Saturday, February 23, 2013

Vaticinia de Pontificibus

Miniature of Pope Celestine V kneeling in prayer. 
From Vaticinia de Pontificibus 
1425 - 1450
Illustrated manuscript
285 x 195 mm
Italy, Central (Florence)
Harley 1340 f. 3
The British Library, London

Miniature of Miniature of Pope Gregory XII
From Vaticinia de Pontificibus 
1425 - 1450
Illustrated manuscript
285 x 195 mm
Italy, Central (Florence)
Harley 1340 f. 9v
The British Library, London

The Vaticinia Pontificum was a work of black propaganda falsely attributed to the mystic Joachim of Fiore (c. 1135 – March 30, 1202)

They allegedly made prophecies regarding the popes: who was to be elected and what were their attributes or main characteristics

Many regard the work as a crude attempt to influence future conclaves

Unfortunately the practice still continues today among Catholics and non-Catholics

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Pope Gregory XII

School of Le Marche
The Tomb of Pope Gregory XII
Sculpture, painting on stucco
275.0 x 232.0 x 53.0 cm
Co-Cathedral of St. Flavian, Recanati, Province of Macerata

School of Le Marche
Pope Gregory XII
17th century
Diameter 105 cm
Co-Cathedral of St. Flavian, Recanati, Province of Macerata

School of Le Marche
Tablet commemorating Pope Gregory XII
Engraved black marble
60.0 x 91.0 x 11.0 cm
Co-Cathedral of St. Flavian, Recanati, Province of Macerata

The inscription on the tomb reads:

The inscription on the tablet reads:

As we all know by now, thanks to the press, Pope Gregory XII (c. 1326 – 18 October 1417),was Pope from 1406 to 1415.

Prior to Benedict XVI, he was the last Pope to abdicate

He resigned office in a letter read by his  procurator Carlo Cardinal Malatesta, on July 4, 1415, in the Council of Constance.

It was this resignation which paved the way to resolving the Western Schism when three claimants claimed the papacy.

It was Gregory`s claim which was the only true claim

After his abdication Gregory`s  cardinals that had been created by him were accepted as cardinals, and he was appointed Bishop of Porto and perpetual legate at Ancona.

He did not live to see the election of his successor Martin V, one of his cardinals

He was buried in what was then a new Cathedral. His tomb has been moved several times in the cathedral. 

Of this period the German Lutheran historian  Ferdinand Gregorovius (January 19, 1821 – May 1, 1891) wrote: 
"A temporal kingdom would have succumbed thereto; but the organization of the spiritual kingdom was so wonderful, the ideal of the papacy so indestructible, that this, the most serious of schisms, served only to demonstrate its indivisibility" (Geschichte der Stadt Rom im Mittelalter, (History of Rome in the Middle Ages),  VI, 620).
It is in Recanati in that small forgotten area of Le Marche we can still see how one man`s act of sacrifice was a tool for the revival of the Church in a way never at all contemplated when he made his historic act.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

St Peter Celestine

Bartolomé Román (c. 1587-1647)
St Peter Celestine, Pope
Oil on canvas
208 cm x 110 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

Pope Saint Celestine V (1215 – 19 May 1296) was a monk and hermit  who founded the order of the Celestines. 

In 1294, he was elected pope but after only five months of poor administration, he resigned. 

In 1313, he was canonized

Our view of this great man has been unduly coloured by Dante`s Inferno where some have argued he is portrayed as a nameless figure in the antechamber of  Hell "Who by his cowardice made the great refusal" —Inferno III, 59–60

In another section of the Inferno (28, 58), Pope Boniface is called "Prince of the Pharisees" and declares: 
"I can open and close Heaven, as you know, with the two keys that my predecessor, Celestine, did not prize."

Dante appears to have been critical of Celestine because his resignation paved the way for the succession of Pope Boniface VIII whom Dante detested and placed firmly in the centre of Hell

But Dante`s view of Celestine was perhaps exceptional and coloured by how the acts and decisions of Boniface VIII materially and adversely affected him. 

