Monday, March 30, 2009

The Creation of Light

George Richmond 1809-1896
The Creation of Light 1826
Tempera, gold and silver on mahogany
support: 480 x 417 mm
The Tate, London

This painting was submitted to the Royal Academy exhibition of 1826 but was rejected

At that time, Michelangelo notwithstanding, you could not depict the Supreme Being.

Richmond was greatly influenced by William Blake.He first met Blake, at Linnell's house, in 1825. Richmond later said that conversing with Blake was like 'talking to the Prophet Isaiah'

In using tempera, Richmond was influenced by the work of Cennino d'Andrea Cennini (c. 1370 – c. 1440), and in particular Il libro dell'arte, often translated as The Craftsman's Handbook. Written in the early 15th century, the book is a "how to" on Renaissance art. It was recommended to Richmond by Blake when Richmond asked for advice on how to handle tempera.

Richmond was one of "The Ancients": a group of disciples of William Blake that formed around him in London in the last years before his death in 1827.

The implication of the name was that as the Industrial Revolution burgeoned they were looking back to a better age. Their leader was Samuel Palmer and the other chief figures were Edward Calvert and Richmond.

For a few years between 1826 and 1834 they gathered in the Kent village of Shoreham where Palmer owned a house. Their work expressed a mystical vision of nature, in Palmer's case deeply Christian.

The Second World War

After the Munich Agreement on 30th September 1938, Neville Chamberlain (18 March 1869 – 9 November 1940), Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1937 to 1940, was feted as a man of peace. A man who had saved Europe from a Second World War.

However during the winter of 1938-39, Chamberlain's attitude to Germany noticeably hardened. In part this was due to the violent anti-British propaganda campaign Hitler launched in November 1938, and in part due to information supplied by anti-Nazis such as Carl Friedrich Goerdeler that German armament priorities were being shifted towards preparing for a war with Britain

In particular, Chamberlain was concerned with information that Hitler regarded the Munich Agreement as a personal defeat, together with hints from Berlin in December 1938 that the Germans were planning to renounce the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, regarded in London as the "barometer" of Anglo-German relations in the near-future

He determined on a visit to Mussolini in Rome in early January 1939. He wanted a "heart to heart" with Mussolini. to inspire confidence in British friendship, to help detach Mussolini and Italy from Hitler and Germany, to ask Mussolini to encourage Hitler away from war and further expansion.

Chamberlain thought that the visit was reasonably successful. However it was an unrealistic assessment and the visit certainly did not advance his aims of peace.

While in Rome, he and the Foreign Secretary visited Pope Pius XI on 13th January 1939.

The visit was a private one. There was no official communique leading many outside observers to speculate about what was discussed.

At the time, TIME Magazine wrongly reported that the Pope pressed on the Prime Minister documents dealing with the destruction of Catholic lives and property in Loyalist Spain, and declared that, "as a means of restoring Christianity" to Spain, the Holy See put its hopes in a Franco victory.

According to Owen Chadwick, Britain and the Vatican [Cambridge University Press, pbk edition, 1988, page 19,] by the end of 1938, the British Foreign Office saw the Pope as one of the world leaders in the fight against Nazism and Fascism. However, prior to that time, the Foreign Office held the view that the Pope was a broken reed, useless for any practical purpose of international morality.

However Pope Pius XI had been ailing for a while, and , on November 25, 1938, he suffered two heart attacks within several hours. In February 1939, the situation of the pontiff visibly degenerated. Pius had major pain and difficulties walking. Pope Pius XI died at 5:31 a.m. of a third heart attack on February 10, 1939, aged 81.

Below are copies of the documents in The National Archives with the official reports of the visit by the British representative to the Vatican, Sir Francis D'Arcy Godolphin Osborne (16 September 1884 – 20 March 1964), later the 12th Duke of Leeds who was at present at the meetings.

One other person mentioned in the official papers relating to the visit to Pius XI was Monsignor William Godfrey (25 September 1889—22 January 1963), rector of the English College. At the College, the strict priest was known to his students as "Uncle Bill". On 21 November 1938, he was appointed Titular Bishop of Cius and the first Apostolic Delegate to Great Britain, Gibraltar and Malta. Godfrey, who was the first papal representative to England since the Reformation. He was chargé d'affaires of the Holy See to Poland in 1943, and was made Archbishop of Liverpool on 10 November 1953.

In 1956, Pope Pius XII named him as Archbishop of Westminster and he was made a cardinal by Pope John XXIII in 1958.

William Theodore Heard (24 February 1884 - 16 September 1973) was then Auditor of the Tribunal of the Holy Roman Rota. In 1958 he was appointed Dean of the Holy Roman Rota (i.e. the equivalent of Chief Justice) and was elevated to Cardinal one year later when he was appointed Cardinal Deacon of the titular church S. Teodoro. He was born in Edinburgh. The British press used to refer to him as "the first Scottish Cardinal since the Reformation".

Sir Darcy was British representative at the Vatican during the Second World War.

He was one of the group, which he supported with his own money, led by Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty who helped conceal some 4000 escapees, both Allied soldiers and Jews, from the Nazis; 3925 survived the war. Their story was portrayed in the 1983 film 'The Scarlet & The Black', starring Gregory Peck.

He also played a key part in a plot in 1940, which involved the Pope (Pius XII) and certain German generals, to overthrow Hitler (See Owen Chadwick, 'Britain and the Vatican During the Second World War', 1988, Cambridge Paperback Library, p. 86 et seq.).

"‘The key figures in the German conspiracy and the chain of command with the Vatican were Muller who worked for German intelligence and was tasked by the leader of the conspirators, Colonel Oster, to strengthen the bonds between the Vatican and the German opposition. At the time, the old leader of the German Centre Party, Monsignor Kaas, lived in Rome.’

‘The German conspirators at first saw the Vatican as a good place to meet allied representatives. It was only later they thought of bringing in the Vatican in order to get some sort of guarantee if they overthrew Hitler. They did not want a return to a Versailles type treaty. Muller, through Kaas, met with the Pope’s Private Secretary, Fr. Leiber in November 1939. Leiber put the plan to the Pope.’

‘The Pope was asked to tell Osborne, that the German opposition to Hitler existed in strength.He was asked to elicit honourable peace terms from London, to be negotiated with a new and upright German Government after the overthrow of Hitler; and the Pope was asked toguarantee certain articles of the peace terms beforehand, so as to make the overthrow of Hitler an easier work for the conspirators’.

Chadwick writes ‘the Pope was being invited to engage in a conspiracy to overthrow a tyrant, and incidentally to put himself and his aides into those dire risks which attend conspirators’.

On 6 November 1939, Leiber told Muller that the Pope had agreed to put the terms to Osborne. It was helped by the fact that from his time as Nuncio in Berlin, Pius XII knew personally General Beck one of the leaders of the conspiracy. The chain of command was thus: General Beck to Colonel Oster, Oster to Josef Muller, Muller to Leiber, Leiber to the Pope, the Pope to Osborne, Osborne to Halifax, Halifax to Chamberlain. Osborne also had a link which did not pass via the Pope, but through Kaas to Muller. Osborne’s privileged and unique role did not stop there, ‘on 12 January 1940, the Pope told him that he had information from some German Generals. The Pope knew who they were, but withheld the details. Their message was ‘a violent offensive was planned in the west, in the month of February, and using Holland as a route. The offensive need never happen. If the German generals could be assured of an honourable peace which would not be Wilsonian in nature, they would overthrow Hitler and negotiate a reasonable settlement in Eastern Europe – which would restore Poland and Czecho-Slovakia, but keep the union with Austria.

Osborne asked the Pope if he could guarantee the good faith of the generals and he said he could not. Osborne asked him if he could guarantee that the generals could carry out what they undertook and he said he could not. Osborne writes ‘never in all history had a Pope engaged so delicately in a conspiracy to overthrow a tyrant by force’.

The Pope met Osborne again on 7 February 1940. The Pope told Osborne of Hitler’s plan to invade Belgium and to be in the Louvre by the summer and to find a more worthy site for the Venus de Milo. They then talked of the planned coup in Germany. There was more detail about the exact nature of the proposed German polity, it would eventually be a democratic state, but that might have to wait until a possible civil war had come to an end. The German generals wanted Britain to basically guarantee Munich i.e. that Austria would be in the German Federation.

Osborne sent the material to Halifax. Chamberlain said they needed more detail and to know who the conspirators were. They would then consider it as long as they could bring in the French. On 17 February, Halifax wrote to Osborne asking him to keep open the line of communication. The Pope should be told that the British were ready to discuss; that the French must be brought in; that they must receive definite proposals. Austria should be given the free choice whether or not it went into the Federation. The British were taking the plan seriously.

The British conditions – known to historians as the X-report, were laid before commanding generals Halder and Brauschitsch in the spring of 1940. It is believed that the Gestapo discovered the X-report among the papers which they found in the safe when they raided the intelligence services office at Zossen on 22 September 1944.10 On 27 March when Kaas met Osborne, he told him that the conspirators had laid aside their plans for the time being.

According to Chadwick, the British lost a chance.

The British War Cabinet Papers at the time on the issue are below:

Friday, March 27, 2009

An end to "Catholic discrimination"

This morning we opened our newspapers to headlines declaring "Gordon Brown pledges to end 'discrimination' in Royal succession"

The discrimination: the "discrimination" against women and those who marry Roman Catholics in the Royal line of succession

Why the new Jerusalem ?

Well, a Liberal Democrat was promoting a private members Bill to do the same thing. It was to be heard today. It has been blocked by the Government and the Government had to offer a sop to its supporters who happen to be Catholic. Especially to Labour tribalists in the West of Scotland and around Liverpool.

It took the edge off some other news the Government wanted to take off the news agenda. Such as how the Prime Minister was overruled in economic policy by The Governor of the Bank of England and the Treasury. The criticism of the Prime Minister`s economic policies by the European Union and others which now threatens "the Grand New Economic Agreement" long trumpeted by the Prime Minister for the forthcoming G20 meeting in London ?

It also was designed to take some attention off the horrible and disgusting announcement that abortion clinics will soon be able to advertise their "services" on television in the United Kingdom (which is a policy approved of and encouraged by this Government) [Does the Prime Minister really think that any Catholic in the United Kingdom is going to forget that ?]

Of course such discrimination against Catholics and women is unjust.

But does the Government not have more to do with its time ?

In any event if you read the small print:

1. the discrimination to be tackled is simply about the religious affiliation of the spouse of the Monarch and those in line to the Royal Succession, and not the affiliation of those who are either the Monarch or in the line of succession. There are no proposals about altering the bar to such people being Catholic.

2. the Government intends to legislate not until after the next election, when presumably it will not be in power.

Such blatant news management and spin is an insult to the intelligence of all Catholics in the United Kingdom.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Annunciation

Domenikos Theotokopoulos [El Greco]
(b. 1541, Candia, d. 1614, Toledo)
The Annunciation
c. 1570
Tempera on panel, 26,7 x 20 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

This version of the Annunciation was painted by El Greco when he was in Venice, before he went to Spain.

He spent about three years there before moving to Rome

In Venice he was influenced by the works of Titian and his successor, Tintoretto

Later on, El Greco produced a more mystical version of the same subject: more of a meditation on the Incarnation than a simple narrative based on St Luke`s Gospel.

See also:An Epiphany on the Annunciation

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Relic of St Benedict found in The British Museum

Portable altar Medieval, around AD 1200 [Front and reverse]
From Hildesheim, Lower Saxony, Germany
With relics of Christian saints
The British Museum, London

Clerical Whispers has an amazing story that curators at London's British Museum have discovered the relics of 39 saints, including St Benedict, packed in bundles of cloth inside a 12th century portable German altar.

The most precious was the relic of St Benedict, father of the western monastic tradition. The relic was wrapped in cloth which was itself an extraordinary object, a piece of silk from 8th- or 9th-century Byzantium.

