Sunday, November 30, 2008

7 Days

I shall be in Italy and unable to post to the blog for approximately seven days.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mary Queen of Scots

Watercolour by Mary Queen of Scots of herself
(MS 316, f.18).
Lambeth Palace Library, London

Letter from the Privy Council to Henry Grey, Earl of Kent, ordering the execution to be carried out, dated 3 February 1587. Signed by William Cecil (Lord Burghley), Robert Dudley (Earl of Leicester), Sir Francis Walsingham, Sir Christopher Hatton and other members of the Council.
(MS 4267, ff.19-20).
Lambeth Palace Library, London

Copy of the execution warrant, dated 1 February 1587, with annotations by Robert Beale, clerk of the Privy Council. This copy was conveyed by Beale to Henry Grey, 6th Earl of Kent, one of the principal Commissioners for the Queen's trial and execution
Lambeth Palace Library, London

Lambeth Palace Library is the historic library of the Archbishops of Canterbury and the principal library and record office for the history of the Church of England.

It holds amongst others, the papers of the earls of Shrewsbury from the 15th century to the death of Gilbert Talbot, 7th earl, in 1616. The earls were influential figures, both locally and nationally, as lord lieutenants and privy councillors.

Most importantly, George, the 6th earl, was for many years custodian of Mary Queen of Scots during her captivity in England. The collection contains hundreds of letters relating to her enforced residence, including details of her household, the costs of maintenance (frequently in arrears), the danger of her escape, plans for surveillance, and relations with Elizabeth

The website of the Library has a section on its papers relating to Mary, Queen of Scots.

Amongst the papers are the originals of the three images above.

There is an account (MS 4267, ff.21-32) of the trial and execution of Mary from the papers of Henry Grey, Earl of Kent.

‘… then laye shee downe verye quietlye stretchinge out her bodye, & layinge her necke over the blocke, cryed, In manus tuas domine, &c. One of the executioners held downe her hande[s], the other did w[i]th 2 strokes of an axe cut of her head, w[hi]che (falling of her attire) appeared verye graye & near powled [bald] … the blooddye cloathes, the blocke, & what soever els bluddye was burned, in the chimneye fyer …’ (MS 4267, f.28v)

There is also the Earl of Kent’s retained copy of his letter in February 1587 to Queen Elizabeth following his censure for the execution. He protests that the Commissioners for the execution did ‘nothing but according to your Majesties Commission’. (MS 4267, ff.33-34 )

There is also a copy of a speech made in the Star Chamber on 28 May 1587 attacking William Davison, Elizabeth I’s Secretary, for revealing Mary’s death warrant to the Council ‘of his owne head without the privitye or consente of her majesty and contrarye to her commandment …’ (MS 250, f.169) Davison was imprisoned in the Tower by Elizabeth on this account, but later released unharmed.

The Cardinal and The Baptism of Christ

Piero della Francesca (ca.1422-1492)
Baptism of Christ
Tempera on panel, 167 x 116 cm
National Gallery, London

The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, says that The Baptism of Christ, painted in the 1440s by Piero della Francesca, should be displayed in a religious setting such as Westminster Cathedral.

In a lecture as part of the Royal Fine Art Commission Trust’s Roots of Faith lecture series supported by Sky Arts, at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, the Cardinal said:

“I would like to see this painting taken down from the walls of the National Gallery and placed in a Catholic church in London because it is a mistake to treat it as a work of art: it is a work of faith and piety, an expression of the Church’s life and a way into prayer.”

Originally it was painted for the chapel of Saint John the Baptist in the Camaldolese abbey (now cathedral) of Piero's native town, Borgo Sansepolcro. The town, visible in the distance to the left of Christ, may be Borgo Sansepolcro.

It is painted on poplar and is so delicate that it is never lent out. It must be kept in very controlled conditions otherwise it will be destroyed.

The costs of maintenance and security would be astronomic.

At the moment it is kept in precisely those conditions which allow many people access to this great work of art. To admire it and perhaps to be inspired by it.

One wonders how many people would be able to see it as now if it was retained at some distance on an altar.

One of the commenters on the articles does have a point: the Vatican with its countless works does not exatly display its treasures to best effect. The last time I was in St Peters, it was impossible to see Michelangelo`s Pieta as there was a a huge crowd shoving and jostling to glimpse the work situated far behind the security glass panel.

One wonders if the effect which the Cardinal requests could be obtained by a copy or reproduction of the masterpiece on an altar ?

For one person`s view on the controversy, see Rachel Campbell-Johnston: in The Times The Cardinal does make an important point, however. Should a great work of religious art simply be displayed on a blank wall in a room amongst other works of art, secular and otherwise ? Does it detract and undermine the work ?

Some museums are taking this on board and sometimes do exhibit important works of art in a special setting. For many years, for instance, the National Gallery in London used to exhibit Leonardo`s cartoon of Mary the Virgin, St Anne, St John the Baptist and Christ in a special area which was almost prayerful. However that was before a deranged person decided to attempt to destroy the work and almost succeeded.

The British Museum does exhibit some the Elgin and Grecian marbles in special rooms and attempts to allow the viewer to relive the experience of seeing the friezes on a Greek temple or building. The effect is quite profound.

One does wonder if the National Gallery could convert one or some of its rooms into recreation of ancient churches and hang such works of religious art there.

The Cardinal is correct. Religious art is a distinct branch of art. It has always been different from secular art. To ignore the religious aspect of religious art is to detract from the artist and his work.

However even the recreation of ancient churches in a public building with areas set aside for Christian prayer may not be acceptable to some people who are of the view that there should be a strict separation of Church and State.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Blessed Christine of Spoleto (1435-1458)

From the scientific report on the body of Blessed Christine of Spoleto

According to The Westcoast Augustinians:

" Blessed Christine, a woman of undaunted valor, provides a shining example of conversion.

Agostina Camozzi, who was born about the year 1435, was the daughter of a well-known doctor of Ostenso, a small village in the Italian province of Como. At a very young age she married a local stonecutter, contrary to the wishes of her family, but was left a widow within a short time. She later became the mistress of a soldier and bore him a son, who died at a young age. A subsequent marriage to a farmer from Mantua also ended tragically when he met his death at the hands of a jealous rival.

At this point Agostina set about to reform her way of life. She became a member of the Augustinian Third Order, and changed her name to Christine, and moved to Verona. Her resolve now was to imitate Christ who alone, she believed, could bring comfort to her troubled spirit.

Her life of penance took many forms, and her prayers and works of mercy increased daily. As an Augustinian tertiary she lived in various monasteries, leaving one after another when the sisters, perceiving her holiness, began to treat her with special reverence. Thus she wandered from one community to another until she finally settled in Spoleto, where she dedicated herself to the care of the sick. In 1457 she planned a pilgrimage of reparation to Assisi, Rome, and the Holy Land, but she never got beyond Spoleto, for there on 13 February in 1458 she died, at the age of twenty-two.

After her death many miracles were attributed to her intercession, and Christine's reputation for great holiness and granting of favors spread rapidly. Her remains, originally kept in the Augustinian church of Saint Nicholas in Spoleto, are now preserved in the church of St. Gregory the Great. In 1834 Pope Gregory XVI officially confirmed her long-standing cult.

Blessed Christine's feast in celebrated by the Augustinian Family on 13 February."

The 11th-century Romanesque church of San Gregorio Maggiore in Spoleto replaced an earlier oratory in a cemetery of Christian martyrs. Remains from the 700s AD are incorporated into the present structure.

A 1950s restoration carefully returned the interior to its medieval state, removing most Baroque additions to reveal the Romanesque architecture and large patches of 14th-century frescoes by local artists.

San Gregorio Maggiore (Built 1069-1146), Romanesque, Spoleto, Umbria,

In 1999, the body of the Blessed christine was subjected to scientific examination. The report in English by the scientific team which carried out the investigation is interesting.

It would appear that after death the body was subjected to an artificial process of embalming. It is one of the first examples of artificial embalming in Western Europe, carried out by surgical methods. It discusses the practice in medieval times in Umbria and Tuscany of embalming and preserving the bodies of saints or those reputed to be saints.

It would appear that the bone structure of Blessed christine reveals an individual of small skeletal constitution, and the deep folds of the skin witness a condition of severe obesity. All the teeth are present, but show evident lines of enamel hypoplasia, due to episodes of stress during childhood.

The report goes on:

"In this respect, the following distinguishing elements should be underlined: 1)geographical area of diffusion which includes Umbria and Tuscany; 2) urban characterization of the phenomenon; 3) social and religious ambience: the mendicant orders and in particular the third orders, formed by laymen; 4) prevalent female dimension of the phenomenon.

We can try to explain historically these characteristic elements that in part are closely related. Why were the charismatic personalities of religious figures, already considered “saints” at the moment of death, preserved with interventions of evisceration and stripping of flesh? There could be no doubts about the preservation of these bodies: in fact the preserved body became a tangible witness of the presence of the saint for protection of the town community. It was not by chance that this phenomenon occurred in central Italy, between Umbria and Tuscany, where municipal civilization developed and where in any case a strong sense of municipal independence was strongly radicated. Possession of a saint’s body, which could be identified in its features, was a reason of pride, political symbol proper,and in this respect it is important that the funerals of the Blessed Cristina were celebrated at the expense of the Municipality of Spoleto.

However, the intervention of the municipal public authority can also be found in other well documented cases, as in the funerally and embalming processes of Saint Margherita from Cortona and of Blessed Margherita from Città di Castello.In this second case we even know the names of surgeons told by “rectores Civitatis Castelli”: magister Vitale da Castello and magister Manno da Gubbio (Analecta Bollandiana, 19).

The penitential movements which developed in the Italian society of the Late Middle Ages under the influence of Franciscan and Dominican rule brought new mystic and religious ferment and between the 13th and 15th centuries produced new figures of saints, often belonging to the Third Order circles, laymen operating among the people.

The women in these orders are numerous, becoming more and more visible and popular. The corporeal dimension, owing to the physical involvement of mystical union, now gains more importance than in the past,and justifies the new attention to preservation of corpses which leads to direct invasiveness on the holy body."

Saint James of the Marches

Francisco de Zurbarán (November 7, 1598 – August 27, 1664)
Saint James of the Marches (1391-1476)/ San Giacomo della Marca (1391-1476) 1658-9
Oil on canvas, 291 x 165 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

Saint James of the Marches (1391-1476) (Italian: Giacomo della Marca) was an Italian Franciscan Friar Minor, preacher and writer. He is generally represented holding in his hand a chalice

His life is quite fascinating. See Wikipedia

James was buried in Naples in the Franciscan church of St. Maria la Nuova, but his body was moved recently to Chiesa del Convento di Monteprandone. He was canonised by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726.

Naples, Italy venerates him as one of its patron saints.

Recently (1st to 3rd November 2008) his body which is preserved beneath an altar was subject to scientific investigation at the University of Pisa. (see pictures below)

The report of the investigation in Italian is here

It would appear that on his death, his body was embalmed by a meticulous process of conservation. Normally such techniques were only used for Kings and Princes.

He was 1.65 metres in height and despite his age, was apart from his last illness in a vigorous state of health accustomed to physical exercise.

