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ST. UNCUMBER IN ST. PAUL'S CATHEDRAL.
BY THE REV. DR. W. SPARROW SIMPSON, F.S.A.
(Read during the London Congress.) N the 16th of July 1538, one George
Robynson writes to Lord Cromwell, Lord Privy Seal, informing him that he had paid a visit to “ Powlles”, and that he had found there Saint “ Uncumber standing in her old place and state, with
her gay gown and silver shoes on, and a woman kneeling before her at 11 o'clock to God's dishonour”. And he adds, that “if the King puts them [that is, the images] all away, he will bave the blessing that King Josias had”. I
There is also preserved in the Record Office a letter from Sir Richard Gresham to Lord Cromwell, dated 29th August 1538, in which mention is made of the taking down of certain images in St. Paul's Cathedral. The letter is addressed : " To the Right Hon'ble and his Synguler goode lorde my lorde privy
seale. “Myn humble diewty to your good Lordeship.”2
After treating of matters which do not concern our present paper, he proceeds :
“By Doctor Barnes I haue percevyd your mynde consernynge the ymages in Powlles, and by hys advyse, I sent vnto the Busshope of Chichester, beynge Deane, and shewyd him what commandement I hade for to take downe the sayd ymages, and he sent me aunsswer that he wollde see yt doon the same nyght, beynge the xxiij daye of August : and in the mornynge I went to Powlles, and ther I dyd see that alle thinges was doon accordyngly.
1 Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, 1538. Vol. xiii, pt. 1, No. 1393.
2 From the original in the Record Office. Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, 1538, art. 209.
“My lorde, ther ys ij (payre of, erased] Stayres that goithe upe to a hawle passel ther as the Roode dyd stande, with ij awters and other thynges to sett candylles upeon, and yf the sayd stayers and hawle passe wher taken awaye I doo suppose it shalle be wele doon. Your pleasser herein.
"I shalle praye to god to sende you goode healthe wt longe lyve. From London the xxix of August. “Your owne of your Lordshipes commandment,
“ RICHARD GRESHAM."
The “ Busshope of Chichester”, who took this remarkably prompt action, was Richard Sampson, Dean of St. Paul's from 1536 till 1540, Bishop of Chichester from 1536 to March 1542-3, when he was translated to Coventry and Lichfield.2
Dr. Barnes is named in a letter from Bishop Barlow to Cromwell, in the Letters Relating to the Suppression of the Monasteries.3
Sir Richard Gresham was the Lord Mayor. From the conclusion of his letter, omitted above, it appears that he sought to place one of his sons in the King's service; a circumstance which may possibly have had some connection with his prompt action in the matter of the images.
A brief reference to the same subject is found in Wriothesley's Chronicle,* under date 24th August 1538.
Allso, this yeare, on Bartlemewe even, the roode of the north doore in Paules was taken downe by the Dean of the same church, which was the Bishop of Chichester, by the King's commandement, because the people should doe noe more idolatry to the sayd image, and the image of Saint Uncomber also in the same church.”
A further historical reference to the image of the saint is found in “ A Brief Diary, written apparently by some citizen of London, temp. Hen. VII and Hen. VIII” (from MS. Vespasian. A. xxv), edited by Mr. Clarence Hopper in 1859 for the Camden Society.
1 A hawle passe : that is, a platform. 2 He died at Eccleshall, 25th Sept. 1554. 3 P. 183. (Camden Society.) 4 Vol. i, p. 84. (Camden Society.)
“ M. Gressam, mayir.
Then was the Rood of Norther and Saynt Unckumbur, that stode in Polles many yeris, takyn down, and Our Lady of Grace that had stond in l'olles many yers." "M. Roche, mayir.
* That yere was take doun ye loft in Polles, where yn stode ye Roode of Northor, and Saynt Artnolles schryne in Polles, and Saynt Elwardes schryne at West?.”
The Editor of the Chronicle suggests that Saint Artnolle is S. Erkenwald. In the original MS., over the word Northor, another hand has written Northdore. M. Gressam is, of course, Sir Richard Gresham, Mayor in 1537 ; and M. Roche is Sir William Roche, Mayor in 1540.
St. Uncumber frequently makes her appearance in the literature of the Reformation period; and it may be well to give a few instances of the recurrence of her name, before attempting to answer the question “Who was this little-known saint?”
In the Workes of Sir Thomas More Knyght, sometyme Lorde Chancellour of England, wrytten by him in the Englysh tonge, is “a Dialogue concernynge heresyes and matters of religion made in the yere of Oure Lorde M.D.XXVIII by Sir Thomas More”, in which “the messenger obiecteth manye thinges against pilgrimages & reliques & worshipping of saintes, because of much supersticious maner vsed therein, & unleful peticios asked of theim, & harme growing therupā”. Space can only be found for a portion of this very interesting dialogue.
