there were so many.

Danesmoor Cemetery Chapel and Parkhouse Memorial.

The Parkhouse Colliery Memorial in Danesmoor Cemetery stands today as testament to a disaster. In November 1882 an underground explosion brought the collapse of the pit shaft causing the death of 45 men and boys. Many of their families lived in company housing at Pleasant Row, Chapel Row, Cellar Row and Gaffers Row. Also known as Egstow Terrace, this last street was built in 1846, was considered of better average quality housing.

Former Co-operative shop on High Street.

The Clay Cross Pioneer Industrial Co-operative Society’s first shop was opened on the corner of the High Street and Market Street. It was an early member of the Co-operative Movement founded in Rochdale by John Bright that spread rapidly across the North of England. The Co-operative Society archives say that the Clay Cross Pioneer Industrial Society merged with the Chesterfield & District Co-operative Society in 1915. The town itself was an urban district until 1974, when it was merged into the North East Derbyshire district under the Local Government Act 1972. In the 1970s the council achieved brief notoriety due to its refusal to implement the Housing Finance Act 1972 in increasing the rents of council housing, as by law the rents should have increased by £1 a week from October 1972. The council was one of several to show defiance against the Act and of three to be ordered to comply by the Department of the Environment in November 1972 (the others being Eccles and Halstead). Clay Cross Urban District Council (UDC) was threatened with an audit in December 1972. The constituency Labour party barred the eleven councillors from its list of approved candidates, the District Auditor ordered the eleven Labour Party councillors to pay a surcharge of £635 each in January 1973, finding them ‘guilty of negligence and misconduct’. Conisbrough UDC faced a similar audit on 19 January 1973. The UDC made an appeal in the case to the High Court. Clydebank and Cumbernauld abandoned similar actions in March 1973, then the surcharge was upheld by the High Court on 30 July 1973, which also added a further £2,000 legal costs to their bill, as well as barring them from public office for five years. The council further defied authority via the Pay Board in August, when they decided to increase council workers’ earnings. This provoked a further dispute with the National Association of Local Government Officials (NALGO). Ultimately, the dispute became moot with the replacement of Clay Cross Urban District Council with the North East Derbyshire District Council from 1 April 1974 and the councillors were made bankrupt in 1975. A book on the dispute between the council and the government, ‘The Story of Clay Cross’, was written by one of the councillors, David Skinner and the journalist Julia Langdon, the book was published by Spokesman Books in 1974. Clay Cross has a large modern business park called Coney Green Business Park and is located between Egstow and Danesmoor. There is a community hospital on the A6175, Market Street. The town’s library is on Holmgate Road. Clay Cross town centre is currently undergoing a £22m redevelopment which has so far included a new supermarket, new bus station and new relief road so I expect it will look quite different now to when I lived there almost twenty years ago! The second phase of this is due to start which will see a new parade of shops plus a new medical centre. Eventually the site of the former junior and infant schools which is located in the town centre will be redeveloped. Junction 29 of the M1 motorway is just five miles away. The nearest railway stations are now Chesterfield and Alfreton, both just under six miles away. In 2017, a bus service run by Stagecoach connecting Clay Cross to Chesterfield railway station was introduced. A passenger railway line runs in an enclosed tunnel under the town. To ease chronic congestion on the A61, which has seen traffic grow by 10% in the past few years, there is talk of a dual carriageway bypassing Clay Cross and Tupton before joining the A617 near Hasland, heading North West to Horns Bridge. Tupton Hall School is in Tupton and located about one mile to the north of Clay Cross. Previously Clay Cross had a secondary school located in Market Street, and a junior school located off High Street. The junior and infant schools were then merged and moved to a new purpose built complex on Pilsley Road in Danesmoor and renamed Sharley Park Community Primary School. The site of the former schools has been cleared and is awaiting development. The secondary school was closed in 1969 and transferred to Tupton Hall as part of the Government’s drive to comprehensive education, it is now one of the largest with around 2,000 pupils, including a sixth form centre. Clay Cross Secondary School was converted to an adult education centre.

Clay Cross cricket ground.

As for leisure, the Sharley Park Leisure Centre, on the A6175, Market Street, has swimming, gym and sports hall facilities. Five football clubs from the town, all now extinct, have competed in the FA Cup over the years and the town’s current team, the third to be called Clay Cross Town, play in the Central Midlands Football League and played in the FA Vase for the first time in 2016. There have been a few notable residents from the town, such as Dennis Skinner who was born and grew up in the town and went to Tupton Hall Grammar School. He first worked at Parkhouse Colliery in 1949, a mile to the east of Clay Cross. The pit closed in 1962. He was a Clay Cross councillor from 1960 to 1970, directly before becoming an MP in 1970. Edmund ‘Eddie’ Shimwell was an FA Cup winner and later licensee of the Royal Volunteer public house in Clay Cross. Arthur Henderson was a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1934, when he was MP for Clay Cross. Sir George Kenning (1880–1956) was a Derbyshire entrepreneur who grew the family business from a corner hardware shop in Clay Cross to a nationwide car dealership that employed around 2,000 people. Kenning became one of the early pioneers in selling, servicing and financing the use of motor vehicles by industry, commerce and individuals. George Kenning was very active in public life. He served on the now defunct Clay Cross Urban District council as well as being a councillor and alderman on Derbyshire County Council. He was an active member of the Methodist Church in Clay Cross. Kenning also provided a recreation ground for use by the people of Clay Cross. This was named ‘Kenning Park’ and is located on Holmgate Road to the west of the town. As a result of his contribution to public life, the Alderman George Kenning, JP, was appointed Knight Bachelor in the 1943 New Year Honours List ‘for public services in Derbyshire’. He then became known as ‘Sir George Kenning’. It was a strange set of circumstances which brought me to Clay Cross, but it taught me much. I hope you have found it interesting.

This week… paint the town red.

The phrase “paint the town red” most likely owes its origin to one legendary night of drunkenness. In 1837 the Marquis of Waterford, who was a known lush and mischief maker, led a group of friends on a night of drinking through the English town of Melton Mowbray. The bender culminated in vandalism after Waterford and his fellow revellers knocked over flowerpots, pulled knockers off of doors and broke the windows of some of the town’s buildings. To top it all off, the mob literally painted a tollgate, the doors of several homes and a swan statue with red paint. The marquis and his pranksters later compensated Melton Mowbray for the damages, but their drunken escapade is likely the reason that “paint the town red” became shorthand for a wild night out. But still, yet another theory suggests the phrase was actually borne out of the brothels of the American West, and referred to men behaving as though their whole town were a red-light district. Who knows?

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This is a Christian season of preparation for the Nativity of Christ at Christmas. It is the beginning of the liturgical year, also called the church year or Christian, consisting of the cycle of liturgical seasons in Christian churches in Western Christianity that determines when feast days, including celebrations of saints, are to be observed, and which portions of Scripture are to be read either in an annual cycle or in a cycle of several years. The name ‘Advent’ was adopted from Latin ‘adventus’, or ‘coming, arrival’, translating from the Greek ‘parousia’. In the New Testament, this is the term used for the second coming of Christ. Thus, the season of Advent in the Christian calendar anticipates the ‘coming of Christ’ from three different perspectives, these being the physical nativity in Bethlehem, the reception of Christ in the heart of the believer, and the eschatological Second Coming. Practices associated with Advent include Advent calendars, lighting an Advent wreath, praying an Advent or daily devotional, erecting a Christmas tree, lighting a Christingle as well as other ways of preparing for Christmas, such as setting up Christmas decorations, a custom that is sometimes done liturgically through a ‘hanging of the greens’ ceremony. The equivalent of Advent in Eastern Christianity is called the Nativity Fast, but it differs in length and observances, and does not begin the liturgical church year as it does in the West. The Eastern Nativity Fast does not use the equivalent ‘parousia’ in its preparatory services. In the Western Rite of the Orthodox Church and in the Anglican, Lutheran, Moravian, Presbyterian, and Methodist calendars, Advent commences on the fourth Sunday before Christmas (always falling between 27 November and 3 December), and ends on Christmas Eve, on 24 December. In the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, Advent begins with First Vespers (Evening Prayer I) of the Sunday that falls on or closest to November 30 and it ends before First Vespers (Evening Prayer I) of Christmas. In the Ambrosian Rite and the Mozarabic Rite of the Catholic Church, Advent begins on the sixth Sunday before Christmas, the Sunday after St. Martin’s Day,11 November. I may look more into these different ‘Rites’ at a later date. It is not known when the period of preparation for Christmas that is now called Advent began. It was certainly in existence from about 480AD and the novelty introduced by the Council of Tours of 567 was to order monks to fast every day in the month of December until Christmas. It is impossible to claim with confidence a credible explanation of the origin of Advent.

