English Medieval Boy Bishop Vestments
from “The Festival of the Boy Bishop in England” by Edward F. Rimbault
The boy-bishop had a set of pontificals provided for him. St. Paul’s, London, had its ‘una mitra alba cum flosculis breudatis ad opus episcopi parvulorum baculus ad usum episcopi parvulorum;’ York Minster, too, its ‘una capa de tissue pro episcopo puerorum;’ Lincoln Cathedral, a cope of red velvet, ordained for the barn- bishop; All Souls College, Oxford, j. chem (ches?) j. cap. et mitra pro episcopo Nicholao;’ St. Mary’s Church, Sandwich, ‘a lytyll chesebyll for Seynt Nicholas bysschop.’ For the boy-bishop’s attendants capes were also made; and York had no fewer than ‘novem capse.pro pueris.’”1
Northumberland Household Book
A parchment roll of the fifteenth century, printed in the notes to the Northumberland Household Book, gives us the following inventory.
Contenta de Ornamentis Episcopi Puerorum.
Imprimis, i myter, well garneshed with perle and precious stones, with nowches of silver, and gilt before and behind.
Item, iiij rynges of silver and gilt, with four redde precious stones in them.
Item, i pontifical with silver and gilt, with a blew stone in hytt.
Item, i owche broken, silver and gilt, with iiij precius stones, and a perle in the myddes.
Item, a crosse, with a staf of coper and gilt, with the ymage of St. Nicolas in the myddes.
Item, i vesture, redde, with lyons of silver, with brydds [birds] of gold in the orferes [borders] of the same.
Item, i albe to the same with starres in the paro.
Item, i white cope, stayned with tristells and orferes [of] redde sylkes, with does of gold, and whytt napkins about ther necks.
Item, iiij copes [of] blue sylk, with red orferes, trayled with whitt braunchis and flowres.
Item, i steyned cloth of the ymage of St. Nycholas, Item, i tabard of skarlet, and a hodde thereto, lyned with whitt sylk.
Item, a hode of skarlett, lyned with blue sylk.
In the will of Thomas Rotheram, Archbishop of York, dated in 1481, is a bequest to the College of that place of a mitre of cloth of gold with two silver enamelled u knoppes” to be worn by the “Barnes-Bishop.” This is, perhaps, the same mitre which is named in the inventory of jewels and valuables belonging to the Cathedral of York, in Dugdale’s Monasticon. —”Item una Mitra parva cum Petris pro Episcopo Puer- orum.” The tarnished silver knobs seem to have been mistaken for stones.2
Magdalen College, Oxford
In a MS. inventory of vestments, &c., committed to the care of the Sacristan of Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1495, are, “pro pueris” tunicles, red and white and crimson, with orfreys [borders] of damask and velvet, one set of albs of blue damask, and two with apparels of red silk ; and, lastly, a banner of St. Nicholas, the patron of children.3
St. Mary-at-Hill, London
Westminster Abbey, London
- Dr. Rock’s Church of our Fathers, iii. part ii. p. 217, where authorities are quoted. back
- Hampson’s Medii AEvi Kalendarium i. 80. See also Hearne’s Liber Niger Scaccarii, 1728, ii. 674, 686. back
- Millard’s Historical Notices of the office of Choristers, 1848, p. 49. CAMD SOC. back
- Brand’s Popular Antiquities, i. 424, edit. 1849, where authorities are quoted. back
- London and Middlesex Arch. Soc. iv. 318. back
- Ibid. 328. back