The relics were only found when the 12th-century German portable altar was opened for the first time since it came into the British Museum collection in 1902.

One hopes that the British Museum will give the relics to the Archdiocese on permanent loan so that they can be given a suitable and fitting home in Westminster Cathedral.However no doubt this would cause major problems for the Trustees with demands from others requesting the return of similar objects in the possession of the Museum.

One also hopes that there are not similar religious relics lying aroung the huge storerooms of the British Museum.

The entry in the net catalogue of The Museum states:

"The altar is made from a combination of metalwork, ivory carving and miniature painting that was highly favoured by artists of Lower Saxony in the eleventh century. The altar-stone, once thought to be porphyry, is more likely to be a variety of Purbeck marble. It is mounted in gilt copper which is engraved with the four symbols of the Evangelists and Saints Peter, Andrew, Stephen and Lawrence. Above the stone there is an ivory of the Crucifixion and below it the Virgin and Child enthroned with two bishop saints. To either side is placed a painted miniature on vellum under crystal, of Saints Godehard (right) and Bernard (left), both bishops of Hildesheim.

Beneath the ivory of the Virgin and Child is an inscription THIDERICVS. ABBAS. III. DEDIT, which reveals the identity of the patron as Theodoric, the third abbot of his name. This would seem to signify Abbot Theodoric who was abbot at Godehardiklosters, Hildesheim, between 1181 and 1204.

The reverse of the altar is inscribed with the names of forty saints in whose honour it was dedicated. In a cavity beneath the stone slab are relics of these saints, wrapped in textiles and labelled. Analysis has shown that the oldest textiles are likely to date from the ninth or tenth century, whereas the most recent may date from as late as the nineteenth. The relics themselves have been examined and consist mainly of bone but with hair (labelled as coming from St John the Evangelist) and semi-precious stones (associated with St Christopher)."


John Kane (1860-1934)
Pietà 1933
Oil on canvas
H: 21 1/2 x W: 24 inches (H: 55 x W: 61 cm)
The Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

John Kane (1860-1934) was born in West Calder, Scotland but only found recognition as an artist when he went to live in the United States.

He worked as a manual labourer all his life.

He was a devout Catholic. He was born to Irish parents. His father died when he was 10. His family emigrated to the United States when he was still young.

He was a self taught artist. Recognition came late: in 1927, his canvas Scene from the Scottish Highlands was admitted to the Carnegie International exhibition.

In 1897 he married at St. Mary's Catholic Church in downtown Pittsburgh

He died due to tuberculosis. But in the last few years he enjoyed some degree of fame. He exhibited at successive Internationals, as well as at Harvard, The Art Institute of Chicago, the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and The Museum of Modern Art.

He is buried in Pittsburgh's Roman Catholic Calvary Cemetery

Pietà is based on the famous Avignon Pietà (c. 1455, Louvre, Paris),

The Spirit of Malthus is alive and well

In the United Kingdom, there seems to be a number of influential people who do not like life.

In an article entitled UK population must fall to 30m, The Times reports that Jonathon Porritt, one of Gordon Brown’s leading green advisers, is to warn that Britain must drastically reduce its population if it is to build a sustainable society.

Porritt’s call will come at this week’s annual conference of the Optimum Population Trust (OPT), of which he is patron.

The trust will release research suggesting UK population must be cut to 30m if the country wants to feed itself sustainably.

Porritt said: “Population growth, plus economic growth, is putting the world under terrible pressure.

“Each person in Britain has far more impact on the environment than those in developing countries so cutting our population is one way to reduce that impact.”

Population growth is one of the most politically sensitive environmental problems. The issues it raises, including religion, culture and immigration policy, have proved too toxic for most green groups.

However, Porritt is winning scientific backing. Professor Chris Rapley, director of the Science Museum, will use the OPT conference, to be held at the Royal Statistical Society, to warn that population growth could help derail attempts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Rapley, who formerly ran the British Antarctic Survey, said humanity was emitting the equivalent of 50 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year.

“We have to cut this by 80%, and population growth is going to make that much harder,” he said.

Such views on population have split the green movement. George Monbiot, a prominent writer on green issues, has criticised population campaigners, arguing that “relentless” economic growth is a greater threat.

Many experts believe that, since Europeans and Americans have such a lopsided impact on the environment, the world would benefit more from reducing their populations than by making cuts in developing countries.

This is part of the thinking behind the OPT’s call for Britain to cut population to 30m — roughly what it was in late Victorian times.

Britain’s population is expected to grow from 61m now to 71m by 2031. Some politicians support a reduction.

Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, said: “You can’t have sustainability with an increase in population.”

The Tory leader, David Cameron, has also suggested Britain needs a “coherent strategy” on population growth.

Despite these comments, however, government and Conservative spokesmen this weekend both distanced themselves from any population policy. ”

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Pope's message is not the problem

William Rees-Mogg is a former distinguished editor of The Times.

In today`s Times, he discussed the recent problems affecting the "Pope`s image".

He says that the image of Benedict XVI as "ultra-conservative" is patently wrong. The problem is the Vatican "and its PR machine".

"On his visit, the Pope created an avoidable news story by defending the Church's ban on condoms, even as part of the campaign against Aids. The Pope argues that Aids is spread by promiscuity, and that it is essential to attack the root evil of promiscuity, in line with two millennia of Christian teaching, rather than to encourage condoms as a protection against its consequences.

This has been widely criticised as an ultra-conservative doctrine but it can be supported by the difference in rates of Aids infection in different cultures. Some cultures, and some religions, allow much greater sexual liberty, with its risks. If the Pope were to change the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, that might weaken the cultural taboo against promiscuity. It is not a decision he could take lightly - nor is it obvious that it would lower the number of victims of Aids.

It all looks simple: condoms good, Pope reactionary. It is not simple at all. All societies impose some code of sexual conduct, usually formed around religious beliefs. Cultures that lack concepts of sexual discipline are not usually good societies in which to live. Certainly they are not societies with good control over sexually transmitted diseases. The case for liberalism needs to be scrutinised as thoughtfully as the conservative case.