Representation of Saint Perpetuus.

Associated with Advent as a time of penitence was a period of fasting, known also as St Martin’s Lent or the Nativity Fast. According to Saint Gregory of Tours, the celebration of Advent began in the fifth century when the Bishop Perpetuus directed that “starting with the St. Martin’s Day on 11 November until Christmas, one fasts three times per week”. So that is why Advent was sometimes also named ‘Lent of St. Martin’. But this practice remained limited to the diocese of Tours until the sixth century. Then the Council of Macon, held in 581, adopted the practice in Tours and soon all France observed three days of fasting a week from the feast of Saint Martin until Christmas. The most devout worshipers in some countries exceeded the requirements adopted by the council, and fasted every day of Advent. The first clear references in the Western Church to Advent occur in the Gelasian Sacramentary, which provides Advent Collects, Epistles, and Gospels for the five Sundays preceding Christmas and for the corresponding Wednesdays and Fridays. The homilies of Gregory the Great in the late sixth century showed four weeks to the liturgical season of Advent, but without the observance of a fast. However, under Charlemagne in the ninth century, writings claim that the fast was still widely observed.
In the thirteenth century, the fast of Advent was not commonly practiced although, according to Durand of Mende, fasting was still generally observed. As quoted in the bull of canonisation of St. Louis, the zeal with which he observed this fast was no longer a custom observed by Christians of great piety. It was then limited to the period from the feast of Saint Andrew until Christmas Day, since the solemnity of this apostle was more universal than that of St. Martin. When Pope Urban V ascended the papal seat in 1362, he imposed abstinence on the papal court but there was no mention of fasting. It was then customary in Rome to observe five weeks of Advent before Christmas. The Ambrosian Rite has six. The Greeks show no more real consistency, Advent was an optional fast that some begin on 15 November, whilst others begin on 6 December or only a few days before Christmas. The liturgy of Advent remained unchanged until the Second Vatican Council, the 21st ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church. The council met in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome for four periods (or sessions), each lasting between 8 and 12 weeks, in the autumn of each of the four years 1962 to 1965. Preparation for the council took three years, from the summer of 1959 to the autumn of 1962. The council was opened on 11 October 1962 by John XXIII (pope during the preparation and the first session), and was closed on 8 December 1965 by Paul VI (pope during the last three sessions, after the death of John XXIII on 3 June 1963). Pope John XXIII called the council because he felt the Church needed ‘updating’. In order to connect with 20th-century people in an increasingly secularised world, some of the Church’s practices needed to be improved, and its teaching needed to be presented in a way that would appear relevant and understandable to them. Many Council participants were sympathetic to this, whilst others saw little need for change and resisted efforts in that direction. But support for change won out over resistance and as a result the sixteen magisterial documents produced by the council proposed significant developments in doctrine and practice, these being an extensive reform of the liturgy, a renewed theology of the Church, of revelation and of the laity, a new approach to relations between the Church and the world, to ecumenism, to non-Christian religions and to religious freedom. This liturgy also introduced minor changes differentiating the spirit of Lent from that of Advent, emphasising Advent as a season of hope for Christ’s coming now as a promise of his Second Coming. The theme of readings and teachings during Advent is often seen as the preparation for the Second Coming and the Last Judgement. Whilst the Sunday readings relate to the first coming of Jesus Christ as saviour as well as to his Second Coming as judge, traditions vary in the relative importance of penitence and expectation during the weeks in Advent.

