Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Pope and China

The Pope has today issued his long awaited letter to Chinese Catholics.

He invited all Roman Catholics in China to unite under his jurisdiction and urged Beijing to restore diplomatic ties and permit religious freedom.

In his 55 page letter, the Pope insisted on his right to appoint bishops, but said he trusted that an agreement could be reached with the Beijing authorities on nominations.

Significantly, he revoked previous Vatican-issued restrictions on contacts with the clergy of the official church, and in fact recognized that some Chinese faithful have no choice but to attend officially recognised Masses.

The Vatican said in a note that accompanied the letter that it was prepared to move its diplomatic representation from Taiwan to Beijing "at any time" as soon as an agreement with the government was reached.

Benedict praised those Catholics who resisted pressure to join the official church and paid a price for it "with the shedding of their blood." But he urged them to forgive and reconcile with others for the sake of unifying the church.

"Indeed, the purification of memory, the pardoning of wrongdoers, the forgetting of injustices suffered and the loving restoration to serenity of troubled hearts ... can require moving beyond personal positions or viewpoints, born of painful or difficult experiences," he wrote.

Time carries a full report which is under Pope: China Catholics Should Unite

The full letter is on the Vatican website and is here in English. Accompanying the letter is an Explanatory Note as well as a Declaration.

A Portrait of the Artist

CARRACCI, Annibale (b. 1560, Bologna, d. 1609, Roma)
Self-Portrait c. 1604
Oil on wood, 42 x 30 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

Carracci made this self portrait aged about 44, five years before his death at the young age of 49.

He was one of the prominent members of the Carracci family who were important figures at the end of the 16th century in the movement against the prevailing Mannerist artificiality of Italian painting.

He, with other members of his family, followed the Tridentine strictures on art.They are now labelled Baroque although Annibale`s style is more eclectic and cannot be categorised so easily as under a single label.

Annibale was by far the greatest artist of the family. He was called to Rome by Cardinal Odoardo Farnese to carry out his masterpiece: the decoration of the Farnese Gallery in the cardinal's family palace and in particular the ceilings of the Farnese Gallery.

Until the 19th century, the Farnese Ceiling was ranked alongside the Sistine Ceiling and Raphael's frescos in the Vatican Stanze as one of the supreme masterpieces of painting. It was enormously influential.

His stock has now risen and he is now recognised again as one of the great Italian artists.

The end of Carracci`s life was not happy. Around 1606, he appears to have been stricken by some kind of depression and gave up painting around this time.

Beijing Faces a Faith Explosion

In God in China; Oasis in a Hotspot Zenit reports on the resurgence of religious faith in Mainland China.

It reports on a new documentary "God in China. The Struggle for Religious Freedom".

"In the case of the Catholic Church, the Catholic Patriotic Association was founded in an attempt to bring Catholic Church teaching in line with Communist party ideals.

"Those who refused to compromise had to remain underground," Schmid said. Throughout the documentary, viewers are made aware of the dangers that still exist. Christians who do not surrender their faith to government directives are in danger of being arrested. Mass is celebrated secretly, and makeshift churches can be torn down by local authorities from one day to the next.

Schmid said that while the underground Church is less vigorously persecuted today, there are still many bishops and priests in prison. In addition to more obvious issues of freedom, the documentary explores more subtle problems, such as making the teachings of the Church accessible to the faithful.

"It's important to understand that joining the Patriotic Association is not a mere formality for Chinese Catholics," Schmid explained.

"The problem is that, under state control, the Church cannot speak up on important issues such as abortion, the one child policy, human rights, and the death penalty -- and for this they must have leaders who do not acquiesce to a mutilated version of the faith, accommodated to the demands of the state." "

One wonders what the Pope will say in his forthcoming letter to Chinese Catholics.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Vasari Corridor

The Vasari Corridor

RAFFAELLO Sanzio (b. 1483, Urbino, d. 1520, Roma)
Self-Portrait 1506
Oil on wood, 45 x 33 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

The Vasari Corridor runs from the Galleria degli Uffizi, over the Ponte Vecchio, and ends at the Palazzo Pitti. Built for the Medici by Giorgio Vasari in 1565, the corridor is rarely open to the general public and requires a special admission. It houses a collection of artists' (mainly self-)portraits ranging in date from the sixteenth to the twentieth century.

The Uffizi collection contains 1,400 self-portraits.

The self-portrait was a booming genre in the Renaissance. Vanity ? Attempt at immortality ? Excessive introspection ? Not enough money to hire a model ?

Reflections on the self portrait can be found in two articles: It's all about me, me, me . . . in The Daily Telegraph and Fabulous faces By Brian Sewell.

The exhibition 'Artists' Self Portraits from the Uffizi' referred to in the articles is at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London SE21 (020 8693 5254), until July 15, 2007.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie ?

The Act and Treaty of Union 1707

One of the problems which has caused concern for Catholics has been the prohibition of the Monarch being a Catholic or even the spouse of the Monarch being Catholic. Offence is caused by the prohibition.

There are many prohibitions in the law regarding this. The statutes are regarded as constitutional statutes and difficult to amend or even repeal without opening up even more difficult questions as regards the constitution.

One of the prohibitions is contained in the Act and Treaty of Union of 1707 which united the Parliaments of Scotland and England to form the UK Parliament. The Act and Treaty of Union celebrates its 300th anniversary this year. Trying to amend the Act and Treaty of Union with an SNP administration in the Scottish Parliament would not be something that a United Kingdom Government would do unless draggged, forced and compelled to do. Too many other issues would be raised which are probably best left alone.

Article II of the Treaty provided that the monarchy was to be Protestant and stated that papists and persons marrying papists were to be “excluded from and for ever incapable to inherit” the Imperial Crown of Great Britain.

The Protestant Religion and Presbyterian Church Act 1706, is incorporated in the Treaty by the ratifying Acts of the old Scottish and English Parliaments , and is stated to be not capable of amendment or repeal.

In The Union and the law by David Walker the former Regius Professor of Law in the University of Glasgow from 1958-1990 explains the difficulties from a legal point of view of trying to amend the Act and Treaty of Union and in particular those clauses dealing with the religion of the Monarch and his/her family.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A Question of Attribution

Giunti, Umberto (1886-1970)
Virgin and Child
Forgery in the manner of Botticelli (Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi)
Tempera on panel (arched top)
Height: painted surface : 78.7 cm ; Width: painted surface : 45.2 cm ; Height: panel : 88.2 cm ; Width: panel : 45.7 cm ; Depth: panel :
Courtauld Institute, London

Deciding what is true and what is false can be difficult. Sorting out the genuine from the phoney is sometimes not easy.

Especially in the world of art. A lot of money may ride on whether a picture is by Botticelli or is simply by a later but less famous artists.

Forensic analysis may only go so far.

Often the question is one of detailed examination (brushstrokes, discovering what the signs may mean in a painting) and forming a judgment fom the facts.

The purpose is to discover the truth. The truth is the only thing that matters.

The process invites comparison with solving a cryptic crossword, cracking a code, solving a who-done-it, and the like.

In From Botticelli to Bletchley Park art critic and writer Robert Cumming draws a parallel between wartime code-making and code-breaking, and attributions in Florentine art.

One question remains unanswered: what is the value of the forged work of art ? Is it totally valueless, or can it be a work of art in its own right ?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Pope Rebukes Blair

On his record, Benedict XVI is a man who does not mince words. Mr Blair has discovered this.

The Times reports that the Pope spoke of the need "for “true” conversions to Catholicism a day after rebuking Tony Blair over the war in Iraq and legislation passed during his years in power on abortion, gay adoption, same-sex marriage and stem-cell research.

The Vatican said that there had been a “frank exchange” on “delicate subjects” during Saturday’s meeting between Benedict XVI and Mr Blair, who is thought to be close to converting to Catholicism. Vatican sources said that the formula used was “the nearest the Vatican comes to referring to a row without using the word”.

Yesterday, as he addressed English-speaking pilgrims in St Peter’s Square, the Pope said: “Today, as the Church celebrates the birth of St John the Baptist, let us ask for the gift of true conversion and growth in holiness, so that our lives will prepare a way for the Lord and hasten the coming of His Kingdom.”

This could be read as a papal reminder of the need for those considering conversion — even a world figure like Mr Blair — to do so away from publicity.

The Pope wished Mr Blair well on his plans to work for Middle East peace and inter-faith dialogue. The two met privately for 25 minutes and then — in an unusual gesture — were joined by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster and head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

The Papal statement also referred to the Pope’s disappointment over Mr Blair’s failure to back the Vatican’s campaign to have a reference to Europe’s Christian roots and values inserted into the EU constitution. "

A Family Portrait

The Dynasty Portrait or The Whitehall Mural

The original by Hans Holbein was destroyed in the fire at Whitehall
This copy was made by Remigius van Leemput for Charles II in 1698 and hangs in Hampton Court Palace

Left to right:
Henry VIII, Henry VII, Elizabeth of York and Jane Seymour

The Triumph of Caesar

Andrea Mantegna (c. 1431 – September 13, 1506)
Caesar on his Chariot, Canvas IX of The Triumph of Caesar

Mantegna completed the nine tempera paintings comprising The Triumph of Caesar around 1492.

These superbly invented and designed compositions are gorgeous with the splendour of their subject-matter, and with the classical learning and enthusiasm of one of the master-spirits of the age.

They are considered Mantegna's finest work.

They were sold in 1628 along with the bulk of the Mantuan art treasures to King Charles I of England.

They are now in Hampton Court Palace, somewhat faded, but many repaintings have been removed in a recent restoration.

They depict the celebratory military parade of Julius Caesar.

The series depicts Caesar on a triumphal chariot returning from his successful campaigns, in a procession of Roman soldiers, standard-bearers, musicians and the spoils of war including an assortment of booty (including arms, intricate sculpture and gold vases), exotic animals and captives.

Each canvas measures 2.66 x 2.78m. In total they cover an area more than 70 metres square.

Even Oliver Cromwell did not sell these paintings.

The canvasses are entitled:

I The Trumpeters
II The Triumphal Carts
III The Trophy Bearers
IV The Vase Bearers
V The Elephants
VI The Corselet Bearers
VII The Captives
VII The Musicians
IX Julius Caesar on his Chariot

The images can be viewed at The Royal Collection website

Saturday, June 23, 2007

St Thomas More

HOLBEIN, Hans the Younger (b. 1497, Augsburg, d. 1543, London)
Sir Thomas More 1527
Tempera on wood, 74,2 x 59 cm
Frick Collection, New York

When this portrait was painted in 1527, More held the office of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He had been knighted in 1521.

Several copies of the painting exist in different collections.

The Curt Jester offers a meditation on the theme of St Thomas More whose feast day was yesterday in St. Thomas More, pray for us

Also well worth reading is Don Marco`s meditation on St John Fisher and St Thomas More here

Tomorrow I get a chance to visit Hampton Court Palace which St Thomas would have known well from his service to King Henry VIII. I just hope I don`t get lost in the Maze.


Father Z offers helpful tips on the new Vatican document on Driving on the Road in Helping you with the new Road Care document… be serious

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Coade stone

John Bacon (November 24, 1740 - August 4, 1799)
Father Thames c. 1769
Coade stone
Ham House, nr Richmond, London

Coade stone was a ceramic material that has been described as an artificial stone.

