Today and tomorrow we are singing in the mediaeval chapel of Bartlemas in Oxford. We are singing music for Lent, especially Lamentations by various composers. The Lamentations are a collection of poetic laments for the destruction of Jerusalem, supposedly written by the Prophet Jeremiah. They are a cry of undeserved pain, songs of irretrievable disaster, bitterness, suffering and grief. That seemed all too appropriate for Justice for LB – whatever your religious views.
What’s even more poignant in this case is the setting. Bartlemas chapel was part of a mediaeval leper colony. Lepers, of course, have traditionally been seen as being on the margins of society, feared, misunderstood and isolated – the very word ‘leper’ came to mean anyone who was an outcast. Monks set up the colony at Bartlemas outside the city walls to care for them, both physically and spiritually – and recent scholarship has suggested we may need to change our views about how lepers were seen and treated. This report from community excavations at Bartlemas says: ‘What the archaeological evidence provides is an emerging picture of lepers not as outcasts, but as members integrated into the social fabric of medieval society and treated with some measure of dignity and respect.’ Maybe those monks could teach Southern Health a thing or two?
Bartlemas is a unique, still and ancient sanctuary. It has been described as a place where the boundary between heaven and earth – between the dead and the living – feels very thin. We will be dedicating our performances to LB and his family.