IDLE SPECULATIONS: March 2007

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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Basilica of the Anastasis/Resurrection (Holy Sepulchre), Jerusalem

For images and history of the Basilica of the Anastasis/Resurrection (Holy Sepulchre) in Jerusalem, there are numerous websites.

However, Christus Rex (images and history) and Jerusalem shots (images) seem to be two of the better ones.

The Tomb



The Tomb in the Basilica of the Anastasis/Resurrection (Holy Sepulchre), Jerusalem

The Anointing Stone



The Anointing Stone in the Basilica of the Anastasis/Resurrection (Holy Sepulchre), Jerusalem

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Lamentation over the Dead Christ


Andrea Mantegna (c. 1431 – September 13, 1506)
The Lamentation over the Dead Christ c. 1480
Tempera on canvas
68 × 81 cm
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan



The theme of the Lamentation is traditional, although it is not described in the Bible. It shows Mary, and others, weeping over his body after the Crucifixion.

The realism and tragedy of the scene are enhanced by the violent perspective, which shortens and dramatizes the recumbent figure, stressing the anatomical details: in particular, Christ's thorax.

It shows Jesus's body as mortal, tortured flesh. It brings the witness up close.

It is also a a deeply human and emotional painting, loaded with pathos. There is a sorrow in the painting that results from an acknowledgement of great loss: there is the death of a human, which is tragic; there is the loss of a possible saviour, which is catastrophic; and there is the possibility that there is no saviour at all, which is hopeless and devastating.

Symbols


MIGNON, Abraham (b. 1640, Frankfurt, d. 1679, Wetzlar)
Fruit Still-Life with Squirrel and Goldfinch
Oil on canvas, 80,5 x 99,5 cm
Staatliche Museen, Kassel


The Web Gallery of Art has the following comment regarding the symbolism in the painting:

"The painting contains both Eucharistic symbols and an element of transience, indicated by the small number of rotten spots of the fruit, as well as the presence of a clock, and the dualism of good and evil.

The two rather cute little animals, a squirrel and a goldfinch, are also in opposition to each other. The squirrel seems to be chained up, but on closer inspection we notice that it has managed to free itself. It has cracked open a walnut and is now eating its kernel.

The squirrel had been regarded as a symbol of the evil since the Middle Ages. In this painting it embodies the unleashing of evil in the form of harmlessness. The bell collar around its neck also identifies it as a 'fool' and thus a sinner. The meaning of a squirrel eating walnut becomes obvious when we consider that St Augustine saw the walnut as a symbol of Christ, with the shell as the wood of the cross and the kernel as the life-giving nature of Christ.

Unlike the squirrel, the goldfinch is a christological symbol, particularly with reference to the Passion. Its positive meaning can be gathered from its position in the upper portion of the painting (top=sphere of salvation).

The actions of the bird are worth nothing. Chained to an arched semicircle, from which it can peck food out of a small container, it is pulling up a thimble-sized receptacle from the left-hand edge of the shelf. It is filled with water or - more likely - wine (as a Eucharistic symbol of the blood of Christ), which has been scooped out of a conical glass without stem or base."

The discreet little nun who could speed Pope John Paul II to sainthood

The Times reports that a French nun will be thrust into the global limelight today when Catholic Church authorities explain that her purported recovery from Parkinson’s disease can be attributed to the miraculous intervention of Pope John Paul II.

The sudden return to health of Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre after she scrawled Pope John Paul’s name on a piece of paper is being hailed as the post-humous miracle needed to set the late Pope on the road towards sainthood.

Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre, from Puyricard, near Aix-en-Provence, in southern France, said she was struck by Parkinson’s disease in 2001. Her condition worsened over the next four years and, by the time the Pope died in April 2005, she was unable to stand or walk. She had stopped working as a nurse in a Paris maternity hospital and was confined to office activities.

Two months later she tried to write down John Paul II’s name as she prayed to him for help “but all that came out was a scribble,” she said in an account sent to the Vatican.

