Friday, July 27, 2007

Storm and Shipwreck

PEETERS, Bonaventura the Elder
(b. 1614, Antwerpen, d. 1652, Hoboken)
Oil on oak, 60 x 85 cm
National Gallery, Prague

PEETERS, Bonaventura the Elder
(b. 1614, Antwerpen, d. 1652, Hoboken)
Storm on the Sea
Oil on oak, 58,5 x 84,5 cm
National Gallery, Prague

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Deutschland

Deutschland 1866

Deutschland was a passenger steamship of the Norddeutscher Lloyd line, and built by Caird & Co. of Greenock in 1866.

At 05:00 on 6 December 1875 the ship ran aground in a blizzard onto Kentish Knock, a sandbar at the mouth of the Thames.

Most passengers died of exposure before the steam paddle tug Liverpool could help on 7 December. A total of 157 passengers and crew died.

Amongst the dead were five Franciscan nuns and their priest who had been leaving Germany due to harsh anti-Roman Catholic laws, the Falk Laws, which were part of Bismarck`s campaign against the Church.

The five nuns remained below deck because there was not enough room on the deck. Clasping hands, they were drowned together, their leader calling out loudly and often "O Christ, come quickly!" until they could breathe no more.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89) was moved to write his lengthy poem, The Wreck of the Deutschland.

It not only depicts the dramatic events and heroic deeds but also tells of the poet's reconciling the terrible events with God's higher purpose.

In the week when the Polish pilgrims died on their pilgrimage, perhaps it is worth recalling the poem and its themes.

"Joy fall to thee, father Francis,
Drawn to the Life that died;
With the gnarls of the nails in thee, niche of the lance, his Lovescape crucified
And seal of his seraph-arrival! and these thy daughters
And five-lived and leaved favour and pride,
Are sisterly sealed in wild waters,
To bathe in his fall-gold mercies, to breathe in his all-fire glances...
The majesty ! what did she mean?
Breathe, arch and original Breath.
Is it love in her of the being as her lover had been?
Breathe, body of lovely Death.
They were else-minded then, altogether, the men
Woke thee with a we are perishing in the weather of Gennesareth
Or is it that she cried for the crown then,
The keener to come at the comfort for feeling the combating keen?"

"Jesu, heart's light,
Jesu, maid's son,
What was the feast followed the night
Thou hadst glory of this nun? "

See also
Gerard Manley Hopkins and a Nun named Gertrude and

The Wreck of the Deutschland: An Essay and Commentary by John E. Keating

President Reagan: the Re-assessment

There are signs that in Europe the reputation of President Ronald Reagan is being re-assessed for the better.

The latest is a review of his diaries in The Times Literary Supplement

The review is entitled: "Reagan the Astute".

"Memoirs, biographies and policy studies gradually replaced the bungling-bumbling caricature with more realistic depictions, but it is only now, with the publication of his diaries, that we encounter a shrewd and watchful Reagan determined to have his way not only with political opponents and evil or misguided foreigners, but also with his own officials and bureaucracies – the greater challenge in many cases, for diversions can be very subtle, and obstructionism is so easily disguised."

Interestingly, there are a number of facts and incidents in the Diaries of the late President which totally undermine the image of the bumbling and utterly crazed ideologue which was in vogue whilst he was in office:

"early on he told his utterly shocked military chiefs what he could tell nobody else without destroying deterrence, that he would never authorize the use of nuclear weapons, even if the United States were attacked with them.";

"Monday January 11 1982 . . .
Press running wild with talk that I reversed myself on Taiwan because we’re only selling them F5Es & F104s. I think the China Lobby in State Dept is selling this line to appease the P.R.C. which doesn’t want us to sell them anything. The planes we are offering are better than anything the P.R.C. has. Later on if more sophistication is needed we’ll upgrade & sell them F5Gs.

That last phrase, incidentally, is one of a myriad fragments of evidence in the diary that Reagan’s stance of casual bonhomie – in sharp contrast to the Carter and Clinton displays of relentless diligence – concealed much very detailed knowledge accumulated by reading the documents that kept landing on his desk. Unlike the F-4 Phantom or F-104 Starfighter, the F-5G was not a fighter in operational service that would often be depicted and reported in the normal course of events, but rather a project of the Northrop Corporation, whose existence was only known to specialists.";

"The diary is also full of fun. Reagan did not merely take time off to have fun as all presidents must do to survive (Jimmy Carter failed in that too, visibly declining in office), he also enjoyed himself presidentially. Of course, he relished every opportunity of kicking the Soviet Union in the shins: “Friday July 24 . . . Then off to Ukrainian Church for lunch & ceremony recognizing Captive Nations Week. Extremely well received. The Soviets will be unhappy”. There are many other such entries.";

and my favourite-

"When he did encounter outright racism, Reagan knew what to do:

Monday May 3 1982 . . .
Read this morning of a black family – husband and wife both work in govt. printing office. They live in a nice house near U of Maryland. They have been harassed and even had a cross burned on their lawn . . . . We cleared the last part of the afternoon schedule and Nancy & I went calling. They were a very nice couple with a 4 year old daughter . . . the whole neighborhood was lining the street . . . I hope we did some good. There is no place in this land for the hate-mongers and bigots

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Tragedy of the Polish Pilgrimage

In How could God allow 26 pilgrims to die in a crash?, Christopher Jamison, the Abbot of Worth and author of Finding Sanctuary: Monastic Steps for Everyday Life, discusses the recent tragedy of the coach crash in France which killed 26 Polish pilgrims who had just come from La Salette.

"For the 26 Polish pilgrims killed so tragically in a coach crash in France on their way home, the two moments unexpectedly became the same moment. The knowledge that they had been visiting the shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary at La Salette only underlined the poignancy of this sudden, unmerited death.

They will have recited the Hail Mary many times on their pilgrimage and maybe they were reciting it at the moment their coach crashed through the safety barriers; perhaps its concluding phrase was on their lips in their final agony: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” The image of good and devout people saying that prayer just before they died will be a comfort to their relatives. But in the many stages of grief their families may also experience anger with the God who allowed this to happen.

When bad things happen to good people, it is hard to suppress our indignation: and because religious believers are sometimes tempted to see faith as keeping our side of a bargain with God, we can be just as indignant. Why does God allow it? "

For details of the tragedy see Shipyard sirens echo a nation’s sorrow for bus plunge pilgrims

May their souls and the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Tower of Babel

BRUEGEL, Pieter the Elder (b. ca. 1525, Breughel, d. 1569, Bruxelles)
The Tower of Babel 1563
Oil on oak panel, 114 x 155 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

A faithful picture of contemporary building operations. The painting also illustrates the artist`s obsessive interest in rendering movement.

Bruegel`s mastery of and interest in landscape and subjects is also seen.

This is one of two paintings which the artists made of the same subject.

Church and State should help Europe grow

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor in a lecture given at Cumberland Lodge, Windsor, on April 14 and published in The Times on 21st July 2007 says that recognising Christianity’s role in Europe’s history could save the European project and reinvigorate democracy for the new century.

He contrasts the European experience with that of the United States.

""Today Americans still readily embrace both religious faith and patriotism, a striking paradox in a land where Church and State are deliberately separated. We have much to learn from the people of the United States. Their search for a better life and their optimism are linked with their religious faith. From their first day at school, American children learn to salute the flag and declare their Americanness. They say: “God bless America,” and then happily add: “I’m a Baptist, or a Jew, a Catholic or a Muslim.” To them, it seems, being a good Catholic, a good Jew, a good Baptist or a good Muslim fits in perfectly with being a good American. Americans always look with hopeful eyes to the future. Problems can be solved, people can be saved and God will continue to bless his people. Since the days of the Pilgrim Fathers, Americans have seen themselves as a chosen people, called to share in God’s work in history.

The contrast with Europe is striking. In the first place, Europeans have misgivings about patriotism because of the extreme nationalism that blighted Europe throughout the past century. The European Union is a conscious attempt to transcend national loyalties and to foster a new “European” identity based on common values. But Europe’s slow and painful birth has involved an attempt to brush under the carpet the continent’s Christian heritage. Whether it is motivated by overt hostility to religion or by a desire to find a lowest common denominator, such denial of the obvious is unhealthy and dishonest.


The Enlightenment and the Age of Reason were intellectual landmarks as much in Europe as in America, but the two continents have handled them very differently. The Founding Fathers who devised the American Constitution combined the vision that came from faith with the rationality that came from the Enlightenment.

In Europe faith and reason have generally been seen as mutually exclusive. But pure reason will never inspire bold visions and great deeds. It is worth remembering that the founders of postwar Europe were also men of faith (though no doubt entirely rational). If we Europeans now choose to ignore the energy that drove them, it is hardly surprising if the resulting grey edifice fails to fire the imagination of its citizens. Pretending that Christianity played no part in Europe’s history could undo the whole European project.

Europeans are tired of mindless con-sumerism and hungry for meaning at deeper levels. Meaning cannot be imposed from on high and the institutional churches in particular must learn to follow a humbler path than they have been used to. There is an alternative to the “city on a hill” model of the Kingdom of God which is central to American self-understanding and which has sometimes seemed to sanction a powerful and triumphalist role for the Church in society. The gospels offer the more modest, but no less vital, metaphor of the leaven in the dough, the unseen agent that enlivens and animates society from within.

The Church understood as leaven does not rule but serves. This kind of Church is inspired by Christ’s example to seek out the poor, the homeless, the imprisoned, the stranger, the lost and lonely, to attend to their needs and to stand alongside them offering hope and love. The Church in a plural society must shun every form of privilege and power and dedicate herself to serving the common good. She is challenged to renew herself so that she may do good “by stealth”. Her structures need to be recast so that they can better serve those who serve others, the laity above all. This recalls an ancient title given to the Pope, “servant of the servants of God”.

A servant Church poses no threat to anyone, so there are no good grounds for excluding it and forms of secularism that do so are unacceptable. Without Christianity’s optimistic and imaginative vision of the human person and the State, European society risks becoming spiritually barren. "

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Flood

GHIBERTI, Lorenzo (b. 1378, Firenze, d. 1455, Firenze)
Noah and the Flood 1425-52
Gilded bronze, 79 x 79 cm
Baptistry, Florence


ABAQUESNE, Masséot (b. ca 1500, Cherbourg, d. 1564, Sotteville-lès-Rouen)
The Flood
Ceramic mural composition
Musée National de la Renaissance, Écouen

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Altar of St Ignatius Loyola in the Gesù

POZZO, Andrea (b. 1642, Trento, d. 1709, Wien)
Altar of St Ignatius Loyola
Marble, bronze
Il Gesù, Rome

Andrea Pozzo was an artist, an architect, decorator, painter, art theoretician, and a Jesuit brother.

His masterpiece, the decoration of Rome's Jesuit churches Il Gesu and Sant'Ignazio, determined for several generations the style of internal decoration of late Baroque churches in most of Europe.

The statue of the saint is beneath a representation of the Trinity. This group is surrounded by gilt-bronze and marble reliefs illustrating scenes from Loyola's ministry as well as large marble tableaux of the triumphs of Faith and Religion.

Some one hundred artists and artisans worked on the altar, and the most important commissions went to two Frenchmen. Jean-Baptist Théodon (1645-1713) and Pierre Le Gros the Younger (1666-1719).

Théodon executed the over life-size marble group of the Triumph of Faith over Idolatry and Le Gros the Religion Overthrowing Heresy and Hatred.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Structure and Reality

In Structures Reflect the Tridentine Liturgy Elizabeth Lev who teaches Christian Art and Architecture at Duquesne University's Italian campus discusses how the structure of the churches erected immediately after the Council of Trent reflects the Tridentine Liturgy.

"In the wake of the Council of Trent, 50 new churches were built in Rome. But the one that best represents the Tridentine age is the Gesù built from 1568-1584.

Fruit of the collaboration between the newly-formed Jesuit order and Cardinal Alexander Farnese, the Gesù embodies St. Charles Borromeo's prescriptions for sacred edifices to showcase the new spirit of the liturgy.

One of the primary concerns was acoustics, as the solemn Masses were completely sung and the sound of the chants was meant to fill the church. Trent's decision to retain Latin as the sole language of liturgical prayer underscored the universality of the Mass in a world of ever-expanding horizons. The rites in Asia, America, Europe and Africa used the same language as Rome and linked the most far-flung areas to the See of Peter.

Sound also mattered because preaching became more important during this period. The Jesuits were instrumental in introducing greater emphasis on homilies and in the huge nave of the Gesù, there was space for hundreds to gather around the pulpit to hear their stirring preachers.

Rood screens, which separated the presbytery from the nave, were removed after Trent, to allow the congregation to see the altar and liturgy more clearly.

The altar was raised up on steps and the sanctuary defined by a low rail. The faithful were awed to see the majesty of the Mass; the priest, deacon and sub deacon lined up at the altar, the clouds of incense sweetening the air and the elaborate marble tabernacle nestled in the apse.

For the Rome of 1585, the Gesù was a revolutionary structure while still respecting the tradition of the early Christian Church....

The altar was a block of stone, resembling a tomb or sepulcher, vividly reminding the flock of Christ's death and burial. In the Gesù, Giovanni Battista Gaulli frescoed the initials of the Latin translation of Holy Name of Jesus -- "IHS" -- in a burst of light above the altar.

This glorious image helped the people to understand Christ's triumph over sin and death."

Pope Pius V

RICCI, Sebastiano
St Pius V, St Thomas of Aquino and St Peter Martyr 1730-33
Oil on canvas, 343 x 169 cm
S. Maria del Rosario (Gesuati), Venice

Saint Pope Pius V

Pierre Legros (1666 - 1719)
Pope Pius V seated on his throne
Circa 1712
Farsetti Collection Italy

Monday, July 16, 2007

Pieter Pauwel Rubens

RUBENS, Pieter Pauwel (b. 1577, Siegen, d. 1640, Antwerpen)
St Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata c. 1635
Oil on canvas, 264 x 192 cm
Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Ghent

"The greatest as well as the most influential among the artists who put their talent at the service of the Church, Peter Paul Rubens, was not an exclusively religious painter.

With astonishing versatility he frequently took his subjects from classical mythology, from history, or himself created allegorico-historical compositions, portraits, genre-paintings, pictures of animals and landscapes. Nevertheless, the number of his religious paintings is extremely great.

Rubens was a convinced and practising Catholic. Every morning he heard Mass, before starting work, and his private life was blameless. For all that, from an exaggerated passion for realism, and out of excessive consideration for the wishes of many clients who demanded grossly sensuous representations, in many of his pictures Rubens overstepped those laws of morality which apply also to profane art. Though we pay full homage to his wonderful achievement, it is beyond dispute that in a number of his pictures, the theme of which is taken from the religious
sphere, the spiritual or supernatural character is not sufficiently stressed. ...

As popular and greatly admired creators of altar-pieces, Rubens and Van Dyck left their mark on the art of the Catholic Netherlands in the seventeenth century, whilst at the same time they rendered valuable service to the cause of the Catholic restoration. No one could escape the enormous impressiveness of their works. Added to preaching and catechizing, their paintings were a powerful help towards the understanding of the dogmas of the Catholic faith. The monumental creations of Rubens had power to enthral every section of the people, even those whose artistic feelings were of a more elementary kind ; on the other hand, Van Dyck worked more especially for those circles which would be influenced without the same forcible appeal....

The influence which Rubens chiefly exercised by means of his altar-pieces, which sparkle with light and colour, was not confined to the Netherlands and it was soon felt by the whole of Catholic South Germany. The pupils and successors of the great Master vied with one another in their eagerness to adorn churches with rich altar-pieces, as was done in Italy and Spain. The most recent biographer of Rubens aptly remarks that this great genius was the Catholic painter par excellence not only in his own century but in the next also and well into the nineteenth century. 1

The sacred edifices embellished by copies or reproductions of his works must be reckoned by hundreds. And since he himself had most of his creations multiplied by excellent engravers, whom he trained himself, his influence spread even into the Romance countries. Rubens may well be called the greatest of all the painters who put their talent at the service of the Catholic restoration. With his glowing colours and the dramatic power of his compositions, he glorified the Saints of the period, Ignatius, Francis Xavier, Teresa, and proved an effective advocate of the dogmas of the ancient faith which were most fiercely attacked by the religious innovators, viz. Purgatory, the intercession of the Blessed Virgin and the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

1 ROOSES, 182. BURCKHARDT (Erinnerungen, 82) says :"It was a wonderful piece of good fortune for Catholicism throughout the North, to have an interpreter, so great, gifted and generous, and who was able to feel such enthusiasm for all aspects of religious art.""

From The History of the Popes By Ludwig. Freiherr Von Pastor (trans. Graf)
(Volume 26), pages 101-115

Rubens' most immediate influence was on Sir Anthony Van Dyck, Jacob Jordaens, and other painters in Flanders, but artists at almost every period have responded to the force of his genius. He is a central figure in the history of Western art.

Rubens's influence in 17th-century Flanders was overwhelming, and it was spread elsewhere in Europe by his journeys abroad and by pictures exported from his workshop, and also through the numerous engravings he commissioned of his work.

