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Tarpeian Rock

An Annual Literary Magazine

"Hinc ad Tarpeiam sedem et Capitolia ducit
aurea nunc, olim siluestribus horrida dumis."

                    --Virgil's Aeneid, VIII, l. 347-8
Articles from
the 2015 issue...

Bearer of a Thousand Wounds

A Cretaceous Carol

The Knight and the Flaming Arrow

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The Knight and the Flaming Arrow

by Rachael Whitman

     Flaming arrows flew through the air down onto the attacking army below the great castle at Montauban. The fire from the arrows matched the deep red of the sky as smoke surrounded the English troops. Knights in chain armor slammed a heavy wooden battering ram against the castle gate. A myriad of arrows struck the ram in an attempt to set it ablaze. The castle had once been full of beauty, its towers reaching toward the heavens, but during the fifteen days since the siege had started the walls had crumbled in despair much like the spirit of those defending it.
    “For King John!” rang through the air as the English knights scaled the wall of the castle. They reached the top and their swords clashed with those of their enemies. The French fought with the remnants of a fervor that had once been fierce, and one of their arrows still managed to seek out a particular knight. This man was short of stature, but strong in his faith in God. His name was John Burdet and he came from the town of Lindsey, near Lincoln. His fingers had just gripped the stone of the wall and his foot felt for the wooden rung of the ladder when the arrow struck his right arm just below the shoulder. He ripped it out, but the spot became numb with pain which spread until, with one final jerk, his whole arm became motionless like stone. Falling to the ground he hit his head and blacked out.
    Not long after, John was brought to safety as the English army’s swords sang with victory. The battle was at an end.


Saint Hugh Pilgrm    "Can you move your arm?” asked the physician who was tending to John. He asked the question, but he already knew the answer. It had been a long year with no progress in the healing of his patient’s arm.
    John, a devout Christian, attempted to move his right arm in the sign of the Cross, but it would not budge. “No, I must continue to pray for the intercessions of the saints…” he muttered.
    “I do not think that is wise. You have been going on these pilgrimages when you should be resting.”
    “I have been under your care for a year, spent a great sum of money on the medicine of man, but for naught!” John replied angrily.
    The physician remained silent as he continued to remove the blood-sucking leeches from John’s arm. Throughout this procedure John remained silent. He could not feel any of the doctor’s treatment, even when cautery had been used. This process entailed the use of red-hot irons to seal up the skin over the wound. Later when the doctor reopened the wound and again used the irons, John still did not feel anything. But now he was silent for a different reason. It was not a sign of submission to the doctor’s will, but instead he was deep in thought over his plans to journey home.