Alessandro de’ Medici

Giorgio Vasari, (Arezzo 1511-Firenze 1574)
Alessandro de’ Medici, 1534
Oil on panel
Uffizi Gallery, Firenze

Anon, but possibly Jacopo Pontormo (b. 1494, Pontormo, d. 1557, Firenze)
Alessandro de' Medici 1525
Oil on panel 46.5 x 31.2cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Jacopo Pontormo (b. 1494, Pontormo, d. 1557, Firenze)
Alessandro de' Medici
Oil on panel, 100 x 81 cm
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia

Possibly by Domenico de' Vetri (about 1480-1547)
Cameo, with a portrait of Alessandro de' Medici
Plasma (green chalcedony) in gold setting
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Cristofano Di Papi dell Altissimo 1530 - 1605
Alessandro de' Medici 1511-1537
Oil on lime panel
The Uffizi Gallery, Firen

After Jacopo da Pontormo (1494-1556)
Portrait of Alessandro de' Medici
About 1550
Oil on lime panel
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The first hereditary Duke of Florence was not a very nice man.

Alessandro de' Medici (July 22, 1510 – January 6, 1537) called "il Moro" ("the Moor"), Duke of Penne and also Duke of Florence (from 1532), ruler of Florence from 1530 until 1537 was the last member of the "senior" branch of the Medici to rule Florence

He was illegitemate.

He was recognized as the illegitimate son of Lorenzo II de' Medici (grandson of Lorenzo de' Medici, the Magnificent)

Historians now believe that he was in fact the illegitimate son of Giulio de' Medici (later Pope Clement VII)- nephew of Lorenzo de' Medici, the Magnificent

His mother was a black or moor slave-woman in the Medici household, identified in documents as Simonetta da Collavechio, Contemporary references to Alessandro's dark skin, curly hair, wide nose and thick lips, as well as visual evidence from surviving portraits, suggest that he was indeed of mixed heritage.

His appearance and mixed heritage led him to being nicknamed "Il Moro" - "the Moor".

Alessandro's descendants married into eminent houses all over Europe.

His mixed heritage has led to a renewed interest into his life and rule.

His racial forebears did not prevent him from governance. However Florentine contemporary exiles regarded him as tyrannical. He was assassinated. He was succeeded by Cosimo I.

For more about his racial origins and new studies into his rule , see The Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the PBS website.

Two artists who were in his Court and knew him were Pontormo (1494-1556) and Vasari (Arezzo 1511-Firenze 1574). They were Court artists. They painted his portraits. These were Court portraits. These portraits had significance in a political sense.

In his Lives of the Artists, Vasari describes the painting of the portrait by Pontormo (now in Philadelphia) thus:

"Jacopo [Pontormo], having executed ... the portrait from life of Amerigo Antinori ... and that portrait being much extolled by everyone, Duke Alessandro had him informed that he wished to have his portrait taken by him in a large picture. And Jacopo, for the sake of convenience, executed his portrait in the time being in a little picture of the size of a sheet of half-folio, and with such diligence and care ... From that little picture, which is now in the guardaroba of Duke Cosimo, Jacopo afterwards made a portrait of the same duke in a large picture, with a style in the hand, drawing the head of a woman; which larger portrait Duke Alessandro afterwards presented to Signora Taddea Malaspina .."

From this passage it has been assumed that the portrait was meant to be a private painting, that is not for public consumption or viewing. It was meant as a gift for Alessandros mistress.

However the painting was widely known and copied.

During Alessandro`s life it was in public display in Alessandro`s house: the Palazzo Pazzi, the Lady’s home, which had become the duke’s “unofficial court.”

The date of the portrait has been placed sometime between late 1534 and 1535: early in the Duke`s reign. He had been placed in power in 1531 by collusion of Pope Clement VII de’ Medici (his father) and the Emperor Charles V . Pope Clement VII de’ Medici died on 25 September 1534. The Duke is dressed in black, mourning for the late Pope.

Black clothing may also have been interpreted as a reference to Charles V, whose preference for black garments was well known, and by whose power Alessandro had been invested with the principate.

The duke is depicted in the act of drawing.

In Castiglione`s The Book of the Courtier (trans. Charles S. Singleton (New York 1959)) [the sixteenth century`s guide for princes and their court] it is stated:

"“... another matter which I consider to be of great importance and which I think must therefore in no way be neglected by our courtier: and this is a knowledge of how to draw,” which, “besides from being most noble and worthy in itself, proves useful in many ways, and especially in warfare.”

The concept of disegno, or drawing, was central to artistic theory of the Renaissance: the art of disegno became a pure symbol, an attribute evidencing the intellect of the ruler. This concept would cause contemporary viewers to bring to mind Lorenzo the Magnificent, well known as a patron of the arts, an admirer of beauty, and a poet in his own right, who also considered himself an artist.

In other words, Alessandro is trying to depict himself as the new Lorenzo the Magnificent, the benevolent and intellectual despot, the founder of a new Golden Age.

Vasari`s portrait of Alessndro is less subtle.

Vasari`s portrait is the first of a Medici in armour.It is generally read as a first attempt at the development of an imagery appropriate to the new Medici regime, an imagery focused on military might and the ostentatious display of power.

In a letter to Ottaviano de’Medici, Vasari explained the iconography of the painting. He wanted to to create a visual manifesto of Medici power and dynastic continuity

Of the stool upon which the duke sits, supported by the figures of the armless, legless Florentines who represented the duke’s subjects without a will of their own, Vasari wrote:

“they are his people, who guided by the will of he who is above them and commands them, have neither arms nor legs.”

The pose of the figure, seated and holding the bastone del dominio, recalled most pointedly that of Michelangelo’s Giuliano de’ Medici, Duke of Nemours, in the New Sacristy at San Lorenzo. Vasari’s included the broncone, the dead laurel trunk from which a new branch springs forth, beside the seated duke. The laurel, was used by Lorenzo the Magnificent as a device, and adopted by Lorenzo, duke of Urbino. The aim of such symbols was to stress the link of Alessandro to Lorenzo the Magnificent and the other great figures of the Medici leadership.

