From my diary

Well here I am again.  A year ago I went off to start a contract in a town which I very much like, but involves a journey of 2-3 hours each way, and a round trip of 220 miles.  That was the last time that I had any substantial time off.  It’s been a long year.  The contract was good, but the travelling gradually became too much.  Eventually I asked the Lord for guidance; and the very next day received unmistakable evidence that it was time to seek out a job closer to home.  The last few weeks have been very difficult.  I don’t usually find myself falling asleep at my terminal!  But I now have at least two months off.

I have rarely worked from home.  But in the last couple of weeks, I did so Monday and Tuesday.  In order to do this, I purchased a docking station for the work laptop and a pair of screens.  Rather to my surprise I found that these could each be bought on eBay very cheaply, in new or near-new condition.  Having the right setup made working from home much easier.

Today I tried to connect the screens to my own laptop.  They connect but the graphics card will only support two screens, including the laptop monitor.  Usually you setup the laptop so that closing the lid turns off the screen, instead of putting the machine to sleep; and then the twin monitors come into their own.  But for some reason my machine will not permit this.  Maybe it’s a driver issue.  I shall look into this further.

Last week I looked at the French translations of the miracles of St George.  These are very easy to read, and it might well be worth running them through Google Translate, fixing the bugs, and making them accessible online.  I’ve learned a huge amount about hagiography from St George.  I need to write this up.

Over the last six months, I have been putting aside emails with blog post ideas.  Some of these are things I saw on twitter, while others are emails that I received.  So I have a fair few posts ahead of me.

That said, for the next couple of weeks I intend to try and get out in the sun.  The last year was not good for my health, and, inter alia, my vitamin D level is a bit low.  So it’s time to get outdoors, do some walks, and eat some strawberries (as one does in June).


An annotated translation of part of the Coptic Acts of the synod of Ephesus – by Anthony Alcock

Now here is an interesting one!  Dr Alcock writes:

I attach an annotated translation of the ‘fictional’ part of the Coptic acts of the Synod of Ephesus. I am currently preparing an annotated translation of a short Syriac text about Nestorius, which of course contains a different perspective (or ‘take’, as people say nowadays).

Here it is:

Pboou is one of the Pachomian monasteries.  The Egyptian text has suffered from the attention of hagiographers, who have introduced fictional sections like this one.  So the story is not of historical value (although genuine documents from the synod are embedded in the text).

All this material is useful to have online in English.  We could do with much more synodical material accessible in this way.  Who of us has ever read the Acts of Ephesus, or Chalcedon?


Should we build reproductions of now vanished buildings?

The ancient city of Norwich in East Anglia is still surrounded by much of its medieval circuit of walls.  But the gatehouses are all gone.  They were thrown down in an outbreak of civic improvement in 1792, to improve access to the city and save money on repairs.  By that time they were all rather cracked and ruinous anyway.

One of the most impressive was St Stephen’s gate, which faced west.  Queen Elizabeth I entered the city through it, and it must always have been the main city gate.

Here is a drawing of the gate, outside and inside, made around 1720 by John Kirkpatrick and engraved in 1864 by Henry Ninham.[1].

Here is a further drawing made in 1786 which was published in an article in 1847.[2]

Here is a last one, this time from 1792, just before demolition, by John Ninham, published by Fitch in a volume of such drawings in 1861.[3]  Repairs are clearly visible.  The windows have been enlarged also.

In England local councils vary greatly in their attitude to heritage.  Fortunately Norwich City Council has a splendid website, and this, remarkably, has a survey of the city walls, completed in 1999-2002, plus a page full of hard information for each of the vanished gatehouses.  Here is the one for St Stephen’s Gate.

After the demolition, the area simply became an area of roadway.  Indeed in the 1960s – that era of brutal contempt for what ordinary people felt – some of the walls were demolished to make way for the ring road.  The area of St Stephen’s gate was turned into a hideous roundabout, complete with concrete underpasses, and the foundations are supposed to have been destroyed.  The roundabout is what greets visitors from London and the west today.

