HEREFORD BOY BISHOP
Being a Sunday morning and only needing to travel from Gloucester to Hereford I didn’t feel I needed to be up all that early, though I was surprised how much traffic there was on the roads even at seven.
It is so much easier driving when one knows the roads even a little, and although it wasn’t my side of the county I knew where things were in relation to each other, and all of that is a help. The carpark I was headed to wasn’t the most clearly marked, but as it was still before eight when we arrived there weren’t major problems when I headed for the wrong entrance initially. And it gave Strict Lady time to rethink and then more or less get me into the right part.
We were near the large and rather beautiful playing fields on the old water meadows over the far side of the river from Hereford Cathedral, which was where I was headed today to see the enthroning of the Boy Bishop, a custom dating from some time in the middle ages. The boy bishop was elected from the Choristers on 6th December, the feast of Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children, and the Boy Bishop's 'authority’ then lasted till Holy Innocents’ day, 28th December. The real Bishop would, symbolically, step down at the section of the Magnificat "he hath put down the mighty from their seat", and the boy would take his seat in the Bishop’s throne at "and hath exalted the humble and meek".
After his election, the boy was dressed in full bishop's robes with mitre and crozier and, attended by comrades dressed as priests, made a circuit of the town blessing the people. The chosen boy and his colleagues then took possession of the cathedral and performed all the ceremonies and offices, except Mass
I had read in the past about its history and knew it was a Medieval custom, and presumed it was following on from the Pagan traditions of the Lords of Misrule in Roman times so was just a little disappointed on doing some deeper research to find that though the custom is an ancient one, it was abolished by Elizabeth I and only reinstated in Hereford in 1973, as something exciting for the Cathedral Choristers to do in the run up to Christmas Still by then I was on my way.
I have spent the largest part of my life some twenty minutes or so drive from the cathedral here, and though visiting the city mostly more than once a week I didn’t set foot inside it until I was in my late teens, and after that only occasionally for something special or to show visitors round. And I had never seen the enthroning of the Boy Bishop. Nowadays I think his authority is pretty well restricted to playing his part in the actual service, during which he leads some of the prayers and preaches a sermon written by himself - and a very good sermon he wrote and preached too!
Hereford itself is a beautiful city, but again one of those places so well known to me that I don’t bother to look at it properly. Truly a case of familiarity breeding if not contempt then disregard. So I was delighted to be able to see it through fresh eyes on a quiet Sunday early in December, I even approached the Cathedral from a direction I would never normally take. There were few dog walkers and Sunday strollers about, and hardly any traffic, and once again I was blessed with a most beautiful sunny day. I took the opportunity to have a good look around the Cathedral before heading off down Church Lane for a spot of lunch, though my familiarity kicked in again, and I forgot to even look at the buildings let alone take a photograph!!!
It was lovely service and the singing from the choir exceptional. Obviously photographs during the service would have been improper, but I did notice the official photographer tiptoeing behind the various pillars, and afterwards approached him to see if photographs were ever available, and he suggested contacting the Cathedral office, who kindly allowed me to use this one in my blog.
And one below when I 'papped' him and his attendents walking up one of the side aisles!
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