It was first created by Mrs Eleanor Coade (Elinor Coade, 1733-1821), and sold commercially from 1769 to 1833. The building boom in London, at this time, led to a high demand for ornate features to decorate and adorn brick-built Georgian houses.

Its surface is best described as having a matte finish.

One of the more striking features of Coade is its incredible weathering resistance, and examples of Coade stonework have survived very well; prominent examples listed above have survived without any apparent wear and tear even after 150 years.

Other examples include the pediment of the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich.

Monday, June 18, 2007

British medical group approves human-animal cloning

Catholic World News reports the sad (but perhaps not surprising) news that the British Academy of Medical Sciences endorsed the government's proposed Human Tissue and Embryos Bill, which provides for hybrid cloning.

The medical advisory group also endorsed the legislation's stipulations that the embryos created by the cloning technique must not be implanted in a woman's womb or allowed to live beyond than 14 days.

If those conditions are met, said Martin Bobrow, who chaired the Academy's panel investigating the question, "There are no substantive ethical or moral reasons not to proceed with research on human embryos containing animal material."

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Mother Angelica

Some in Britain and Europe may not have heard of Mother Angelica of EWTN.

Zenit provides an interview with her biographer, Raymond Arroyo,director of EWTNews and host of "The World Over," .

For those who do not know about Mother Angelica, here is a snippet of the interview:

"Q: Mother Angelica is not a stereotypical nun and your biography makes this clear. In what ways do you think her particular feminine genius can inspire others?

Arroyo: Mother is definitely not a stereotypical nun. She appears stereotypical, but beneath the habit is this gutsy, determined woman who wields an incredible faith.

Her feminine genius resides just there I think: in her radical faith, in her abandonment to God's will in the present moment. Additionally, she had an intuition that allowed her to see events as they were and to follow her heart and God, always.

We need that feminine aspect in the Church today. Mother used to say that the faith had become too "heady," too theoretical. And I think she is right.

In the new book she says, "Most people today are seeking master's degrees, then they forget the Master." She never forgot her Master.

Isn't it curious that some of the same people who were the most outspoken advocates of "women's power" in the Church, were the first ones trying to shove Mother Angelica back into the cloister once she appeared on the scene?

The idea of an orthodox, faithful woman leading people to Christ was a threat somehow. It shouldn't have been. Time has shown that it was actually a blessing.

Q: How would you describe Mother Angelica's spirituality?

Arroyo: Mother described her approach as "nitty-gritty," "sock-it-to-'em" spirituality.

Her style was always very practical, and easily applicable to the lives of her listeners. She grew up on the streets of Canton, Ohio, among poor, working class immigrants.

Those are the people she attempted to reach, whether in person or on television. But buried in her funny, earthy approach was always the profound wisdom of the Church.

She used to say, "If you have two legs and you're breathing --you're called to holiness, sweetheart." And people believed her. She didn't teach theology, she taught people to be more like her Spouse.

She held that living example of Jesus up for the world to see and dared all comers to try to match it. The reason she remains relevant is that people can't turn away from her directness, her passion and her lovable humor.

I mean, how many nuns do people know who describe the eternal judgment to intimates this way: "Everyone drags his own carcass to market, so be careful." `

The Temptation of St Anthony

Max Ernst (1891-1976)
The Temptation of St Anthony. 1945.
Oil on canvas. 108 x 128 cm.
Wilhelm-Lehmbruck-Museum, Duisburg, Germany.

Max Ernst never received any formal artistic training. In 1910-1914 he studied philosophy and psychiatry at Bonn University and took a deep interest in painting.

He became a Dadaist and Surrealist. In 1937 Ernst distanced himself from Breton and the Communist group of Surrealists.

While resident in Paris, he was arrested by the Gestapo, after the French occupation by the Nazis but managed to escape and flee to America with the help of Peggy Guggenheim, a sponsor of the arts.

From 1941 to 1953, he lived in the United States then returned to Europe.

The Temptation (or Temptations) of St. Anthony is an often repeated subject in history of art.

Anthony was born in Egypt in the middle of the third century to wealthy parents. They died when he was about twenty. He inherited all their belongings but soon gave them up to lead a life of asceticism. He joined a group in the lower Nile and later moved further into the desert for complete solitude. He found an old fort and shut himself in.

During this time alone Anthony was tempted many times. He resisted by fasting, consciousness altering meditation, going without sleep and by beating himself. People brought him food which they threw over a wall of the fort. Some came to visit but he refused to see them. Other ascetics were so impressed by him that they set up huts nearby. Eventually he came out and appeared quite healthy.

He talked about his experience for a few years, describing the demons and beautiful women offered to him. But he succeeded over the weakness of the flesh with his willful spirituality. He went back to the desert again and moved into a cave on a mountain where he lived until his death. He received visitors who made the trip to see him and learn from him. A monastery was built at the same site.

The theme was first presented in the 10th century at Italian fresco paintings.

About 1500 originated the famous paintings of Martin Schöngauer (ca. 1490), Hieronymus Bosch (ca. 1505) and Mathias Grünewald (ca. 1510).

The Temptation of St. Anthony by Hieronymus Bosch is an oil painting on wood panels. The centre panel measures 131.5 by 119 cm, and the wings measure 131.5 by 53 cm.

The painting currently hangs in the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, in Lisbon

In Bosch`s painting, Symbolism tells the story of Anthony’s mental and spiritual torments throughout.

Bosch was preoccupied with themes of torment and the sinfulness of man, which replaced earlier, more optimistic visions of Christ and the Virgin with feelings of anxiety, fear, and guilt.

