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General News > John Wyclif - A Talk by Sir Anthony Kenny
A Miracle of the Sacrament, by Sassetta, was painted in Siena c1423-25 and tells a dramatic tale. It shows a cleric, struck dead as he’s offered the Host during Mass. Even more dramatically, a devil swoops down to snatch his soul as it leaves his body.
This little painting was once part of a large altarpiece, comprising 23 separate pictures telling a complex story. The altarpiece paid homage to the Virgin, saints and prophets, and promoted the belief that bread and wine shared during communion turn into the real flesh and blood of Christ. At the same time, it offered a warning to the growing number of people who by 1400 were challenging this belief. They were warned that they would be treated as heretics: excommunicated, executed, their bodies burnt, and the ashes thrown away, to deny them bodily resurrection and eternal life.
One of the panels from the altarpiece alludes to the shocking death of John Wycliffe from Teesdale, declared a heretic by the Council of Constance in 1415. The altarpiece was dismembered and dispersed c1790-1840, possibly after damage in an earthquake. With all knowledge of the artist, the subject of the painting and the circumstances of its creation lost during this period, it was to take historians 100 years to retrieve its story.
Amazingly, the panel that alludes to the death of John Wycliffe ultimately ended up in the collection of The Bowes Museum, purchased by John Bowes, and there is an opportunity to hear more about John Wycliffe this Saturday 13 April, when Sir Anthony Kenny give a talk at St Mary’s Church, Barnard Castle, at 5.00pm. Like Wycliffe, Sir Anthony has been Master of Balliol College at Oxford University. He is a philosopher who has written extensively about Wycliffe. Sir Anthony was a Roman Catholic priest who helped make the Jerusalem translation of the Bible in the 1950s, before giving up his faith and becoming a professional philosopher. Everyone is welcome. Call Helen Goodman’s office on 01388 603075 for details.