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Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Sacred Place


Jacopo Ligozzi  (1547–1627)
The Beech Tree of the Madonna at La Verna
1605-1607 
Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash and with traces of gray wash, over black chalk
15-13/16 x 10-1/8 in. (40.2 x 25.7 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum, New York


Jacopo Ligozzi  (1547–1627)
La Verna: The Chapel of the Blessed Giovanni della Verna
1605-1607 
Pen and brown ink and brown wash 
15 3/8 x 9 7/8 in
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles


Jacopo Ligozzi  (1547–1627)
View of the Monastery of La Verna: the road leading to the Monastery
1605 -1607
Pen and brown ink, brown wash, on paper
325 mm x 252mm
The Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge


Jacopo Ligozzi  (1547–1627)
View of the Monastery of La Verna: the courtyard and well, the Chiesa Grande behind
1605- 1607
Pen and brown ink, brown wash, on paper
394 mm x 254 mm
The Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge


Jacopo Ligozzi  (1547–1627)
Chapel in the Monastery of La Verna
1605-1607
Pen and brown ink, brown wash, on paper
269 x 243 mm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

During the 1500s and 1600s, interest in travel and tourism burgeoned

Padre Fra Lino Moroni of Florence, provincial of the Observant Franciscans in Tuscany, brought the Medicaean court painter  Jacopo Ligozzi and Raphael Sciaminossi (1529?-1622‏)   to Mt. Alvernia in 1608 

Both Ligozzi  and Sciaminossi had painted frescoes depicting episodes from the life of St. Francis of Assisi for the cloister of the Franciscan Church of the Ognissanti in Florence

The aim was to produce illustrations of La Verna  in the Tuscan Apennines, and the buildings of the Franciscan  community established there. 

The studies by Ligozzi are above

La Verna was and is a sacred place for the Franciscans: it was where St Francis of Assisi received the stigmata, the first occasion on which anyone had received such wounds

It was also the place where Friar Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, the General of the Order, and later saint and Doctor, composed his Itinerarium mentis in Deum showing  the way to move forward towards the heights where one encounters God. 

The illustrations were to be for a book, a guide book to La Verna: Descrizione del Sacro Monte della Vernia which was published in Florence in  1612

The work was dedicated to the Archbishop of Monreale,  Arcangelo da Messina who had just stepped down as General of the Order

The book was only 24 pages of printed text and had 22 illustrations. Some of the prined plates are below

Four plates feature six engraved overlay slips, all but one of which are to show differences in the landscape between the early 13th century and 1608



Etched by Raffaello Schiaminossi, Italian, about 1570–about 1620
Engraved by Domenico Falcini, Italian, 17th century
After Jacopo Ligozzi, Italian, 1547–1627
Author Fra Lino Moroni, Italian, 17th century
The Famous Rock named for Brother Lupo
From Descrizione del Sacro Monte della Vernia
1612
llustrated book with 23 etchings and engravings
47.3 x 33.4 x 1.9 cm (18 5/8 x 13 1/8 x 3/4 in.)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


From the website of Franciscan Institute Library.   St. Bonaventure University here are more images from the printed book:




Much of the text and all the illustrations can be seen on the website Il Bel Casentino  with photographs by  Alessandro Ferrini 

A second edition of the work was produced by Father Timoteo Canevese di Milano in Milan in December 1672


The concept of a "sacred place" has often been one fraught with difficulty especially for the Christian pilgrim

For the Christian, the concept of a sacred place has to bear in mind the words of Scripture as well as the early Church Fathers

In Matthew 23 Christ himself denounces the practices of the scribes and pharisees with their veneration of the altar and the temple in Jerusalem, the tombs of the prophets and Jerusalem, the holy city itself

In John 4,  in the discourse between Christ and the Samaritan woman at the well, Christ says that God is to be worshiped neither in Jerusalem, the holy place of the Jews, nor in Gerizim, the holy place of the Samaritans, but rather in spirit and in truth

In Acts 7, Stephen criticized the idea of the Temple as a holy place
"47 But Solomon built a house for him.
48 Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says
49‘The heavens are my throne,the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house can you build for me?
says the Lord, or what is to be my resting place?"

Thus for Clement of Alexandria, “the true temple is the assembly of Christian people, [Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, 8.5 (GCS 17, p. 22)]

And for Origen: “the holy place is the pure soul.” [Origen, Homil. in Levit., 13.5]

Gregory of Nyssa  noted that “a change of place does not bring one closer to God, but there where you are God will come toward you, if the condition of your soul is such that the Lord can there reside and move around (2 Cor. 6:16). But if you have the interior man (Rom. 7:22) full of evil thoughts, even if you are on Golgotha, even if you are on the Mount of Olives, even if you are in the tomb of the Anastasis, you are as far from receiving Christ within you as those who have not even begun to confess him.” [Gregory of Nyssa, Epist. 2.16–17]

Eusebios of Caesarea stated: “Since the coming of Christ, it is no longer necessary to adore God in specific places, in some corner of the world be it in the mountains or in the temples made by the hand of man, but each can adore him in his proper place” [Eusebios of Caesarea, Dem. Evang., 1.6.65]

At first the holy places associated with Our Lord came to be venerated. Then the places associated with others mentioned in Scripture, such as Moses on Mount Sinai. Then the martyrs. And then the saints

Therefore for the pilgrim, the holy place was a place of prayer where he or she could see, hear, touch things which led to contemplation and perhaps a theophany

The prime aim was or should be  to worship and pray in a holy place

Only later did this practice degenerate into adoring or venerating the place itself as a means of participating in its holiness

In May of last year Pope Benedict XVI was to visit and be a pilgrim at La Verna. However the trip was cancelled due to bad weather


Nowadays there is an explosion of visits to sacred places. It s part of the tourist, culture and heritage industry. 

However in his address Benedict XVI indicates the proper attitude of mind for the modern pilgrim

He wrote:
"We climbed as pilgrims up to the Sasso Spicco of La Verna where “two years before his death” (Celano, Vita Prima, III, 94: ff, 484) St Francis, received the wounds of the glorious Passion of Christ in his body. 
His journey as a disciple led him to a union so profound with the Lord that he shared with him even the exterior signs of his supreme act of love on the Cross. A journey which began at San Damiano before the Crucifix, contemplated with mind and heart. 
The continuous meditation on the Cross, in this holy place, has been a means of sanctification for many Christians, who, throughout eight centuries, have knelt and prayed here in silence and in recollection. 
The glorious Cross of Christ takes on the suffering of the world, but it is above all a tangible sign of love, the measure of God’s goodness to mankind. 
In this place we, too, are called to recover the supernatural dimension of our lives, to raise our eyes from what is contingent, to entrust ourselves totally to the Lord, with a free heart and in perfect joy, contemplating the Crucifix so that it may wounds us with his love. ... 
One does not climb La Verna without being led by the prayer of St Francis of the Absorbeat, which recites: “May the power of your love, O Lord, ardent and sweet power, so absorb our hearts as to withdraw them from all that is under heaven. Grant that we may be ready to die for love of your love, as you died for love of my love” (Prayer of the “Absorbeat”, 1: ff, 277). 
Contemplation of the Crucifix is a labour of the mind, but it cannot rise freely without the support, without the power of love. 
In this very place, Friar Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, the distinguished son of St Francis, composed his Itinerarium mentis in Deum showing us the way to move forward towards the heights where one encounters God. 
This great Doctor of the Church communicated to us his own experience, inviting us to prayer. 
First, the mind must be given to the Passion of the Lord, for it is the sacrifice of the Cross that wipes away our sins, a fault that can only be filled by the love of God: “I urge the reader”, he writes, “above all to beseech in prayer for Christ crucified, by Whose blood we are purged of our sins” (Itinerarium mentis in Deum, Prol. 4). 
But, in order to be effective, our prayer needs tears, that is an interior movement of our love which responds to the love of God. 
And it is then necessary to have that admiratio, which St Bonaventure sees in the humble ones of the Gospel, those capable of wonder before the salvific work of Christ. 
And humility is precisely the door to every virtue. It is actually not possible to reach God with the intellectual pride of a closed search within oneself, but only with humility, according to the famous expression of St Bonaventure: 
Man “must not believe that it suffices to read without unction, speculate without devotion, investigate without wonder, examine without exultation, work without piety, know without love, understand without humility, be zealous without divine grace, see him without wisdom divinely inspired” (ibid.)."