But there is more.  The firm of architects that completed the survey was Purcell Miller Tritton, and they did not leave the matter there.  On 22 October 2010 an article appeared in the Eastern Daily Press, calling for the gate house to be rebuilt![4]

An ambitious plan to rebuild the colossal St Stephen’s Gate entrance to the city of Norwich in its original location has been unveiled today. The proposal is to reconstruct the three-storey building using traditional materials such as flint and lime mortar on the St Stephen’s roundabout as part of a wider plan to rejuvenate the city walls and make them more accessible to visitors.

An ambitious plan to rebuild the colossal St Stephen’s Gate entrance to the city of Norwich in its original location has been unveiled today.

The proposal is to reconstruct the three-storey building using traditional materials such as flint and lime mortar on the St Stephen’s roundabout as part of a wider plan to rejuvenate the city walls and make them more accessible to visitors.

A feasibility study has been carried out and work is now beginning on liaising with relevant authorities over the plan and efforts to secure funding for the project.

Norwich Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust (Heart) came up with the idea and engaged architects Purcell Miller Tritton to look at the state of the city walls and draw up a plan for reconstructing what was the main gate into the medieval city of Norwich.

But they stress that rebuilding the gate is only one part of a larger project to raise awareness of the city walls and bring them back to life.

PMT in Norwich carried out a detailed study of the city defences, about what remained, how accessible they were and how they could be developed as an attraction with Heart providing funding via the East of England Development Agency.

PMT principal Nigel Sunter said: “Our overall conclusion is that the city walls are under-appreciated, difficult to find and in some cases difficult to access, particularly for wheelchair users or someone who is infirm.”

Medieval Norwich was enclosed by a masonry wall between 1337 and 1344 by Richard Spyke, a leading citizen, who carried out the fortification with gates, walls and towers at his own expense.

They are unique in Britain in that they are on both sides of the river and have four gates north of the River Wensum and seven to the south, with towers in between.

But over the years, they have been allowed to deteriorate, particularly during the 20th century. Old photographs from the 1930s show much more of them than survive now and in the 1960s some stretches were even demolished to make way for the ring road.

Mr Sunter said: “The Norwich walls are amongst the longest in the country and there are also some interesting elements to them. One is the unique boom towers from which there were chains across the river to prevent traffic from going upriver.”

Much of what exists of the walls is in a dilapidated state and in some areas the route of them is marked out on the ground such as at the Grapes Hill roundabout.

“There is no interpretation along the length of the walls and I think that we can make a lot more of the walls. Some may need repair, some are overgrown in places, such as the part near St Stephen’s roundabout. But a lot of it is undervalued and underplayed,” said Mr Sunter.

The proposal to regenerate the walls includes creating a city defences walk, installing interpretation boards, marking the site of each of the lost city gates; marking the route of the wall in cobbles in grass and pavement; and creating a city walls visitor centre to tell the story of the walls.

Mr Sunter points out that the story of Norwich is told in the Castle Museum; its ecclesiastical history can be recalled in the cathedral; the Guildhall may one day be the focus of its legal history; and the social side of the city is re-told in museums such as Bridewell.

“But the walls are left out of all those stories,” he said.

A possible site of a visitor centre could be within the reconstructed St Stephen’s Gate, which will be reconstructed from early drawings.

The plan includes strengthening the St Stephen’s roundabout to take the weight of the reconstructed gate and retaining the underpasses, which would provide access to the attraction.

The original gate had three storeys and two bastion towers. A lift and staircase will run from the underpass into the first tower where there will be displays re-telling the story of the walls. A further storey will have a roof terrace offering views along St Stephen’s.

Mr Sunter said: “It is only when you rebuild a replica that you understand more about a building, not just what it looked like but what is smelled like, what it sounded like.”

Anthony Moore, research and development co-ordinator with Heart, said: “Cities such as York and Chester have reconstructed their walls and they are now really an attraction that pump primes the economy. Other European cities such as Krakow have done the same so it is not unprecedented.

“St Stephen’s Gate was the main gate into Norwich, Queen Elizabeth I processed through it, and it has played a large part in the city’s history.”