On the other hand, Petrarch regarded Celestine V as one of the great figures who ever occupied the Papacy.

In his treatise De vita solitaria, he wrote:
"This gesture [of abdication] by the solitary and Holy Father Celestine may be attributed by those who will to cowardice of spirit, since the diversity of temperaments allows us to express on the same argument opinions which are not only different, but conflicting. For myself, I believe the gesture was above all useful to himself and to the world. 
In fact, for both [the world and himself] that lofty dignity could be full of dangers and risks and disturbances, because of Pietro's inexperience of human things -- he had neglected them in order to contemplate divine things too much -- and because of his constant love of solitude. ... 
I consider his act as the act of a most lofty and free spirit which knew no impositions, of a truly divine spirit. I think a man could not have so acted if he had not rightly evaluated human affairs and had not set beneath his foot the proud head of fortune. ..."

Celestine was of course canonised. His resignation or abdication was not a bar to his canonisation. Rather, his resignation was a sign of his heroic virtue

Pope Paul VI saw the abdication of Celestine as being derived from Celestine`s virtue and  sense of obligation and duty and certainly not cowardice:
"Ed ecco rifulgere la santità sulle manchevolezze umane: il Papa, come per dovere aveva accettato il Pontificato supremo, così, per dovere, vi rinuncia; non per viltà, come Dante scrisse - se le sue parole si riferiscono veramente a Celestino - ma per eroismo di virtù, per sentimento di dovere." 

The Spanish Baroque painter depicted Celestine in his simple  Benedictine garb. He does not appear in grand dress

The three tiered papal tiara is at his feet as a symbol of his renunciation

He has turned his back on the tiara. His attention is on Christ on the crucifix and Scripture, the only things needful

There are other symbols of the hermetic life which he embraced: meditation and contemplation on Scripture and on death

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Professor`s Last Lesson: Truth and Conscience

The historic declaration by His Holiness on Monday 11th February 2013 shocked, stunned and greatly saddened the Church

The inelegant clunky translation from Latin into English by the Vatican  obscures rather than clarifies what the Pope had to say

One sentence of the Declaration sticks out on this very sad occasion:
"After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry."

To publicly state this underlines the great humility, bravery and nobility of the man

Pope Benedict XVI has often spoken about conscience: true conscience and the errant conscience. The papacy itself is subject always to the Truth and the true conscience

One of the best known examples was at the 10th Workshop for Bishops in February 1991 (over twenty years ago) in Dallas, Texas when the then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger said:

"Newman was much more taken by the necessity to obey recognized truth than his own preferences, that is to say, even against his own sensitivity and bonds of friendship and ties due to similar backgrounds.  
It seems to me characteristic of Newman that he emphasized truth's priority over goodness in the order of virtues. Or, to put it in a way which is more understandable for us, he emphasized truth's priority over consensus, over the accommodation of groups.  
I would say, when we are speaking of a man of conscience, we mean one who looks at things this way. A man of conscience, is one who never acquires tolerance, well- being, success, public standing, and approval on the part of prevailing opinion, at the expense of truth.  
In this regard, Newman is related to Britain's other great witness of conscience,Thomas More, for whom conscience was not at all an expression of subjective stubbornness or obstinate heroism. He numbered himself, in fact, among those fainthearted martyrs who only after faltering and much questioning succeed in mustering up obedience to conscience, mustering up obedience to the truth which must stand higher than any human tribunal or any type of personal taste.  
Thus two standards become apparent for ascertaining the presence of a real voice or conscience. First, conscience is not identical to personal wishes and taste. Secondly, conscience cannot be reduced to social advantage, to group consensus or to the demands of political and social power.... 
Let us take a formulation of Saint Basil. The love of God which is concrete in the commandments, is not imposed on us from without, the Church Father emphasizes, but has been implanted in us beforehand. The sense for the good has been stamped upon us, Augustine puts it. We can now appreciate Newman's toast first to conscience and then to the Pope.  
The Pope cannot impose commandments on faithful Catholics because he wants to or finds it expedient. Such a modern, voluntaristic concept of authority can only distort the true theological meaning of the papacy.  
The true nature of the Petrine office has become so incomprehensible in the modern age no doubt because we only think of authority in terms which do not allow for bridges between subject and object. Accordingly, everything which does not come from the subject is thought to be externally imposed.... 
In the crisis of the Church today, the power of this recollection and the truth of the apostolic word is experienced in an entirely new way where much more so than hierarchical direction, it is the power of memory of the simple faith which leads to the discernment of spirits. One can only comprehend the primacy of the Pope and its correlation to Christian conscience in this connection.  
The true sense of this teaching authority of the Pope consists in his being the advocate of the Christian memory. The Pope does not impose from without. Rather, he elucidates the Christian memory and defends it. For this reason the toast to conscience indeed must precede the toast to the Pope because without conscience there would not be a papacy.  
All power that the papacy has is power of conscience.  
It is service to the double memory upon which the faith is based and which again and again must be purified, expanded and defended against the destruction of memory which is threatened by a subjectivity forgetful of its own foundation as well as by the pressures of social and cultural conformity."

