Saturday, March 10, 2012

Superstition at the Ashmolean Museum

I visited the Ashmoleum in Oxford on Friday. The have some wonderful exhibits, from a vast range of periods and regions. They need to explain all sorts of strange customs and forms of life to their visitors. This is what they came up with to explain what a pilgrimage is- or was.

 This is so utterly bizarre, as a description of what pilgrimages were about, that I am baffled as to where they could possibly picked up the idea. Were they reading some kind of Protestant polemic against pilgrimages from the 17th Century? Or were they just making it up?

I always regret not complaining about these kinds of things. Once I made a special trip to the Oxford Story (a little train took you past exhibits) to note down the anti-Catholic bias, but delayed my complaint only to find the place had closed down. (The finest example, I recall, was the claim that Medieval philosophers thought the earth was flat. Really?) So I'll write to the Ashmoleum and see what happens.

What is so regular as to be expected is referring to Catholics and their beliefs in the past tense, as if they were talking about the Incas.
But they also have really wonderful things. Here is the decoration on a Coptic dalmatic: the Virgin and Child, and under them, St George slaying the dragon.

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