Heart and PMT recognise there are still significant negotiations to take place over rebuilding St Stephen’s Gate but if all goes to plan, it could be a stunning feature for the centre of Norwich by the end of the decade.

Sadly the proposal does not seem to have been taken up.  The reconstruction, indeed, looks like it was done by a school-leaver in Paint!

Rebuilding like this is something that is incredibly rare in Britain, and there are strong voices in the establishment that oppose anything of the sort.  If a historic building is destroyed, accidentally or deliberately, then there is almost an assumption that it must be forgotten and something hideous built in its place.

But in Germany after WW2 there was widespread rebuilding, especially in Dresden and Nuremberg which were almost destroyed.  The heritage of the past is thereby made available to the present.  Likewise in Rome, when the Constantinian basilica of St Pauls-without-the-walls was destroyed, it was rebuilt as it had been.

We live at the tail end of the 60s era.  Those who gleefully inflicted concrete horrors on every town in the realm are still in power, just about.  Perhaps it will not be possible to make progress until these rotters are in their graves.  But already we see that nobody builds more of those horrors.  Anonymous concrete and glass boxes are still being built; but we can hope for an end to these too.

I think that I am definitely in favour of some rebuilding.  The destruction of ancient and medieval buildings was still going on in the 60s, and would be resisted now.  Let’s hope to see experiments in rebuilding heritage in England too.


I had forgotten to check the online copy of J. Britton, “On ancient gate-houses”.  It is full of interesting remarks.

In 1786, more than sixty years ago, that industrious and enthusiastic antiquary, John Carter, visited Norwich, and found eleven out of the twelve city gate-houses standing. Heigham Gate, he states beneath one of his sketches, had been then destroyed “some years:” having been taken down when Blomefield wrote, in 1741. Of the remaining eleven he made a series of slight but effective sketches, looking from without the gates into the city. He states that these sketches were made on a Sunday when all the gates were closed. These drawings together with all the other sketches that he made, from 1768 to 1806, are now in my possession, and form a collection of authentic representations, including many objects of which no other views exist. They extend through 37 folio volumes. Mr. Stevenson of Norwich possesses drawings made with a camera obscura of the same eleven gates. (p.135-6).

“Blomefield” is “Blomefield’s History”.  It would be very interesting to know where Mr Carter’s volumes are; even more so the Stevenson papers.  A google search suggests that they may be in the archives of Kings College London:

John Carter’s newly catalogued papers and correspondence in the archives of King’s College London throw considerable new light on his relationship with members of the Society of Antiquaries and his patrons, and include previously unpublished sketches of several of them. His memoirs show that a small group of wealthy antiquaries recognized his skills as an accurate and conscientious draughtsman and encouraged him faithfully to record historic – and especially medieval – buildings and monuments. Many of these buildings were later altered or destroyed, and his numerous surviving drawings are thus of immense value to scholars.[5]

I find a page on Carter’s papers at the National Archives here.  This tells me that there are manuscripts transferred to the British Library; and their catalogue tells me of:

‘A COLLECTION of Sketches relating to the Antiquities of this Kingdom; taken from the real objects, by John Carter”; 1764-1817. Twenty volumes. Paper. Folio. Additional MS 29925-29944 : 1764-1817

Not quite 37 volumes, although Additional Mss. 31113, 31153 also are by Carter.  One day I must go and look at these.

In a similar way, “Stevenson” may be William Stevenson, F.S.A., who was proprietor of the Norfolk Chronicle.  I find a mention of “COL/5/19 Papers owned by William Stevenson, relating to the history of Norwich and Norfolk, 1066-1755” in the Norfolk and Norwich Record Office.[6].  Someone ought to track these down.

Likewise the excellent Mr Britton even has something to say about attitudes that give rise to things like brutalist “architecture”:

I cannot help contrasting the state of society, when I visited Norwich more than forty years ago, with its condition at the present time. Then the greatest apathy prevailed on antiquarian subjects; the cathedral was in a lamentable state of dilapidation, and neglect, whilst the repairs that had been made and were in progress were heedlessly and tastelessly executed. Now, on the contrary, its officers are actively and liberally occupied in making sound and substantial repairs and restorations, in accordance with the varied styles and character of the old works.

