Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Saint Jerome in the Desert

Bartolomeo Montagna 1450 – 1523
St Jerome in the Desert
c. 1482
Tempera on panel
112,3 X 50 cm
Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan 

Bartolomeo Montagna 1450 – 1523
St Jerome in the Desert
Oil on canvas
39,7 x 29 cm
Collecció Thyssen-Bornemisza on loan to the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona

Bartolomeo Montagna 1450 – 1523
St Jerome in the Desert
c 1500
Oil on canvas
51 x 58 cm
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan

Bartolomeo Cincani known as Bartolomeo Montagna 1450 – 1523  adopted the pseudonym "Montagna" (cf. Mantegna) from his youth

He was born near Brescia but made his name as the most important religious painter in Vicenza in the High Renaissance

He perhaps trained in Venice, where he was living in 1469. He was associated with Giovanni Bellini

Here we see three versions of St Jerome in the Desert

The Latin "desertum" originally meant an abandoned place

Four words are chiefly used in Hebrew to express the idea of desert: Midbar; 'Arabah; Horbah; Jeshimon

The word meant a place where few if any people dwelled rather than a place of particular aridity

According to James Howlett, Desert (in the Bible). In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved February 24, 2015 from New Advent
"We are told (Exodus 3:1) that Moses fed the flocks of Jethro, and led them to the interior parts of the desert. This desert was in the land of Madian, close to the Red Sea, and in it was Mount Horeb, which St. Jerome says was the same as Sinai.  
The desert to which David fled from Saul (cf. 1 Samuel 23:14) was the desert of Ziph, which lies south of the Dead Sea and Hebron. 
John the Baptist lived and taught in the desert of Judea, west of the Jordan and the Dead Sea, near Jericho. Finally, the scene of Christ's temptation (Matthew 4:1-11), of which St. Mark adds (1:13): "He was with wild beasts", was most likely in the 'arabah to the west of the Jordan. But this is only speculation."
Some hagiographies of Jerome talk of his having spent a lot of his years in the Syrian desert, and multiple artists have titled their works "St Jerome in the Desert" or in the wilderness

On the first Sunday of Lent 2009, Pope Benedict XVI said:
"St Mark introduces us into the atmosphere of this liturgical season: "The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan" (Mk 1: 12).  
In the Holy Land the Judean desert, which lies to the west of the River Jordan and the Oasis of Jericho, rises over stony valleys to reach an altitude of about 1,000 metres at Jerusalem.  
After receiving Baptism from John, Jesus entered that lonely place, led by the Holy Spirit himself who had settled upon him, consecrating him and revealing him as the Son of God. In the desert, a place of trial as the experience of the People of Israel shows, the dramatic reality of the kenosis, the self-emptying of Christ who had stripped himself of the form of God (cf. Phil 2: 6-7), appears most vividly. 
He who never sinned and cannot sin submits to being tested and can therefore sympathise with our weaknesses (cf. Heb 4: 15).  
He lets himself be tempted by Satan, the enemy, who has been opposed to God's saving plan for humankind from the outset. 
In the succinct account, angels, luminous and mysterious figures, appear almost fleetingly before this dark, tenebrous figure who dares to tempt the Lord. Angels, the Gospel says, "ministered" to Jesus (Mk 1: 13); they are the antithesis of Satan.  
"Angel" means "messenger". Throughout the Old Testament we find these figures who help and guide human beings on God's behalf"

In the three paintings by Montagna, we see the differing concepts of "desert" or wilderness in which far from the fleshpots of the Rome of his youth, St Jerome chose to reside

In Syria from about 374, for 4 or 5 years he lived as a recluse in the desert of Chalcis

In a letter to St Eustochium St Jerome wrote of his experience:
“In the remotest part of a wild and stony desert, burnt up with the heat of the scorching sun so that it frightens even the monks that inhabit it, I seemed to myself to be in the midst of the delights and crowds of Rome... In this exile and prison to which for the fear of Hell I had voluntarily condemned myself, with no other company but scorpions and wild beasts, I many times imagined myself witnessing the dancing of the Roman maidens as if I had been in the midst of them. 
My face was pallid with fasting, yet my will felt the assaults of desire: in my cold body and in my parched-up flesh, which seemed dead before its death, passion was able to live.  
Alone with this enemy, I threw myself in spirit at the feet of Jesus, watering them with my tears, and I tamed my flesh by fasting whole weeks. I am not ashamed to disclose my temptations, but I grieve that I am not now what I then was. I often joined night to day crying and beating my breast till calm returned.”
In the last two paintings the topographical features of Verona recur in altered form: the river, the ruins, the double staircase cut into the tufa, the church and the convent. 