However, apart from the merits of the argument over sexual discipline, there is a problem of the public perception of the Pope's image. He is not an ultra-conservative spoiling for a fight. He is not a Pius IX, becoming increasingly defensive in his old age, still less a Pius X, who persecuted some of the finest theological intellects of the early 20th century for so-called modernism, which would now be regarded as unobjectionable and orthodox.

Catholics have all become relatively modernist since Pope John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council. Of course, the Catholic Church has to interact with the modern world. The Pope is himself an intellectual, curious about science and ideas. He is open to argument and debate. My own impression is that he sees the inevitability of the Church adjusting to modern ideas, but wants to make minor revisions to the post-Vatican II settlement, intended to give somewhat greater freedom to what one might call Tridentine Catholics. His move towards greater freedom to use the Tridentine Mass is an example. The post-Vatican II settlement made it very difficult to get permission to use the form of the Mass adopted by the Council of Trent in the 16th century. Conservative Catholics have a strong attachment to the Latin liturgy and some strongly prefer the Tridentine form of that liturgy.

Pope Benedict sympathises with this view. He is surely right, from a liberal, as well as a conservative, standpoint. For 400 years, the Tridentine rite was the universal rite of the Church. It was excessively authoritarian of small committees in the Vatican to try to abolish it. The Pope wants to restore the Church's connection to its own historic past; that does not mean that he wants to set the clock back.

Yet something has gone wrong. In recent weeks, stories from Rome have painted a picture not of the moderately conservative Pope that is the reality, but of a papal reactionary who does not exist. Several minor stories, such as the withdrawal of the excommunication of a cranky pseudo-bishop who happens to have denied the Holocaust, have been overinterpreted in the press.

I sympathise with the moderate extension of freedom that the Pope wishes to give the conservatives. Excommunication has more often done harm than good. Elizabeth I was excommunicated, and that divided Christianity in Britain for 400 years. I cannot imagine many circumstances in which one should criticise a Pope for restoring the communion. Of course Holocaust denial - of which the Pope seems to have been unaware - is stupid and odious, but I would hesitate to criticise him for allowing freedom of speech even to the deluded.

Some of these arguments concern genuine issues of doctrine or conscience, but much of the trouble arises from failure to modernise the media responses of the Vatican. The media have moved into a 24-hour, seven-day global news system. The Vatican has not.

It is no longer possible to run a national government as a small-scale news operation. The Roman Catholic Church is a worldwide structure with more than a billion members. This Pope succeeded John Paul II who was a genius at communication. He does not have the same charisma. He should professionalise the Vatican's news operation to match Sky, CNN, the BBC or al-Jazeera."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Giuseppe and Francesco Bianchi

Medal struck 1869
To commemorate the First Ecumenical Council in Rome
The work of Giuseppe and Francesco Bianchi
74g: 191.25

Giuseppe Bianchi (1808-1877) and his son, Francesco Bianchi (1842- 1918) were both Papal engravers

Giuseppe Bianchi was the chief Papal engraver at the Pontifical Mint from 1852

His son, Francesco was a Professor at the Accademia di S. Luca and chief engraver for the Vatican from 1876 onwards

Friday, March 20, 2009

Papal Medals

There is a very interesting website on the arcane subject of Papal Medals

The medals are works of art in their own right.

They are also fascinating from the historical point of view. They show contemporary portraits of the popes from 1268 to date.

Further, some of the medals were struck to commemorate events now long forgotten. They provide an insight as to what the Popes at the time thought were the important events of their pontificate.

Below are two medals: both from two very different pontificates; Pope Clement XII and Pope John XXIII. One commemorates the beatification of Gregory Barbadigo; the other his canonisation centuries later. Both pontiffs obviously thought greatly of this particular saint. The Popes obviously regarded these events as important events in their pontificates.

Bust of the pope, CLEMENT XIII (July 6, 1758 — February 2, 1769), wearing Tiara and cope

Inscription, surrounded by a wreath, naming Cardinal Gregory Barbadigo of Pavia (1625-1697) to the rank of Blessed. He was made a Saint by John XXIII in 1960.

Bust of Blessed Pope John XXIII (October 28, 1958 — June 3, 1963), wearing camauro, mozzetta and stole.

(in exergue:) 26-V AN • D • MCMLX
St. Gregory Barbadigo, seated in his library, working on a manuscript.
He was canonised by Pope John XXIII on May 26, 1960

The St. Patrick Catholic Church website on saints says of St Gregory Barbarigo:

"Gregory Barbarigo (Barbadigo) B (AC)
Born in Venice, Italy, 1625; died June 15, 1697; beatified in 1761; canonized in 1960.

When Saint Gregory was born into a noble family, Protestants and Catholics in Europe had been waging a vicious war against each other for seven years--the start of the Thirty Years War. He was educated at Venice.

Gregory was in his early twenties when the Venetian government chose him to go with their ambassador, Luigi Contarini, to Münster, Germany, where in 1648 the Treaty of Westphalia was drawn up to establish peace. At the conference was the papal representative, Fabio Chigi. He found Gregory to be a quite exceptional young man, and they became friends. Gregory was ordained priest in 1655 and worked heroically during the plague of 1657.

When Fabio Chigi was consecrated Pope Alexander VII, he did not forget the impression the Venetian had made at Münster: he consecrated Gregory bishop of Bergamo. Three years later (1660) he named him cardinal and then, in 1664, bishop of Padua--an office he held for 33 years.

Gregory was equally distinguished as a churchman and as a statesman. He set about improving the training of the clergy, endowing an excellent college and seminary for them, building its fine patristic library, setting up its own printing press, appointing teachers who knew the writings of the Church Fathers and who were devoted to sacred Scripture. Some of the works published on his press were distributed to Christians in Islamic countries. His charities were on a princely scale (he is said to have given at least 8,000 crowns in charity), and his benefactions to Padua numerous and lasting. He was an earnest worker for the reconciliation of the dissident Greeks.