    Under the hot sun many serfs were harvesting the crops on the knight’s land, and on the path they saw John slowly making his way home.
    Tears from his wife, hugs from his children, and the care of his servants greeted him. The village doctor could also do nothing to help, and John continued to grow sicker, and could not eat without assistance.
    Several days after his return, John travelled through his village with the help of a servant, his afflicted arm wrapped in a sling, toward the stone abode of Bernard the chandler. Attached to the chandler’s home was a workshop where he made his candles. The workshop was set slightly back from the rest of the village. Bernard was a slightly plump older man, with a good mop of gray hair. He was a little on the rough side, but mostly just curious in nature. He made his own wax from bees whose hives he kept behind his workshop. The air was filled with the buzz of the bees but he heard John’s heavy footsteps. John had always been a kind man and the peasants and tradesmen of the village respected him.
    Bernard immediately saw the purse of coins attached to John’s belt. He also knew it must be important if the knight came himself. “Ah, Sir Knight, to what do I owe the pleasure of your presence?”
    “I need your help with something...made from fine wax such as from your bees. I know your work is the best...and I will of course pay,” John told him.
    “Anything for you, Sir Knight,” Bernard replied promptly. After giving Bernard instructions, John made his way home. Bernard went straight to work taking measurements and planning in his mind how he would carefully melt and pour his precious beeswax.
    That night John knelt beside his bed, “Holy Father in heaven, please hear my prayers. Help me to strive to be holy like thy servant Saint Hugh, bishop of Lincoln, and if it is thy will, bring the life back to my arm.”
    A few days later the chandler sent notice that Sir John’s item was finished, and so John sent his servant to the chandler’s workshop to pick it up.
    “Hello? Is anybody here?” the skinny servant boy called out.
    “I’m coming, I’m coming,” grumbled Bernard as he slowly walked around to the front of the shop. “What are you here for?”
    “My master, John, he said you made him something.”
    “Ah, yes the wax image of his arm, he was very particular about it…”
    “An image of his arm? What would he do with that?”
    “If he did not tell you then it is probably none of your business, and that is all I will say. Now make haste and return to your master.”
    The boy took the package and put it in his satchel attached to the horse, the words of the chandler still in his ears. Why would my master order an image of his arm? He spent a good deal of money while he was away, so it must have been for something really important, but why an arm? Maybe it has to do with the sudden trip to Lincoln the kitchen maids were whispering about.
    As he returned to the home of his master one of the head servants approached him. “Carac! There you are! Do you have the special item? Good, I was just told you will be traveling with the master, so hand that over and then hurry along and get your things!” he said in a rush of words.
    With just a few minutes to spare, Carac joined the rest of the servants and off they went to Lincoln. When the knight approached the cathedral with his entourage he saw the glass windows gracing the walls of the building. There were two circular windows that particularly caught the eye, one facing north, and one facing south.
    Glancing at these windows Carac followed the rest of the servants into the cathedral. Many candles were lit, and the sunshine streamed through the windows, but the vast inside of the church was still dim.  
    John walked toward the tomb where Hugh’s body was laid to rest as if his feet knew exactly where to bring him. Surrounding the tomb were little offerings from previous pilgrims hoping to benefit from the Bishop’s prayers. Closing his eyes he remembered the conversation he had had with his wife a week before:
    “We should pray to Hugh, the bishop of Lincoln! I heard of a boy from Wigford who could not speak because his tongue was attached to the roof of his mouth. He could barely eat. They prayed to Bishop Hugh and he was healed!” his wife had exclaimed.
    “I must go at once to the tomb of the great bishop and place my arm upon it. I know God will heal me!”
     “Will you be able to place your arm on the tomb?”
    He responded: “I will ask the chandler, who lives a few miles away in the village to carve an image from wax of my arm, and I shall place that upon the tomb. God will know my faith even then.”
    “God will surely know my faith even now,” he whispered. He placed the wax image on top of the tomb, and with his good arm reaching toward the top, he learned in and bowed his head.
    As night fell one of the page boys approached John, who was still in this position, “Sir, it is getting late. Do you want to go to the local inn where we can find you dinner and a bed?”
    “No, you go. I will stay here through the night.”
    Left alone at last, he relaxed his body a little. He stayed through the whole night. Tears quietly escaped as he continued to pray: “Servant of God, holy bishop, pray for me as I am weak, and I beg to be healed. Ask our Heavenly Father to have mercy and to bring me back to health.”
    As he uttered these words he felt a calming peace. In the morning his servants found him with a look of such serenity and reverence that they wondered what could have happened.
    “I am going to stay tonight,” whispered the page boy to Carac.
    That night still kneeling by the tomb, John could be heard mumbling more prayers, when he suddenly gasped out loud.
    Rushing toward him the page boy asked, “What is the matter, Sir Knight? Shall I fetch the doctor?”
    “No, no. I just felt a slight pain in my arm,” he responded.
    By the third night the pain had increased considerably, but John could feel the fabric of his sling and the cold stone of the tomb brushing against his arm.
    The next morning the sky was cloudy and the grass damp. Still John’s servants came and brought him his bread and water. John took his right arm and feebly raised the food to his mouth. All the servants watched in awe as he finally was able to move his arm.
    Head raised to the ceiling, he thanked Saint Hugh for his intercession, and then John raised both arms and exclaimed, “Thank you, Holy Father in heaven! You truly are the way and the light!” As John knelt in front of the tomb, bright rays of the sun shone in through the circular windows and surrounded the tomb.
    After several more hours of prayer John left the cathedral. When he stepped out, the clouds in the sky had finally started to disperse and the rays of God’s glory shone through.


    John returned home to his wife. She gasped with joy when she saw him riding his horse, his left hand tightly grasping the reins and, although limp, his right arm raised so he could wave to his family.
    Still in pain he winced when his wife hugged him tightly, and she immediately frowned. “Why do you wince? Is your arm not better?”
    “It is. The pain is a sign of the healing to come. My arm feels pain, but before it could not feel anything!”
    “You will
The Last Judgmentbe better?”
    “All in good time. I am so much better now—God healed my arm—but to be healed fully there will be pain first. God has taught me how important my faith in Him is!”


    Back in the kitchen, Carac was telling the kitchen maids and the stable boys all that he had seen.
    “And he just stayed there, the whole time! Then he started to feel pain in his arm, and he seemed happy about this! Finally, on the last night he could move his arm, and he was praising God!”
    Before he could say anymore, the cook walked into the kitchen. “Carac! Stop wagging your tongue and keeping the maids from their duties. And on that matter I am sure you have your own duties to attend to. All you boys scat!”
    With that Carac and the stable boys left the kitchen talking.
    “That really sounds like a miracle.”
    “It was,” Carac responded before heading inside. Upon being seen by the head servant he was sent to do an errand near the local church of Saint Lawrence. After he completed it, he snuck a glance inside the church. There he saw Sir John kneeling at the altar.
    Hiding between two pillars he watched Sir John as he prayed.
    John was not only praying, but reliving a memory of when he became a knight. That day he had made a promise to God. Over the past year he had been brave in his sickness and loyal to his faith in God, keeping the promise he had made many years ago.
    As John knelt peacefully in front, and Carac watched hidden in the back, John whispered to himself the words he had heard many years ago:
    In the name of God and Saint Michael and Saint George I dub thee knight. Be brave and loyal.

Rachael Whitman is 18 years old and recently graduated with an associates degree in communications. She resides in New Jersey with her parents and nine siblings.

Life of Saint Hugh
If you enjoyed this story, read about the real John Burdet and many others who experienced miraculous healing at the tomb of Saint Hugh of Avalon in...

The Life of Saint Hugh of Avalon
Bishop of Lincoln 1186-1200

Click here to order a copy or for more information.

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