Perhaps we should just see the last 50 years rather as the Victorians saw the period prior to their own; a period of decay, neglect, corruption and wastefulness?

  1. [1]“View of the outside of St Stephen’s Gate about 1720 engraved by Henry Ninham from a drawing by John Kirkpatrick [Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery 1954.138, Todd 5, Norwich, 119a]”
  2. [2]J. Britton, “On Ancient Gate-Houses”, Proceedings of the Archaeological Institute, July 1847, opposite page 136.  Online at here,
  3. [3]Robert Fitch, Views of the Gates of Norwich made in the years 1792-3 by the Late John Ninham, Norwich: Cundall, Miller, and Leavins, 1861.  Online at Google Books here.
  4. [4]Mark Nichols, “Visionary bid to rebuild city gate”.  Online here.
  5. [5]B. Nurse and J. M. Crook, “John Carter, FSA (1748–1817): ‘The Ingenious, and Very Accurate Draughtsman’”, The Antiquaries Journal, 91 (2011), 211-252.  Not accessible to me but apparently online here.
  6. [6]Rosemary Sweet, The Writing of Urban Histories in Eighteenth-century England, Clarendon (1997), p.344.

From my diary

A.J. Festugière, Sainte Thècle, saints Côme et Damien, saints Cyr et Jean (extraits), saint Georges. Traduits et annotés, Paris: Picard, 1971, arrived by ILL a week ago.  Something made me guess that it might contain French translations of some of the miracle stories printed by Aufhauser in S. Georgii Miracula, Teubner, 1913; and so it does!  In fact it looks as if M. Festugière translated the whole set, or very nearly so.

The existence of a translation is a blessing, and I’ll will add it to my St George bibliography when I get the time to compile the St George blog post.  Since the individual texts are nothing – merely one incarnation of the folk-story, rather than a literary text – this is probably quite enough for anybody but specialists.

I saw today on Twitter a BMCR review of a volume of translations from the Menologion of Simeon Metaphrastes, describing them as “Christian novels”, which they are.  The review claimed that hagiographical texts are the most frequently translated Byzantine texts, which seems like an interesting claim.

I’ve not been able to blog much for some time.  For the last year I have been on contract away from home.  Fortunately there is only 5 days remaining, and then I am free.  I plan to holiday in July and August.  If God wills then I will find a new contract in September which is closer to home.  But whatever He wills is good.

I have collected quite a list of ideas for blog posts in the mean time and no doubt these will appear once I have recovered from the contract.  The main post that I want to write is an overview of St George and his literature. I will return to translating Eutychius too.


A collection of sayings attributed to Ammonius/Amun

Dr Anthony Alcock has translated for us all a collection of sayings, some Syriac, some Greek, which are attributed to St Ammonius, or Amun, a disciple of the desert father St Anthony.  These take the form of short anecdotes.

It’s lovely to have these in English!  The PDF is here:


9th century ms of Chrysostom on Matthew for sale at Sothebys

I learn from the Twitter feed of the excellent and erudite Pieter Bullens of a curious story.  One of the most important manuscripts of Chrysostom’s Homilies on Matthew, currently University Library, Basle, under the shelf-mark B. II. 25, is to be sold at Sothebys after a 38-year loan.

The Sotheby’s catalogue contains a number of images, and some truly fascinating details.

The most recent edition of this work is F. Field, Sancti patris nostri Joannis Chrysotomi Archiepiscopi Constantinopolitani Homiliae in Matthaeum, 3 vols., 1839. (The Patrologia Graeca text being a reprint of the 17th century edition).  But this manuscript was unknown to Field, being published only in 1900.

What makes it special is a connection with the Latin translations of Chrysostom – in various passages it gives the same reading as Anianas of Celeda in the 5th century, where the majority of manuscripts are in error.

It would be nice to think that the university library in Basle have made a digital copy of the whole manuscript before it went to Sothebys.  It might be optimistic, too.