The pictures illustrate the service of art in the upholding of an absolutist regime. Art has its wrong uses as well as its right uses.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Chapel of the Virgin, Cathédrale de Saint-Louis, Poitou-Charentes La Rochelle

William Adolphe Bouguereau (November 30, 1825 – August 19, 1905)
Scènes de la vie de la Vierge: (1) Annonciation
La chapelle de la Vierge, Cathédrale de Saint-Louis, Poitou-Charentes, La Rochelle

William Adolphe Bouguereau (November 30, 1825 – August 19, 1905)
Scènes de la vie de la Vierge: (2) la Visitation
La chapelle de la Vierge, Cathédrale de Saint-Louis, Poitou-Charentes La Rochelle

William Adolphe Bouguereau (November 30, 1825 – August 19, 1905)
Scènes de la vie de la Vierge: (3) la Nativité
La chapelle de la Vierge, Cathédrale de Saint-Louis, Poitou-Charentes La Rochelle

William Adolphe Bouguereau (November 30, 1825 – August 19, 1905)
Scènes de la vie de la Vierge: (4) la Fuite en Egypte
La chapelle de la Vierge, Cathédrale de Saint-Louis, Poitou-Charentes La Rochelle

William Adolphe Bouguereau (November 30, 1825 – August 19, 1905)
Scènes de la vie de la Vierge: (5) la Pâmoison de la Vierge (The Fainting of the Virgin)1876
La chapelle de la Vierge, Cathédrale de Saint-Louis, Poitou-Charentes La Rochelle

William Adolphe Bouguereau (November 30, 1825 – August 19, 1905)
Scènes de la vie de la Vierge: (6) Pietà
La chapelle de la Vierge, Cathédrale de Saint-Louis, Poitou-Charentes La Rochelle

William Adolphe Bouguereau (November 30, 1825 – August 19, 1905)
Scènes de la vie de la Vierge: Assomption
La chapelle de la Vierge, Cathédrale de Saint-Louis, Poitou-Charentes La Rochelle

La Rochelle Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Louis de la Rochelle) is a Roman Catholic cathedral, and a national monument of France, located in the town of La Rochelle.

The cathedral was rebuilt between 1742 and 1784

The French academic painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau (November 30, 1825 – August 19, 1905) came from La Rochelle. He was very famous in his time. After a period in oblivion, his reputation is being resurrected, deservedly.

Historically La Rochelle was reputed to be the centre of French Calvinism. Bouguereau`s family were in the past Calvinist but became Catholic. William-Adolphe Bouguereau was born and baptised Catholic.

Bouguereau reestablished the connection with La Rochelle when he and his family fled Paris after the Comune was established in Paris.

One of the results was the commissioning of his Scenes from the Life of the Virgin in the Lady Chapel in the Cathedral.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Chapel Saint-Louis, Monastère de la grande chartreuse

Interior of the Chapel Saint-Louis
Marble and stucco
1st half of the 17th century
Monastère de la grande chartreuse
Saint-Pierre-de-Chartreuse, Isère

As is well known, The Grande Chartreuse is the head monastery of the Carthusian order.

The Chapel of St Louis was ordered to be decorated on the orders of King Louis XIII.

Louis IX (25 April 1214 – 25 August 1270), commonly Saint Louis, was King of France from 1226 to his death. He is the only canonized King of France

Louis XIII (September 27, 1601 – May 14, 1643) ruled as King of France and Navarre from 1610 to 1643. His reputation today is coloured by being a central figures in Alexandre Dumas, père's novel, The Three Musketeers and subsequent film adaptations. The book depicts Louis as a man willing to have Richelieu as a powerful advisor but aware of his scheming; he is depicted as a bored and sour man, dwarfed by Richelieu's competence and intellect. There is also speculation about his sexuality.

However there were a number of positive aspects of Louis XIIIs character. He was a decout Catholic. In 1638, he placed France under the protection of the Virgin Mary. He helped Saint Vincent de Paul found his congregation. He allowed the return of the Jesuits from Clermont to Paris.

The King also worked to reverse the trend of promising French artists leaving for Italy to work and study. Louis XIII commissioned the artists Nicolas Poussin and Philippe de Champaigne to decorate the Louvre. The restoration of the chapel of Saint Louis was part of these efforts.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Christ the King

Double-Sided Pendant Icon with Christ Pantokrator and the Virgin , ca. 1080–1120
Byzantine; Made in Constantinople
Inscribed in Greek initials: Jesus Christ, King of Glory (front) Mother of God (back);
Cloisonné enamel, gold; 1 5/16 x 15/16 x 1/16 in. (3.3 x 2.4 x 2 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum, New York

The catalogue entry for the above reads:

"On one side is an austere, majestic bust of Christ encased in a golden frame, symbolic of Heaven. His right hand is raised in a gesture of benediction, while in his other hand he presents the Gospels, their clasp open.

As indicated by the Greek inscriptions in the half-lobes of the frame, the image is a miniature replica of Christ as Pantokrator (Ruler of All)—a popular theme for the decoration of the central dome of Middle Byzantine churches.

The Virgin, on the other side, turns toward the (now damaged) hand of God, her hands raised in prayer. The (partially lost) sky-blue ground surrounding her and the vivid green of the half-lobes place her in the earthly realm of the icon's owner, whose prayers would have sought her assistance. Her pose, that of the Virgin Hagiosoritissa, was widely popular during the Middle Byzantine era."