Bartolomeo's main inspiration seems to have stemmed from a realisation that Jerome and he returned to a state of nature, converting the townscape he knew into a rustic landscape, a new reality

"And there are so many kinds of desert. There is the desert of poverty, the desert of hunger and thirst, the desert of abandonment, of loneliness, of destroyed love. There is the desert of God’s darkness, the emptiness of souls no longer aware of their dignity or the goal of human life. The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast. "

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Magna Carta 800

Magna Carta, 1215
15 June 1215
Cotton MS Augustus ii.106
The British Library, London

This year marks the Eight Hundredth Anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta

The British Library from March will have a large ad significant exhibition and events to celebrate the event: Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy

Since 1215, Magna Carta has evolved from a political agreement to an international symbol of freedom 

The 1225 version of Magna Carta, freely issued by Henry III in return for a tax granted to him by the whole kingdom, took this idea further and became the definitive version of the text. 

But only three clauses (out  of 37) of the 1225 Magna Carta remain on the statute book today

The 1215 Charter had contained 63 clauses

Only four copies of the 1215 Charter  still survive: one in Lincoln Cathedral; one in Salisbury Cathedral; and two at the British Library. 

On the website there is a full-text translation of the 1215 edition of Magna Carta 

What is interesting is the importance of the medieval Church in the drawing up of the Charter

The document is addressed to among others the members of the Church:
"JOHN, by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou, to his archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justices, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants, and to all his officials and loyal subjects, Greeting."
It was drawn up with the advice of the English Church:
"... at the advice of our reverend fathers Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England, and cardinal of the holy Roman Church, Henry archbishop of Dublin, William bishop of London, Peter bishop of Winchester, Jocelin bishop of Bath and Glastonbury, Hugh bishop of Lincoln, Walter bishop of Worcester, William bishop of Coventry, Benedict bishop of Rochester, Master Pandulf subdeacon and member of the papal household, Brother Aymeric master of the knighthood of the Temple in England, "
The First Clause of the Charter dealt with the freedom and independence of the English Church:
" FIRST, THAT WE HAVE GRANTED TO GOD, and by this present charter have confirmed for us and our heirs in perpetuity, that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired. That we wish this so to be observed, appears from the fact that of our own free will, before the outbreak of the present dispute between us and our barons, we granted and confirmed by charter the freedom of the Church's elections - a right reckoned to be of the greatest necessity and importance to it - and caused this to be confirmed by Pope Innocent III. This freedom we shall observe ourselves, and desire to be observed in good faith by our heirs in perpetuity."
The Bishops and clergy were essential witnesses to the King`s act of granting the Charter:
"In addition we have caused letters patent to be made for the barons, bearing witness to this security and to the concessions set out above, over the seals of Stephen archbishop of Canterbury, Henry archbishop of Dublin, the other bishops named above, and Master Pandulf. 
 IT IS ACCORDINGLY OUR WISH AND COMMAND that the English Church shall be free, and that men in our kingdom shall have and keep all these liberties, rights, and concessions, well and peaceably in their fullness and entirety for them and their heirs, of us and our heirs, in all things and all places for ever. 
Both we and the barons have sworn that all this shall be observed in good faith and without deceit. Witness the abovementioned people and many others. 
Given by our hand in the meadow that is called Runnymede, between Windsor and Staines, on the fifteenth day of June in the seventeenth year of our reign"

Who  were the people involved in Magna Carta ? See Magna Carta: people and society

The Tomb of King John at Worcester Cathedral

John died in October 1216, in the middle of a civil war after he tried to revoke the Charter. He is buried in Worcester Cathedral

Bulla Innocentii Papae III. pro rege Johanne, contra barones. (In membr.) 1216. 151.
24 August 1215
Cotton MS Cleopatra E I, ff. 155–156
The British Library, London
See more at British Library  

Giotto di Bondone 1267 - 1337
Legend of St Francis: 6. Dream of Innocent III (detail)
Upper Church, San Francesco, Assisi

Pope Innocent III (1198–1216) played a major role in the events surrounding Magna Carta, including its annulment in August 1215. 