Gregory's pastoral commitment was comparable to that of Saint Charles Borromeo. While very demanding of himself, he was kind to others, treating those in trouble with great compassion. As a cardinal, he participated in five conclaves and was himself considered a serious candidate for the papacy. He was buried in Padua cathedral (Bentley, Benedictines, Farmer, White). "

The official Vatican website gives the address of Pope John XXIII on 26th May 1960 to pilgrims gathered in the Congress for the canonisation of Blessed Gregory Barbarigo in Rome

It is a lengthy address. Unfortunately it is only in Italian and Spanish.

There is no doubt about the admiration of Pope John XXIII for St Gregory. The comparison with St Charles Borromeo is explicit.

In particular, Pope John XXIII commented on four particular features of the Saint Bishop:

1. Care for the poor
2. The catechesis of the people
3. Concern for and strengthening of Seminaries and the clergy
4. Concern for the development of good Catholic culture.

Throughout the talk, the admiration of Pope John XXIII for the Bishop and for following the canons promulgated by the Council of Trent is evident.

"La presenza di tutti i parroci di Padova al rito della Canonizzazione di Gregorio Barbarigo è in proposito assai significativa. Essa è la conclamazione dei pastori di anime a diretto contatto col popolo, esaltante nel nuovo Santo la figura del pastore saggio, prudente divinatore di tempi e di metodi per il trionfo del Regno di Dio nelle coscienze dei singoli, nelle famiglie e nei popoli.

In ogni epoca la Chiesa si tiene applicata al compito suo, che è di aiutare l'uomo a rendersi consapevole della sua terrena ed eterna vocazione; ad apprezzare nella giusta collocazione gerarchica i doni della Provvidenza; ad usare rettamente della libertà; a posporre l'interesse e i capricci personali alla fedeltà ai principii ed al servizio del prossimo.

Diletti parroci e sacerdoti! In ogni circostanza della vostra vita spesso difficile, talora spinosa, volgete lo sguardo alle figure austere dei grandi vescovi della Chiesa di tutti i secoli, dell'oriente e dell'occidente, delle antiche cristianità e delle nuovissime fiorenti diocesi che coronarono il servizio missionario dei tempi moderni.

Sotto aspetti diversi troverete in ciascuno la stessa linfa purissima che alimentò le sollecitudini pastorali di S. Gregorio Barbarigo.

La carità ai poveri, l'insegnamento della dottrina, la coltivazione delle vocazioni, l'onore reso al folgoreggiare della cultura bastano alla gloria di un pastore; assicurano il successo dell'apostolato in ogni tempo ed in ogni luogo."

The canonisation of St Gregory took place in the Basilica of St John Lateran in Rome on The Feast of the Ascension on 26th May 1960.

The homily of Pope John XXIII on that occasion is also on the Vatican website: again only in Italian and Spanish.

Of his lengthy homily, one third is devoted to the canonisation and life of St Gregory.

He described the saint`s life and career as an example for the present generation and for the future, notwithstanding that it was nearly three centuries since the death of the saint.

He described him as a " modern prelate": "modern" in the proper and correct use of the term.

He was a model in the application of the post-tridentine legislation. His thirty three years in the episcopate led to an abundance of riches for the Church: its ecclesiaistical institutions, culture, of aid and assitance, of apostolates, all of which endured over the centuries.

He was a man of great learning in the sciences, culture, languages. Beneath the modernity, lay the most exquisite, most pure and authentic holiness. He combined the innocence and enthusiasm of the newly baptised with the experience of many years`practice in the exercise of his clerical duties.

"Erano infatti: una fede in lui che lo mise in guardia dalle sottigliezze del quietismo e del gallicanesimo; una confidenza in Dio che gli rendeva familiare come palpito l'elevarsi continuato del suo spirito in Gesù, con continuate giaculatorie come dardi d'amore; una fortezza imperterrita, in circostanze angosciose, che gli fece dire col pugno serrato sul petto: color di porpora, color di sangue: e questo vi dica, che per la giustizia e per il buon diritto di Dio io sono disposto a sacrificare la mia vita; una carità fiammeggiante di padre e di pastore estesa alle forme molteplici e più varie della dedizione di un gran cuore di uomo insigne e di sacerdote venerabile.

La carità è la essenza della santità, e della carità di S. Gregorio Barbarigo intendiamo rendervi, diletti Fratelli e figliuoli, ancora una testimonianza stasera presso la tomba di S. Pietro.

Volgendo ora verso la fine queste Nostre semplici parole, ed ancora allietandoCi del misterioso e mistico avvenimento a cui esse pongono un sigillo che si aggiunge ai parecchi altri, manoscritti od ufficiali di questi giorni, è nuovo e legittimo motivo di compiacimento il veder applicato a S. Gregorio Barbarigo, quanto, secondo la buona dottrina fissata da Papa Benedetto XIV nella sua opera De Servorum Dei Beatificatione, libro IV, e. 41, n. 1, renda onore ai Santi di Dio proclamati tali sotto questo nome ed in virtù di Canonizzazione equipollente: per quam Summus Pontifex, aliquem Dei Servum in antiqua cultus possessione existentem et de cuius heroicis virtutibus aut martyrio, et miraculis constans est, historicorum fide dignorum, communis assentio, et continuata prodigiorum fama non deficit, iubet in universa Ecclesia coli per Officii et Missae recitationem et celebrationem, determinato aliquo die, etc....

Il nostro Santo entra così in pieno nella luce ed applicazione di questa dottrina. E noi amiamo felicitarCi devotamente con lui scorgendolo elevato dalla Santa Chiesa al posto suo: stantem ante thronum, et in conspectu Agni, amictum stola alba, et palma in manibus eius .

A più ampio contorno di festosa letizia, amiamo indicarvi, dilettissimi nostri Fratelli e figli, la singolare e bella corona di anime elettissime che, secondo la testimonianza di Papa Benedetto XIV, ebbero l'onore e il titolo della canonizzazione equipollente, come questa odierna del nostro Santo Gregorio Barbarigo....