In QUAS PRIMAS the Encyclical published by Pope Pius XI instituting the Feast of Christ the King, Pope Pius XI explained his reasons for instituting the Feast:

"24. If We ordain that the whole Catholic world shall revere Christ as King, We shall minister to the need of the present day, and at the same time provide an excellent remedy for the plague which now infects society. We refer to the plague of anti-clericalism, its errors and impious activities. This evil spirit, as you are well aware, Venerable Brethren, has not come into being in one day; it has long lurked beneath the surface. The empire of Christ over all nations was rejected. The right which the Church has from Christ himself, to teach mankind, to make laws, to govern peoples in all that pertains to their eternal salvation, that right was denied. Then gradually the religion of Christ came to be likened to false religions and to be placed ignominiously on the same level with them. It was then put under the power of the state and tolerated more or less at the whim of princes and rulers. Some men went even further, and wished to set up in the place of God's religion a natural religion consisting in some instinctive affection of the heart. There were even some nations who thought they could dispense with God, and that their religion should consist in impiety and the neglect of God. The rebellion of individuals and states against the authority of Christ has produced deplorable consequences. We lamented these in the Encyclical Ubi arcano; we lament them today: the seeds of discord sown far and wide; those bitter enmities and rivalries between nations, which still hinder so much the cause of peace; that insatiable greed which is so often hidden under a pretense of public spirit and patriotism, and gives rise to so many private quarrels; a blind and immoderate selfishness, making men seek nothing but their own comfort and advantage, and measure everything by these; no peace in the home, because men have forgotten or neglect their duty; the unity and stability of the family undermined; society in a word, shaken to its foundations and on the way to ruin. We firmly hope, however, that the feast of the Kingship of Christ, which in future will be yearly observed, may hasten the return of society to our loving Savior. It would be the duty of Catholics to do all they can to bring about this happy result. Many of these, however, have neither the station in society nor the authority which should belong to those who bear the torch of truth. This state of things may perhaps be attributed to a certain slowness and timidity in good people, who are reluctant to engage in conflict or oppose but a weak resistance; thus the enemies of the Church become bolder in their attacks. But if the faithful were generally to understand that it behooves them ever to fight courageously under the banner of Christ their King, then, fired with apostolic zeal, they would strive to win over to their Lord those hearts that are bitter and estranged from him, and would valiantly defend his rights.

25. Moreover, the annual and universal celebration of the feast of the Kingship of Christ will draw attention to the evils which anticlericalism has brought upon society in drawing men away from Christ, and will also do much to remedy them. While nations insult the beloved name of our Redeemer by suppressing all mention of it in their conferences and parliaments, we must all the more loudly proclaim his kingly dignity and power, all the more universally affirm his rights."

The same reasons which impelled Pope Pius XI to institute the Feast of Christ the King could easily be said again today and still be valid. Not much has really changed.

Pope and Michaelangelo

Monty Python Live Hollywood Bowl

The Monty Python Channel on YouTube

Monty Python announces its decision to launch its YouTube channel

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Roy de Maistre 1894-1968
Annunciation (early 1930s)
Oil on Panel 66.5 by 55.8cm
Private collection

"1096. Jewish liturgy and Christian liturgy.

A better knowledge of the Jewish people's faith and religious life as professed and lived even now can help our better understanding of certain aspects of Christian liturgy.

For both Jews and Christians Sacred Scripture is an essential part of their respective liturgies: in the proclamation of the Word of God, the response to this word, prayer of praise and intercession for the living and the dead, invocation of God's mercy.

In its characteristic structure the Liturgy of the Word originates in Jewish prayer.

The Liturgy of the Hours and other liturgical texts and formularies, as well as those of our most venerable prayers, including the Lord's Prayer, have parallels in Jewish prayer.

The Eucharistic Prayers also draw their inspiration from the Jewish tradition.

The relationship between Jewish liturgy and Christian liturgy, but also their differences in content, are particularly evident in the great feasts of the liturgical year, such as Passover. Christians and Jews both celebrate the Passover.

For Jews, it is the Passover of history, tending toward the future; for Christians, it is the Passover fulfilled in the death and Resurrection of Christ, though always in expectation of its definitive consummation. "

Paragraph 1096. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part 2, Section 1, Chapter 1 The Paschal Mystery in the Age of the Church

In this connection, readers may like to read Jonathan L. Friedmann : “Know Before Whom You Stand”: Humility in Jewish Prayer and Music

The full version is in the Journal for the Renewal of Religion and Theology 2008/9 Volume 4 (October 2008)

The abstract reads:

"While Jewish religiosity is expressed through a complex system of liturgy, employing language that extols the greatness of God, there is also subtle recognition of the inability of such words to capture the vastness of God and His attributes.

This paper argues that both confident prayer and a sense of personal finitude are necessary for Jewish spirituality: prayer helps establish and maintain an awareness of God, while realization that God is beyond full human comprehension—and thus beyond prayer—enables one to remain in a state of humble religiosity.

Moreover, as Jewish prayer is sung and not spoken, it is argued that it is especially important for the cantor, who acts as a singing intermediary between the congregation and God, to approach his or her task with an overwhelming sense of humility before God...

Humility, it has been said, is the trait on which all virtues and duties depend. The humble individual is one who views him or herself “as a dependent and corrupt but capable and dignified rational agent.” This balanced self-awareness results, ultimately, in a measured view of one's own significance, and an apperception of personal finitude.

By acknowledging a force beyond one's limited purview—whether religious, philosophical, or scientific—one may cultivate a “grounded” and humble evaluation of oneself—what Saint Augustine saw as the foundation of ethical life....

This examination is comprised of two parts: an analysis of humility in Jewish liturgy, as exemplified in Kaddish , and an overview of the importance of modesty to the vocation of the cantor.