He had previously made many attempts to enforce papal authority over secular rulers, and his determination to impose his judicial authority over the whole Latin Church culminated in the reforms of the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, the greatest Church Council of the Middle Ages

In return for King John's submission to his authority, Pope Innocent III declared the Magna Carta annulled, though the  English Barons did not accept this action

Pope Innocent had  received messengers from King John in the summer of 1215, asking him to annul Magna Carta. The Pope issued a papal bull, which survives in the British Library, declaring Magna Carta to be ‘null and void of all validity for ever’, on the grounds that it was ‘illegal, unjust, harmful to royal rights and shameful to the English people"

Depiction of Archbishop Stephen Langton
Stained glass
The Chapter House, Canterbury Cathedral

Stephen Langton (archbishop of Canterbury 1207-1228) was a famous scholar and leading figure in the Church, and is also one of the most important figures in the history of Magna Carta. 

In 1225, he pronounced a broad sentence of excommunication in support of Magna Carta. This meant that anyone – king, royal officer, or baron – would automatically be outlawed from the Church if they violated the Charter. 

When Magna Carta was confirmed in later years, the bishops renewed Langton’s sentence. Langton and his successors were instrumental in promoting and upholding the Charter and, thus, in ensuring its survival. 

Richard Poer, Bishop of Chichester was one of several bishops from a scholarly background who played an important role in politics at the end of King John’s reign and during the minority of Henry III. 

Richard and his brother, Herbert (bishop of Salisbury 1194-1217), were the illegitimate sons of Richard of Ilchester (bishop of Winchester 1173-1188). Richard trained at the schools of Paris  under Stephen Langton, and was probably influenced by Langton’s writing on political ethics. 

Giles de Briouze (bishop of Hereford 1200-1215) was the only bishop to join the rebellion against King John. Although many of Giles’ colleagues might have been sympathetic to the grievances of the rebel barons, most worked hard between 1213 and 1216 to broker a peace settlement. 

Johann Heinrich Füssli R.A., called Henry Fuseli (1741-1825)
Pandulph granting King John absolution 
Black chalk, pen and brown ink, brown wash, the outlines incised, the verso rubbed with black chalk
5 5/8 x 3 1/8 in. (145 x 80 mm.)
Private collection

This was a rough drawing for an engraving by Fuseli`s friend William Blake for the second edition of Charles Allen, New and Improved History of England, London, 1798 

Pandulf Masca (died 16 September 1226) was a Roman ecclesiastical politician, papal legate to England and Bishop of Norwich.

He first came to England in 1211, when he was commissioned by Innocent III to negotiate with King John. 

Obtaining no satisfactory concessions, Pandulf is said to have produced the papal sentence of excommunication in the presence of the king. 

In May 1213 he again visited England to receive the king's submission. The ceremony took place at the Templar church at Dover, and on the following day John, of his own motion, formally surrendered England to the representative of Rome to receive it again as a papal fief

For nearly a year he was superseded by the cardinal-legate Nicholas of Tusculum. He returned to England in 1215 and was present at the conference of Runnymede, when the Magna Carta was signed. 

He was again eclipsed by a new Papal legate Guala Bicchieri

Limoges goldsmith
Casket of Guala Bicchieri
c 1225
Muse Civico d'Arte Antica, Palazzo Madama, Turin

In 1823, this casket which contained the mortal remains of the founder of the abbey complex of Sant`Andrea in Vercelli, Cardinal Guala Bicchieri (Vercelli c.1150-Rome 1227), was discovered in the wall of the presbytery of the church of Sant` Andrea 

Made by Limoges goldsmiths it is a particularly notable example of Gothic Art

Guala Bicchieri (ca. 1150-1227) crowned King Henry III in the church of the abbey of Gloucester on October 16, 1216.

Guala’s position as legate in England was especially influential since the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, was absent from the kingdom from September 1215 to May 1218, during which absence Guala Bicchieri, as papal legate, was practically in charge of the English church. 

There were six areas in which Bicchieri made an impact upon England:establishing peace between the monarchy and rebels; overseeing Episcopal elections; supervising monastic houses; punishing and replacing rebel clergy; judicial activity, including the appointment of legatine judges delegate; and implementing the legislation of the Fourth Lateran Council.