In later centuries, his influence has also been immense, perhaps most noticeably in France, where Watteau, Delacroix, and Renoir were among his greatest admirers

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Velazquez at the National Gallery

Sunday Times art critic, Waldemar Januszczak, presents a vodcast on the Velazquez exhibition at the National Gallery in London

Women In Art

500 Years of Female Portraits in Western Art

Music: Bach's Sarabande from Suite for Solo Cello No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007 performed by Yoyo Ma

For a complete list of artists and paintings visit

Augustus Welby Pugin

Augustus Welby Pugin
A.W.N. Pugin, cope and hood, 1848-50. Victoria and Albert Museum, London
He designed them in the Gothic Revival style for use in the church he designed and built in the grounds of his house.

Altar and window at Farm Street, London

Pugin`s reputation has varied since his death. Now we are experiencing a resurgence of interest in Pugin and his works.

What did near contemporaries think of Pugin ?

At the time, his championing of the Gothic was not universally admired. Indeed often he was criticised and scorned for his passion in this regard.

Eccentric by the standards of his time. Yet his talent was recognised and allowances were made for his views and behaviour.

In the following passage written in 1901, an assessment is made by a Catholic writer of his character and his works.

"Odd to say,the characters that have most attraction seem to have been tinged with a certain eccentricity, or what may seem eccentricity to prosaic natures.

Of this pattern was the brilliant and ebullient AUGUSTUS WELBY PUGIN, a thorough artist whose gifts and aspirations were far in advance of his day. This remarkable man owed much to his French extraction.

His passionate and intolerant ardour was almost irresistible, and his exertions were aided by the sadly corrupt state of public taste and the low condition of the architecture and art then in vogue. He was a reformer long before Mr. Ruskin, though he had not the captivating style of the latter, and he always contrived to present his theories in company with the teachings and practices of his Church.

His undue extravagances, wholesale condemnation of all forms save one, the Gothic, naturally excited hostility and ridicule ; while his grotesque and scornful sayings made him many enemies. Never was prophet of a faith so reckless, so sincere, so passionately in earnest, or so regardless of his own interest where his principles were concerned. Neither Bishop nor peer, nor wealthy patron even, could make him swerve a hair's breadth where he felt that these principles were at issue.

That splendid monument, the Houses of Parliament, a perfect marvel considering the debased period in which it was erected, certainly owed its essentials to his inspiration.*(1) It might almost be said that this great pile somewhat contributed to the Catholic revival, much as Sir Walter Scott's stories helped to re-create an interest in the old religion. It seemed to suggest Catholic associations, much as a Gothic cathedral would do. All the devices with which it is so lavishly embroidered its sculptures, storied panes and dim religious light helped materially to foster this notion, to which the cunning hand of a Catholic architect and decorator had given reality.*(2)

Pugin was a thorough and determined reformer of church ornamentation, and introduced the most striking improvements in manufacture as well as treatment. To him is owing the correct treatment of brass standards, chandeliers, and coronas. With such designs and suggestions he supplied his friend Hardman, of Birmingham, who set on foot a regular manufacture, of which Protestant churches also have had the benefit. Another ally and assistant was the well known Minton, a potter, who furnished him with church tiles after his own designs. There is nothing more pathetic than his humble letter to his friend, in his closing days, when his mind was somewhat clouded. He had quarrelled with him, and he pleaded for forgiveness on Othello's ground that he was over-wrought "and perplext in th' extreme."

To Pugin, also, we owe the stencilled decoration once so " fashionable" in churches who does not recall the alternate monograms and rosettes in compartments, blue and red, alternate colours, and old English lettering? But this has become somewhat monotonous, and, as I fancy, has altogether "gone out." To him we also owe the great change in the pattern of the vestments used at Mass.

The old stiff dalmatic of French pattern is endeared to us from familiarity and long custom. But nothing can be said for it as a ceremonial garment, for the celebrant seems to move as if between boards. The flowing "Pugin robes" were more artistic, though there was the drawback that garments of this flowing, easy pattern ought to be fitted to each individual wearer. This is a serious objection, whereas the old, more rigid vestment seemed to fit every one. Many years ago these Pugin vestments fell out of favour and were interdicted, with a reprieve until the existing stock had been worn out. But they are now restored, and can be used ad libitum.

Pugin held by the principles of his art much as he did by the principles of his religious faith. They were sacred to him, not to be compromised or to be trafficked in. There is something noble, if Quixotic, in his treatment of that committee of Bishops and laymen who were planning a cathedral in London, and invited him to supply a grand set of designs. These he supplied on an elaborate scale a cathedral, convent, schools, cloisters. The drawings excited much admiration,and were fully approved, when it occurred to some one to ask some searching questions as to cost, time of execution, etc. These he put aside, but quickly contrived to collect all his drawings, then took his hat and walked away without a word ! Asked later the meaning of this behaviour, he explained: " You asked me," he said," to furnish you with designs. I did so, supposing that I was dealing with persons who knew what they wanted. The absurd questions put showed how wrong I was. Who ever heard of a cathedral being built in the lifetime of one man ?The old ones took centuries. Then how could I tell the cost? a small portion only could be built in my lifetime. If you approve of my design adopt it, and carry out all in part, or not at all." This story gives us the man as he really was, his fine spirit of independence, and his unswerving principle.*(3)

All through his vast, multifarious enterprises there was this note of pathos, arising from his strivings after a noble ideal, which the more prosaic and practical minds with whom he had to deal were persistently checking, as they were compelled to do. He complained that he was never given full play, because he was always interfered with by his employers, and used to say that St. George's was spoiled by the instructions that it was to hold 3,000 people on the floor, and, in consequence, height, proportion, everything, was sacrificed to meet these conditions.*(4)

Indeed, his treatment at St. George's and there was no reason for it but the lack of funds must have gone nigh to breaking his heart. As we look at the noble design, given in Mr. Ferrey's book with its nave soaring aloft in grand arches, its great tower at the intersection of nave and transepts, but now "tacked on " at the end we can see what has been lost. The height was cut down, and the roof "clapped down " almost on the arches, so that the place was likened to a long railway station. In the sanctuary, however, he was left a free hand, and there he created what Dr. Johnson calls an "inspissated gloom" a darkness that might be felt, or mystery, as he fancied it. Through the great rood screen figures might be indistinctly made out, flitting to and fro. The light was not dim or mummery of dormer windows which nobody can reach or look out of ? Not so, but the mere incapability of better things. I am sorry to have to speak thus of any living architect, and there is much in this man, if he were rightly estimated, which we might both regard and profit by. He has a most sincere love for his profession, a hearty, honest enthusiasm for pixes and piscinas, and though he will never design so much as a pix or a piscina thoroughly well, yet better than most of the experimental architects of the day. Employ him by all means, but on small work ; expect no cathedrals of him, but no one at present can design a better finial."

The secret or motive of this bitterness is revealed in the next sentence, where we are bidden " not to allow his good designing of finials to be employed as an evidence in matters of divinity, nor thence deduce the incompatability of Protestantism and art."

Mr. Wilfrid Ward tells a pleasant story connected with Abbe Katisbonne's conversion, which Pugin was assured took place in the Church of St. Andrea, at Rome. Pugin visited the church and surveyed it with disgust. " The story is false, he could not have prayed in such a hideous church. Our Lady would not have chosen such a place for a vision. The man could have had no piety to have stayed in such a church at all." The friend then said that Batisbonne had blamed the ugliness of the church. "Is that so ? Then he is a man of God ! He knew what chivalry was, though a Jew. I honour him. Our Lady would come to him anywhere."

And his outburst at the opening of the Oratory at King William Street was as amusing, and might cause a smile at Brompton." Has your lordship heard that the Oratorians have opened the Lowther Rooms as a chapel ? a place for the vilest debauchery, masquerades, etc. This appears to me perfectly monstrous. I give the whole Order up for ever ! Why, it's worse than the Socialists ! It is the greatest blow we have had for a long time ; no men have been so disappointing as these. Conceive the poet Faber come down to the Lowther Booms well may they cry out against screens or anything else." How diverting is this ! Equally his disgust at illmade vestments. " He a good man ! and wearing a cope like that !"

His personal adventures were strange enough such as his three marriages his mysterious love affair with Miss L., for whom, in view of her marriage, he had fashioned lovely sets of jewellery. He was an earnest, pious man, but his views were somewhat wild, his vehemence sometimes carrying him beyond what was strictly orthodox. When disappointed or crossed, he would break out into some startling pamphlet, which his friends had hard work to excuse.

As a craftsman his work was really exquisite, as was also the certainty of his eye in matters of grace or proportion. I have looked over his sketch books, which are indeed charming. His etchings in the "Pugin" missal, with the bindings of the same, might be shown in a mediaeval cabinet.*(5)

His latter days were much clouded with many troubles, anxieties, and mental gloom. He died in 1852. His so-called "Life" is an odd piece of workmanship. It was written by Mr. Ferrey, a Protestant, who had but little sympathy with him or his works, none perhaps for his religion. Mr. Purcell was then called in to supply a religious view of the man, which was done a la Purcell, but to the total wreck of the original design.

I have thus dwelt at some length on the career of this remarkable person, because he was a type of many minds at the period who were carried forward by the same enthusiasm. The enthusiasm often engendered eccentricity, of which many of our Catholic leaders had their full share. Dr. Ward in his obstreperous buoyancy had much of Pugin's character.


* (1)A painful controversy long raged as to his and Sir Charles
Barry's share in the designs ; but all familiar with the work of
the two architects can have no hesitation in giving Pugin the
chief credit, not merely of the general ornamentation and details,
but even of the structural treatment. Pugin's fertile
fancy and imagination are seen everywhere, with but little of
Barry's correct conventional methods, as displayed at Bridgewater
House, the Travellers' Club, and other works.

*(2) Everywhere a piece of Pugin workmanship can be recognised
from its beauty, certainty of touch, reserve, and perfection
of proportion. Mouldings, reliefs, are all exactly what
they should be, and where they should be. His altars, screens,
railings, pulpits to be seen at Farm Street, St. George's
Cathedral, and in his own gem of a church at Ramsgate all
reveal this rich and elegant touch

* (3)There were other stories of the kind in circulation. A
reply of his to the Bishop is pleasantly characteristic. The
Prelate wrote to him as to a church. " It must be very large,
as there is a large congregation. It must be very handsome,
for there is a fine new church close by. And it must be very
cheap, for they were very poor." So when could they expect
the design ? Pugin wrote : " My dear Lord, Say thirty shillings
more, and have a tower and spire at once."

*(4) On reading this passage Ruskin fell on him with infinite
scorn and bitterness. " Rafaelle can expatiate within the circumference
of a clay platter ; but Pugin is inexpressible in less
than a cathedral. St. George's was not high enough for want
of money ? But was it want of money that made you put
that blunt, overloaded, and laborious ogee door into the side of
it ? Was it in parsimony that you buried its paltry pinnacles
in that eruption of diseased crockets ? Or in pecuniary embarrassment
that you set up the belfry foolscaps with the
mummery of dormer windows which nobody can reach or look
out of ? Not so, but the mere incapability of better things. I
am sorry to have to speak thus of any living architect, and
there is much in this man, if he were rightly estimated, which
we might both regard and profit by. He has a most sincere
love for his profession, a hearty, honest enthusiasm for pixes
and piscinas, and though he will never design so much as a
pix or a piscina thoroughly well, yet better than most of the
experimental architects of the day. Employ him by all means,
but on small work ; expect no cathedrals of him, bufc no one at
present can design a better finial." The secret or motive of
this bitterness is revealed in the next sentence, where we are
bidden " not to allow his good designing of finials to be employed
as an evidence in matters of divinity, nor thence deduce the
incompatability of Protestantism and art."

* (5)At Farm Street Church should be noted the exquisitely
proportioned pulpit, the elegant lamp of the sanctuary, the
altar rail all in his choicest manner. I believe, too, the richly
flamboyant window was also of his designing.