Medieval manuscript of Gregorian chant setting of ‘Rorate Coeli’.

Since approximately the 13th century, the usual liturgical colour in Western Christianity for Advent has been violet. Pope Innocent III declared black to be the proper colour for Advent, though Durandus of Saint-Pourçain claims violet has preference over black. The violet or purple colour is often used for antependia, the vestments of the clergy, and often also the tabernacle. On the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, rose may be used instead, referencing the rose used on Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent. A rose coloured candle in Western Christianity is referenced as a sign of joy (Gaudete) lit on the third Sunday of Advent. Whilst the traditional colour for Advent is violet, there is a growing interest in and acceptance, by some Christian denominations of blue as an alternative liturgical colour for Advent, a custom traced to the usage of the Church of Sweden (Lutheran) and the Mozarabic Rite, which dates from the 8th century. The Lutheran Book of Worship lists blue as the preferred colour for Advent whilst the Methodist Book of Worship and the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship identify purple or blue as appropriate for Advent. Proponents of this new liturgical trend argue that purple is traditionally associated with solemnity and sombreness, which is fitting to the repentant character of Lent. There has been an increasing trend in Protestant churches to supplant purple with blue during Advent as it is a hopeful season of preparation that anticipates both Bethlehem and the consummation of history in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This colour is often called ‘Sarum blue’, referring to its purported use at Salisbury Cathedral. Many of the ornaments and ceremonial practices associated with the Sarum rite were revived in the Anglican Communion in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as part of the Anglo-Catholic Oxford Movement in the Church of England. However the Roman Catholic Church retains the traditional violet. Blue is not generally used in Latin Catholicism and where it does regionally, it has nothing to do with Advent specifically, but with veneration of the Blessed Virgin. However, on some occasions that are heavily associated with Advent, such as the Rorate Mass – but not on Sundays, when white is used. During the Nativity Fast, red is used by Eastern Christianity, although gold is an alternative colour.

Lighting the Advent Candle.