Bosch`s painting can be accessed here

Ernst`s painting was painted after the Second World War when the full scale of the horrors perpetrated in the War were made visible due to photography, movie film, newspapers and government revelations.

Ernst's Satan was easy to recognize: he looked like everything that Ernst feared most.

Bosch`s surreal visions derived from his imagination and his religious conviction.

For the painting, Ernst was the $3,000 prizewinner in a "Temptation of St. Anthony" contest. The sponsors of the contest had persuaded twelve Modern Artists to paint what Anthony saw. Ernst's winning picture was used in a movie, Bel Ami or The History of a Scoundrel, starring George Sanders and having nothing to do with Anthony. Runners-up included Belgian Paul Delvaux; Ivan Le Lorraine Albright; and Salvador Dali, for a desert caravan of spider-legged elephants.

For Dali`s picture, see here.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Bishop Elphinstone

William Elphinstone (1431 - October 25, 1514), Scottish statesman, Bishop of Aberdeen and founder of the University of Aberdeen.

The papal bull for the University was obtained in 1494, and the royal charter which made Aberdeen the seat of a university is dated 1498. A small endowment was provided by the king, and the university, modelled on that of Paris and intended principally as a school of law.

Hector Boece, (or Hector Boyce) (1465-1536) was the first rector.

In 1497, the University established the first chair of medicine in the English-speaking world.

For more about the Catholic Church in Scotland see Ancient Catholic homes of Scotland (1907) by Odo Blundell

Friday, June 15, 2007

Andrea della Robbia

Della Robbia, Andrea 1435-1528
Virgin adoring the Child, with God the Father and angels
Circa 1480-1490
Glazed terracotta
Height : 66 cm ; Width : 45.7
Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery, London

The Sacred Heart

GIAQUINTO, Corrado (b. 1703, Molfetta, d. 1766, Napoli)
St Margaret Mary Alacoque Contemplating the Sacred Heart of Jesus c. 1765
Oil on canvas, 171 x 123 cm
Private collection

Both Vultus Christi and Tea at Trianon have beautiful posts on the Sacred Heart.

Emile Mâle on the Death of Medieval Art

Daniel Mitsui is posting excerpts from the third volume of Mâle's Religious Art in France: the Late Middle Ages , translated by Marthiel Matthews. Princeton University Press, 1986.

The excerpts explain the death of mediaeval iconography in the Western Church.

"They contain some of the most important insights ever written by a Catholic art historian. "

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Nuns drink beer for humanity

Catholic News reports that Spanish sisters who drank beer for 45 days straight as part of a medical research project are part of a growing trend to study nuns whose unique healthy, celibate lifestyle makes them ideal for such purposes.

"In a study recently conducted by the Centre for Information on Beer and Health in Spain, 50 nuns drank a half-litre of beer every day for 45 days. Six months later they took 400 milligrams of hops, reported Reuters.

The study found that cholesterol rates fell by 6 percent in those sisters with high levels.

"We did it for the good of humanity," Sr Almerinda Alvarez told the newspaper El Pais."

Another reason to be a religious!

A Nineteenth Century German in Rome

SCHNORR VON CAROLSFELD, Julius (b. 1794, Leipzig, d. 1872, Dresden)
Madonna and Child 1820
Oil on canvas, 74 x 62 cm
Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne

The experience of Italy was decisive for many German landscape and figurative artists of the nineteenth century.

Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld was an admirer of Dürer and the early Italian Renaissance. Indeed he moved to Rome to live there.

Pope Leo XIII

Further to yesterday`s post, here are some photographs/pictures of Leo XIII. I don`t think I have seen some of these on the net before.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Saint Pope Pius X and Pope Leo XIII

There is a lot of rubbish on the Internet. But also a lot of good gems.

The Internet Archive is one such site.

One of the books found there is one written shortly after the election of Pope Pius X. The huge title is Life of His Holiness Pope Pius X : together with a sketch of the life of his venerable predecessor, his Holiness Pope Leo XIII, also a history of the conclave, giving a full account of the rites and ceremonies connected with the election of a successor to the see of St. Peter (1904) by Schmidlin, Joseph

It can be accessed at

There are countless photographs. The following relate to Pope Pius X.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Young Christian Martyr

DELAROCHE, Paul (b. 1797, Paris, d. 1859, Paris)
Young Christian Martyr 1855
Oil on canvas, 171 x 148 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Delaroche`s wife, Louise Vernet, died in 1845.

In this picture, her features float on the dark waters of the Tiber, lit by the halo of sainthood.

For a while his pictures were totally out of favour, but his work is once again being treated seriously.

Christ Taking Leave of his Mother

ENGEBRECHTSZ., Cornelis (b. 1468, Leiden, d. 1533, Leiden)
Christ Taking Leave of his Mother c. 1515
Oil on panel, 55 x 43 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The events depicted in the panel are not found in the Bible but in the popular late-medieval Meditationes vitae Christi.

Before the Passover, Christ takes leave of his mother, immediately before he and his disciples set off for Jerusalem. Movingly he embraces the kneeling Virgin amidst the sorrowful Marys and the apostles. Some of the disciples are descending into the valley on the right, with the city gate and walls of Jerusalem in the distance.

Pilgrim in a Rocky Valley

CARUS, Carl Gustav (b. 1789, Leipzig, d. 1869, Dresden)
Pilgrim in a Rocky Valley c. 1820
Oil on canvas, 28 x 22 cm
Nationalgalerie, Berlin

Carus was an artist, a doctor, a naturalist, a scientist and a psychologist.

In his spare time he also wrote on art theory that made him a leading scholar of his period.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Cross in the Mountains

FRIEDRICH, Caspar David
(b. 1774, Greifswald, d. 1840, Dresden)
Cross in the Mountains (Tetschen Altar) 1808
Oil on canvas, 115 x 110 cm
Gemäldegalerie, Dresden

The artist designed the frame himself - a Gothic arch with the eye of God and the wheat and vine of the Eucharist.

The frame was executed by the sculptor, Gottlieb Christian Kühn

The theme: Nature and Religion - very much within the Romantic tradition.

On many large hills and mountains in Italy it was the tradition and, to an extent still is, for crucifixes to be erected on the tops of hills where they can be seen far and wide.

I understand that it was the tradition in other Catholic European countries too.

Symbols of the Virgin Mary

BRAY, Dirck de (active 1651-1678 in Haarlem)
Still-Life with Symbols of the Virgin Mary 1672
Oil on panel, 37 x 31 cm
Amstelkring Museum, Amsterdam

The symbols represent the Virgin Mary: the rose, rosary and rosemary (whose name derives from the Virgin), the thurible and the crown.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The 1932 Congress

Dublin 1932

The Irish Independent reported that on 7th June 2007, the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin led a Corpus Christi procession in the grounds of Clonliffe College to recall the glory days of the Eucharistic Congress held in Dublin 75 years ago.

"Slide shows around the grounds portrayed images of the congress in 1932, which was a popular highpoint for the prestige of the Catholic Church in an era when it wielded massive social influence.

The climax of the week-long congress saw one million people attend a Mass in Dublin's Phoenix Park which heard tenor John McCormack's rendition of Panis Angelicus.

This event, which was attended by the Papal Legate, Cardinal Lorenzo Lauri, put Dublin at the centre of the Catholic world. It is seen by historians as a moment which symbolised the bonding of Catholicism and Irish nationalism.

The first Fianna Fail Government led by Eamon de Valera, which came to power only months before the event, had arranged for Pope Pius XI to transmit a radio message from his apartment in the Vatican to the Irish people.

Dr Martin began the practice of holding a Eucharistic procession in the Clonliffe grounds on the Corpus Christi day two years ago during the 'Year of the Eucharist'.

Some of the attendees of the Conference of 1908

His Eminence Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore

His Eminence Cardinal Sancha y Hervas, Archbishop of Toledo

His Eminence Cardinal Logue, Archbishop of Armagh

His Eminence Cardinal Ferrari, Archbishop of Milan

His Eminence Cardinal Mercier, Archbishop of Mechlin

The Host of the Congress 1908

The Most Rev. Francis Bourne, Archbishop of Westminster

Papal Legate at the Conference

His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Vannutelli, Bishop of Palestrina, Papal Legate to the Eucharistic Congress

The Nineteenth International Eucharisitic Congress 1908 (London)

The papers of the Congress are a fascinating read. (see post below)

One often thinks of the reign of St Pope Pius X as a time of the struggle against Modernism. One thinks that theologians were fearful of saying anything out of place. Yet the quality of the papers is high. Many of the papers are in French reflecting the contributions of many French theologians to the Conference.

In the papers are photographs of some of the distinguished "great and the good" of the Catholic Church of the time who attended the Congress. I suppose that they are wearing the Court dress which they wore in the procession of the Saturday. It must have still been a splendid and colourful procession.

Unfortunately I`m in Richmond and I`m not at my own pc and cannot upload pics but well worth having a look.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

2008: A Centenary of a Eucharistic Procession

International Eucharistic Congress: London 1908

Next year marks the centenary of a Eucharistic procession which was banned and which led to the resignations of two Cabinet ministers in the United Kngdom.

The occasion was the International Eucharistic Congress which was held in London from 9th to 13th September 1908 at the invitation of the Archbishop of Westminster, Archbishop Bourne.

It was the first Engllish speaking International Congress of the Eucharist in an English speaking country. More importantly, it was the first time that a legate of the Pope (Cardinal Vincent Vannutelli) had been in England since the Reformation. At that time, London was the centre of a huge Empire and the holding of such an event in such a location was obviously important.

At the time it was regarded as the greatest religious triumph of its generation. More than three hundred and fifty years had elapsed since a legate from the pope had been seen in England. With him were six other cardinals, fourteen archbishops, seventy bishops and a host of priests. No such gathering of ecclesiastics had ever been seen outside of Rome in modern times, and English Catholics prepared to make it locally even more memorable

Amongst the Cardinals who attended were: Cardinal Vincenzo Vannutelli, Bishop of Palestrina.,Cardinal James Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore., Cardinal Michael Logue, Archbishop of Armagh., Cardinal Cyriaco Maria Sancha y Hervas, Archbishop of Toledo and Patriarch of the W. Indies., Cardinal Andrea Ferrari, Archbishop of Milan.,Cardinal Francois Mathieu, in the Roman Curia, formerly Archbishop of Toulouse.(who died in England shortly after the Congress) and Cardinal Desire Mercier, Archbishop of Mechlin.

Amonngst those who also attended was a 32 year old priest from Rome, Father Eugenio Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII).

A full report of the proceedings of the Congress and the dispute over the Eucharistic procession can be found in the Report of the nineteenth Eucharistic Congress : held at Westminster from 9th to 13th September, 1908 (1909)

The Congress had been long in the planning. Archbishop Bourne had been in contact about the arrangements with the Home Secretary Herbert Gladstone (son of Wiliiam Ewart Gladstone) and the Chief of the Metropolitan Police. Neither the Home Office nor the Police had raised any objections to the Eucharistic procession at the end of the Congress. This was to be a procession through some of the streets near Westminster Cathedral.

Suddenly, like all crises, it came from nowhere and without warning.