However, that evening, the “miracle” occurred.

“I fell asleep and, waking up several hours later, felt that the illness had disappeared,” said Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre.

She leapt out of bed and went to the chapel to pray.

“I felt a profound sense of peace and wellbeing. My hand did not tremble anymore.” Four days later the doctor who had been treating her for four years declared that the symptoms had vanished completely, with no medical explanation.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Portico of the Cathedral of St-Trophime, Arles








Tympanum


The Christ


The damned


The Weighing of the Souls by the Archangel Michael


St Peter (with 2 keys) and St John


Saints


St Daniel and the Lions


St Daniel and the Lions 2


The Annunciation


The Nativity





St-Trophime was constructed in the 11th and 12th centuries on the site of an 8th-century church dedicated to Saint Stephen.

St. Stephen was the first Christian martyr. St. Trophime was an early bishop of Arles.

The Church was celebrated. It was on the route to the Shrine of St James at Compostela. Frederick Barbarossa was crowned King in the church in 1178.

The Church of Saint Trophime is characteristic of Provençal Romanesque architecture. On the east side of the square, St-Trophime's very well preserved 12th-century portal is widely acclaimed as one of the finest achievements of the southern Romanesque style.

The magnificent portal was restored between 1988 and 1995 with the help of public funds and a large donation from the World Monuments Fund in New York.

Its exceptional portal portrays the theme of Judgment Day, heaven and hell, under the benediction of Christ.

The composition of the portal borrows many elements from Roman architecture. The gable is decorated with a triumphal arch. The patron saints of the Arles church, Saint Trophime and Saint Stephen, are represented in prominent positions in front of the main door.

In the typanum above the lintel, Christis in his Majesty surrounded by symbols of the four Evangelists. The symbols are the Lion (St Mark); the Angel (St Matthew); the Ox (St Luke); and the Eagle (St John). (1)

The throne of the Lord is supported by the four creatures, illustrating the Primacy of the Gospels.

On the lintel below are 12 seated figures: the Apostles.

On either side of Christ are the Damned and the Blessed. The Damned are shown naked and shackled in the chains of their sins.

Below the main lintel are figures of saints, reminding people of the powerful intercession of the Saints.

It is probable that the whole would have been painted or glazed with coloured glazes. The effect would have been overwhelming.

The teachings of the Church are expressed more powerfully than a Sermon. But their effect on the believers would have been more than if presented and pointed out by a tour guide.

Emile Male famously described medieval iconography as a kind of script, a calculus and a symbolic code, composed and read according to certain and defined and established grammatical, mathematical and semiotic rules which are not "precisely laid out", but which are learned by practice and habituated by liturgical performance. (2)

Accrodingly there is a limited amount which one can learn from a guided tour of a Cathedral. The "code" is only partially understood and appreciated by the expert in semiotics as in The Name of the Rose (or hushed be it said, The Da Vinci Code). It is only by participating in the liturgical rites can one fully appreciate and comprehend the full meaning of the particular icons and symbols.

___________________________________________________________________

(1) The symbols are based on the Old Testament Vision of Ezekiel (Ez.,I. 4-12):

"4As I looked, behold, a storm wind was coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing forth continually and a bright light around it, and in its midst something like glowing metal in the midst of the fire.

5Within it there were figures resembling four living beings And this was their appearance: they had human form.

6Each of them had four faces and four wings.

7Their legs were straight and their feet were like a calf's hoof, and they gleamed like burnished bronze.

8Under their wings on their four sides were human hands. As for the faces and wings of the four of them,

9their wings touched one another; their faces did not turn when they moved, each went straight forward.

10As for the form of their faces, each had the face of a man; all four had the face of a lion on the right and the face of a bull on the left, and all four had the face of an eagle.

11Such were their faces. Their wings were spread out above; each had two touching another being, and two covering their bodies.