Many churches also hold special musical events, such as Nine Lessons and Carols and singing of Handel’s Messiah oratorio. Also, the Advent Prose, an antiphonal plainsong may be sung. The ‘Late Advent Weekdays’, 17th to 24th December, mark the singing of the Great Advent ‘O antiphons‘. These are the daily antiphons for the Magnificat at Vespers, or Evening Prayer (in the Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches) and Evensong in Anglican churches, marking the forthcoming birth of the Messiah. They form the basis for each verse of the popular Advent hymn, “O come, O come, Emmanuel“. I have also found that Bishop Perpetuus of Tours, who died in 490, ordered fasting three days a week from the day after Saint Martin’s Day (11 November). In the 6th century, local councils enjoined fasting on all days except Saturdays and Sundays from Saint Martin’s Day to Epiphany (the feast of baptism), a period of 56 days, but of 40 days fasting, like the fast of Lent. It was therefore called ‘Quadragesima Sancti Martini’ (Saint Martin’s Lent). This period of fasting was later shortened and simply called ‘Advent’ by the Church. In the Anglican and Lutheran churches this fasting rule was later relaxed. The Roman Catholic Church later abolished the precept of fasting (at an unknown date, at the latest in 1917), but kept Advent as a season of penitence. In addition to fasting, dancing and similar festivities were forbidden in these traditions. On ‘Refreshment’ Sunday, also known as Rose Sunday, relaxation of the fast was permitted. Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches still hold the tradition of fasting for 40 days before Christmas. In England, especially in the northern counties, there was a custom (now extinct) for poor women to carry around the ‘Advent images’, two dolls dressed to represent Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary. A halfpenny coin was expected from every one to whom these were exhibited and bad luck was thought to menace the household not visited by the doll-bearers before Christmas Eve at the latest. The keeping of an Advent wreath is a common practice in homes or churches. The concept of the Advent wreath originated among German Lutherans in the 16th Century, however, it was not until three centuries later that the modern Advent wreath took shape. The modern Advent wreath, with its candles representing the Sundays of Advent, originated from an 1839 initiative by Johann Hinrich Wichern, a Protestant pastor in Germany and a pioneer in urban mission work among the poor. In view of the impatience of the children he taught as they awaited Christmas, he made a ring of wood, with nineteen small red tapers and four large white candles. Every morning a small candle was lit, and every Sunday a large candle. Custom has retained only the large candles. In the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, the readings of Mass on the Sundays of Advent have distinct themes. On the First Sunday (Advent Sunday), they look forward to the Second Coming of Christ. On the Second Sunday, the Gospel reading recalls the preaching of John the Baptist, who came to “prepare the way of the Lord”, with the other readings having associated themes. On the Third Sunday (Gaudete Sunday), the Gospel reading is again about John the Baptist, the other readings about the joy associated with the coming of the Saviour. On the Fourth Sunday, the Gospel reading is about the events involving Mary and Joseph that led directly to the birth of Jesus, whilst the other readings are related to these. However, in another tradition the readings for the first Sunday in Advent relate to the Old Testament patriarchs who were Christ’s ancestors, so some call the first Advent candle that of hope. Here the readings for the second Sunday concern Christ’s birth in a manger and other prophecies, so the candle may be called that of Bethlehem, the way, or of the prophets. Then the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, after the first word of the introit (Philippians 4:4), is celebrated with rose-coloured vestments similar to Laetare Sunday at the middle point of Lent. The readings relate to John the Baptist and the rose candle may be called that of joy or of the shepherds. The collect “Stir up” (the first words of the collect) may be read during this week, although before the 1979 revision of the Book of Common Prayer it was sometimes read in the first Sunday of Advent. Even earlier, ‘Stir-up Sunday’ was once jocularly associated with the stirring of the Christmas mincemeat, begun before Advent. The phrase “stir up” occurs at the start of the collect for the last Sunday before Advent in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Then the readings for the fourth Sunday relate to the annunciation of Christ’s birth, so the candle may be known as the Angel’s candle. The Magnificat or Song of Mary may be featured. Where an Advent wreath includes a fifth candle, it is known as the Christ candle and is lit during the Christmas Eve service.

This week… candles

“A candle is symbolic to the Sun in many ways. The light it provides to others by bearing the consistent heat and sacrificing itself delivers a message that a true selfless being lives for the benefit of others.”

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St. Andrew’s Day

This event is celebrated on November 30th. Saint Andrew’s Day, also called the Feast of Saint Andrew or another name I’d not heard before, ‘Andermas’, is the feast day of Andrew the Apostle. It is celebrated each year on 30 November. Saint Andrew is the disciple in the New Testament of the bible who introduced his brother Peter to Jesus, the Messiah. Saint Andrew’s Day marks the beginning of the traditional Advent devotion of the Saint Andrew Christmas ‘Novena’ from the Latin ‘novem’, or nine, this being an ancient tradition of devotional praying in Christianity, consisting of private or public prayers, repeated for nine successive days or weeks. The nine days between the Feast of the Ascension and Pentecost , when the disciples gathered in the upper room and devoted themselves to prayer, is often considered to be the first novena. As you might expect, this date is known by different names in different countries, so here are just a few. It is known in Scotland as Saint Andrew’s Day, but also as ‘Saunt Andra’s Day’ and ‘Là Naomh Anndrais’. It is an official national holiday there and the celebration of Saint Andrew as a national festival among some social strata and locales is thought to originate from the reign of Malcolm III (1058–1093). It was thought that the ritual slaughter of animals associated with Samhain was moved to this date so as to assure enough animals were kept alive for winter, but it is only in more recent times that 30 November has been given national holiday status, although it remains a normal working day. Then in 2006, the Scottish Parliament passed the St. Andrew’s Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Act 2007 which designated the Day as an official bank holiday. If 30 November falls on a weekend, the next Monday is a bank holiday instead. Although it is a ‘bank holiday’, banks are not required to close (and in practice will remain open as normal) and employers are not required to give their employees the day off as a holiday. Likewise, schools remain open. The University of St Andrews traditionally gives the day for all the students as a free holiday, but this is not a binding rule. Saint Andrew’s Day is an official flag day in Scotland. The Scottish Government’s flag-flying regulations state that the flag of Scotland, the Saltire or Saint Andrew’s Cross shall fly on all its buildings with a flagpole. Prior to 2002, the Scottish Government followed the UK Government’s flag days and would fly the Saltire on Saint Andrew’s Day only. The regulations were updated to state that the Union Flag would be removed and replaced by the Saltire on buildings with only one flagpole. The flying of the Union Flag from Edinburgh Castle on all days, including Saint Andrew’s Day, causes anger among some Scottish politicians and Scottish unionists who have argued that the Saltire should fly on 30 November instead. However, the Union Flag is flown by the British Army at the Castle as it is an official British Army flag flying station. In Scotland and many countries with Scottish connections, Saint Andrew’s Day is marked with a celebration of Scottish culture, and with traditional Scottish food and music. In Scotland the day is also seen as the start of a season of Scottish winter festivals encompassing Saint Andrew’s Day, Hogmanay and Burns Night. There are week-long celebrations in the town of St Andrews and in some other Scottish cities.