A group of Ultra Protestants raised a furore over the Congress and in particular the procession. They claimed that the procession was illegal and unconstitutional. They cited the sixteenth clause of the Roman Catholic Relief Act (10 George IV, c. 7). ( 13 April 1829):

"And be it further Enacted, That if any Roman Catholic Ecclesiastic, or any member of any of the orders, communities or societies hereinafter mentioned, shall, after the commencement of this Act, exercise any of the rites or ceremonies of the Roman Catholic religion, or wear the habits of his order, save within the usual places of worship of the Roman Catholic religion, or in private houses; such ecclesiastic or other person shall, being thereof convicted by due course of law, forfeit for every such offence the sum of Fifty pounds."

They claimed that the procession was a rite or ceremony.

It was a doubtful legal argument but it caused the Home Secretary to reconsider his originally benign position.

The police were of the view that there was no threat to public order even if there had been counter demonstations by the ultra Protestants.

It caused difficulties for one other Cabinet Minister: George Robinson, 1st Marquess of Ripon. He had served in every Liberal cabinet from 1861 until his death forty-eight years later. At the time he was Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords. He was also a devout Catholic. He was on the organising committee of the Congress.

The new Prime Minister Herbert Asquith had only taken up the office of Prime Minister in April 1908 after the death of Campbell-Bannerman.

At the last minute, due to political pressures and in particular a forthcoming bye-election, the Government decided to try to ban the Eucharistic procession. At first Asquith tried to use the Marquess of Ripon as a quiet channel to Bourne so that Bourne would call off the procession.

Bourne dug in his heels.

He insisted on a formal requirement from the Government that there should be no Eucharistic procession and that the correspondence should be publicised.

The letter from Asquith arrived. Bourne acted with dignity and complied.

However, the procession without the Blessed Sacrament went ahead. All the clerics wore Court dress (some draping their habits over their arms). The legate, attended by a guard of honour headed by the Duke of Norfolk, Earl Marshal of England, and made up of eleven English noblemen and the Duke of Orléans and the Comte d'Eu and some members of the French Chamber of Deputies, after passing over the route, gave solemn benediction from the balcony of the cathedral to the multitude below.

Cardinal Vannutelli said to the Cardinal Secretary of State: "The Congress concluded with a great triumph today when the procession passed through the streets of London packed with crowds raising continuous cheers for the cardinal legate and the other cardinals and prelates. The Sacred Host was not carried in the procession, but I gave a final benediction with the Sacrament to the crowd from three open balconies on the façade of the cathedral. Members of the House of Lords formed an escort of honour for me. Perfect order was kept."

The law was satisfied.

But the political effects went on after the Congress.

Asquith moved Gladstone out of the Cabinet.

Ripon resigned his seat in the Cabinet owing to the opposition offered to the Eucharistic Procession. Of his enforced absence from that Procession at the Eucharistic Congress he said that he had missed one of the opportunities of his life.

Reaction was critical of the Government and of its handling of the case.

On 14th September 1908, The Daily Telegraph wrote:

"It is impossible to write in terms other than those of the strongest condemnation of the conduct of the Government with respect to yesterday s Procession of the Blessed Sacrament, which was to have brought to a conclusion the proceedings of the Eucharistic Congress.

They have once more displayed their characteristic weakness and irresolution, their susceptibility to pressure, and their readiness to make concessions to the clamour of a few extremists. The result is that they will bring down upon themselves a storm of obloquy and indignation, and excite animosities which need never have been stirred out of quiescence.

London learnt with the greatest surprise yesterday morning that the Government had intervened at the eleventh hour, and placed irresistible compulsion upon the Archbishop of Westminster to change entirely the character of the procession. A procession, it is true, did take place, and without the semblance of public disorder, but it was not the solemn, stately, and magnificent Procession of the Blessed Sacrament, to which the Roman Catholics of this country had looked forward with fervour and enthusiasm as the culminating triumph of a memorable Congress.

The ecclesiastical authorities are to be congratulated upon the calmness and dignity with which they bore a disappointment that must have been exceedingly bitter, and upon the success with which they communicated their own well-disciplined self restraint to the followers who look to them for guidance. Had there been any rioting or breach of the peace in Westminster yesterday, the responsibility would have rested wholly upon the shoulders of His Majesty s Government, whose conduct throughout this lamentable business has been inexcusably weak and inconceivably foolish. The proper course for them to have taken was to make up their minds whether they meant to allow the procession to be carried out, and having once made up their minds, to abide by the decision, whatever might be said on one side or the other.

The improper and unpardonable course was first to give assent and then withdraw it a few hours before the procession was due to take place, after arrangements had been concluded which involved the inconvenience and the disappointment of thousands of persons dwelling in all parts of the land.

The Government must have known or they ought to have known that the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament is the supreme function of the Eucharistic Congress, the great act of public homage and loyalty which stirs most deeply the heart of every Roman Catholic. Therefore, when the consent of the authorities was first asked, the whole circumstances ought to have been taken into consideration.

It is clear from the official correspondence which we publish this morning that Archbishop Bourne and his coadjutors were given to understand by the Commissioner of Police that, so far as he was concerned, there was not the slightest objection to the procession taking place. No fear on the head of public danger was entertained at Scotland Yard. The police had not the faintest doubt of their power to preserve perfect order;nor did they expect any contingency to arise in the shape of organised opposition.Are we to suppose that the Commissioner gave this authorisation without consulting the Home Office,for he must have known that certain leading features of the procession were, on the face of it, technically illegal? But even if he did, the Home Secretary s responsibility is not lessened, for he let matters drift on, and gave no sign of objection.

The assumption, therefore, is that Mr Herbert Gladstone weighed the matter in his own mind, and decided that, whether technically illegal or not, there was sufficient religious tolerance in the atmosphere of London in 1908 to warrant his treating one clause of the Catholic Relief Act of 1828 as obsolete, or, at any rate, as obsolescent. London, he might reasonably have argued, is neither Belfast nor Madrid, and Protestants are sane enough and strong enough and calm enough to be able to endure without a tremor the quiet passing of a solemn procession of Roman Catholics through a few back streets in the immediate neighbourhood of their Cathedral.