(From Fifty Years of Catholic Life and Social Progress (Volume 1) (1901) by Percy Fitzgerald, pages 107 - 116)


Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin 1812-1852

St. George’s Cathedral, Southwark: 1841-1848

The Pugin Society

Saturday, July 14, 2007

George Robinson, 1st Marquess of Ripon

George Robinson, 1st Marquess of Ripon
by George Frederic Watts (1817-1904)
oil on canvas, 1895
National Portrait Gallery, London

One of the most prominent converts to Roman Catholicism was George Robinson, 1st Marquess of Ripon in 1874.

Prior to his conversion, he had been a Cabinet Minister as well as the Grand Master of the Freemasons in England from 1870 to 1874.

The reaction to his conversion was hostile and adverse amongst the Establishment. Much moral courage was needed by Lord Ripon to face the hostile comments, private and public, made on his conversion.

"How dreadful this perversion of Lord Ripon's," Queen Victoria commented. "I knew him so well and thought him so sensible." As the Queen had declared on an analogous occasion, "I do blame those who go from light to darkness!"

The Times said, " His conversion by itself was a proof of his having renounced his mental and moral freedom," " that his mind must have necessarily undergone a fatal demoralisation," that by his conversion " he forfeits at once the confidence of the English people," and "abandons every claim to political and even social influence."

Such censures in the public press Lord Ripon would have passed over unnoticed, but they were brought home to him personally by a public speech of Mr. Gladstone's on Ritualism, repeating the first comment of The Times.

It was thought his public career was at an end for ever. However he persevered and continued his public service and went on to serve in more Liberal Cabinets until 1908.

On his death, Cardinal Bourne, Archbishop of Westminster said in a Sermon preached by him on the Feast of Blessed Thomas More, July 11th, 1909:

"While I have spoken to you of the Blessed THOMAS MORE, and of the place, ennobled by devotion to duty, which he held in the England of his day, doubtless you have thought, as I have done, of the statesman who has just been taken from us, who formerly for many years worshipped in this church (St. Mary s, Cadogan Square, Chelsea), and lived not very far away. I ask your very earnest prayers and those of the whole Archdiocese for the repose of the soul of LORD RIPON.

He, too, has left us an example of un swerving obedience at whatever cost.

Thirty five years ago he became convinced of the claims of the Catholic Church upon his faith and obedience, and without hesitation he submitted himself to her authority, although in so doing he had reason to think, as thought all his friends, that thereby he was putting an end to his public and political career.

Loyalty to duty was the key note of his life, and we had striking proof of this in these latter years.

In the midst of our recent Educational struggles his conscience bade him pursue a course which he knew would be misunderstood and keenly did he feel the misunderstanding- -by many of his fellow Catholics.

Yet he held on his way determined never to falter in his duty to the Church or to the State, and ready at the same time to relinquish office in the very moment that claims should be made upon him which his conscience forbade him to allow.

His private life was marked by the same sense of duty. He was a man of prayer, with his fixed hours for spiritual reading and communing with his MAKER ; a very frequent communicant and a daily hearer of Holy Mass. Associated with every form of public charity, he visited the poor in private with a personal service which few witnessed as a Brother of St.VINCENT DE PAUL.

LORD RIPON will remain in our grateful memory as a Catholic in word and deed, a true and loyal servant of GOD, of Holy Church, and of his country."


George Robinson, 1st Marquess of Ripon

Life of the first Marquess of Ripon (1921)
By Wolf, Lucien, 1857-1930

Queen Victoria and Catholicism in Victorian Britain

In Queen Victoria and the challenge of Roman Catholicism, Walter L Arnstein discusses the reaction of Queen Victoria towards Catholicism.

"Queen Victoria had mixed reactions to the challenge posed by Roman Catholicism during the 19th century. As a young princess, Victoria was an advocate of Catholic emancipation and broad religious toleration. However, she became a Protestant crusader and considered herself very anti-Catholic in the early 1870s. Towards the end of her reign, Victoria's attitude underwent a second significant transformation. Victoria's public actions and private views reflected her becoming a philo-Catholic."

Portrait painting

The recent (false) story about the official portrait of the Queen taken by American celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz reminds one that a portrait painter faces a very difficult job. It can also be very hard on the sitter who may feel apprehensive about the sitting and what kind of picture will result.

The result may be one which a sitter may not recognise at all or one which he or she may not wish to recognise.

In the 1890s, the English artist George Frederic Watts (1817-1904) presented a number of his portraits of distinguished sitters to The National Portrait Gallery in London as a contribution to "the national history".

Amongst them was one of Cardinal Manning.(below)

Henry Edward Manning
by George Frederic Watts (1817-1904),
oil on canvas, 1882
35 1/2 in. x 27 1/2 in. (902 mm x 699 mm)
Given by George Frederic Watts, 1895
National Portrait Gallery, London

Manning was ordained into the Church of England in 1832, resigned his post in 1850 and, in the following year, entered the Roman Catholic Church.

He became Archbishop of Westminster in 1865 and was made a cardinal ten years later.

For this portrait Watts expanded his usual format, posing the seated Manning in emulation of Renaissance papal portraits.

Manning was not terribly impressed by the result.

In a letter dated 31 October 1881 to the artist, he wrote:

"My dear Mr Watts

If Nature writes a legible hand & Photographers do not tamper with the autograph I am afraid that I am not the mild old gentleman that you would have me believed to be.

Yours very truly
H.E. Cardinal Archbp."

Manning also objected to the redness of his face. He said to one: ‘Tell Mr Watts that he has made me a tippler, and I am a teetotaller!’.

Some other portraits of Manning are in Balliol College, Oxford (below). No doubt Manning was not happy with the results of these sittings.