[D]el Seminario Patavino è la sua massima gloria; ma è ancora un invito alla ricerca più profonda del tesoro di preziose energie e di eccelse virtù a cui la proclamazione della sua santità apre la via.

Durante il suo episcopato S. Gregorio Barbarigo studiò e vide tutto con grandezza di proporzioni. A due secoli dalla sua beatificazione dei 1761, a oltre tre secoli dalla sua vita operosa e gloriosa, quelle proporzioni nei riguardi delle lotte e delle vittorie della S. Chiesa si sono dilatate: dilatate nel senso di una comprensione più viva delle grandi esigenze che l'esercizio della vita del cristiano oggi ci presenta non a depressione, ma ad incoraggiamento dello spirito.

Tra gli scritti inediti di S. Gregorio Barbarigo vi sono tracce dei suoi discorsi pronunciati così a Bergamo, come a Padova nella festa della Ascensione. Nella loro semplicità esse sono tutte spiranti elevazioni dello spirito, e grande incoraggiamento a staccarci dalle vanità della terra, e a rettificare le grandi e le piccole intenzioni della nostra vita quotidiana.

A ciò deve muoverci tutti il grande esempio che S. Gregorio ci dà nei settantadue anni della sua vita di perfezione sacerdotale ed episcopale; e la purissima cristiana dottrina che egli trasmise fedelmente ai suoi figlioli.

Grande ricchezza del cristiano il non accontentarsi solamente dell'esercizio delle virtù morali; ma il dare a tutte le proprie azioni grazia di unione con Cristo e partecipazione viva della grazia sua.

La virtù è così bella — diceva il Santo — che invita tutti a seguirla, e a drizzare le proprie azioni a lei. Così operarono tanti gentili virtuosi; così operano ancora molti tra i cristiani, chi servendo la patria, chi esercitando la giustizia, chi vivendo vita temperante. Né si può dire che vivano male, nè vengano le loro azioni non approvate da Dio, il quale riconosce per care sue figliole tutte le virtù. Approvate dunque, ma non premiate di vita eterna. Dico non premiate di vita eterna, perchè sono premiate di cose temporali, come successe ai Romani antichi, i quali furono favoriti da Dio di essere i padroni del mondo per le varie virtù che ebbero ed esercitarono.

Alla sola purità di intenzione è riservato il premio della vita eterna. E questa consiste in cosa tanto ragionevole e giusta che è di fare ogni nostra azione per dar gusto a Dio, per servire Dio. Oh! che grande consolazione nelle parole di S. Paolo: Sive manducatis, sive bibitis, sive aliud quid facitis, omnia in gloriane. Dei tacite

Queste cose S. Gregorio le diceva ai suoi figlioli; ed altre ed altre più semplici e vivaci ancora, a loro correzione, a loro edificazione."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

St. Joseph and the Christ Child.

Doménikos Theotokópoulos, known as El Greco.(c.1541 - 1614)
St. Joseph and the Christ Child. c. 1597-1599.
Oil on canvas. 289 x 147 cm
Capilla de San José, Toledo Cathedral, Toledo, Spain

The Chapel of San José, Toledo, was begun at the end of 1597.

The Chapel was dedicated to Saint Joseph, Saint Teresa of Avila`s favourite Saint. The original intention of the founder, Martín Ramírez (d. 1595) was to build a chapel for her (d. 1582).

The paintings for the high altar (still in place) were the Saint Joseph and the Christ Child, and above, the Coronation of the Virgin; and, for the side chapels, the Saint Martin and the Beggar and the Virgin and Child with Saints.

Saint Joseph and the Christ Child was the central painting of the high altar and probably the first of the series to be painted for the Chapel.

The commission for the Capilla de San Jose was one of the most important undertaken by El Greco since the commission for Santo Domingo el Antiguo in 1577-79

The Chapel was one of the first dedicated to St Joseph in the Christian world.

To the right of the figure of St Joseph is the representation of the City of Toledo.

The Devotion of St Teresa of Avila to St Joseph

François-Guillaume Ménageot ( 1744-1816 )
The Virgin Placing St. Teresa of Avila Under the Protection of St. Joseph, c. 1787
Oil paint over pen and brown ink, on paper, mounted on canvas.; 20 1/2 x 12 3/16 in. (52 x 31 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum, New York

"I took for my advocate and lord the glorious St. Joseph and earnestly recommended myself to him. I saw clearly that as in this need so in other greater ones concerning honour and loss of soul this father and lord of mine came to my rescue in better ways than I knew how to ask for. I don't recall up to this day ever having petitioned him for anything that he failed to grant.

...whereas with this glorious saint I have experience that he helps us in all our needs and that the Lord wants us to understand that just as He was subject to St. Joseph on earth—for since bearing the title of father, being the Lord's tutor, Joseph could give the Child commands—so in heaven God does whatever he commands.

This has been observed by persons, also through experience, whom I have told to recommend themselves to him. And so there are many who in experiencing this truth renew their devotion to him."

"At this same period, on the festival of the Assumption of Our Lady, I was in a monastery of the Order of the glorious Saint Dominic, thinking of the many sins which in times past I had confessed in that house and of other things concerning my wicked life, when there came upon me a rapture so vehement that it nearly drew me forth out of myself altogether. I sat down and I remember even now that I could neither see the Elevation nor hear Mass being said, and later this caused me a certain amount of scruple. While in this state, I thought I saw myself being clothed in a garment of great whiteness and brightness. At first I could not see who was clothing me, but later I saw Our Lady on my right hand and my father Saint Joseph on my left, and it was they who were putting that garment upon me. I was given to understand that I was now cleansed of my sins. When the clothing was ended, and I was experiencing the greatest joy and bliss, I thought that Our Lady suddenly took me by the hands and told me that I was giving her great pleasure by serving the glorious Saint Joseph and that I might be sure that all I was trying to do about the convent would be accomplished and that both the Lord and they two would be greatly served in it. I was not to fear that there would be any failure whatever about this, although the nature of the obedience which it would have to render might not be to my liking. They would keep us safe and her Son had already promised to go with us: as a sign that that was true, she said, she would give me this jewel. Then she seemed to throw round my neck a very beautiful gold collar, to which was fastened a most valuable cross. The gold and stones were so different from earthly things of the kind that no comparison between them is possible: their beauty is quite unlike anything that we can imagine and the understanding cannot soar high enough to comprehend the nature of the garment or to imagine the brightness of the vision which it was the Lord's will to send me, and by comparison with which everything on earth looks, as one might say, like a smudge of soot.

The beauty which I saw in Our Lady was wonderful, though I could discern in her no particularly beautiful detail of form: it was her face as a whole that was so lovely and the whiteness and the amazing splendour of her vestments, though the light was not dazzling, but quite soft. The glorious Saint Joseph I did not see so clearly, though I could see plainly that he was there, as in the visions to which I have already referred and in which nothing is seen. Our Lady looked to me quite like a child. When they had been with me for a short time and caused me the greatest bliss and happiness -- more, I believe, than I had ever before experienced, so that I wished I need never lose it -- I seemed to see them ascending to Heaven with a great multitude of angels. I remained quite alone, but so greatly comforted and exalted and recollected in prayer, and so full of tender devotion, that I stayed for some time where I was, without moving, and unable to speak, quite beside myself. I was left with a vehement impulse to melt away in love for God, and with other feelings of a like kind, for everything happened in such a way that I could never doubt that this was of God, however hard I tried. It left me greatly comforted and full of peace.

As to what the Queen of the Angels said about obedience the point of it is that it was a grief to me not to make over the convent to the Order, but the Lord had told me that it would not be wise for me to do so. He gave me reasons for which it would be extremely unwise and told me to send to Rome, and to follow a certain procedure, which He also described to me. He would see to it that that procedure should bring security. And so it came about. I sent as the Lord had told me -- had I not, we should never have concluded the negotiations -- and it turned out very well. As to the things which have happened since, it proved a very wise arrangement that we should be under the Bishop's obedience, but at the time I did not know this, nor did I even know who that prelate would be. But the Lord was pleased that he should be good and helpful to this house, as has been necessary, in view of all the opposition it has met with, which I shall recount later, and in order to bring it to the state it is now in. Blessed be He Who has brought all this to pass! Amen."

[From St Teresa of Avila, Her Life by herself. ]

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St Joseph: a Special Patron of the Church

Alonso Cano (19 March 1601 – 3 September 1667
Death of St Joseph
Oil on canvas. 98x149.5 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

On 15th August 1989, Pope John Paul II delivered his Apostolic Exhortation: On the Person and Mission of St Joseph in the Life of Christ and the Church

This was on the centenary of Pope Leo XII`s Encyclical Epistle Quamquam Pluries: on the life of and devotion to St Joseph. (August 15, 1889):

St. Teresa of Jesus, the great reformer of the Carmelites, promoted the renewal of veneration to St. Joseph

Blessed Pope Pius IX declared Saint Joseph "Patron of the Catholic Church."(8th December 1870)

Pope John Paul II said:

"In this way the whole Christian people not only will turn to St. Joseph with greater fervor and invoke his patronage with trust, but also will always keep before their eyes his humble, mature way of serving and of "taking part" in the plan of salvation.

I am convinced that by reflection upon the way that Mary's spouse shared in the divine mystery, the Church - on the road towards the future with all of humanity - will be enabled to discover ever anew her own identity within this redemptive plan, which is founded on the mystery of the Incarnation.

This is precisely the mystery in which Joseph of Nazareth "shared" like no other human being except Mary, the Mother of the Incarnate Word. He shared in it with her; he was involved in the same salvific event; he was the guardian of the same love, through the power of which the eternal Father "destined us to be his sons through Jesus Christ" (Eph 1:5)."

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Pope`s Chef

SCAPPI, Bartolomeo. Opera di M. Bartolomeo Scappi, cvoco secreto di Papa Pio Quinto, divisa in sei libri. Nel primo si contiene il ragionamento chef a l’Autore con Gio suo discepolo. Nel secondo si tratta di diverse vivande di carne, si di quadrupedi, come di volatili. Nel terzo si parla della Statura, e stagione de pesci. Nel quarto si mostrano le liste del presentar le vivande in tavola, cosi di grasso come di magro […].
[Venice, 1570].
Woodcut print
[195 x 142 mm]

The always fascinating blog BibliOdyssey has an article on Bartolomeo Scappi (1500-1577) who has been described as "The First Celebrity Chef" of the Renaissance.

In 1536, he prepared a banquet for Charles V which included over 780 dishes.

He was the private chef to two Popes: Pope Pius IV and Pope Pius V. He also cooked for another four Popes.

He wrote a six volume treatise: Opera dell'arte del cucinare (1570). The book was continually published from 1570 to 1643

The Opera presents more than one thousand recipes along with menus that comprise up to a hundred dishes, while also commenting on a cook's responsibilities.

His book proposed much-needed structure on cooking and that meals be divided into courses.

Included are recipes for Lent. Also for panettone and pizza.

Amongst the notable recipes is one for “Pie of Bull’s Testicles”.

He declared parmesan to be the best cheese on earth,

The book also included the first picture of a fork.

Scappi also included a fascinating account of a pope's funeral and the complex procedures for feeding the cardinals during the ensuing conclave.

Amongst the many helpful hints are separating the kitchen from the main house to guard against poisoners !

He served Pius V the longest.

Pope Pius V was a man of very austere habits who observed fast days strictly. His food was plain. He ate sparingly.

