King Oswald’s Raven to launch at Peterborough Cathedral

A spectacular new animation will be launched at Peterborough Cathedral next month.

Friday, 9th October 2020, 11:35 am
Updated Friday, 9th October 2020, 11:42 am
The animation will be launched next month

On Thursday November 12 at 11.30am, Peterborough Cathedral will host the online launch of King Oswald’s Raven, a new animation which re-tells the German legend of St Oswald and his pet raven, using imagery from the Peterborough Bestiary. This medieval book, once owned by Peterborough Abbey, is now in the Parker Library at Corpus Christi College Cambridge.

Following the launch of the 5-minute animation at peterborough-cathedral.org.uk, other videos and online activities for children will run alongside it until 22 November, as part of the Being Human festival of humanities. During the festival, children will be invited to send in their own creations, with the best entries winning a soft toy raven. The Being Human festival announced its programme this week (5th October 2020).

St Oswald, the Christian King of Northumbria who died in battle in 642, was Peterborough’s most important saint in medieval times. The famous relic associated with him, his incorrupt right arm, was in the possession of the monks of Peterborough by the time of the Norman Conquest. The arm was kept in the abbey church (now the Cathedral) in a chapel dedicated to St Oswald.

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The relic was of great importance to the religious life of the monastery. To this day you can see the small turret in the chapel from which a monk could watch over the valuable holy relic.

Soon after his death, Oswald’s fame spread far and wide, and through the centuries links between England and German-speaking lands strengthened his cult in Europe. He was a very popular saint in southern Germany where, at some point in the high Middle Ages, Oswald was transformed from being a pious martyr king into a rather comic figure, overshadowed by his talking raven.

The King Oswald’s Raven animation brings this unusual German legend to life using imagery from one of the wonders of medieval Peterborough: an illuminated book about animals made just after 1300 and kept at Peterborough Abbey. In doing so it aims to show how Peterborough has always been connected to, and involved in, exchange with the wider world.

The Very Revd Chris Dalliston, Dean of Peterborough, said: “We are very much looking forward to hosting this series of informative, fun and creative videos on our website. Were it not for the pandemic we would have been welcoming families to the Cathedral in person to enjoy learning about St Oswald, but the St Oswald’s Raven videos will be an equally inspiring way for all ages to find out about this important saint and his connection with Peterborough. I hope that lots of children will get involved and send in their poems, stories and pictures during the festival.”

Philippa Hoskin, the Parker Librarian at Corpus Christi Cambridge, said: “Medieval bestiaries were created to entertain and to make people use their imaginations and we’re delighted to have been part of bringing the Peterborough Bestiary to life in such an engaging manner.”

Dr Johanna Dale, a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at University College London, said: “We’re really proud to launch King Oswald’s Raven with Peterborough Cathedral as part of the Being Human Festival. The German Oswald legends are highly entertaining and we’re so excited to introduce them to new audiences using imagery from the Peterborough Bestiary.”

The King Oswald’s Raven animation was developed by researchers at University College London and King’s College London, in collaboration with animator Charlie Minnion and creative practitioners Hazel Gould and Sinéad O Neill. The other short videos in the series will explain some of the research background to the project, and also suggest family-friendly creative activities which respond to the themes. There will be prizes for children who send in the best creative responses.

King Oswald’s Raven was selected to be part of the Being Human Festival by the festival organisers, the School of Advanced Study, University of London, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and the British Academy.

More details about St Oswald’s Raven can be found https://www.peterborough-cathedral.org.uk/oswald.aspx or follow @Oswalds_Raven on Twitter, #OswaldsRaven.

An academic conference about St Oswald of Northumbria and the cult of saints in the high Middle Ages is due to take place at Peterborough Cathedral in August 2021.