That was the generous view to take ; and who will seriously deny that it was the enlightened view? If the Mohammedans and Hindoos of the same city have been forced to tolerate each other s processions, was it too much to expect Christians to do the like especially on the very day of the whole year when the Christian Church is invited to pray for unity and consider the blessings of reunion ? Of course, if the Home Secretary had been of opinion that the religious atmosphere of London was so highly charged with passion and prejudice that it would not be safe, in the interests of public order, for the procession to take place, then his course was equally clear. He had only to draw the attention of the organisers of the Eucharistic Congress to the plain prohibition of the Act of 1828 and decide that the letter of the law must not be infringed. Had that been done at first the Roman Catholic authorities would doubtless have been deeply disappointed, but the decision would not have generated bad blood, a result which now seems inevitable.

The great mass of moderate public opinion would, we believe, have accepted either ruling with general complacence. But, instead of this, the Government have done the worst possible thing in the worst possible way. The Home Secretary allowed all the arrangements for the procession to be brought to completion. And then he and his chief got frightened, and yielded to the clamour of a small section of extreme Protestant opinion. These protests have come from organisations which draw no support whatever from the great mass of educated Englishmen, who are just as true as their fathers were before them to the abiding principles of Protestantism, though they now express themselves in ways more consonant with the enlightened spirit of the age.

We cannot conceive anything more paltry and feeble than the Home Secretary s letter, dated September 10. Anyone reading it would conclude that Mr Gladstone only began to realise on Thursday the true character of the procession, and that it was the excitation of public feeling which had brought his dormant scruples into life. Yet, even so, he contented himself with the "strong hope" that the Archbishop would take every care to secure conformity with the law of the land.

From that letter no one would imagine that the Commissioner of Police had already sanctioned the procession, or that there was any avenue of communication between the Home Office and Scotland Yard. Nor was the Prime Minister s intervention better conceived than that of the Home Secretary. He began by sending a private letter "deprecating the procession". In other words, he endeavoured to induce the ecclesiastical authorities to act as though it were they, and not the Government, who had changed their minds, and to alter the fundamental significance of the procession as though it were they, and not the Government, who were quailing before the manifestoes of the Protestant Alliance.

In that case the Government would have been able to save their face, and the angry disappointment of Roman Catholics might have been diverted from themselves to the timid surrender of their own hierarchy. Naturally, the Archbishop and his advisers resolutely refused to walk blindly into so obvious a trap, and insisted that the Government should shoulder the responsibility which Mr Asquith was anxious to evade. Archbishop Bourne replied, that if the ceremonial had to be abandoned, the Prime Minister must publicly declare that it was abandoned at his request, and Mr Asquith was then compelled to commit himself to the statement that "His Majesty s Government are of opinion that it would be better in the interests of order and good feeling that the proposed ceremonial, the legality of which is open to question, should not take place"

Such an expression of opinion on the part of the Prime Minister was tantamount to a command; and the tone of the speech at the Albert Hall in which the Archbishop announced his decision did him infinite credit. The procession, shorn of its most striking features, was held yesterday afternoon in the presence of vast and perfectly orderly crowds, probably greater than have ever been concentrated into a small space of London.

To devout Catholics it was robbed of most of its religious significance by the absence of the Blessed Sacrament, and the incident is certain to leave behind it a strong sense of irritation and resentment. It is easier to bear injustice than stupidity, and everyone must feel that this affair has been stupidly and needlessly mishandled. It deals a heavy blow at the sacred cause of complete religious toleration. Every complimentary phrase recently uttered by the Pope, by the Papal Legate, and by the high ecclesiastical dignitaries from abroad now visiting England, about the large-mindedness of Englishmen, and the glorious liberty of thought and action which prevail here, is turned to irony by this blunder of the Government. The pleasant words will be retracted, and the foreign visitors to the Congress will quit these shores smarting under a sense of insult.

And for the sake of what? Assuredly not for the sake of Protestantism. We refuse to believe that that noble cause, which is dear to the heart of the great majority of English men and women, has been served by a lamentable fiasco, which they will look back upon with annoyance, not unmixed with shame. Only those who rejoice in the prolongation of religious strife can possibly find pleasure in the action of the Government, and that is why it will be unhesitatingly condemned by all who care for the peace of the realm and the peace of the Church."

The effects carried on. In 1910, Asquith`s Government introduced the Accession Declaration Act 1910. It altered the oath of the Monarch on accession as the old oath was felt to be too overtly anti-Catholic.

Gradually, the few disabilities remaining after the RomanCatholic Emancipation Act of 1829 were gradually removed in the process of statute law revision. Almost no restrictions now remain (except for obvious reasons e.g.ecclesiastical appointments) other than the succession to the throne.

Further references:

Report of the nineteenth Eucharistic Congress : held at Westminster from 9th to 13th September, 1908 (1909)

The Eucharistic Procession of 1908: The Dilemma of the Liberal Government by Carol A. Devlin
Church History, Vol. 63, No. 3 (Sep., 1994), pp. 407-425

George Robinson, 1st Marquess of Ripon

Florence: June 23, 1754

ZOCCHI, Giuseppe
(b. ca. 1717, Firenze, d. 1767, Firenze)
Florence Cathedral 1754

It depicts the Procession of Corpus Domini on June 23, 1754. in Florence.

Eucharistic Processions

The Corpus Domini procession
Miniature from one of the liturgical codices of Santa Maria del Fiore (15th century).
Fondi edili, Laurentian Library, Florence

Eucharistic processions, often called “Corpus Christi” processions, have a long history.