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Egerton 809: Witnesses to the Gospel

St Agnes flanked by St Blaise and St Anthony
Egerton 809, upper cover
Late 15th century possibly Bruges
The British Library, London

The detailed record for Egerton 809 in The British Library in London states that it is a Gospel lectionary from South Germany, manufactured in the first quarter of the 12th century

But the front cover of Egerton 809 includes a painted panel of the late 15th century made in Bruges with an image of St Agnes, flanked by St Blaise and St Anthony the Great.

All three were very well known and popular saints

Their commemorations in the Liturgy all fall within a short window in January and February

St Anthony, the founder of Western monasticism was probably a given for a holy book lodged in a monastery

From early days St Anthony`s fame and renown was widespread and it was longlasting

Saint Athanasius in his bestseller of early Christian literature: The Life of Anthony wrote:
 "The fact that his fame has been blazoned everywhere, that all regard him with wonder, and that those who have never seen him long for him, is clear proof of his virtue and God's love of his soul. 
For not from writings, nor from worldly wisdom, nor through any art, was Anthony renowned, but solely from his piety towards God. That this was the gift of God no one will deny. 
"For from whence into Spain and into Gaul, how into Rome and Africa, was the man heard of who dwelt hidden in a mountain, unless it was God who makes his own known everywhere, who also promised this to Anthony at the beginning? 
For even if they work secretly, even if they wish to remain in obscurity, yet the Lord shows them as lamps to lighten all, that those who hear may thus know that the precepts of God are able to make men prosper and thus be zealous in the path of virtue" (Life of Anthony, 93, 5-6).

The other two saints depicted were martyrs. St Agnes of Rome (c. 291 – c. 304) is a virgin–martyr
and St. Blasius was a bishop who suffered martyrdom at the beginning of the fourth century

All three were heroic witnesses to the Gospel. They  resisted flattery, inducements and threats, and lived quiet lives of heroic holiness. They chose the Kingdom of Christ over this world and loved Christ to the point of great suffering and martyrdom.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

The Seven Corporal Works of Charity

Pieter Brueghel the Younger  (1564 or 1565  – 10 October 1636)
The Seven Corporal Works of Charity 
1616 - 1618 ca.
Oil on panel  
44 x 57,50 cm
Private collection

The scriptural text is  Matthew 25:35-6

To feed the hungry; to give drink to the thirsty; to clothe the naked; to visit and ransom the captive (prisoners); to shelter the homeless; to visit the sick; and to bury the dead.