He founded with his own money the church and abbey of S. Andrea in Vercelli for the canons regulars of S. Pietro. He helped reform the clergy of his  diocese of Vercelli.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

St Peter Damian, Church Reformer

Andrea Barbiani 1708 -1779
St Peter Damian
Oil on canvas
220 x 147 cm
Biblioteca Classense, Ravenna

In this foreshortened portrait of the Saint, Barbiani depicts Peter Damian sitting in a chair covered in red velvet

He is seated in a well stocked and well furnished library

He holds a book

His face depicts concentration or his seeing a vision or listening to the two cherubs who are in the top left

On the floor is a mitre and a red galero symbols of his rank in life as Cardinal Bishop of Ostia

He is wearing the simple white gown of the monk

He was born in Ravenna in 1007

Andrea Barbiani (1708–1779) was mainly active in Ravenna and Rimini. This work was one of three portraits for the Camaldolese church of St Mary Magdalene in Ravenna. The other two were of Saints Apollinaris and Romuald, founder of the Camaldolese, 

St Romuald was also born in Ravenna

Another 18th century depiction of the saint is in the same library in Ravenna

St Peter Damian
Oil on canvas
134 x 97.5 cm
Biblioteca Classense, Ravenna

The saint is represented seated, facing three-quarters to the left, with his face turned to the right. And 'intent penned with pen on a book on the table covered with a reddish cloth 

The inscription reads:
A more dramatic rendition of the Saint is given in Canto 21 of Dante`s Paradiso where Dante places him in Saturn one of the highest planes of Paradise among the greatest of Saints, among the founders of hermit Orders along with Saint Romuald and the great Church reformers

Amos Nattini (1892-1985)
Divina Commedia, Paradiso canto XXI, San Pier Damiani nel cielo di Saturno

In Canto XXI, Dante has the Saint pronounce an invective against the luxury enjoyed by prelates in the Church of his day and in that of Dante`s

The translation is by Allen Mandelbaum

113 ...      There, within that monastery,
114   in serving God, I gained tenacity:
115   with food that only olive juice had seasoned,
116   I could sustain with ease both heat and frost,
117   content within my contemplative thoughts.

118   That cloister used to offer souls to Heaven,
119   a fertile harvest, but it now is barren
120   as Heaven's punishment will soon make plain.

121   There I was known as Peter Damian
122   and, on the Adriatic shore, was Peter
123   the Sinner when I served Our Lady's House.

124   Not much of mortal life was left to me
125   when I was sought for, dragged to take that hat
126   which always passes down from bad to worse.

127   Once there were Cephas and the Holy Ghost's
128   great vessel: they were barefoot, they were lean,
129   they took their food at any inn they found.

130   But now the modern pastors are so plump
131   that they have need of one to prop them up
132   on this side, one on that, and one in front,

133   and one to hoist them saddleward. Their cloaks
134   cover their steeds, two beasts beneath one skin:
135   o patience, you who must endure so much!"

Benedetto Gennari (1633 –  1715)
St Peter Damian 
Oil on canvas
290 x 200 cm 
Museo Diocesano, Faenza

It was the side of St Peter Damiano as a Church reformer that Pope Benedict emphasised in his catechesis on the life of the Saint in September 2009:

"In Letter 28, which is a brilliant ecclesiological treatise, Peter Damian develops a profound theology of the Church as communion. 
"Christ's Church", he writes, is united by the bond of charity to the point that just as she has many members so is she, mystically, entirely contained in a single member; in such a way that the whole universal Church is rightly called the one Bride of Christ in the singular, and each chosen soul, through the sacramental mystery, is considered fully Church". 
This is important: not only that the whole universal Church should be united, but that the Church should be present in her totality in each one of us.  
Thus the service of the individual becomes "an expression of universality" (Ep 28, 9-23). 
However, the ideal image of "Holy Church" illustrated by Peter Damian does not correspond as he knew well to the reality of his time.  
For this reason he did not fear to denounce the state of corruption that existed in the monasteries and among the clergy, because, above all, of the practice of the conferral by the lay authorities of ecclesiastical offices; various Bishops and Abbots were behaving as the rulers of their subjects rather than as pastors of souls. Their moral life frequently left much to be desired.  
For this reason, in 1057 Peter Damian left his monastery with great reluctance and sorrow and accepted, if unwillingly, his appointment as Cardinal Bishop of Ostia. 
So it was that he entered fully into collaboration with the Popes in the difficult task of Church reform. He saw that to make his own contribution of helping in the work of the Church's renewal contemplation did not suffice. He thus relinquished the beauty of the hermitage and courageously undertook numerous journeys and missions."

Maestro del S.Pier Damiani
San Pier Damiani
c 1430
Tempera on panel
76 x 41,5 cm
Pinacoteca Comunale, Ravenna

This was part of a larger altar piece, the Polittico di Santa Maria Foris Portam which was the Church in Faenza where the sarcophagus of the saint rested until the eighteenth century when it was moved to its present location

The fixed features of the face, almost iconic are based on the figure of the saint on the sarcophagus which was sculpted by Tura da Imola  in 1354