This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

January 12 -- Feast of Saint Benet Biscop

Billy Crystal, digging his own grave
In Hamlet, one gravedigger asks another, "What is he that builds stronger than either the mason, the shipwright, or the carpenter?" 

The other fella says, "The gallows-maker, for that frame outlives a thousand tenants." 

It was a pretty witty reply, but not the correct answer.  The first gravedigger twists the answer to seem sacrilegious and then gives the correct answer: "A grave-maker. The houses that he makes last till doomsday."

Indeed, three of the five oldest structures in Britain are graves of one kind or another, each more than 5000 years old.  These are not just bones in the mud; they are cairns and tombs built, as the Clown said, to last until doomsday. 

A monk's beehive cell
By contrast, the oldest religious building is a temple dedicated to Emperor Claudius built in AD 60.  What is left of the building (pediment and vaults) is stone, of course.  The oldest Christian building is the double beehive cell from the monastery founded by St. Brendan the Navigator in the sixth century.  The oldest Christian church building is St. Martin's in Canterbury, also built in the sixth century.  It had originally been Queen Bertha of Kent's private chapel, but taken as the home church of the Archbishop when Augustine of Canterbury arrived in Kent.  The chapel was initially built of brick and tile scavenged from Roman ruins, but later construction was of course done in stone.  And that's the long way around to Saint Benedict (Benet Biscop, aka Benedict Baducing). 

A Northumbrian nobleman, he accompanied his friend on a pilgrimage to Rome when he was twenty-five.  Actually, his friend didn't go the distance, but Benny did, after which he was all caught up in God.  He went on another pilgrimage to Rome twelve years later, and on his way home, stopped off at a monastery for a couple years monastic instruction.  Then he went back to Rome, picked up the next Archbishop of Canterbury (Theodore of Tarsus) and headed for Britain. 

Appropriately reflected in glass
Theodore appointed Benedict to be the abbot of the monastery of Saints Peter and Paul in Canterbury.  After a couple years, Ben returned to the Continent to recruit stonemasons and glaziers to build a new monastery in Northumbria.  He also brought books, relics, and a charter from the Pope.  Long before he was venerable, a kid named Bede studied with Benedict; eventually he contributed a book of his own to the library.  The Romanesque architectural style, incorporating stone and glass into religious structures, became the standard for the English Church, helping their buildings outlast schools, theaters, and farms, if not tombs and cairns. 

If you are a mason, a glassworker, a musician, or a painter, take a moment to appreciate the contribution of your patron, Saint Benedict Biscop. 

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