As to other countries, in Barbados Saint Andrew’s Day is celebrated as the national day of Independence there. As its patron saint, Saint Andrew is celebrated in a number of Barbadian symbols including the cross formation of the Barbadian Coat of Arms, and the former Order of Barbados which styled recipients as Knight or Dame of St Andrew. In Romania, there are a few pre-Christian traditions connected to Saint Andrew’s Day, some of them having their origin in the Roman celebrations of the god Saturn, most famously the Saturnalia. The Dacian New Year took place from 14 November until 7 December; this was considered the interval when time began its course. One of the elements that came from the Roman and Thracian celebrations concerned wolves. During this night, wolves were allowed to eat all the animals they wanted. It is said that they could speak, too, but anyone who heard them would soon die. Early on Saint Andrew’s day, the mothers go into the garden and gather tree branches, especially from apple, pear and cherry trees, and also rosebush branches. They make a bunch of branches for each family member. The one whose bunch blooms by New Year’s Day will be lucky and healthy the next year. The best known tradition connected to this night concerns matrimony and premonitory dreams. Single girls must put under their pillow a sprig or branch of sweet basil. If someone takes the plants in their dreams, that means the girl will marry soon. They can also plant wheat in a dish and water it until New Year’s Day. The nicer the wheat looks that day, the better the year to come. He is a patron saint of Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, San Andres Island,Colombia and Tenerife. But there is more, as in parts of Ukraine, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Poland, Russia and Romania, a superstitious belief exists that the night before Saint Andrew’s Day is especially suitable for magic that reveals a young woman’s future husband or that binds a future husband to her. The day was believed to be the start of the most popular time for vampire activity, which would last until Saint George’s Eve, 22 April. In Poland, the holiday ‘Andrzejki’ is celebrated on the night of the 29th through 30 November. Traditionally, the holiday was only observed by young single girls, though today both young men and women join the party to see their futures. The main ceremony involved pouring hot wax from a candle through the hole in a key into cold water.

Saint Andrew’s Chapel and rocks in Cape Santo André in Póvoa de Varzim, Portugal. In local mythology, Saint Andrew fished the souls of those drowned at sea and helped in fisheries and marriages.

In Romania, it is customary for young women to put 41 grains of wheat beneath their pillow before they go to sleep, and if they dream that someone is coming to steal their grains that means that they are going to get married next year. Also in some other parts of the country the young women light a candle from Easter and bring it, at midnight, to a fountain. They ask Saint Andrew to let them glimpse their future husband. Saint Andrew is invoked to ward off wolves, who are thought to be able to eat any animal they want on this night, and to speak to humans. But a human hearing a wolf speak to him will die. In Póvoa de Varzim, an ancient fishing town in northern Portugal, Cape Santo André (Portuguese for Saint Andrew) is a place that shows evidence of Romanisation and of probable earlier importance, with hints of Stone Age paintings. Near the cape there are small depressions in a rock, a mystery stone, that the people believe are the footprints of Saint Andrew. Saint Andrew’s Chapel is of probable mediaeval origin, referenced in 1546 and in earlier documents. It is the burial site of drowned fishermen found at the cape. Fishermen also requested intervention from the saint for better catches. Single girls wanting to get married threw a little stone to the roof of the chapel, hoping it would lodge. Because of pagan syncretism, it is also associated with white magic up to the present day. It was common to see groups of fishermen, holding lights in their hands, making a pilgrimage to the cape’s chapel along the beach on Saint Andrew’s Eve. They believed Saint Andrew fished, from the depths, the souls of the drowned. Those who did not visit Santo André in life would have to make the pilgrimage as a corpse.

Andrew the Apostle, detail of the mosaic in the Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, 6th century.

I thought I would also include a bit about Andrew the Apostle, also called
Saint Andrew. He is the brother of Simon Peter and a son of Jonah. He is referred to in the Orthodox tradition as the ‘First-Called’. The name ‘Andrew’, meaning ‘manly, or brave’, from the Greek ‘andreía’, which means ‘manhood, valour’, like other Greek names appears to have been common among the Jews and other Hellenized people of Judea. No Hebrew or Aramaic name is recorded for him. Andrew was born between 5 and 10 AD in Bethsaida, in Galilee. The New Testament of the Bible states that he was the brother of Simon Peter and a son of Jonah. The first striking characteristic of Andrew is his name. It is not Hebrew, as might have been expected, but Greek, indicative of a certain cultural openness in his family that cannot be ignored. We are in Galilee, where the Greek language and culture are quite present. Both he and his brother Peter were fishermen by trade, hence the tradition that Jesus called them to be his disciples by saying that he would make them “fishers of men”. At the beginning of Jesus’ public life, they were said to have occupied the same house at Capernaum. In the Gospel of Matthew and in the Gospel of Mark, Simon Peter and Andrew were both called together to become disciples of Jesus. These narratives record that Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, observed Simon and Andrew fishing, and called them to discipleship. In the parallel incident in the Gospel of Luke, Andrew is not named, nor is reference made to Simon having a brother. In this narrative, Jesus initially used a boat, solely described as being Simon’s, as a platform for preaching to the multitudes on the shore and then as a means to achieving a huge trawl of fish on a night which had hitherto proved fruitless. The narrative indicates that Simon was not the only fisherman in the boat (they signalled to their partners in the other boat) but it is not until the next chapter that Andrew is named as Simon’s brother. However, it is generally understood that Andrew was fishing with Simon on the night in question. In contrast, the Gospel of John states that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist, whose testimony first led him and another unnamed disciple of John the Baptist to follow Jesus. Andrew at once recognised Jesus as the Messiah and hastened to introduce him to his brother. The Byzantine Church honours him with the name ‘Protokletos’, which means ‘the first called’. Thenceforth, the two brothers were disciples of Christ. On a subsequent occasion they were called to a closer companionship, and then they left all things to follow Jesus.Subsequently, in the gospels, Andrew is referred to as being present on some important occasions as one of the disciples more closely attached to Jesus. This is because Andrew told Jesus about the boy with the loaves and fishes, and when Philip wanted to tell Jesus about certain Greeks seeking Him, he told Andrew first. Andrew was present at the Last Supper, he was also one of the four disciples who came to Jesus on the Mount of Olives to ask about the signs of Jesus’ return. Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 260/265– 30 May 339), also known as Eusebius Pamphilus, and a Greek historian of Christianity, in his “Church History” quoted Origen of Alexandria (c. 185 – c. 253) as saying that Andrew preached in Scythia. The Chronicle of Nestor adds that he preached along the Black Sea and the Dnieper river as far as Kiev, and from there he travelled to Novgorod. Hence, he became a patron saint of Ukraine, Romania and Russia. According to Hippolytus of Rome, Andrew preached in Thrace and his presence in Byzantium is mentioned in the apocryphal Acts of Andrew. According to tradition, he founded the see of Byzantium (later Constantinople) in AD 38, installing Stachys as bishop. This diocese became the seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople under Anatolius, in 451. Andrew, along with Stachys, is recognised as the patron saint of the Patriarchate.Basil of Seleucia also knew of Apostle Andrew’s missions in Thrace, Scythia and Achaea. Andrew is said to have been martyred by crucifixion at the city of Patras (Patræ) in Achaea in AD 60. Early texts, such as the Acts of Andrew known to Gregory of Tours, describe Andrew as bound, not nailed, to a Latin cross of the kind on which Jesus is said to have been crucified, yet a tradition developed that Andrew had been crucified on a cross of the form called ‘crux decussata’ (X-shaped cross, or ‘saltire’), now commonly known as a ‘Saint Andrew’s Cross‘. This was supposedly at his own request, as he deemed himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross as Jesus had been. The iconography of the martyrdom of Andrew, showing him bound to an X-shaped cross, does not appear to have been standardised until the later Middle Ages.