The practice was heavily criticised by the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, and reformers with different beliefs about the Eucharist soon ended the celebrations in much of northern Europe.

Catholics, however, continued them with renewed zeal, and towns often competed to have the most elaborate or well-attended processions on the holy day of Corpus Christi.

Nowadays these processions pass without adverse comment.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


DÍAZ, Diego Valentín (b. 1586, Valladolid, d. 1680, Valladolid)
Vase of Flowers c. 1650
Oil on canvas, 48 x 39 cm
Museo Diocesano y Catedralicio, Valladolid

In the 17th century, many Spanish paintings of flowers were hung in churches and other religious institutions.

They were substitutes for the real things.

Nowadays in churches we rely on the real thing. Flowers, like everything else, are mass-produced and mass-transited.

Flower arranging is, of course, an art in itself. Perhaps we should be more appreciative of those who do the floral decoration in churches. It is only at weddings and funerals, perhaps, that the flower arranging is only noticed and seen as the hard work and effort that it is.

The first recorded Infiorata ?

For possibly the first recorded infiorata at Corpus Christi before Pope Pius II, see The Celebration and Procession on the Feast of Corpus Christi, 17th June 1462.


Genzano near Rome

Genzano near Rome

Abbey of Chiaravalle della Colomba, near Piacenza

Associated with the processions of Corpus Christi are the infiorate: magnificent carpets of flowers.

In Italy, they are a collective work of the people in a town or village. They have to be. They are way beyond the ability of one person working alone.

In Genzano, a small town 30 km southeast of Rome there is a marvellous flower mat, 250 metres long, consisting of about 50.000 Kg of flowers, from the church of Santa Maria della Cima to the main square.

The medieval village of Spello in Umbria is another town with a beautiful display of flower carpets.

More pictures of the infiorata at Spello are available at Paradox place.

There are hundreds of towns in Italy which have Corpus Christi processions with associated infioratas. One which Flaubert admired was in the town of Toro in Molisse.

There is a good article by Helen Donegan on the origins of the Infiorata in Italy and its development.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Raphael: The Mass at Bolsena

Raphael. (1483-1520)
The Mass at Bolsena. 1512.
Fresco, width at the base 660 cm
Vaticano, Stanza di Eliodoro,
Vatican City

Pope Julius II

The Swiss Guard

Raphael, or Raphael of Urbino, was born in Urbino on Good Friday 6 April 1483. He would have been familiar with the story and devotion attached to the Miracle of Bolsena.

By the autumn of 1508, he was in Rome and was entrusted by Pope Julius II (1443-1513, pope from 1503 - 1513) with the decoration of the Stanze, the new papal apartment in the Vatican Palace, an enormous commission for the 26-year-old artist.

The second room in the Vatican apartments which Raphael worked on was the Stanza di Eliodora, named after the main fresco The Expulsion of Heliodorus (c.1512), on which Raphael worked from September 1511 and June 1514. It was meant to be the public audience chamber. Accordingly the frecoes in the room are public symbols that rhetorically address a beholder so to persuade him to accept as true the papacy's desired self-image of its own historical mission

The general theme of the room is that of God's intervention in human destiny. The room's programme is political and aims at documenting, in different historical moments from the Old Testament to medieval history, the miraculous protection bestowed by God on the Church.

The fresco shows a massive crowd of people swept away by spiritual inspiration. Faith had been threatened. At the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, the doctrine of transubstantiation was made a formal church teaching. This took place during the reign of Pope Innocent III. The Mass of Bolsena depicts an episode that took place in 1263. Urban´ IV`s idea of creating a feast entirely dedicated to the devotion of the Eucharist was cemented by the Miracle.

The priest, Peter of Prague, the protagonist of the event, is at the centre of the composition. The Pope is kneeling on the right hand side.

On 7 September 1506 Julius had stopped at the cathedral at Orvieto to see the relic of the cloth that was used to wipe the blood from the Eucharist, and thereby to demonstrate his personal connection with the miracle.

This miracle had a special meaning for Julius as he thought there was a link between it and his victory at Bologna. This fresco contains another political allusion: the liberation of the Church from its French and German enemies.

Julius II had convened the fifth Lateran Council. The fresco also celebrates the formation of the Lateran Council in May 1512, in response to the Council of Pisa which was seeking to depose him.

The fresco emphasises Julius' devotion to the Eucharist.

Pope Julius appears at the right of the scene, kneeling before the Eucharist. He is a symbol of ecclesiastical authority's presence during, and approval of, the miracle. The Pope's attendants stand one step below and behind him. They are cardinals Leonardo Grosso della Rovere and Raffaello Riario, Tommaso Riario and Agostino Spinola, his relatives and the chair bearers of the group. The papal Swiss guard representatives are on the bottom right.

Felice della Rovere (?1483-1536), the illegitimate daughter of Pope Julius II is the young lady dressed in black. As a cardinal, Julius II fathered three illegitimate daughters, Felice, Clarissa, and Giulia. From the marriage of the Pope's only brother, Giovanni, to the daughter and heiress of Duke Federigo of Montefeltro descended the dukes of Urbino. He made four members of the Della Rovere family cardinals.

In many ways, the fresco is a "political" and personal biography of the Pope.

Note the balancing of the solitary figure of the pope against the compact group of seven figures--a group that has to be carried up above the curved screen in order to counteract the importance given to Julius by his isolation and by the greater mass of his supporting group below.

The bleeding Host, the necessary centre of interest, is situated on a straight line drawn diagonally from the keystone of the arch to the centre of the window head, and almost exactly half-way between these two points, while the great curve of the screen leads to it from either side.