Henry Edward Manning (1808-1892)
By Charles Goldsborough Anderson
Balliol College, Oxford

Henry Edward Manning (1808-1892)
By Arthur Dampier May
Balliol College, Oxford

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Still on the subject of monks...

FRIEDRICH, Caspar David (b. 1774, Greifswald, d. 1840, Dresden)
Monk by the Sea 1809
Oil on canvas, 110 x 172 cm
Nationalgalerie, Berlin

Friedreich`s high point of fame was around 1810.

This landscape was purchased by the Prussian Crown Prince Frederick William. It helped propel him towards celebrity in his time.

The theme: the tiny figure of a man set against a natural landscape divided into three horizontal zones of colour. Its composition breaks with all traditions.

There is no longer any perspective depth whatsoever.

In the awareness of his smallness, the man, in whose place the viewer is meant to imagine himself, reflects upon the power of the universe.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Thursday and Friday

Walter Dendy Sadler 1854-1923
Thursday 1880
Oil on canvas; support: 864 x 1410 mm
Tate Britain, London

Walter Dendy Sadler (1854 – 1923)
Friday 1883
Oil on canvas, 108 x 217cm
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Sadler was well known for his humorous scenes of religious life.

In Thursday, which is also known as 'Tomorrow will be Friday', he shows a group of Franciscans fishing. These friars, were forbidden to eat meat on Fridays, in commemoration of the day when Christ was crucified.

In Friday, he shows Dominican monks entertaining two Franciscans to a meal. Friday in religious life was traditionally a day of fasting, or at least a day in which no meat is eaten. Sadler's monks are observing the letter of the law, if not its spirit by sitting down to a feast of fish.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Jan van Eyck and Giovanni Arnolfini

One of the more famous paintings in The National Gallery in London is Jan van Eyck`s Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife ('The Arnolfini Portrait'). See also

Less well known is a portrait of the same sitter by the same artist in Berlin, painted about the same time as the painting in London.

EYCK, Jan van (b. before 1395, Maaseik, d. before 1441, Bruges)
Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini c. 1435
Oil on wood, 29 x 20 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Frank Cadogan Cowper (1877-1958)

Tea at Trianon has been recently doing a fine series of posts on the pre-Raphaelites.

Frank Cadogan Cowper was sometimes referred to as 'the Last Pre-Raphaelite'. He was born in Wicken, Northamptonshire in 1877. He was grandson of the Rector of Wicken and raised in the faith of the Plymouth Brethren.

He had a strict religious upbringing, something which would have a profound, though unexpected influence upon his artistic career many years later.

Some of his works were heavily criticised at the time by the Catholic authorities for an alleged anti-Catholic bias, such as Lucretia Borgia Reigns in the Vatican in the Absence of Pope Alexander VI (1908-14) and ‘The Jealous Husband,’ showing a man disguised as a priest listening to his wife’s confession.

His forte is in painting meticulous historical and literary scenes. This went out of fashion. In later life one of his main patrons was Evelyn Waugh.

After his death some of his canvases were sold as suitable for re-use. In more recent years, however, Cadogan Cowper's popularity is once again in the ascendant. His early pictures are now recognised as being quite extraordinarily beautiful.

The Tate at Millbank, London has two beautiful paintings by Cowper: St Agnes in Prison Receiving from Heaven the Shining White Garment ; and Lucretia Borgia Reigns in the Vatican in the Absence of Pope Alexander VI.

St Agnes in Prison Receiving from Heaven the Shining White Garment 1905
Oil on canvas
29 1/4 x 17 3/4 inches (74.3 x 45.1 cm)
Tate Gallery, London, England

This is a scene from the life of St Agnes, based on William Caxton’s Golden Legend. This tells how, at the age of thirteen, Agnes rejected marriage and dedicated her life to God. She refused to renounce her vow of chastity, and was stripped of her garments and taken to a brothel. She prayed for Divine intervention, and her cell was filled by a miraculous light. Her hair grew long, and a white robe appeared before her. Cowper shows the moment when this robe was delivered.

Lucretia Borgia Reigns in the Vatican in the Absence of Pope Alexander V (1908-14)
Oil on canvas
support: 2210 x 1537 mm
frame: 2880 x 2032 x 175 mm

Here he re-creates an obscure incident from the history of the Popes. In 1501 there had been a notorious scandal, when the illegitimate daughter of Pope Alexander VI, Lucrezia Borgia, took his place at a meeting. The room in the Vatican in which this happened still exists, and Cowper went there to copy it. It is one of the rooms decorated by the Italian Renaissance artist Pinturrichio. Cowper copied the faces of the Cardinals from their original portraits. He invented this suggestive moment, in which two noblemen part Lucrezia's dress so that a Francisan friar can kiss her shoe.

Lucretia Borgia was a source of fascination for the Pre-Raphaelites and the scandal of her presiding over the Papal court is highlighted here by the surrounding ranks of scarlet cardinals. To her right is a group of figures of quite different appearance, representing people from non-Christian lands.

Cowper carefully reconstructs the ornamental finery of their costumes to indicate their religious and ethnic identities. Pope Alexander VI was widely criticised for a perceived willingness to negotiate with non- Christians.

Adam and Eve

Cranach the Elder, Lucas (1472-1553)
Adam and Eve 1526
Oil on panel
Height: 117 cm; Width: 80 cm
Courtauld Institute Art Gallery, London

Currently the subject of an excellent exhibition at the Gallery

You may recognise the image from a TV series

Notice the puzzlement of Adam.

van Gogh: Self Portrait

Gogh, Vincent van (1853-1890)
Self-portrait with bandaged ear 1889
Oil on canvas
Height: 60.5 cm (canvas) ; Width: 50 cm (canvas)
Courtauld Institute Art Gallery, London

A portrait utterly lacking in self-pity.

Note the Japanese influences.