I will argue that being humble before God is fundamental to the spiritually efficacious singing of sacred text, and that such humility begins with sincere and total acknowledgement of one's personal finitude.

Furthermore, I will demonstrate that music in Jewish ritual is employed primarily to help worshipers transcend the inherent limitations of language. Where words often fail to capture the grandeur of the sacred moment, music enhances the words of prayer, providing them with a greater emotive range and associational power.

Thus, sacred music, and the manner in which the cantor sings it, may inspire within worshipers the simultaneous and spiritually necessary feelings of elation and trembling before God."

The painting above illustrates the artist's developing commitment to the Roman Catholic faith. He was received into the faith in London in 1949. It incorporates two figures from traditional Christian Annunciation iconography: the Archangel Gabriel / the Holy Spirit, and the humble Virgin.

At the time of this painting, though not yet committed to Catholic Christianity and its imagery, he was nonethless a searcher, believing that 'art, being a reflection of life in the most profound sense, is an attempt by the artist to express in concrete form, through symbols, his highest concept of what constitutes for him the Good, the Beautiful and the True.' (see Roy de Maistre, 'Modern Art and the Australian Outlook', Art in Australia, 3rd series, no. 14, December 1925, cited in Heather Johnson, Roy de Maistre: The English Years 1930-1968, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1995, p. 77)

His religious works stemmed from his profound Catholic belief in the truth of the images they represented

He has been acknowledged as Australia's first abstract painter, but lived most of his professional life in London.

His paintings reveal the influence of cubism. In 1954 he commenced painting 'Stations of the Cross' for Westminster Cathedral

Saint Lawrence

Luca Cambiaso 1527-1585 (Genoese painter)
Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence
Pen and ink (brown), watercolour (brown) on paper
Height: 24.3 cm; Width: 35.3 cm
Stamped, ink (green), lower right hand corner, recto, collector's mark of St. Styr, initials within a square, not in Lugt:
Courtauld Institute Art Gallery, London

On Sunday 30th November 2008, Pope Benedict XVI will pay a pastoral visit to the Roman basilica of San Lorenzo for the 1,750th anniversary of the martyrdom of the deacon saint.

St Lawrence (Lorenzo) is the patron saint of the Cathedral in Genova (Genoa)

Therefore the post reflects the ideas of two Genoese: the artist Luca Cambiaso (above) and Fr Francesco Moraglia, Professor of Dogmatic Theology, Genova (below)

"Lawrence is believed to have been born in Spain, at Osca, a town in Aragon, near the foot of the Pyrenees. As a youth he was sent to Saragoza to complete his humanistic and theological studies. It was here that he first encountered the future Pope Sixtus II, who was of Greek origin. He was a teacher in what was then one of the most renowned centres of learning. The future Pope was one of the most famous and esteemed teachers.

Lawrence, who would subsequently become the head of the deacons of the Roman Church, was remarkable for his human qualities, his subtlety of mind and for his intelligence. Between master and disciple a communion of life and friendship grew. With the passage of time a love for Rome, the centre of Christianity and seat of the Vicar of Christ was consolidated and grew stronger in both.

Eventually, following a migratory wave which was then very pronounced, both left Spain for the City where the Apostle Peter had established his See and given supreme witness. Thus Master and disciple were able to realize their ideal of evangelization and missionary activity to the point of shedding their blood, in Rome, the heart of Christianity.

Sixtus was raised to the Chair of Peter and began a pontificate that would last for less than a year. Without hesitation, he desired to have Lawrence, his friend and disciple, at his side so as to entrust to him the important office of proto-deacon. Both sealed their life of communion and friendship by dying at the hands of the same persecutor, a few days apart from each other.

St Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, preserves an account of the death of St Sixtus in one of his letters. Commenting on the situation of great uncertainty and unease in which the Church found herself because of increasing hostility towards Christians, he notes:

"The Emperor Valerian has consigned tothe Senate a decree by which he has determined that all Bishops, Priests and Deacons will be immediately put to death".

Cyprian then continues:

"I communicate to you that Sixtus suffered martyrdom on 6 August together with four Deacons while they were in a cemetery. The Roman authorities have established a norm according to which all Christians who have been denounced must be executed and their goods confiscated by the Imperial treasury" (CSEL 3, 839-840).

The cemetery to which the holy Bishop of Carthage alludes is that of St Callixtus. Sixtus was captured here while celebrating the Sacred Liturgy. His remains were entered in the cemetery of St. Calixtus after his martyrdom.

In his De Officiis (1, 41, 205-207) we have Ambrose's particularly eloquent account of the martyrdom of St Lawrence. It was subsequently taken up by Prudentius and by St Augustine. Hence it passes to Maximus of Turin, St Peter Chrisologus and to Leo the Great before emerging again in some of the formularies of the Roman Sacramentals, the Missale Gothicumm and in the Caerimoniale Visigoticum (Bibliotheca Sanctorum, .....1538-1539).

Ambrose dwells, firstly, on the encounter and dialogue of Lawrence and Sixtus. He alludes to the distribution of the Church's goods to the poor and ends by mentioning the grid-iron, the instrument of Lawrence's torture, and remarks on the phrase which the proto-Deacon of the Roman Church addresses to his torturers: "assum est...versa et manduca" (cf. Bibliotheca Sanctorum ...., col 1538-1539).

We shall dwell on the Ambrosian text of the De Officiis (Cap. 41,nn. 205-206-207), which is very moving in its intensity and strength of expression.