The Saltire, or ‘Saint Andrew’s Cross’ is the national flag of Scotland.

I must of course end this article by mentioning Scotland itself. Several legends state that the relics of Andrew were brought by divine guidance from Constantinople to the place where the modern Scottish town of St Andrews (Gaelic, ‘Cill Rìmhinn’), stands today. The oldest surviving manuscripts are two, one being among the manuscripts collected by Jean-Baptiste Colbert and willed to Louis XIV of France, now in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris and the other in the British Library, London. They state that the relics of Andrew were brought by one Regulus to the Pictish king Óengus Mac Fergusa (729–761). The only historical Regulus (Riagail or Rule) whose name is preserved in the tower of St Rule was an Irish monk expelled from Ireland with Columba, but his dates, however, are c. 573 – 600. There are good reasons for supposing that the relics were originally in the collection of Acca, bishop of Hexham, who took them into Pictish country when he was driven from Hexham (c. 732), and founded a see, not, according to tradition, in Galloway, but on the site of St Andrews. According to legendary accounts given in 16th-century historiography, in AD 832 Óengus II led an army of Picts and Scots into battle against the Angles, led by Æthelstan, near modern-day Athelstaneford, East Lothian. The legend states that he was heavily outnumbered and hence whilst engaged in prayer on the eve of battle, Óengus vowed that if granted victory he would appoint Andrew as the patron saint of Scotland. On the morning of battle white clouds forming an X shape in the sky were said to have appeared. Óengus and his combined force, emboldened by this apparent divine intervention, took to the field and despite being inferior in numbers were victorious. Having interpreted the cloud phenomenon as representing the ‘crux decussata’ upon which Andrew was crucified, Óengus honoured his pre-battle pledge and duly appointed Andrew as the patron saint of Scotland. The white saltire set against a celestial blue background is said to have been adopted as the design of the flag of Scotland on the basis of this legend. However, there is evidence that Andrew was venerated in Scotland before this.

Traditional stone fireplace in Ryedale Folk Museum, Hutton-le-Hole, North Yorkshire. The carved Saint Andrew’s cross in the left-hand wooden post was to prevent witches from flying down the chimney.

Andrew’s connection with Scotland may have been reinforced following the Synod of Whitby, when the Celtic Church felt that Columba had been ‘outranked’ by Peter and that Peter’s brother would make a higher-ranking patron. The 1320 Declaration of Arbroath cites Scotland’s conversion to Christianity by Andrew, “the first to be an Apostle”. Numerous parish churches in the Church of Scotland and congregations of other Christian churches in Scotland are named after Andrew. The national church of the Scottish people in Rome, Sant’Andrea degli Scozzesi, is dedicated to Saint Andrew.

This time, on the same theme…
A local superstition uses the cross of Saint Andrew as a hex sign on the fireplaces in northern England and in Scotland to prevent witches from flying down the chimney and entering the house to do mischief. By placing the Saint Andrew’s cross on one of the fireplace posts or lintels, witches are prevented from entering through this opening. In this case, it is similar to the use of a witch ball, although the cross will actively prevent witches from entering, whereas the witch ball will passively delay or entice the witch, and perhaps entrap it…

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