“What say we then, quod he, of the harme that goeth by goinge of pylgrimages, royling aboute in ydlenes, with the riot, reuelling, and ry bawdry, glotony, wantonnes, wast and lecheri ? Trowe ye that God and his holy saites had not lener thei syt styl at home, then thus to come seke them, with such worshipfull seruice? Yes surely, quod I. What say we then, quod he, to yt I spake not of yet, in which we doo theim littell worship while we set euery saint to hys office and assigne him a craft suche as pleaseth vs ? Saint Loy we make an horseleche, & must let our horse rather renne vnshod & marre his hoofe, thā to shooe him on his daye,
1 Printed at London in 1557. There is a copy in the British Museum [G. 2423]. The passage is taken from “The seconde boke, The 10 chapter”, p. 194.
which we must for yt point more religiously kepe hygh & holy then Ester day. And because one smith is to fewe at a forge, we set saynt Ipolitus to helpe hym. And on saint Stephēs day we must let al our horses bloud with a knife, because saynt Stephen was killed with stones. Sainct Apoline we make a toth drawer, & may speke to her of nothing but of sore teth. Saint Sythe women set to seke theyr keyes. Saint Roke we sette to see to the great sykenes, bycause he had a sore. And with hym they ioine saint Sebastian, bycause he was martired wt arowes. Some serue for the eye onely. And some for a sore brest. Saint Germayne onely for chyldren. And yet wyll he not ones loke at thē, but if the mother bring with thē a white lofe and a pot of good ale. And yet is he wiser then saint Wilgefort, for she, good soule, is as thei saye serued and content with otes. Wherof I cā not perceive the reason, but if it be bicause she should prouide an horse for an euyl housbonde to ryde to the deuyll vpon, for that is the thynge that she is so sought for as they saie. In so much that women hathe therefore chaunged her name, and in stede of saint Wilgeforte call her saynt Vncumber, bicause they reken that for a pecke of Otes she will not faile to Vncomber them of their housebondes."
Ten years later, in 1538, in Bishop Bale's Interlude concerning the Three Laws of Nature, Moses, and Christ," “ Naturæ lex corrupta”, who is one of the personages in the play, speaks as follows :
you cannot slepe, but slumber,
Vnto saynt Blase and saynt Blythe.
Ye shall haue them at quene hythe.”
i St. Roch has not lost his ancient reputation. This year, 1896, I bought at Graville a little medal, recently struck, which has on one side a figure of the saint in the habit of a pilgrim, with the inscription, “St. Roch preservez nous du choléra”. On the reverse is the figure of St. Hubert.
2 There is a copy in the British Museum (C. 34, A. 12). The title is lost, but the first page commences, “A comedye concernynge thre lawes. Compyled by Johan Bale”, printed in 1538. quoted is in Actus Secundus.
The same vehement controversialist, in his Image of both Churches, writes :
“Here were much to be spoken of S. Germain's evil, S. Sikie's key, S. Vncomber's oats, Master John Shorne's boot, S. Gertrude's rats, . . . S. Fiacre for the ague, S. Apolline for the toothache, S. Gratian for lost thrift, S. Walstone for good harvest, S. Cornelis for the foul evil, and all other saints else almost."1
In 1544 one Michael Wodde-if that be the author's real name-makes mention of the saint. His book is so little known, that it seems worth while to give an exact transcript of the title.
“A Dialogve or familiar talke betwene two neighbours, cocernyng the chyefest ceremonyes, that were by the mighti power of Gods most holie pure worde, suppressed in Englande, and nowe for vnworthines, set vp agayne by the Bishoppes, the impes of Antichrist: right learned, profitable, and pleasaunt to be read, for the comfort of weake cosciences in these troublous daies.
“Read first, and then iudge. “From Roane, by Michael Wodde the. .xx. of February, Anno, Domi. M.D.L.IIII.”
This exceedingly rare little volume contains “ A talke betwene Olyuer a professour of the Gospell, and Nicholas noseled in the blynde superstitions."
In the passage now to be quoted, Oliver is the speaker. He makes mention of
“Our famous idols, at Ipswiche, at Walsingham, at Caunterburye, at Hayles, at Dunstable, and euery where."
Oliver then proceeds to catechise Nicholas pretty severely.
“Who could xx. yeares agone saye the Lordes praier in English ? Who could tell anye one article his faith? Who had once heard of any of the .x. commaundements? Who wist what Cathechisme ment? Who vnderstoode anye point of the holye baptisme ? As for the Lordes supper, no man euer knew, whither ther were ani suche thynges or no. Yf we were sycke of the pestylence, we run to sainte Rooke, if of the ague to Saint Pernel, or Master John Shorne. If men were in priso, thei praied to saint Leonarde. If
1 Bale, Image of both Churches. Parker Society, chap. xvii, p. 498.
2 A copy is in the Archiepiscopal Library at Lambeth. Press mark [xxx. 8. 20. (9).]
3 Signature C. ii. b.