News Archive

Sunday 26 September 2021

Non est sine pulvere palma


Some of our devoted parishioners have been working hard to polish up these candlesticks ready to use for exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at More House.

The ducks are rather unusual, and have a mixed history in Christian iconography. On the one hand, Pope Gregory IX thought that the duck was an icon of lust, and the duck can also symbolize the vice of gossip. Sometimes ducks have been carved onto the doors of church to remind those entering to do so quietly.

A more positive interpretation of the duck is as a symbol of baptism. The duck can live both in water and in the air, and so reminds us of how we are baptized into the Holy Spirit.

Here is a fourth-century duck from the floor of a church at Soli, in northern Cyprus:


This charming pair of ducks is in the Byzantine church of the Multiplication (of the loaves and fishes) in Galilee:


This mosaic duck is found on the floor of the basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna:IMG_2719

And here is a tranquil duck from a fifteenth-century Italian Book of Hours:


There is also a duck connection with the University of York, since the duck features on the crest of the arms of the Barons Deramore, former owners of Heslington Hall. Here is an example of the arms, on a fire screen in the refectory at the Oratory, together with the family motto, Non est sine pulvere palma - "There is no prize without dust":IMG_2721