Sales of collections are always sad.  Sales of manuscripts often indicate the presence of death taxes, and other signs of the rapacity of the modern taxman.  It is probably the German state that is responsible for throwing this item to the mercy of the art market, but I don’t know this for fact.

As I don’t know how long this information will remain online, let me give a copy of the details here.  I wonder who wrote it?  It is magnificent!


(1) Palaeographical analysis by Ernst Gamillscheg and Michel Aubineau suggests that this manuscript was written in the late 9th century in Constantinople; the close relationship with manuscripts written by Nikolaus Studites, notably a codex signed by Nikolaos Studites in 835 (St Petersburg, National Library, MS 219; see S. Lake, VI: Manuscripts in Moscow and Leningrad, 1936, no.234) and another manuscript attributed to Studites (Vatican Library, MS gr.2079; see E. Follieri, Codices graeci Bibliothecae Vaticanae …, 1969, pl.13 and B.L. Fonkitch, ‘Notes paléographiques …’, Thesaurismata, 16, 1979, pp.154-56) may indicate an origin in the Studiu-Monastery. (2) The first and two last leaves replaced in the late 13th century by an accomplished scribe. (3) Liturgical rubrics added by a 14th-century scribe (e.g. ff. 8v, 36r, 54r) indicate that the manuscript was kept at the Hodegon Monastery in Constantinople; another example is the Codex Ebnerianus (Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Auct. T. inf. 1.10) that mentions the copyist and annotator Joasaph for the Hodegon Monastery in 1391 (see I. Hutter, Corpus der byzantinischen Miniaturhandschriften, I: Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1977, no.39 and E. Gamillscheg and D. Harlfinger, Repertorium aus Bibliotheken Grossbritanniens, 1981, no.208). (4) In England by 1900 (binding). Offered by Quaritch in their Catalogue No. 271: A Catalogue of Rare and Valuable Books, 1909, no.604; Catalogue No. 290: A Catalogue of Bibles, Liturgies, Church History and Theology, 1910, no.354; and probably also in subsequent catalogues; sold on 30 June 1914 to Karl W. Hiersemann, Leipzig, for £190 (BL, Add.64227: Quaritch, Account Ledgers 1913 onwards, p.174). (5) Bogislav Freiherr von Selchow (1877-1943), lyricist, naval officer and commander of Free Corps Marburg; his coat of arms inside the upper cover. (6) Martin Wahn (1883-1970), vicar and member of the Church Council of the Confessing Church in Kamienna Góra, Silesia, until 1947; died in Singen, southern Germany, just north of the German-Swiss border, in 1970. He may have received the manuscript through Bogislav’s sister Anni von Gottberg who was a member of the Confessing Church, Potsdam, and opponent of National Socialism. By descent to Martin Wahn’s grandson and then on deposit at the University Library, Basel, 1980-2018, under the shelf-mark B. II. 25.


The manuscript includes the first 44 homilies of John Chrysostom on the Gospel of Matthew. The most recent critical edition of the text is F. Field, Sancti patris nostri Joannis Chrysotomi Archiepiscopi Constantinopolitani Homiliae in Matthaeum, 3 vols., 1839. (Migne’s Patrologia Graeca edition of 1862 simply reprinted Montfaucon’s older edition of 1612). None of these editions took into account the present manuscript because it was unknown to them. It contains numerous instances where its text sides with the Latin translation of Annianus (5th century AD Alexandria) over against the other medieval Greek manuscripts of John Chrysostom, e.g. folio 54 line 34 (Homily 8, vol. 1 p.102 Field) the MS reads parresias (which is correct and adopted by Field) over against periousias as given by MSS A, B, and the Armenian version – so that it can be seen that this MS represents an older tradition.

The manuscript contains extensive quotations (pointed out by diplai [>] in the left margin) from the Greek text of the Gospel of Matthew and other Old and especially New Testament texts. It is worth mention that the 9th-century scribe writes incipits of individual homilies and sometimes quotations from the text of Matthew in older-looking majuscules rather than the 9th-century minuscules for the text of John Chrysostom. There are frequent marginal ANNOTATIONS, some in early hands (if not identical with the original scribe’s), some later (including the hand of the 14th-century rubricator) which provide exegetical glosses, notation of variants from collation with other manuscripts, corrections of copying errors, and addition of scribal omissions (including the missed out text appended by means of the tipped in binding strip before folio 230). Insertions of missed out texts are regularly signalled in the margin preceded by an insertion sign in form of a modern division sign.


