Monday, January 12, 2015

The Sunne in Splendour, Part 2

Of the many fascinating stories surrounding Richard III and the House of York, the story of the "Sunne in Splendour" is, to me, one of the most amazing ones.

On the morning of February 2, 1461, at Mortimer's Cross, three suns appeared on the horizon.  Medieval minds being what they were, many of Edward's troops viewed this as a bad omen.  Edward thought fast on his feet and convinced his followers that the three suns represented the Holy Trinity & meant that God was on their side.   But why did he make this allusion and why did it work?

Besides the obvious answer, that medieval people were more religious & superstitious than we are, what is often overlooked by many today is that February 2 is also the date the Catholic Church celebrates Candlemas.  Candlemas marks the 40th day after the birth of Jesus & the date of his first presentation at the temple.  It is the day people bring candles to Church to be blessed & borne in procession to signify Jesus' role as "the light of the world."  The origins of Candlemas stem from much older pagan traditions, which mark February 1 or February 2 as Imbolc, the halfway point between winter & spring, "the return of the light."  The appearance of the "Sunne in Splendour" on such an important day, then, had added religious significance for Edward & his troops.  So strong, in fact, that Edward adopted it as his personal device.

So what did this phenomenon look like?  A similar one appeared in my home town a few months ago, but it was at noon.  Yesterday, however, a much more spectacular one appeared in New Mexico, & in my opinion, is more like the one that appeared before the Battle of Mortimer's Cross than other pictures I've come across.  I posted a photograph of it, taken by Joshua Thomas in Red River, New Mexico, at the top of this entry.    See also here  

Even though we know what causes this phenomenon today, it still takes our breath away.  More than 500 years on, it is still easy for us to see why Edward & his followers were so in awe & considered it a sign of God's favor.

1 comment:

  1. For more interesting stories, see here: