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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Cardinal Hugh of Saint-Cher and Corpus Christi

Stefano di Giovanni (known as Sassetta) (1394 - 1450)
Miracle of the Eucharist
1423
Tempera on Panel, 24.1 x 38.2 cm.
Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle

The panel is part of the Arte della Lana Altarpiece (Altar of the Eucharist) commissioned by the "Arte della Lana"(the woolmerchants' guild) for the church of the Carmelite Order in Siena in 1423

Stefano di Giovanni was the most important artist in 15th century Siena

It was made for the feast of Corpus Christi. (Corpus Domini). The Carmelites organised the Corpus Christi festivities in Siena

The triptych and panels were unfortunately dismantled in 1777

In the above panel, a Carmelite lay brother in dark robes has been struck dead, and just above him, a devil is carrying away his soul. The consecrated Host is bleeding, indicating perhaps that the lay brother had doubted the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

On the altarpiece see Machtelt Israëls, `Sassetta’s Arte della Lana altar-piece and the cult of Corpus Domini in Siena’, The Burlington Magazine, Volume 143, Number 1182 (September 2001), pp.532-43



Hugh of St Cher (c. 1200 – March 19, 1263) was French and the first Dominican cardinal. He was a distinguished Biblical commentator

As well as penning an important Commentary on Peter Lombard`s Sentences, he helped reform the Carmelite order

He had an important role in the promotion of the feast of Corpus Christi.

"Juliana’s role in spreading the feast of Corpus Christi among the women in Liège was mirrored, actually anchored, in the official and formal Church authority and personage of Hugh of Saint-Cher, who apparently stepped into the breach created by the contested bishopric in Liège in 1238.

His networks were formidable, encompassing the most distinguished and influential theologians of the historical period, such as Albertus Magnus and Saint Thomas Aquinas, as well as the most humble of women, who served as nurses and teachers in the new Dominican convents.

Hugh served directly and worked closely with three popes: Innocent IV, Alexander IV, and Urban IV. His power, authority, and influence were formalized and official through a succession of increasingly important appointments, and his career developed alongside and through the institution of the new feast. It became the emblem of the textual auctoritas of the Dominicans as the order moved from the margins to the center of ecclesiastic power.

Hugh’s contributions to the feast of Corpus Christi include:

(1) approval of the idea of the new feast in 1240;
(2) presentation of the idea to the cardinal and to the bishop of Cambrai;
(3) approbation of the office and Mass composed by Juliana and John;
(4) celebration of the new feast for the first time at Saint-Martin, perhaps adding a sermon;
(5) accordance of indulgences at Saint-Martin, Villers, and eventually for all his legation;
(6) active support for the initiative among men within the official hierarchy of the Church, including bishops and popes; and
(7) spreading its celebration among lay people within his jurisdiction by preaching and granting of indulgences.

Moreover, Zawilla, through painstaking analysis, has demonstrated the extent to which versions of the office and Mass subsequent to the one centonated by Juliana and John, versions referred to as Sapiencia [a]edificavit sibi and Sacerdos in [a]eternum, relied directly upon Hugh’s biblical commentaries. Thus while his actual role in the authorship remains an open question, Zawilla notes with respect to Sapiencia [a]edificavit sibi: the evidence “indicates that Hugh could be considered as likely a candidate for the composer of the historia, that is, of the biblical parts of the office, as Thomas.[Aquinas]”

Moreover, in sacramental theology, Hugh "was the first theologian to discern a matter and a form in all the sacraments and to understand these principles in the Aristotelian sense of determinable and determining elements.”

Without doubt, Hugh, “author of the most influential Sentences commentary of his time and leader of an équipe of biblical commentators,” played a central role in the official institution of the new feast and in providing protection for Juliana.

Hugh was born in Saint-Cher in ca. 1195, a town near Vienne in southeastern France, and achieved early recognition for his intellectual prowess. He completed the baccalaureate in philosophy and theology at the University of Paris, as well as a Master of Law in 1224.141 In February 1225, he entered the Dominican order. Between 1227 and 1230 he served as the provincial of the Dominicans in France, then as regent master of theology at the University of Paris in 1230.

In ca. 1236, he was named provincial a second time and visited the new Dominican monastery in Liège sometime between then and 1240, while Juliana and John were at work on the office and Mass. The vita notes that Juliana’s idea for the feast of Corpus Christi was approved by “fratri hugoni tunc priori provinciali ordinis fratrum predicatorum” [Friar Hugh, then Prior Provincial of the Dominicans]; Hugh became Vicar General of the order in 1240, thus his title was then different. He must also have been acquainted with Bishop Guiard, in the adjacent diocese of Cambrai, who served the papal envoy that resolved the contested election of the Liège bishop in 1238 and who consecrated the Dominican church in 1242.

Hugh was appointed Cardinal-Legate in April 1244 and then to a diplomatic post under Innocent IV. At the Council of Lyon in 1245, the venue of the deposition of Frederick II by Innocent IV, he encountered both the Liège bishop, Robert Thourette, and Archbishop Conrad, also participants in the council. He overlapped with theological luminaries Albertus Magnus and Saint Thomas Aquinas in Cologne between 1251 and 1252, where Aquinas was working as a baccalarius biblicus under Albert.

Albert had been sent to Cologne in 1248 to preside over the first Dominican studium at Heilige Kreuz. In 1252 Cardinal Hugh wrote a letter, at the request of Albert, in support of the dispensation permitting Thomas to begin studies for the mastership in theology at the University of Paris at the age of twenty-seven.

As Cardinal-Legate, Hugh traveled extensively and widely, acquiring a reputation for diplomatic skills, which no doubt helped immensely in the spread of the feast of Corpus Christi. His support for Juliana and her work was not atypical; he was well known for his interest and support of women’s communities. Grundmann writes:

`He was the man best suited to reorder the relations between the order and women’s houses. Himself a Dominican by origin, he had been active as cardinal (since 1244) in promoting Dominican interests, and he could serve as guarantor of the order in the College of Cardinals. On the other hand, during his legation in Germany he had passionately defended the women’s religious movement, supporting women’s houses and communities to the best of his strength. He had come to understand the importance of and needs of the women’s religious movement as had few others`
.

Cardinal Hugh of Saint-Cher returned to Rome in 1254 and died on 19 March 1263 at Orvieto, in the company of Pope Urban IV."

(From The Feast of Corpus Christi by Barbara R. Walters, Vincent Corrigan, Peter T. Ricketts. 2006 The Pennsylvania State University Press)