Sunday, May 12, 2013

chrismatory with 3 containers
for holy oil. Meuse valley early
13th century
Today's research snippet: An oily situation:

When an English king was anointed at his coronation, he would take the oath and then be divested of his robes until he stood in his shirt and breeches. The Archbishop of Canterbury would then anoint him on the head, breast and arms, where resided his glory, his knowledge and his strength.

There was some debate as to whether this anointing was sacramental and whether it was akin to the ordination of a bishop. Questions arose such as Did it make the king comparable to Christ whose name meant 'The anointed one?' Did the permanent nature of being being anointed make it a sin for people to depose a king or rebel against him - or even disobey him? Did an anointed king have the ability to cure people of scrofula and diseases by a touch of his hands? Some church men thought so - Peter of Blois for example. Others dismissed it - Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury after Becket certainly didn't. 

The debate about whether becoming an anointed king made that king divine, stretched over into the choice of the anointing oils. For those in the 'yes' camp, the king ought to be anointed with holy chrism oil mingled with balsam. For the 'no' camp, the oil should be just the ordinary stuff. These two types of holy oil were consecrated by a bishop in the same chrismal mass on Maundy Thursday. The expensive oil was administered just after baptism for those entering the community of the church. It was used at confirmations and also during ordinations - a priest on the hands, a bishop on the head. The ordinary oil was applied on the breast before baptism and on liturgical objects.

In the 12th century, the French kings were anointed with the holy chrism oil. Pope Innocent III tried to revoke this privilege (he was anti the divinity of kings) but without much success.
For Anglo Saxon kings the situation was that they received chrism oil on the head and there is a primary source report that said since the King was anointed with the same oil as a bishop, he was allowed to intervene in ecclesiastical affairs. However, under the reforming drive from Rome, the chrism oil was replaced with the ordinary oil. The king though, was still anointed on the head in the manner of a bishop. 

It is believed that the coronation of Henry II's son The Young King in 1170, was performed with chrism oil - probably in part as a way for Henry II to get back at 
Thomas Becket and the pope. 

Alienor of Aquitaine was crowned with Henry II at Westminster in December 1154 but since she had already been anointed when crowned queen of France, she may not have been anointed a second time. 


Katarzyna Ogrodnik-Fujcik said...

Professor Matthew Strickland in his "On the Instruction of a Prince" finds it possible that in case of the Young Henry, to stress the sacrality of the ceremony- the coronation was not performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury- it could have been oil of chrism 'rather than the usual oil of catechumens'. I can think of only one source that mentions the chrism oil: Roger of Wendover noted in is Flowers of History that "... his [Henry the Young King] body, wrapped in the linen garments, which he wore anointed with the chrism at his coronation, was carried to Rouen..." Perhaps you know where else I could find the confirmation of this theory? I would be grateful for any tips :-)

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

I don't sorry. I found the remark in Martin Aurell's The Plantagenet Empire, translated by David Crouch, so it's a secondary source.