An English In Kentucky


















Tuesday January 22nd 2019Tim Candler9


     Senator Kamala Harris wonders how she'll respond to the next generation should they ask her "And what exactly did you do during the shutdown?" The senator's reply, "I ran for President." Asked the same question, your correspondent anticipates his capacity to be truthful and his reply would be, "I attempted to grasp the collapse of wave function to further an understanding of the source of meaning, and I quarreled fiercely with a succession of Popes over their definition of a Medieval Saint."  Pretty sure the response to my reply would fall far short of "Thank goodness someone did!" Nonetheless, the Eight Bridges of Gormenghast require identities, the current trial concerns the possibility of naming one of the bridges after the extremely suspect Saint Chad. A wholly political saint, recognized by Rome. A man whose older brother, a monk named Cedd, was also a Saint, a circumstance that simply spanks of nepotism. And there's the matter of the current era associations between the word Chad and essentially obnoxious behaviors that rightly should have resulted in long jail sentences in a Soviet Gulag. On the plus side, and this is a very big plus in my mind, there's the undocumented and very unlikely possibility that Saint Chad wore the Mohawk Tonsure while preaching the Beatitudes to the Mercian Host. Sadly, no matter how I try to use hope and wish, hope and wish do not pass for evidence, but worth noting the closest you can get to Saint Chad as he was when he was walking the earth is The Venerable Bede, whose histories were frankly the kind of propaganda you'd expect from a 7th Century Latin Speaking Hannity, so even if Saint Chad's fantastic Celtic Mohawk was common knowledge at the time, Bede would have kept it quite. The well documented saga of Saint Chad's relics however, could well tip the scale in his claim to be worthy of a Gormenghast Bridge. After he was buried Saint Chad rested peacefully while his relics grew in stature, then at the beginning of the 16th Century the eighth Henry became king of England. Back then it was fashionable to be overweight, it was a sign of wealth, and Henry the Eighth was very fashionable. Back then too they had no television much beyond wondering what their king might do next, and classically enough King Henry the eighth became popular with the mass of his subjects.



     Nor did a king's incapacity to produce a male heir really trouble anyone much beyond wondering why no divinely ordained heir and who to root for when their king croaked. Back then too, the Roman Church had a poor view of anyone who failed to observe marriage vow to stay married through thick and thin. The stories of how Henry's many loving relationships ended and his dispute with the Roman Church are well known, but some results of his decision to suppress the monasteries in his kingdom are less well known. Saint Chad had been buried in the Mercian town of Lichfield, over time his relics figured larger and larger in the imagination of the devoted and it took something like 200 hundred years to build a cathedral of sufficient magnificence to house them. There was a special place for his head, called the Head Chapel. Henry's decision to impoverish the Roman Church in his kingdom put a huge burden on what might happen to Saint Chad's relics. With some delicacy, in the dark of night, they were removed from the Cathedral by an unofficial officer of the church, the idea being to keep them safe until sanity returned. Over time the officer of the church came to the end of his days and Chad's relics passed to one of his nieces. In the world beyond a big huff developed between Protestants and Catholics, the location of Chad's relics became more and more of a secret. One day, a Farmer Hodgets, a down to earth kind of person, took to his deathbed and began calling to Saint Chad to rescue him from eternal damnation.  A visiting priest asked "Why Saint Chad?" "Because his bones are in the head of my bed." Rather than bring out the Town Crier the priest thought it best to quietly have Saint Chad's relics removed to safe place in Catholic France. It's also true that there's a bit of an underworld in relics, and in time possibly as a result of the relic trade Saint Chad's relics found their way back to the British Island were they were discovered in the 1830's and presented to the Bishop of The Midlands, who instinctively declared them genuine, but more central even the Vatican agreed they were genuine. It was a big day for everyone, a home was found for Saint Chad inside a recently built church. At the end of the First World War Saint Chad was paraded around Birmingham, which is Mercian territory, a tradition that has lingered to this day. In 1985 the more suspicious decided to check the validity of Saint Chad's relics by subjecting them to rigorous scientific examination, carbon dating. All but one of  three femurs were deemed to have origins in the 7th century. In my view, along with his possible Mohawk, the saga of his relics tip the scale for a Gormenghast Bridge named Saint Chad.

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