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Jeremy Taylor: a fine theologian and scholar – 13th August

On the wall of the former chapter room of Down Cathedral there is an unusual portrait, unusual in that it is actually painted on the wall with an imitation frame around it made of plaster. Incidentally, Down Cathedral, the traditional burial place of St Patrick, is a beautiful, historic building and well worth a visit.

The subject of the portrait is Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667) an Englishman who was chaplain to King Charles I, imprisoned by Cromwell after the king’s execution but upon the restoration of the monarchy appointed Bishop of Down and Connor. He also became vice-chancellor of the University of Dublin. Taylor was a fine theologian and scholar and is considered to be one of the greatest prose writers in the English language.

The portrait represents him as being formal and severe; it tells us very little about the man. But when one turns to his writings he comes to life. In his great work Of Charity, or the Love of God, Holy Living he wrote: “Love is the greatest thing that God can give us; for himself is love: and it is the greatest thing we can give to God; for it will also give ourselves, and carry with it all that is ours. The apostle calls it the bond of perfection; it is the old and it is the new, and it is the great commandment, and it is all the commandments for it is the fulfilling of the law.”