12And each went straight forward; wherever the spirit was about to go, they would go, without turning as they went. "

(2) Emile Male: The Gothic Image: Religious Art in France in the Thirteenth Century (tr. Dora Nussey)(1972)

Benedict XVI and Patristics


An engraving of Irenaeus (c. 130–202), bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul (now Lyons, France)

David Warner is now a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology in Steubenville, Ohio, and an adjunct professor for the University of Sacramento, California.

In an interview with Zenit :Code: ZE07032829; Date: 2007-03-28 David Warner, once an Evangelical Protestant minister, discusses how reading Church Fathers led to his return to the Catholic Church and offers some reflections on the Pope's teachings. He says that Benedict XVI's Wednesday-audience series on the Apostolic Fathers can give us hope for unity among Christians.

"The present Wednesday-audience series on the Fathers began on March 7, 2007. It is a continuation of the Pope's catechesis on the mystery of the Church that began a year ago in March 2006, with weekly meditations on each of the Twelve Apostles.

By October, he was ready to draw our attention to St. Paul and his collaborators: apostolic men like Timothy and Titus -- early bishops, and lay leaders in the Church like the married couple, Aquila and Priscilla.

Benedict XVI is trying to follow Our Lord's command to Peter to "feed my sheep." The food he has chosen to provide us during this series is the tremendous heritage of holy men and women who lived and died as witnesses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his Church during the first centuries of the Christian era.

From their witness, we can better understand the mystery of the Church as the "presence of Christ among men."

For Catholics, salvation history is the drama of God's unfolding plan for his people. This story can be read in the pages of sacred Scripture and Church history. Benedict XVI's reflections are designed to cause us to reconsider the essential nature and mission of the Church in the context of salvation history. "

The Pope`s talk on Saint Irenaeus of Lyons on Wednesday, 28 March 2007 can be read here

For the writings of Irenaeus of Lyons, see Early Christian Writings Irenaeus

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

El Greco: The Resurrection






GRECO, El (b. 1541, Candia, d. 1614, Toledo)
The Resurrection 1596-1600
Oil on canvas, 275 x 127 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid



Only one other painting of the subject by El Greco is known, that for Santo Domingo el Antiguo.

The nude figure of Christ, wearing a splendid crimson cloak and holding a white flag, rises effortless in an incandescent light. The soldiers below, arranged in a semicircle, raise their arms and contort their bodies, in great confusion and amazement. The foreshortened figures of two other guardians have been knocked down and a third one, wearing a helmet, dozes completely devoid of the magnitude of the wonder.

The canvas, ending in a semicircular arch is signed close to the foot of the soldier in the right end

Dramatic lighting, swirling and attenuated figures well suited to convey in powerful terms the supernatural, triumphant dimensions of the divine event called The Resurrection.

The Resurrection was more than just the return of a man from the dead. It was a victory over Death itself.

Segno: Proud of its Native Son










Known better in North America than in his native Europe, he has not been forgotten by his home village, whose inhabitants are rather proud of him and his achievements.

While not a candidate for beatification or canonisation, his life story is remarkable. It is a life story which perhaps should be better known as it illustrates how someone in the grip of faith can achieve great things even if at the time those achievements are not generally known or recognised.

For many years the site of his grave was forgotten and was only re-discovered in the 1960s.

Father Eusebio Francisco Kino S.J. (August 10, 1644–March 15, 1711) was a Catholic priest who became famous in what is now northwestern Mexico and the southwestern United States for the methods he used to Christianise the indigenous Native American population. He established over 20 missions and visitas ("country chapels").

He was born Eusebio Francesco Chini in Segno, near Taio, a village in the Val di Non, Trento, now in present-day Italy. The village of Segno has a museum dedicated to him and his story. There is also a rather large statue of him in the public square.

He joined the Society of Jesus on November 20, 1665.

Originally he wanted to go to China. However his superiors gave him a choice: Spain or Mexico. He chose Mexico.

In addition to his pastoral activities as a missionary, Eusebio Kino also practiced multiple other crafts, and was an expert astronomer, mathematician and map-maker, who drew the first accurate maps of Pimería Alta, the Gulf of California and Baja California.

He built missions extending from the interior of Sonora 150 miles (240 km) northeast to San Xavier del Bac, still standing and functioning as a Catholic parish near Tucson. He constructed 19 rancheras, which supplied cattle to new settlements. He was also instrumental in the return of the Jesuits to California in 1697.



References:

Eusebius Kino
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08660a.htm

Eusebio Kino
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eusebio_Kino

Church and State in the United Kingdom



Lord Carey of Clifton was Archbishop of Canterbury 1991-2002

In The Times under the headline "How Mr Blair is prising apart Church and State" he has launched a critique on the policy of the present government towards Church-State relations in the United Kingdom.

"What, in fact, I am concerned about is the way that a liberal democracy is increasing becoming totalitarian. ...

Tony Blair, who used to promise a new era of cooperation between religious believers and the State, now seems prepared to squander that goodwill in pursuit of policies and regulations that must alienate many believers, and banish Roman Catholic adoption agencies. I don’t believe that the Prime Minister intends to damage the Church-State link but he is playing into the hands of intolerant secularists whose aim seems to be division, not unity."

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Lion and the Cardinal

After a short hiatus, Daniel Mitsui of The Lion and the Cardinal is back with more posts.

Some of the posts are:

1. about the new retablo in the Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano. Daniel works for the company that created it. If you want any information about this project, you may e-mail Daniel.

2. Conversion and Consumerism

3. The First Iconoclast Controversy.

Always interesting and thought provoking.

‘Dump your children here’ box to stop mothers killing their babies



In an effort to reduce the numbers of infanticide, The Times reports that desperate mothers are being urged to drop their unwanted babies through hatches at hospitals in an effort to halt a spate of infanticides that has shocked Germany.

At least 23 babies have been killed so far this year, many of them beaten to death or strangled by their mothers before being dumped on wasteland and in dustbins.

Police investigating the murders are at a loss to explain the sudden surge in such cases, which have involved mothers of all ages all over the country.

Now city councils have launched an advertising campaign to highlight the problem and to promote greater use of the Baby-Klappe hatches that allow women to drop off their babies to be found and cared for without having to give their names. Posters were being put up in cities and towns across Germany yesterday, urging women to make use of the Baby-Klappe, with the slogan “Before babies land in the rubbish bin . . .”

See also http://idlespeculations-terryprest.blogspot.com/2006/12/ospedale-degli-innocenti-foundling.html

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth


Basilica-Exterior


Pope John Paul II prays at a small altar at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth March 25, 2000


Basilica-Interior

The Spanish pilgrim, the Lady Egeria, who visited Nazareth in 383, was shown a "big and very splendid cave in which Mary lived. An altar has been placed there." This was probably the larger of the caves enshrined in the grotto of the present Basilica of the Annunciation. By Roman Catholic tradition, it is the place where the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary.

By 570, a church had been built on the site.

A Roman Catholic clerical presence in Nazareth was not re-established until 1620 when the Druze emir Fakhr-a-Din permitted the Franciscan fathers to purchase the ruins of the Crusader cathedral and grotto.

In 1730, the Franciscans obtained a firman (decree) from the Ottoman sultan allowing them to build a new church on the site. This structure was enlarged in 1877, and then completely demolished in 1955 to allow construction of a new basilica.

The new basilica, the largest Christian sanctuary in the Middle East, was dedicated in 1964 by Pope Paul VI during his visit to the Holy Land, and consecrated on 23 March 1969.

See also Franciscan website Nazareth: Sanctuary of the Annunciation The "New" Basilica
http://198.62.75.1/www1/ofm/san/TSnzz05.html

The Monastery of Miraflores, Burgos

Isabel the Catholic commissioned from Gil de Siloe, (d. ca. 1501, Burgos) a native of northern Europe, the great altarpiece in the Carthusian monastery at Miraflores (Cartuja de Miraflores).

The polychromy and some figures are the work of Diego de la Cruz, part of the gold brought back by Columbus in his second voyage to America.

The altarpiece, a symbol of the Eucharist, is constructed round a great centrally-placed circle, radiating like a rose window in a Gothic cathedral.


SILOE, Gil de (d. ca. 1501, Burgos)
Main Altar 1496-99
Wood
Monastery of Miraflores, Burgos



SILOE, Gil de (d. ca. 1501, Burgos) Main Altar 1496-99[detail] - The Last Supper
Monastery of Miraflores, Burgos


SILOE, Gil de (d. ca. 1501, Burgos) Main Altar 1496-99[detail] - St Catherine
Monastery of Miraflores, Burgos

Something Understood

BBC Radio 4 has a series called "Something Understood". Each week the programme examines some of the larger questions of life, taking a spiritual theme and exploring it through music, prose and poetry.

This week in "Religion Good? Religion Bad?", it explored the argument of Richard Dawkins that Religion has been a malign force in world history. It demolished his thesis.

Amongst the readings and music included:

1. Piece by Eamon Duffy taken from ‘Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes’ published by Yale University Press

2. ‘Pax in Nomini Domini!’ composed by Marcabru. Taken from the album ‘The Cross of Red’ Music of Love and War from the time of the Crusades. Performed by the New Orleans Musica da Camera.

3. Christine de Luca ‘Plain Song’ from Poems in English and Shetland Dialect’ published by the Shetland Library. Excerpts from the Book of Life’. Duomo Milano

4. ’Exultate Deo’ by Francis Poulenc. Taken from the album ‘Lux Aeterna’. Performed by the Winchester Cathedral Choir.

This week`s programme can be listened on:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/religion/somethingunderstood.shtml
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/religion/somethingunderstood_20070325.shtml

Adam Harris - Lux Aeterna (The Via Dolorosa)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Europe: All Change ?

This summer sees major changes in the governments of the United Kingdom and France.

In the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown is expected by many to be elected the next leader of the Labour Party replacing Blair and to become Prime Minister, before the Labour Party Conference in September 2007. The new leader is likely to be declared on June 25.

His father, John, was a Church of Scotland minister.

Speaking at a Fabian Society conference on 'The Next Decade' in January 2007. enabled Brown to signal the most significant priorities for his agenda as Prime Minister - stressing education, international development, narrowing inequalities (to pursue 'equality of opportunity and fairness of outcome'), renewing Britishness, restoring trust in politics, and winning hearts and minds in the war on terror as key priorities.

What changes to the Blair agenda there will be is anybody`s guess. In the short run, probably very little as Brown will be Prime Minister without having first secured a General Election victory.


More interestingly, are the forthcoming changes in France. Chirac retires as President of France before the summer.

The front runner to succeed is Nicolas Sarkozy of the centre Right. Sarkozy, a Roman Catholic, has caused controversy because of his views on the relationship between religion and state. In 2004, he published a book called La République, les religions, l'espérance (“The Republic, Religions, and Hope”), in which he argued that the young should not be brought up solely on secular or republican values. He also advocated reducing the separation of church and state, including the government subsidy of mosques in order to encourage Islamic integration into French society. He flatly opposes financing of religious institutions with funds from outside France.

The first round of voting will take place on Sunday, 22 April 2007, with a second round, if no candidate wins 50% or more of the vote, on Sunday, 6 May 2007.

For more about Sarkozy and his religious views, see In a Very Secular France, Nicolas Sarkozy Is Breaking a Taboo at Sandro Magister: http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/dettaglio.jsp?id=55661&eng=y

Saturday, March 24, 2007

St Charles Borromeo and Catholic Art and Architecture


Charles Borromeo, Receipt for the return of twelve books
Vatican Library


In 1563, the Twenty-Fifth Session of the Council of Trent had issued a statement “On the Invocation, Veneration, and Relics of Saints, and on Sacred Images."

The details were filled out by amongst others, St Charles Borromeo. Borromeo published Instructiones Fabricae et Supellectilis Ecclesiasticae, in 1577. It was the central document that applied the decrees of the Council of Trent to the design and furnishing of Catholic churches in the Archdiocese of Milan. But its influence was much wider than the diocese.

In CHARLES BORROMEO AND CATHOLIC TRADITION REGARDING THE DESIGN OF CATHOLIC CHURCHES, By Matthew E. Gallegos, Ph.D, Dr Gallegos discusses Borromeo`s Instructiones.

The article is from The Institute of Sacred Architecture (Fall/Winter 2004) and can be accessed at http://www.sacredarchitecture.org/pubs/saj/articles/borromeo.php

The Descent into Hell


MASTER of the Osservanza (active 1430-1450 in Siena)
The Descent into Limbo c. 1445
Tempera and gold on wood, 38 x 47 cm
Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts



The episode of the Descent into Hell is not mentioned in the canonical gospels, but recounted in the apocryphal gospel of Nicodemus. The imagery of Christ breaking down hell's door and trapping a hairy and hideous Satan who lies vanquished is traditional. Likewise, Christ holding out to help Adam out of Hell.

References:

http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p122a5p1.htm#p1

Catechism of the Catholic Church
Part One, Section Two, Article 5:
"HE DESCENDED INTO HELL. ON THE THIRD DAY HE ROSE AGAIN"


631 Jesus "descended into the lower parts of the earth. He who descended is he who also ascended far above all the heavens."475 The Apostles' Creed confesses in the same article Christ's descent into hell and his Resurrection from the dead on the third day, because in his Passover it was precisely out of the depths of death that he made life spring forth:


Christ, that Morning Star, who came back from the dead, and shed his peaceful light on all mankind, your Son who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.476

Paragraph 1. Christ Descended into Hell

632 The frequent New Testament affirmations that Jesus was "raised from the dead" presuppose that the crucified one sojourned in the realm of the dead prior to his resurrection.477 This was the first meaning given in the apostolic preaching to Christ's descent into hell: that Jesus, like all men, experienced death and in his soul joined the others in the realm of the dead. But he descended there as Savior, proclaiming the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there.478

633 Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, "hell" - Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek - because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God.479 Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the Redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into "Abraham's bosom":480 "It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham's bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell."481 Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.482

634 "The gospel was preached even to the dead."483 The descent into hell brings the Gospel message of salvation to complete fulfilment. This is the last phase of Jesus' messianic mission, a phase which is condensed in time but vast in its real significance: the spread of Christ's redemptive work to all men of all times and all places, for all who are saved have been made sharers in the redemption.

635 Christ went down into the depths of death so that "the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live."484 Jesus, "the Author of life", by dying destroyed "him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and [delivered] all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage."485 Henceforth the risen Christ holds "the keys of Death and Hades", so that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth."486


Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. . . He has gone to search for Adam, our first father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow Adam in his bonds and Eve, captive with him - He who is both their God and the son of Eve. . . "I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. . . I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead."487

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

475 Eph 4:9-10.
476 Roman Missal, Easter Vigil 18, Exsultet.
477 Acts 3:15; Rom 8:11; I Cor 15:20; cf. Heb 13:20.
478 Cf. I Pt 3:18-19.
479 Cf. Phil 2:10; Acts 2:24; Rev 1:18; Eph 4:9; Pss 6:6; 88:11-13.
480 Cf. Ps 89:49; I Sam 28:19; Ezek 32:17-32; Lk 16:22-26.
481 Roman Catechism 1, 6, 3.
482 Cf. Council of Rome (745): DS 587; Benedict XII, Cum dudum (1341): DS 1011; Clement VI, Super quibusdam (1351): DS 1077; Council of Toledo IV (625): DS 485; Mt 27:52-53.
483 I Pt 4:6.
484 Jn 5:25; cf. Mt 12:40; Rom 10:7; Eph 4:9.
485 Heb 2:14-15; cf. Acts 3:15.
486 Rev 1:18; Phil 2:10.
487 Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday: PG 43, 440A, 452C; LH, Holy Saturday, OR.

The Harrowing of Hell









The Harrowing of Hell (1315-1321)
The Anastasis fresco in the parecclesion of the Chora Church, Constantinople


The risen Christ, triumphant over Death, tramples on the shattered gates of Hell and raises up Adam and Eve. Behind Adam stand John the Baptist, David, and Solomon. Others are righteous kings.

The Chora Church was originally built outside the walls of Constantinople, to the south of the Golden Horn. The church's full name was the Church of the Holy Saviour in the Country.

The last part of that name, Chora, referring to its location originally outside of the walls, became the shortened name of the church.

The original church on this site was built in the early 5th century, and stood outside of the 4th century walls of Constantine the Great.

The powerful Byzantine statesman Theodore Metochites endowed the church with much of its fine mosaics and frescos. Theodore's impressive decoration of the interior was carried out between 1315 and 1321.

The mosaic-work is the finest example of the Palaeologus Renaissance. The artists, unfortunately, remain unknown.

In 1328, Theodore was sent into exile by the usurper Andronicus III Palaeologus. However, he was allowed to return to the city two years later, and lived out the last two years of his life as a monk in his Chora Church.

The Anastasis fresco is in the parecclesion of the Church.The parecclesion was used as a mortuary chapel for family burials and memorials. The second largest dome (4.5 m diameter) in the church graces the centre of the roof of the parecclesion.

After the Turkish conquest in 1453, the church remained as it was for a time, and was turned into a mosque in 1511 by addition of a minaret. Then it became a museum ("The Kariye Museum") in 1948 and its frescoes and mosaics were cleaned.

China and the Holy See



A very interesting summary of relations between China and the Holy See is contained in The long road and “accidents along the way” by Gianni Valente in Thirty Days (30 giorni)

Definitely of use for the heralded papal letter to the Catholics of the former Celestial Empire .

Oratorio di Santa Maria in Valle, Cividale del Friuli, Friuli-Venezia Giuli, Italy





















Cividale del Friuli is a town in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Northern Italy. The town is in the foothills of the eastern Alps close to the Slovenian border. On the face of it, it would appear only to be a small town of perhaps no significance.

However, appearances can be deceptive.

Cividale was founded as a Roman municipium by Julius Caesar in 50 BC on the newly built Via Julia Augusta. It became the chief town of the district of Friuli and gave its name to it.

In 568 the city was the first major centre occupied by Alboin's Lombard invasion of Italy, then part of the Byzantine Empire.

The city was chosen as first capital of the newly-formed Lombard Kingdom, then granted by Alboin to his nephew Gisulf as the capital of a Lombard Duchy of Friuli. After the Lombards were defeated by the Franks, (774), following the last Lombard resistance under Hrodgaud of Friuli (776) Forum Julii changed its name to Civitas Austriae, Charlemagne's Italian "City of the East".

Under the Carolingian settlement with the Papacy, the patriarchs of Aquileia resided here from 773 to 1031, when they returned to Aquileia, and finally in 1238 removed to Udine.

When the Patriarch State of Friuli was founded in 1077, Cividale was chosen as the capital.

In 1420 Cividale was annexed to the Republic of Venice.

The small chapel of Santa Maria della Valle is a small chapel and it has been said to house the finest Romanesque sculpture in Northern Italy. The chapel itself was built in or around the 9th Century by a Visigoth king.

Amongst the "highlights" of the Chapel are six magnificent life size figures of six female saints in stucco. These figures may date back to the 10th century. The quality of the figures is similar to ivories.