A ‘royal’ banner has been raised high up on the south side of St Mary’s Church to announce the forthcoming Beverley 1300 festival. The banner originally flew outside London’s British Library during the exhibition Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War which ran October 2018 – February 2019. The smash hit exhibition featured treasures from the British Library’s collection including a beautifully illuminated copy of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History (which tells the story of the life of the Angl0-Saxon bishop, John of Beverley, who died 1300 years ago in AD 721).
The banner is intended to create an Anglo-Saxon ‘backdrop’ for the anniversary celebrations in Beverley this weekend.
For me, it evokes the era in which St John of Beverley lived and the legends which sprang up in the centuries following his death, such as King Æthelstan’s visit to the shrine.Roland Deller, organiser of Beverley 1300
The banner, however, features a different Anglo-Saxon king, Edgar the Peaceful. The image comes from a document in the British Library, the New Minster charter (Cotton MS Vespasian A VIII) given by King Edgar the Peaceful to the New Minster at Winchester in 966.
The figure on the left is the Virgin Mary, and on the right St Peter with the keys and a book. In the centre is the king himself, holding a book (his charter), and above him four angels hold a frame around the enthroned Christ, who is blessing the king. Sentences on the facing page record (in Anglo-Saxon) ‘Thus He who established the stars sits on a lofty throne. King Edgar, prostrate and venerating, adores Him.’
Professor Barbara English who dreamt up the idea of bringing the banner to Beverley for the festival explains:
Edgar, king of all England from 959 until his death in 975, was the first English monarch to have a formal coronation, at Bath in 973, and the ritual formed the basis of all subsequent coronation services, including that of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. The book, now in the British Library, is written entirely in gold.Prof Barbara English
Both Æthelstan & Edgar the Peaceful are among the 40 monarchs who appear on the Ceiling of Kings inside St Mary’s Church which was made in 1445. When visiting the festival, be sure to look up at the ceiling in the chancel: it is truly unique!