Thus writes St Ambrose:

"St Lawrence wept when he saw his Bishop, Sixtus, led out to his martyrdom. He wept not because he was being let out to die but because he would survive Sixtus. He cried out to him in a loud voice:

'Where are you going Father, without your son? Where do you hasten to, holy Bishop, without your Deacon? You cannot offer sacrifice without a minister. Father, are you displeased with something in me? Do you think me unworthy? Show us a sign that you have found a worthy minister. Do you not wish that he to whom you gave the Lord's blood and with whom you have shared the sacred mysteries should spill his own blood with you? Beware that in your praise your own judgment should not falter. Despise the pupil and shame the Master. Do not forget that great and famous men are victorious more in the deeds of their disciples than in their own. Abraham made sacrifice of his own son, Peter instead sent Stephen. Father, show us your own strength in your sons; sacrifice him whom you have raised, to attain eternal reward in that glorious company, secure in your judgment".

In reply Sixtus says:

"I will not leave you, I will not abandon you my son. More difficult trials are kept for you. A shorter race is set for us who are older. For you who are young a more glorious triumph over tyranny is reserved. Soon, you will see, cry no more, after three days you will follow me. It is fitting that such an interval should be set between Bishop vand Levite. It would not have been fitting for you to die under the guidance of a martyr, as though you needed help from him. Why do want to share in my martyrdom? I leave its entire inheritance to you. Why do need me present? The weak pupil precedes the master, the strong, who have no further need of instruction, follow and conquer without him. Thus Elijah left Elisha. I entrust the success of my strength to you".

This was the contest between them which was worthy of a Bishop and of a Deacon: who would be the first to die for Christ (It is said that in tragedy, the spectators would burst into applause when Pilade said he was Orestes and when Orestes himself declared that he was Orestes) the one who would be killed instead of Orestes, and when Orestes prevented Pilades from being killed in place of himself. Neither of these deserved to live for both were guilty of patricide. One because he had killed his father, the other because he had been an accomplice in patricide.)

In the case of Lawrence, nothing urged him to offer himself as a victim but the desire to be a holocaust for Christ. Three days after the death of Sixtus, while the terror raged, Lawrence would be burned on the grid-iron: "This side is done, turn and eat". With such strength of soul he conquered the flames of the fire"(Ambrose, De Officiis)."

From :ST LAWRENCE-PROTO-DEACON OF THE ROMAN CHURCH by Fr Francesco Moraglia, Professor of Dogmatic Theology, Genova on the Vatican website

Mary Magdalene the Penitent

Mateo Cerezo 1637 - 1666
The Penitent Magdalene
signed lower right: Mateo f.c
oil on canvas
110 by 88.5 cm.; 43 1/4 by 34 7/8 in.
Private collection

Cerezo found success with this composition.

He made at least four other versions of the same painting.

His style is that of Spanish Baroque, influenced by tenebrism.

Many of his works now hang in the Prado Museum.

Mary Magdalene holds a skull, a common symbol of mortality. She may be pondering the earthly reality of our mortality and the eternal truth of the spiritual life.

The time of the sitting is obviously sometime after the Crucifixion and Resurrection. The penitent is living in poverty. She obviously has still retained her beauty.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Théodore Jacques Ralli

Théodore Jacques Ralli (1852-1909)
La Prière avant la communion à Megara/Praying before the communion at Megara 1890
signed and dated 'Ralli 90' (lower right)
Oil on canvas
60.4 x 93.4 cm.
Private collection

Theodore Ralli was the one of the most prominent Greek artists of the 19th century, who painted in a strongly Academic vein and enjoyed considerable success at the Paris Salon, where he exhibited in the 1870s.

Ralli used this painting to represent him at the Paris Salon of 1890

Ralli travelled extensively in Greece.

In 1876 Ralli returned to Greece from Paris and visited the towns of Megara, Thebes and Arachova, along with other parts of mainland Greece faithfully recording the countenance and traditional costumes of the Greeks.

It is not a form of "spectator Christianity": the young girl looks at the viewer; the viewer is brought into the act.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Pope on St Paul and Justification by Faith

Giovanni Paolo Pannini (b. 1691, Piacenza, d. 1765, Rome)
Apostle Paul Preaching on the Ruins
Oil on canvas, 64 x 83,5 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

Zenit reports on the Pope`s latest talk on St Paul at a General Audience.

The important report in Zenit is worth reporting in full, perhaps now more than ever:

"Benedict XVI says Martin Luther's doctrine on justification is correct, if faith "is not opposed to charity."

The Pope said this today during the general audience dedicated to another reflection on St. Paul. This time, the Holy Father considered the Apostle's teaching on justification.

He noted that Paul's conversion experience on the road to Damascus "changed his life
radically: He began to regard all his merits, achievements of a most honest religious career, as 'loss' in face of the sublimity of knowledge of Jesus Christ."

"It is precisely because of this personal experience of the relationship with Jesus that Paul places at the center of his Gospel an irreducible opposition between two alternative paths to justice: one based on the works of the law, the other founded on the grace of faith in Christ," the Pontiff explained. "The alternative between justice through the works of the law and justice through faith in Christ thus becomes one of the dominant themes that runs through his letters."

What is law ?

But in order to understand this Pauline teaching, Benedict XVI affirmed, "we must clarify what is the 'law' from which we have been freed and what are those 'works of the law' that do not justify."

He explained: "Already in the community of Corinth there was the opinion, which will return many times in history, which consisted in thinking that it was a question of the moral law, and that Christian freedom consisted therefore in being free from ethics. [...] It is obvious that this interpretation is erroneous: Christian liberty is not libertinism; the freedom of which St. Paul speaks is not freedom from doing good."

Instead, the Pope said, the law to which Paul refers is the "collection of behaviors extending from an ethical foundation to the ritual and cultural observances that substantially determined the identity of the just man -- particularly circumcision, the observance regarding pure food and general ritual purity, the rules regarding observance of the Sabbath, etc."

These observances served to protect Jewish identity and faith in God; they were "a defense shield that would protect the precious inheritance of the faith," he remarked.

But, the Holy Father continued, at the moment of Paul's encounter with Christ, the Apostle "understood that with Christ's resurrection the situation had changed radically."

"The wall -- so says the Letter to the Ephesians -- between Israel and the pagans was no longer necessary," he said. "It is Christ who protects us against polytheism and all its deviations; it is Christ who unites us with and in the one God; it is Christ who guarantees our true identity in the diversity of cultures; and it is he who makes us just. To be just means simply to be with Christ and in Christ. And this suffices. Other observances are no longer necessary."

And it is because of this, the Bishop of Rome continued, that Luther's expression "by faith alone" is true "if faith is not opposed to charity, to love. Faith is to look at Christ, to entrust oneself to Christ, to be united to Christ, to be conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence, to believe is to be conformed to Christ and to enter into his love."

"Paul knows," he added, "that in the double love of God and neighbor the whole law is fulfilled. Thus the whole law is observed in communion with Christ, in faith that creates charity. We are just when we enter into communion with Christ, who is love.""

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Guardian Angel

Anteviduto Gramatica (1569-1626)
The Guardian Angel
Oil on canvas in an English carved gilt wood and gesso frame
147.8 by 104.3 cm.; 58 1/4 by 41 in.
Private Collection: Family of the Earl of Rosebery

One of Antiveduto Gramatica's most popular and numerous replicas and workshop variants was the present work.

He painted versions for SantÀgostino in Rome and other churches in Italy.

The Angel, who is dressed in white and holds, and guides a soul by the hands

The artist has painted a visual representation of a soul being led to enlightenment.The faithful follower, personified by the young innocent child, is being led and shown the way of the Truth and the Light by an angel-like figure, dressed in white.

In the early Sixties, when I was growing up, teaching about a Guardian Angel was universal. Now, one wonders if children are taught about Guardian Angels. Or has the idea been discarded?

Interestingly, in September 2008, Time Magazine reported:

"More than half of all Americans believe they have been helped by a guardian angel in the course of their lives, according to a new poll by the Baylor University Institute for Studies of Religion. In a poll of 1700 respondents, 55% answered affirmatively to the statement, "I was protected from harm by a guardian angel." The responses defied standard class and denominational assumptions about religious belief; the majority held up regardless of denomination, region or education — though the figure was a little lower (37%) among respondents earning more than $150,000 a year. "

In The Acceptance of a Gift by Susanna Tamaro, Ms Tamaro wrote:

""Unfortunately, I don't have a particularly happy memory of my first encounter with Catholic doctrine. I recall a freezing hall, the sing-song voice of a priest who was talking about strange stories which I could not follow through to the end and the chorus of our answers spoken out loud, always the same and always incomprehensible.

Within me, there were already great and terrible questions which were boiling. Why is there evil? Why does everything end? Why are we born? Why do we die? And instead of answers, I only received some «stories» which were not able to draw me in their folds. I had been waiting for the beginning of catechism with great excitement, I hoped to receive some answers to my worries, but that excitement, afternoon after afternoon, parable after parable, was slowly dissipating, leaving me more and more unsatisfied and deluded....

I remember my childhood like a prolonged insomnia, sometimes I had the impression that my head would explode for the many questions floating in it, for the total absence of an adult who was capable of taking me by the hand and accompanying me through the answers. In this absolute solitude of mine, only two images were very peaceful for me: the Guardian Angel and the Holy Spirit. Both had vaporous, white wings, both lived next to men, but were not men, they flew above us, participating in the events of the earth without being captured, far from hate and betrayal which had killed Jesus.

In my book of doctrine, The Guardian Angel was represented next to a child who, having his books under his arm, is crossing the street to go to school. And so, effectively, I felt his presence in every moment of the day and night: behind, above me, to my right. He alleviated my solitude, to him, in a silent way, I spoke and asked advice. The Angle, however, was «easy» to understand. Less understandable was that strange dove which emanated light and who, in ways absolutely beyond my reach, was kin with Jesus and God and Abraham.

The day of Confirmation I remember having raised my eyes to the sky to look for, amongst all the gray and fat pigeons of the city, my white dove. I anxiously waited for its ray of light: it was to have come down from the sky and illuminate my bewildered and frightened life, transforming it in a strong and courageous one, like a «soldier of Christ», as they used to say at the time in catechism. With Her, thanks to Her and for Her, I would have been able to confront any vicissitude without stopping and without being confused."

Antiveduto Grammatica was a proto-Baroque Italian painter, active near Rome.

He began his association with the Accademia di San Luca in 1593.

Caravaggio worked for him for a month in 1594

He worked for Ferdinando Gonzaga from 1610 to 1619.

He gained great familiarity with the two protectors of the Academy, Cardinals Federico Borromeo and Francesco Maria Del Monte (the patron of Caravaggio), and was closely attached to the latter.

His son, Imperiale Gramatica (1600 ca. - 1636 ca) was also an artist and collabortor of his father..

He was elected to the highest office of the association as "principe" in 1624.

Beryl Cook

Beryl Cook (British, 1926-2008)
Noah's Ark
signed 'B. Cook' (lower right)
Oil on board
96 x 93 cm. (38 x 36 1/2 in.)
The Portal Gallery, London

Beryl Cook (British, 1926-2008)
The Christening
signed 'B.Cook' (lower right)
oil on panel
46 x 38 cm. (18 x 15 in.)
Private Collection

Born in 1926 at Epsom in Surrey, Eleanor Beryl Cook had no formal training and did not take up painting until middle age.

She is best known for comical paintings of people.Her paintings are full of fun.

She was influenced by the work of the English artist Stanley Spencer

Sadly she died this year aged 81 years.

The official websites are here; and here.