The activities are not solitary but social

The works are a witness to fraternal charity and works of justice pleasing to God

In 2011 on the eve of Lent, Pope Benedict XVI recalled:

"St Gregory the Great recalled in his Pastoral Rule that fasting is sanctified by the virtues that go with it, especially by charity, by every act of generosity, giving to the poor and needy the equivalent of something we ourselves have given up (cf. 19, 10-11). 
Lent, moreover, is a privileged period for prayer. 
St Augustine said that fasting and almsgiving are “the two wings of prayer” which enable it to gain momentum and more easily reach even to God. 
He said: 
“In this way our prayers, made in humility and charity, in fasting and almsgiving, in temperance and in the forgiveness of offences, giving good things and not returning those that are bad, keeping away from evil and doing good, seek peace and achieve it. On the wings of these virtues our prayers fly safely and are more easily carried to Heaven, where Christ our Peace has preceded us” (Sermon 206, 3 on Lent: PL 38, 1042)."

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Cædwalla`s Donation

Lambert Barnard (1485-1567)
Caedwalla, king of the West Saxons, granting land in Selsey, the original site of the diocese, to St Wilfrid for his monastery c AD 685
c. 1534 
Mural on oak board
14 feet x 32 feet
South transept, Chichester Cathedral, England

It is possible that Barnard was French or Flemish, though according to some historians he was of Italian origin. 

Barnard was paid an annual wage of £14 8s to work in the Cathedral

The Cathedral has many works by Barnard and the above painting is part of an extraordinary work of Tudor political and religious propaganda

Cædwalla (c. 659 – 20 April 689) was the King of Wessex from approximately 685 until he abdicated in 688

He made many grants and charters of land to the Church and in particular to St Wilfrid ( c 633 – c. 709) his spiritual father

Wilfrid spent a number of  years in Selsey, where he founded an episcopal see and converted the pagan inhabitants of the Kingdom of Sussex to Christianity. 

It appears likely that Wilfrid  was the first to introduce the Benedictine Rule into England

In a charter of 688, Cædwalla granted land at Farnham in Surrey to St Wilfrid  for a minster

We know of Wilfrid from Bede`s Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation and the Anglo Saxon Chronicle together with a Life of St Wilfrid written shortly after his death.

Realising that he was dying, Cædwalla  abdicated and went to Rome where he was catechised and baptised by Pope Sergius I. It would appear that he died shortly thereafter and was buried in the old St Peter`s Basilica, perhaps next to the tomb of St Gregory the Great, the Pope who commanded St Augustine to Christianise England

In his work Pagan and Christian Rome, (1892) Professor Rodolfo Amedeo Lanciani wrote of this tomb of one of the few English kings to be buried in St Peter`s and in a very important place indeed, in the Pope`s Corner in the section called Paradise:

"In the vestibule of S. Peter's, not far from the original grave of Gregory the Great, we should have found that of a British king, reckoned among the saints in the old martyrologies, who had come in grateful acknowledgment of the double civilization which his native island had received from pagan and Christian Rome. 
Under the date of 688 the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records: 
"This year king Ceadwalla went to Rome and received baptism from Pope Sergius, and he gave him the name of Peter, and in about seven days afterwards, on the twelfth before the Kalends of May (April 20), while he was yet in his baptismal garments, he died, and he was buried in S. Peter's." 
The fair-haired convert, who had met with a solemn and enthusiastic reception from Pope Sergius, the clergy, and the people, received after his death the greatest honour that the Church and the Romans could offer him: he was buried in the "Popes' Corner," or porticus pontificum, almost side by side with Gregory the Great. 
The verses engraved on the tomb of the latter—
"Ad Christum Anglos convertit pietate magistra
Sic fidei acquirens agmina gente nova,"
(by pious cares he converted the English to Christ, acquiring thereby for the true faith multitudes of a new race)—could not have found a more convincing witness to their truth than this grave of Ceadwalla, because with his conversion, which was due to the preaching of S. Wilfrid, the Christian religion spread rapidly among the Saxons of the West, and that part of the country which had most resisted the new faith was forever secured to Christian civilization. 
In fact Wessex became the most powerful member of the Heptarchy, till it attained absolute dominion over the whole island.
Ceadwalla's tomb, forgotten, and perhaps concealed by superstructures, was brought to light again towards the end of the sixteenth century. 
Giovanni de Deis, in a work published in 1588, says: 
"The epitaph and the tomb on which it was engraved lay for a long time concealed from the eyes of visitors, and only in later years it was discovered by the masons engaged in rebuilding S. Peter's." 
Not a fragment of the monument has come down to us, and such was the contempt with which the learned men of the age looked upon these historical monuments, that none of them condescended to give us the details of the discovery. 
"It is deeply to be regretted," says Cardinal Mai, "that such a notable trophy as the tomb of Ceadwalla, the royal catechumen, which was erected and inscribed by Sergius I., disappeared from the Vatican, and was irretrievably lost, together with innumerable monuments of ancient art and piety, owing to the calamities of the times, the avidity of the workmen, and the negligence of the superintendents."
"Ceadwalla's tomb," I quote from Tesoroni, "was not the only monument of Anglo-Saxon interest to be seen in old S. Pietro. 
William of Malmesbury and other chroniclers mention two other kings, Offa of Essex, and Coenred of Mercia, as having renounced their crowns and embraced the monastic life in one of the Vatican cloisters. They were also buried in the Paradise near the Popes' Corner. 
It is doubtful whether king Ina, who succeeded Ceadwalla, and his queen, Aethelburga, were buried in the same place, or in the Anglo-Saxon quarter by the church of S. Maria in Saxia, founded, probably, by Ina himself. 
It is certain, however, that at a later time king Burrhed of Mercia was entombed in the same quarter, and in the same church. The place is still named from the Anglo-Saxons, S. Spirito in Sassia." "

Monday, February 04, 2013

Old Vatican

Rodolfo Lanciani, Forma Urbis Roma (Milan, 1893-1901), plate VI - The Vatican Gardens (North) (Vatican Museums)

Rodolfo Lanciani, Forma Urbis Roma (Milan, 1893-1901), plate XII - The Vatican Gardens (West)

Rodolfo Lanciani, Forma Urbis Roma (Milan, 1893-1901), plate XIII - St Peter`s, The Vatican

Rodolfo Amadeo Lanciani 1846 - 1929  was a very distinguished and celebrated Professor of Ancient Topography at the University of Rome from 1878 until 1927

He was a pioneer, one of the four founders of a rational, modern approach to Roman cartography and archaeology 

He was supervisor of excavations in the city. He was also a prolific author

He was a member of two academies, dei Lincei and di S. Lucia, as well as the recipient of many honorary degrees from many famous universities including Oxford and Harvard

His Forma Urbis Romae has been described as ‘a magnificent map of the city and a marvellous example of cartography as well as an encyclopaedia of typographical information. It is still an essential tool for anyone working on the ancient city’ (L. Richardson, A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome [John Hopkins, 1972], xxv). 

The forty-six maps of the Forma Urbis have a scale of 1:1,000. 

Overlaid on the network of modern streets and buildings are the known remains of ancient Rome. 

The work is said to be unsurpassed to this day.

Major parts of the 46 plates are present here (in high resolution) and more be seen here in much lower resolution

From the maps above one can see the many layers of Rome in and around the Vatican where most Catholic tourists who visit Rome will head at least once.

One can see that the Basilica is built right on top of the old Roman road the Via Cornelia

The title of Lanciani`s work  is of course more than a hat tip to the  Forma Urbis Romae or Severan Marble Plan, the  massive marble map of ancient Rome, created under the emperor Septimius Severus between 203 and 211. 

It originally measured 18 m (60 ft) wide by 13 m (45 ft) high and was carved into 150 marble slabs mounted on an interior wall of the Temple of Peace.

For some assistance in deciphering Lanciani`s maps you might wish to consult Samuel Ball Platner A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome London : Oxford University Press, 1929

This is on Bill Thayer`s great website Lacus Curtius

Here are the entries for the Via Cornelia and the Vatican from the classic 1929 work: