Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Centenary of the Death of St Pope Pius X

Félix Sébastopol Rasumny 1869 - 1940
Medallion of Saint Pope Pius X
Bronze sculpture
0.067 m x  0.05 m
Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Rasumny was a Ukranian  engraver, born in Sebastopol, who emigrated to France. 

He regularly exhibited, including at the Salon 

He executed a number of religious commissions some of which are exhibited at the Musée d'Orsay

The portrait of Pius X was commissioned shortly after the Pope`s election in 1903. It is in the tradition of Art Nouveau ("New Art"), the metaphor for the freedom and release sought by its practitioners and admirers from the weight of artistic tradition and critical expectations.

In France it was also known as Style Jules Verne, Le Style Métro, Art belle époque, and Art fin de siècle

Art Nouveau was a short-lived movement whose brief incandescence was a precursor of Modernism, which emphasised amongst other things  function over form and the elimination of superfluous ornament.

The Pope was to die a mere 11 years after his election in 1914 and we commemorate the 100th anniversary of his death on 20 August 1914, the liturgical feast coming after

During his pontificate he railed against forces in Western Society which were too febrile and insubstantial to withstand those other forces which hurled Europe into two lengthy and savage holocausts in the bloodiest century in the history of Western Europe

It was an era which hailed Francesca da Rimini and her lover, Paolo, as heroes and it reaped the whirlwind

Perhaps it is not insignificant that the Pope`s star rose again in the 1950s when he was canonised and that in the 1960s and 1970s  his reputation and influence declined to nothing

The D`Alessandri photograph of the same year shows perhaps a less youthful figure than the flattering hand of Rasumny. See below

Fratelli D'Alessandri
Pope Pius X (Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto: 1835-1914)
Bromide print
150 mm x 103 mm
The National Portrait Gallery, London

His election was quite extraordinary and out of place. He had literally came from nowhere and nothing.

When a deputation of nobles came from Palermo to Rome to beg the Pope to preserve their tradition of having as Archbishop an aristocrat and a Doctor of Theology, Pius replied:
"I know a curate who was neither a noble nor a Doctor of Theology who was appointed parish priest; that parish priest was made a Canon and then a Bishop; that Bishop who was neither a Doctor of Theology nor an aristocrat was created Cardinal and then elected Pope, and it is the Pope who is now speaking with you."
The web site of the birthplace and the Museum of St. Pius X (The Pius X Foundation) has done itself proud for the centenary

Pictures and photographs abound about the town`s favourite son

Some are below

There is an updated biography of the saint in three parts: Pio X , Un Papa Veneto

There is also a detailed schedule of the ceremonies to mark the centenary

See also:

On Saturday, August 23, His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, will celebrate Mass at the Shrine of Cendrole near the parish Church of Riese. It was this shrine which was founded by the saint

The Pope`s sister married a "Parolin" and a number of her ibecame members of the clergy. One wonders if Cardinal Parolin is a distant relative of the Saint ?

There will be a diocesan pilgrimage to Rome on 8th - 10th September where there will be an audience with Pope Francis to mark the centenary (Wednesday 10th  September)

Here are the pictures:

Entry in the Baptismal Register of the Parish of the Baptism of Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto (3rd June 1835)

Chaplain at Tombolo

Parish priest at Salzano

Handwritten page of the Catechism used by Don Sarto at Salzano

The three sisters of the Pope who came to Rome to keep house for him as well as when he was a parish priest and bishop: Anna, Maria and Rosa. Without them he would not have achieved what he did

Patriarch of Venice

Patriarch of Venice in the Corpus Domini procession

Cardinal Sarto in a gondola

Pope in audience with Greek clergy

The Pope and members of his private office

Papal catafalque in the Sistine Chapel

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Honey Tongued Doctor

Vicente Carducho (c. 1576-1638)
San Bernardo de Claraval visita a Guigo I en la cartuja
St Bernard of Clairvaux visits Guigo I in the Chartreuse
Oil on canvas
337 cm x 298 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

Carducho was commissioned  by the Order of the Carthusians at the Cartuja de Santa Maria de El Paular in Madrid to paint a cycle of 54 large canvases on the history of the Carthusian order

The Carthusian monk behind the cycle was one of the great Carthusians in Spain: Father Juan de Baeza (died 1641)

The works were for the large Gothic cloister in Madrid

The work records the meeting between St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) and Guigo I (1083-1136), who wrote the Carthusian Rule. Both are located at the entrance of the Chartreuse.  The writing of the rule by Guigo was seen to be  recognized by such a great figure as as Saint Bernard of Clairvaux 

Bernard of Clairvaux may well be the apotheosis of the monastic tradition in the medieval period. 

In his day, he was one of the most powerful figures in Christendom. He was instrumental in securing the election of Innocent II to the papacy in preference to the antipope, Analectus II, and influenced the papacy when one of his disciples became Pope Eugene III in 1145

His sermons and writings still reverberate down the centuries

Here below we see the mystical tradition with which St Bernard is associated

Francisco Ribalta (1565 – 14 January 1628)
Cristo abrazando a San Bernardo
Christ embracing St Bernard of Clairvaux
Oil on canvas
158 cm x  113 cm 
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

Christ leaves the cross for a moment to embrace Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, founder of the Cistercian Order. 

The scene is inspired by a mystical vision of the saint, recouted in one of the most popular devotional books of the Baroque period: Flos Sanctorum, or Book of Life of the Saints  by Peter Ribadeneyra and published in 1599.

St Bernard  was the first to formulate the basic principles of mysticism, and laid the foundations of mysticism as a spiritual body of doctrine of the Catholic Church

In "De amore Dei" (De Diligendo Deo) St. Bernard shows that the manner of loving God is to love Him without measure and gives an account of the different degree of this love

""The reason for loving God," he says, "is God; the measure of this love is to love without measure."

"O holy and chaste love! O sweet and soothing affection! . . . It is the more soothing and more sweet, the more the whole of that which is experienced is divine. To have such love, means being made like God."

And also: "It is good for me, O Lord, to embrace Thee all the more in tribulation, to have Thee with me in the furnace of trial rather than to be without Thee even in heaven."

And the vision of Divine Love is a common theme in depictions of St Bernard as seen below

Anastagio Fontebuòni (1571–1626) 
Visione di san Bernardo di Chiaravalle (detail)
Vision of St Bernard (detail)
Oil on canvas
270 x 150 cm
Palazzo degli Alberti, Prato

Workshop of Fra Filippo Lippi 
(ca. 1406–1469)
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
Tempera and gold on wood
48.3 x 12.7 cm
The Metropolitan Museum, New York

It is thought that the above painting is from Santa Maria delle Carmine  (of the Carmelite Order) in Florence

Below  we see the statue of St Bernard in the  Cathedral of St Vaast  in Arras, Pas-de-Calais, France. It was executed by the French sculptor François Jouffroy 1806 - 1882  as one of eight marble statues originally destined for  l'église Sainte-Geneviève in Paris before it was taken over, secularised  and became the Panthéon

It was moved to Arras in 1934.

Below we see the photograph made of the statue when it was purchased from the Salon in 1877 by the French state

The saint was born in a chateau near Dijon, beside a village now known as Fontaine-lès-Dijon

He was born into a family of saints

His mother Alèthe de Montbard (1070-1107) is considered a saint and in 1250 her remains were translated to lie beside those of her son, St Bernard, in the monastery of Clairvaux

His elder brother Gérard de Clairvaux (d. 1138) and his sister Ombeline de Jully (1092 - 1135) are also saints

In the sixteenth century the Order purchased the site and a church and basilica were built but these were expropriated by the French state at the French Revolution and on the Separation of Church and State at the beginning of the twentieth century 

Here is a .pdf file on what is now the site of the birth place of St Bernard of Clairvaux, which has now become a place of pilgrimage once again

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Mary, Angels and Saints

Master of the Chronique scandaleuse (French, active about 1493 - 1510)
Virgin in Cloud of Angels, with Saints Barbara and Catherine
From The Poncher Hours
about 1500 
Tempera colors, ink, and gold on parchment 
5 1/4 x 3 7/16 in. 
MS. 109, Fol. 64 
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

The manuscript book of hours ("The Ponchet Hours") is known to have been made for the French noblewoman Denise Poncher in Paris around 1500.

Her father served as treasurer of wars for the French crown and her  uncle was bishop of Paris. Stephen Ponchet  was Bishop from 1502 to 1519, and Minister of Justice under Louis XII

The cycle of illuminations begins with a miniature of the Virgin in a mandorla flanked by saints Barbara and Catherine. It is a firm recommendation to the reader of how she should keep these figures at the forefront of her devotions

Saints Barbara and Catherine of Alexandria were popular in the early 16th century and considered the most important of the venerated Fourteen Holy Helpers.

In a 15th-century French biography of St Barbara it was stated that those who venerated her would not die without making confession and receiving extreme unction

She is often depicted in art as standing by a tower with three windows, carrying a palm branch and a chalice

Devotion to St. Catherine increased tremendously in Europe after the Crusades, and received additional veneration in France in the beginning of the fifteenth century, when it was said that she had appeared to Joan of Arc and, together with St. Margaret, had been divinely appointed Joan's adviser.

St. Catherine was  the patroness of young maidens and female students. She was regarded as the holiest and most illustrious of the virgins of Christ. 

The  mandorla is a vesica piscis shaped aureola which surrounds the figures of Christ and the Virgin Mary in traditional Christian art.

In icons of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the mandorla is used to depict sacred moments which transcend time and space, such as the Resurrection, Transfiguration, and the Dormition of the Theotokos. 

Here we see the Virgin surrounded by angels after her Assumption and coronation as Queen of Heaven

In Dante`s Paradiso Cantos 31 and 32, St Bernard of Clairvaux takes over the role of Beatrice in showing Dante the upper reaches of Heaven

In Canto 31, St Bernard directs Dante`s attention to the Virgin, Queen of Heaven. To gaze upon the face of Christ, one should first fix one`s gaze on His mother:

"And he, the holy elder, said: “That you
may consummate your journey perfectly—
for this, both prayer and holy love have sent me
 to help you—let your sight fly round this garden;
by gazing so, your vision will be made
more ready to ascend through God’s own ray.
The Queen of Heaven, for whom I am all
aflame with love, will grant us every grace:
I am her faithful Bernard.” Just as one
 who, from Croatia perhaps, has come
to visit our Veronica—one whose
old hunger is not sated, who, as long
as it is shown, repeats these words in thought:
“O my Lord Jesus Christ, true God, was then
Your image like the image I see now?”—
Such was I as I watched the living love
of him who, in this world, in contemplation,
tasted that peace. And he said: “Son of grace,
you will not come to know this joyous state
if your eyes only look down at the base;
but look upon the circles, look at those
that sit in a position more remote,
until you see upon her seat the Queen
to whom this realm is subject and devoted.”
I lifted up my eyes; and as, at morning,
the eastern side of the horizon shows
more splendour than the side where the sun sets,
so, as if climbing with my eyes from valley
to summit, I saw one part of the farthest
rank of the Rose more bright than all the rest.  
And as, on earth, the point where we await
the shaft that Phaethon had misguided glows
brightest, while, to each side, the light shades off,
so did the peaceful oriflamme appear
brightest at its midpoint, so did its flame,
on each side, taper off at equal pace. 
I saw, around that midpoint, festive angels—
more than a thousand—with their wings outspread;
each was distinct in splendour and in skill.
And there I saw a loveliness that when
it smiled at the angelic songs and games
made glad the eyes of all the other saints.
And even if my speech were rich as my
imagination is, I should not try
to tell the very least of her delights.  
Bernard—when he had seen my eyes intent,
fixed on the object of his burning fervour—
turned his own eyes to her with such affection
that he made mine gaze still more ardently."