Tiepolo: Saint Charles Borromeo

Tiepolo, Giovanni Battista (1696-1770)
Saint Charles Borromeo meditating on the Crucifix 1767
Oil on canvas
Height: 63.4 cm; Width: 38.3 cm
Courtauld Institute Art Gallery, London

Bernardo Daddi: Triptych

Daddi, Bernardo c.1280-1348
Triptych - Virgin and Child enthroned with saints, and God in an attitude of benediction (centre panel) 1338
Tempera, goldleaf on panel
Height: 87.5 cm (integral frame and gabled top); Width: 42.5 cm
Courtauld Institute Art Gallery, London

The Courtauld Institute of Art

The Courtauld Institute of Art, including the Courtauld Gallery, has an important collection of old master and impressionist paintings

It is situated in Somerset House, a large building situated on the south side of the Strand in central London, overlooking the River Thames, just east of Waterloo Bridge. The building dates from 1776–96.

The website is here

The Gallery is a lot quieter than the other galleries in Central London and offers the opportunity to closely study great works unhurriedly in a beautiful and tranquil setting.

The admission fee is £ 5 but Mondays are free.

Friday, July 06, 2007

The Motu Proprio

For those who cannot wait till tomorrow to see something authoritative about that Motu Proprio, "Summorum Pontificum" ,Whispers in the Loggia seems to have got hold of an embargoed copy of the release.

Papa Ratzinger: A Positive Spin

Readers of The Times may have been surprised today by an article which carried a positive light on the pontificate of the present Pope. Perhaps his simple direct style and honesty is beginning to be appreciated.

"With donations to the Church from around the world almost doubling and pilgrims pouring into Rome in ever-greater numbers, Vatican watchers are beginning to reassess the two-year-old pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI and noting a positive “Ratzinger effect”....

Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani, head of economic affairs at the Holy See, said that the “remarkable increase” in both donations and numbers of pilgrims showed that there was “a symbiosis, a mutual sympathy between this Pope and Christian people everywhere”.

Presenting the Holy See’s annual budget yesterday, Cardinal Sebastiani noted that not only had it closed last year with a surplus of €2.4 million, partly thanks to diocesan donations, there had also been a “huge jump” in “Peter’s Pence”, the annual church collections given directly to the Pope to use for charity, from $60 million (£30 million) in 2005 to $102 million. “The days when people talked of papal bankruptcy are past,” said Marco Tosatti, Vatican correspondent of La Stampa....

Record numbers attend Benedict’s weekly audiences, and seven million people a year now visit St Peter’s, a rise of 20 per cent. Similar increases are recorded for pilgrimages to Catholic shrines at Assisi, Lourdes, Fatima in Portugal and Madonna di Guadalupe in Mexico. “This is a Ratzinger phenomenon,” reported La Repubblica. "

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Mountain Echo

Ben Arthur (affectionately known as The Cobbler)(Scottish Gaelic: Beinn Artair) is situated above Loch Long. It is 884 m in height. It is part of the so-called Arrochar Alps near Glasgow.

YES, it was the mountain Echo,
Solitary, clear, profound,
Answering to the shouting Cuckoo,
Giving to her sound for sound!

Unsolicited reply
To a babbling wanderer sent;
Like her ordinary cry,
Like--but oh, how different!

Hears not also mortal Life?
Hear not we, unthinking Creatures!
Slaves of folly, love, or strife--
Voices of two different natures?

Have not 'we' too?--yes, we have
Answers, and we know not whence;
Echoes from beyond the grave,
Recognised intelligence!

Such rebounds our inward ear
Catches sometimes from afar--
Listen, ponder, hold them dear;
For of God,--of God they are.

William Wordsworth (April 7, 1770 – April 23, 1850)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Mainland Chinese Catholic Websites Told To Remove Full Text Of Papal Letter

BOUCHER, François (b. 1703, Paris, d. 1770, Paris)
Chinese Dance 1742
Oil on canvas, 42 x 65 cm
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Besançon

Zenit reports that some Catholic websites in mainland China that uploaded Pope Benedict XVI's letter to Catholics in the mainland shortly after it was released were ordered hours later to remove it.

Qin Gang, a Foreign Ministry official, said:

"We have taken note of the letter released by the Pope. China has always stood for the improvement of China-Vatican relationship and made positive efforts for that. China is willing to continue candid and constructive dialogue with Vatican so as to resolve our differences."

However he went on to say that improving China-Vatican ties still has two conditions: the Vatican must sever its so-called diplomatic ties with Taiwan and recognize the People's Republic of China as the sole legitimate government representing all of China, and it shall never interfere in China's internal affairs, including in the name of religion.

Interesting times ?

Monday, July 02, 2007

William Bouguereau: Our Lady of the Angels

William Bouguereau (1825-1905)
Notre-Dame des Anges [Our Lady of the Angels]
Oil on canvas, 1889
Private collection

Bouguereau: A Soul in Heaven

William Bouguereau (1825-1905)
Une âme au ciel [A Soul in Heaven]
Oil on canvas, 1878
70 3/4 x 108 1/4 inches (180 x 275 cm)
Perigord Museum

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Bouguereau: The First Mourning

William Bouguereau (1825-1905)
Premier Deuil [The First Mourning]
Oil on canvas, 1888
79 7/8 x 99 1/8 inches (203 x 252 cm)
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires

The dead body of Abel lies across Adam's lap. Eve is kneeling by his side crying uncontrollably.

The grief is greater: Abel was murdered; the murderer was Cain, their other son, who has fled.

Bouguereau had five sons, four of whom died before him. First Mourning was painted directly after the death of his second son.

Bouguereau: Pietà

William Bouguereau (born 1825 - died 1905)
Pietà (1876)
Oil on canvas
90 1/2 x 58 1/4 inches (230 x 148 cm)
Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, Texas

The weeping Mary is cloaked in a robe of black.

She, together with the dead body of Jesus are surrounded by eight weeping angels surround them in an arc, like a rainbow.

At the bottom lies the crown of thorns. There is also a white cloth covered in the blood of Christ. There is also a pitcher of water.