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  • Writer's pictureMary Allen

A celebration of Mary in May

As May draws to a close, so too does a month of special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. With Spring and the promise of new life well under way, the Archives turn once again to the wonderful Blandyke Papers.

These wholly manuscript volumes, spanning 1888 to 1923, were largely a place for future priests to reflect on history, literature, liturgy, philosophy and science. But they were also an outlet for literary and creative and artistic development, and perhaps none display these skills quite so spectacularly as the papers created for the month of May. The link between Mary and the month of May seems to have arisen among the Jesuits in Rome in the 18th century, and many of the rites and symbolism that surround Mary involve flower imagery and themes of nature. This connection is demonstrated in almost all of the verses and illustrations in the Blandyke Papers for the month. Aside from the vines winding their way up the foliate Corinthian columns on either side of this short poem, for example, the surrounding architectural design has as its central feature a rose window, a feature often associated with or dedicated to the Virgin Mary in church architecture.

It is interesting to note the various artistic influences on the Jesuits creating these pieces. Some have clearly been influenced by the styles of the time, with motifs from turn-of-the-century movements such as Art Nouveau, inspired by natural forms and structures, such as flowers and plants.

Others use more traditional artistic styles with gothic script and illuminations which lend themselves to this colourful month, while others include pastoral, rather idyllic vignettes, again brimming with nature, new life and abundance.

Throughout the month our thoughts have often been turned to the past, with WWI commemorations continuing and the celebration of VE Day. Perhaps we can view these beautiful pages from the archives, by their very nature things of the past, as a gentle reminder to look forward as well.

For information about the origins of the Blandyke Papers, please see our previous blog post, Christmas Verses and Sketches from 1914.

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