E. Gamillscheg and M. Aubineau, ‘Eine Unbekannte Chrysostomos-Handschrift (Basel Universitätsbibliothek, B. II. 25)’, Codices Manuscripti. Zeitschrift für Handschriftenkunde, 7, 1981, pp.101-08.

P. Andrist, ‘Structure and History of the Biblical Manuscripts Used by Erasmus for His 1516 Edition’, in Basel 1516. Erasmus’ Edition of the New Testament, 2016, p.85 note 14.

Readers will understand if I admit that a purely temporary shortage of funds here at Pearse Towers means that regrettably I cannot save this item for us all.  Those truly interested in doing so had better have wallets with more than $250,000 inside them.  Petty cash to the well-connected, of course, but not a sum that most of us will dispose of.

Whoever buys the item is likely to be a gentleman and a scholar, as well as a rich man.  Let us hope that he will place the item online.


Looking at Aufhauser’s 1913 “edition” of miracle-stories of St George

A couple of years after his 1911 publication on the miracles of the Dragon and the Demon, Aufhauser went on to publish the text of 19 miracle stories or other pieces about St George, in the Teubner series in 1913.  (Online at here).

The book contains text(s) taken from several manuscripts.  Unhappily these include the codex Athous Ioasaphaion 308, written on paper so late as 1878.  Yes, that is right – only 35 years before the Teubner, and written, much of it, in modern Greek.  The stories agree on content, but little else; so, mysteriously, Aufhauser edits two or three or more versions in parallel, in a hard to follow manner.

Here are the items in it (I’ve translated the Latin titles given by Aufhauser).  Aufhauser gave summaries of the first 13 items in his 1911 book, which I have already given here.  Items 14-19 he prints for the first time.

1. De columna viduae – The column of the widow
2. De imagine perfossa – The stabbed image
3. De iuvene Paphlagonensi – The Paphlagonian young man
4. De filio ducis Leonis – The son of Duke Leo
5. De bubus Theopisti – The runaway oxen of Theopistus
6. De visione Saraceni  – The Saracen’s vision
7. De imagine – The image
8. De milite interfecto – The murdered soldier
9. De iuvene Mytilenaeo capto – The captured young man of Mytilene
10. De libo – The pancake
11. De Manuele – Manuel
12. De dracone – The dragon
13. De daemone – The demon
14. De zona S. Georgii – The belt of St George
15. Apocalypsis S. Georgii – The apocalpyse of St George
16. Hymnus in honorem S. Georgii – A hymn in honour of St George
17. De mansionario – The inn-keeper
18. De statua marmorea – The marble statue
19. De voto coram imagine – The vow before the image

The contents of items 14-19 are not given except in the text.

I understand that a number of these items exist in French translation, in A.J. Festugiere, Saint Thecle, saints Cosme et Damien, saints Cyr et Iean (extraits), Saint Georges (Paris 1971), 33-82.  That’s a lot of pages; maybe he translated the lot!  I shall place an ILL and see.

I find that various of these miracles are recounted online on orthodox pages.  I don’t know if they have much connection to the texts published by Aufhauser.

My purpose in investigating all this has been to discover if there are literary texts which should be translated into English.  But it seems more than doubtful that any of this deserves translation, at least by me.  A summary of the contents of each story would serve for most purposes; for none of these texts are canonical, or literary, or form any kind of collection.  They are just stories, legends, that circulate.  So why spend much time on translating one of the many forms in which a given story exists in the manuscripts?

The passio of St George is another matter, as there is clearly a literary history involved.  It is possible that the materials around St George and the dragon might usefully be put into English, because of the importance of that myth to the English-speaking world.

But all in all, it’s some distance from what I want to be doing.