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frame of wood, so that they cannot be moved from it; neither let them be set to any other use but the celebration of Divine Worship, by grinding colours upon them or the like.—Grostete Epist., Rolls Series, p. 156.
Super-altars could only be used for private use by special license. In the recently published “ Papal Letters," Rolls Series, many such grants are contained. I have collected the following :
1251. Innocent IV. Mandate to the Archbishop of York to grant a licence to the Countess of Lincoln to have a portable altar.
1254. The same. Indult to Wm. de Valencia, the king's brother, , to have a portable altar.
1254. The same. Indult to Robert, called “the Valiant,” the King's steward, to have a portable altar for five years.
1255. Alexander IV. Faculty to Henry de Winbam, Papal sub-deacon and chaplain, of the dioc. of London, who is engaged in the King's service, to have a portable altar.
1278. Nicholas III. Indult to Queen Eleanor to have a portable altar at which her chaplain may celebrate divine offices.
1286. Honorius IV. Faculty to John de Vescie, one of the King's knights, to have a portable altar.
1289. Nicholas IV. Faculty to Henry de Lascy, Earl of Lincoln to have a portable altar.
1291. The same. Licences to Edmund, son of Henry III., and to Blanche, his wife, to choose their own confessor, have each a portable altar, and have divine offices privately celebrated in places under interdict.
1291. The same. Licence to the chaplain of William de Valencia to use a portable altar.
1296. Boniface VIII. The Bishop of Clonfert, a Benedictine, had special privileges granted him, apparently on account of ill-health, among others a faculty to have a portable altar.
1297. The same. Indult to Peter de Sabaudia, Dean of Salisbury, to have a portable altar.
1301. The same. To Queen Margaret, to have a confessor, a portable altar, and divine offices celebrated in private in places under interdict.
1304. Benedict XI. Faculty to Henry de Hertelyngton, in dioc. of York, to have a portable altar.
1306. Clement V. To Queen Margaret. Indult to have a portable altar.
1308. The same. To Isabella de Vesey, of dioc. of Durham. Indult to have a portable altar.
1308. The same. Master John Haveringg, Archbishop elect of Dublin, having resigned, is appointed a papal chaplain. Faculty to have a portable altar.
1309. The same. To Aymer de Valencia, Earl of Pembroke, to have a portable altar.
1317. John XXII. To Thomas, Earl of Lancaster. Indult to have a portable altar.
1320. The same. To Hugh Despencer, jun., the King's chamberlain. Faculty to have a portable altar.
1327. The same. To Edmund Trussel, domisel, and Margery, his wife, of dioc. of Lincoln. Indult to have a portable altar.
1327. The same. To Henry, Earl of Lancaster and Leicester. The like.
1328. The same. To Margaret, wife of Edmund of Woodstock, son of the late King Edward. Indult to have a portable altar.
1329. The same. To Queen Philippa. Indult to have a portable altar.
1329. The same. To John de Warrennia, Earl of Surrey. Faculty to have a portable altar.
1329. The same. To John de Haustede, knight, of dioc. of Norwich. Indult to have a portable altar, on which mass may occasionally be said before daybreak.
1329. The same. To Thos. Ranulphi, Earl of Moray. Indult to have a portable altar.
1331. The same. To Mary de Sancto Paulo, Countess of Pembroke. Indult to have a portable altar.
1332. The same. To Oliver de Ingham, the King's seneschal in Aquitaine. Indult to have a portable altar.
1333. The same. To Wm. de Monteacuto, knight, of dioc. of Bath. Indult to have a portable altar.
1333. The same. To Elizabeth de Borg, lady of Clare, dioc. of London, daughter of the late Gilbert, Earl of Gloucester. Indult to have a portable altar.
1341. Benedict XII. To Henry de Lancastria, Earl of Derby. Indult at the request of Neapolio, Cardinal of S. Adrian's, to have a portable altar.
