Milan 2015 – Santa Maria delle Grazie

Santa Maria delle Grazie is the home of the Dominican Friars in Milan, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The community’s former refectory is the home to Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, The Last Supper.

The interior is absolutely lovely…

with stunning colours…

…a friar here and there…

…and a couple of cherubs.

Sadly, the magnolias had finished flowering in the cloister.

I think a froggy fountain would be a great addition to the quad at Blackfriars in Oxford.

You work for monks…?

That’s the usual reaction I receive when I explain that I work at Blackfriars in Oxford. It can take a while to explain. Thought I’d prepare an FAQ.

Who do you work for?
I work at Blackfriars, Oxford, part of The English Province of the Order of Preachers (which also covers Scotland, Grenada and Barbados).

Who?
Dominican friars (the word friar is derived from the Latin word frater, which simply means brother), a religious order in the Roman Catholic church. In the UK they’re also known as Blackfriars, as they wear a black cloak over their white habit.

Monks then
No, monks are tied to a particular monastery, and although Dominicans live in communities, they can be called to serve anywhere they’re needed. That’s why I’ve had three managers in three years, not because I’m difficult to work with (honest).

So what’s Blackfriars, Oxford?

Blackfriars is three institutions:

  •  The Hall, a PPH, a Permanent Private Hall, an Oxford college (sorta, I told you it’s complicated) with males and female students, a mix of all religions, and none, studying a variety of subjects.
  • The Studium, a Roman Catholic study centre, training male members of religious orders to be ordained, with a few female members of religious orders and lay students studying philosophy and theology.
  • The Priory, the convent or friary where the brothers live. Services in the community chapel are open to the public, so although the brothers don’t run a parish, there is a large congregation associated with the Priory.
What do you do?

I’m the Assistant Bursar, and Academic Administrator, so I have a wide brief which covers finance, student housing, admissions, visas, and a variety of other things.
Isn’t it a bit weird working there? They can’t like women or they wouldn’t have chosen to be monks?
  1. It’s a unique environment certainly, and I love it. 
  2. They’re not monks (see above), not that it really matters that much.
  3. I’ve yet to meet a friar that doesn’t like women. Maybe it’s because they don’t have to live with them…:-). 
  4. I love working at Blackfriars.
Any more for any more?

Temptations…of a book kind

I was on may way out to dinner last night, when I spotted this book shop at the end of Walton St.

It was obviously run by kindred spirits….

…but it had to wait. How could I stand the Regent up?

Mmmm…cake…


Those of you who know my portly personage well are aware that I’m partial to a bit of cake.


I was spoilt for choice yesterday. fr Robert & fr. Haavar Simon were ordained to the diaconate, and fr Lawrence became Fr Lawrence. So they was plenty of cake to be had. The one above was made by Genevieve, one of Blackfriars graduate students.

However, the cake of cakes, was made by fr Richard Conrad.
Although it did make me wonder about the social niceties of eating the figures. I was tempted to cut the bishop’s head off…but that’s probably not the done thing. Trouble is the figures don’t last for ever.

We kept our wedding cake hippos for a few years, but they went the way of all flesh (or marzipan at any rate)!