1341. The same. To the same, at the request of the same, that his chaplains shall administer to him and his wife the sacraments of the church.
1389. Boniface IX, To Sir Robert Hannsard to have a portable altar. The original is in the British Museum in Hollis's Collections. Mr. E. Peacock gives it at length in Proc. Soc. Antiq., N. S. xiii., p. 171.
NOTE. — The following extract from this grant shows the nature of this privilege :
Hinc est quod nos tuis devotis supplicacionibus inclinati ut liceat tibi habere Altare portatile cum debita reverentia et honore super quo in locis ad hoc congruentibus et honestis possis per proprium sacerdotem idoneum missam
et alia divina officia sine juris alieni prejuditio in tua
indulgemus. . ..-Ibid.
1418. Martin V. Licence to King Henry V, to have a portable altar.
1448. Nicholas V. Archbishop Kempe, of York, consecrated nine superaltars, on authority from the Pope, for different people.
1556. Cardinal Pole issued a pardon to Lord Berkeley, which contains a grant of a portable altar. This is given at length by Mr. Peacock (Proc. Soc. Antiq., N. S. xiii., p. 171). He there also gives an extract from Smyth's Lives of the Berkeleys, which refers to the same document, as follows: “In the fourth of Queen Mary's reign, Anno 1556, Cardinal Poole, out of his Apostolical authority and Legateship from the Bishop of Rome, absolved this Lord Heury from all dangers of excommunications, which in the late time of Schisme in England hee had incurred : and granted to him the faculty to use his chapell in his manor of Callowdon, as of ancient time before the Schisme his ancestors had used the same; and to have there a portible altar to say masse, to receive the body and bloude of Christ, and to keep the same in a box covered with a fair sindon or linen cloth, with candle burning before it.”
The following description of “ a portable chapel,” which occurs in the Inventory of the vestry of Westminster Abbey, 1388, well illustrates the provision for private services in changing localities :
De . . . Capella portabili.
A case containing a gilt chalice, two cruets, one pix, one bell, one paxbrede silver gilt, one superaltar of alabaster, one “Reridos with frontal and super frontal, two Redelle (?), one alb with stole and maniple, one girdle, one chasuble, and one case with corporal of blue cloth of tartaryn variegated of one set, with two towels without "pallis,” of the gift of Nicholas Litlington, Abbot.— Archäologia, 52, p. 276.
The rights of the various grades and descriptions of ecclesiastics were very jealously guarded, especially those of the parish priest. As the super-altar was portable and for use in various places, it is obvious that the possession of one with the right to use it for celebration of mass made the possessor independent—for private worship
of the parish priest wherever he happened to be. It will be noticed, from the foregoing notes, that even the clergy themselves could not make use of them for their own devotions without a licence to do so. The King and Queen also were in the same position.
The grant of a super altar was usually accompanied by other privileges, as has been already indicated in the above notes, and is more fully in the following :
1306. Clement V. To Queen Margaret.
Licence to choose her confessor.
Indult to have a portable altar. 1329. John XXII. To Queen Philippa.
Indult that her confessor may hear the confessions of her
household. Faculty to have a portable altar. Indult that her confessor shall give her plenary remission
at the hour of death-being penitent. Indult to have mass celebrated before daylight. Indult that her confessor may grant a relaxation of 100
days of enjoined penance to penitents present when a bishop preaches in her presence, or of sixty days when
another does so. 1331. John XXII. To Mary de Sancto Paulo, Countess of
being penitent—at the hour of death.
her the sacraments in any parish.
Also grants more limited, especially :
To choose confessor.
Portable altars sometimes were made more important structures than mere slabs. The sketch on this page is a copy of the representation in the Bayeux Tapestry of the altar on which Harold took the fatal oath. The well
known circumstance appears to indicate either that Harold did not notice that the consecrated slab was present on the altar, or that relics were not always bedded in these slabs but were removable, and could be placed underneath as required.