He brought to the papal household a monastic austerity and certain customs which survive to this day, such as eating some meals in solitude and making these private meals more frugal.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Interior of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, Rome. The high altar painting "St. Carlo Borromeo contemplates the Holy Trinity with Sts. Jean de Matha and Félix de Valois" is by Pierre Mignard.(7 November 1612 - 30 May 1695)

We are about to be deluged with Baroque

Waldmar Januszczak is presenting a short BBC series entitled Baroque! From St Peter’s to St Paul’s starting on Wednesday at 9pm on BBC4.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London is hosting an exhibition on a similar theme entitled Baroque 1620-1800: Style in the Age of Magnificence from 4 April to 19 July 2009.

Baroque was the first "global style": the first style to have a significant worldwide impact.

It spread from Rome then the whole of Italy and France to the rest of Europe. Then it travelled to Africa, Asia, and South and Central America via the colonies, missions and trading posts of the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and other Europeans. The style was disseminated through the worldwide trade in fashionable goods, through prints, and also by travelling craftsmen, artists and architects

The patronage of the Roman Catholic Church was fundamental to the Baroque.

Baroque religious art was designed to move, impress and please the beholder.

Performance was as prominent in the sacred spaces of chapels and churches as it was in the theatres. Religious processions, church services and other rituals were designed to maintain social cohesion as well as offer a route to personal salvation.

This ability of the Baroque style to communicate effectively and immediately with audiences of all kinds, and in a range of situations, made it a powerful tool in the organisation of sacred ritual.

The Baroque style employed painting, sculpture, architecture and the applied arts in tandem with other arts such as music and poetry. The aim was to appeal to all the senses.

Seeking a combined and integrated effect, these total works of art sought to affect not only the hearts and minds of onlookers, but also to touch their very souls

Waldmar Januszczak, also the art critic of The Sunday Times, writes enthusiastically about the Baroque and his series about to be televised:

"Art movements can be tiny and over in a flash.

Vorticism, for instance, was invented by a few chaps in London in 1913, had one exhibition and petered out by 1915. Its influence was negligible. At the other end of the scale, however, among the behemoths and the leviathans, there are art movements so big that it is fairer to call them global convulsions. Gothic, for one, was an epidemic that spread across most of the known world. Our own conceptualism has washed up pretty much everywhere because of the ubiquity of the internet. When it comes to longevity as well as size, though, there has never been anything to match the baroque age. In the ranks of the big art movements, the baroque is the diplodocus, the blue whale, the Fred Goodwin pension.

So, when the BBC approached me about encapsulating its achievements in a three-part series, my first instinct was to laugh in Auntie’s madly optimistic face. The baroque in three films? That is like putting Everest in your garden. Or encapsulating Hamlet in a haiku. It cannot be done. Even Jeremy Paxman has been given four hours in which to twitter on about the Victorians. And the Victorians accomplished mere thimblefuls compared with the baroque. They gave us William Powell Frith; the baroque gave us Rembrandt, Velazquez, Rubens, Caravaggio, Vermeer, Van Dyck, Bernini, Bach, Handel, Purcell, Wren. Dammit, even Shakespeare was a baroque figure. Yet, unrealistic as the task indubitably appeared, it had to be attempted. Real arts television — as opposed to the sort featuring a clipped-on presenter from another field — gets so little airtime in today’s graceless TV schedules that all available straws need to be grasped. The herd of elephants had to be squeezed into a Mini.

The name “baroque” actually comes from a Portuguese word, barroco, which means “a misshapen pearl”. So the type of beauty it describes was blobby and bulging, rather than symmetrical and round. All that tells us about the baroque is that it had an indefinite outline, the result, I suggest, of trying to stuff so much into it. Two of the baroque’s dimensions were particularly spectacular. The first was its reach. At one end of its penetration, it became the house style of the whole of Latin America; going the other way, it travelled as far as Macao, in China. This was the first truly global art movement.

What’s more, it refused to confine itself to the usual art forms. Yes, it revolutionised painting, sculpture and architecture, as you might expect, but the baroque also changed the history of furniture-making, stucco, marblework, glass production and every other creative territory. Music was merely one of its wider highways, yet it invented operas, virtuosi, concertos, sonatas, guitars, violins and orchestras.

The baroque’s second outstanding quality was its time span. It started in Rome at the end of the 16th century, when Caravaggio appeared on the scene, but by the time the wildfire was spent, we were halfway through the 18th century. In Britain, where it arrived characteristically late, it didn’t get fully into its stride until Britain’s greatest baroque achievement, St Paul’s Cathedral, was finally completed in 1710.

So we are talking here about nearly two centuries of intense artistic accomplishment in every creative direction.

The obvious route through this gigantic continent of art — starting at the beginning and following the story through to the end — would have taken 20-30 films. So I needed to find a short cut, a theme, a trajectory. I beat myself up over this for many weeks and finally decided to confine my investigation to a short but pertinent leg of the journey. If I began outside St Peter’s, in Rome, I calculated, in that magnificent enfolding colonnade designed by Bernini in the 1650s, which holds three times as many people as Wembley stadium and seems to give every one of them a big baroque bear hug, and ended up outside St Paul’s a century or so later, staring up at the false dome, designed by Wren, that makes the cathedral look so much taller than it actually is, I could deal with most of the baroque’s main drives: its illusionism, its sense of movement, its ingenuity, its ambition, its sheer wackiness. And I would end up in Britain, where it had some of its finest yet least regarded moments.

Take the 51 city churches that Wren designed for Charles II. Most of them are still standing, and they surely constitute the finest concentration of baroque architecture outside Rome. People ought to be banging on about them endlessly, but for some modest British reason, they don’t. Or that thrilling riverside vista at Greenwich, with Inigo Jones’s Queen’s House in the centre and Wren’s Royal Naval College on either side. What a stupendous view. Rubens’s painted ceiling for the Banqueting House in Whitehall — his only surviving painted ceiling — is also a British baroque achievement, and then you get the fabulous arrival here of Van Dyck, with all that he invented. Tracing the baroque’s journey from Rome to London would take me past a dense cornucopia of treasures.

As it happens, 2010 is the 300th anniversary of the completion of St Paul’s, and as I love that bonkers building with a passion, the stars seemed favourably aligned for the Rome-to- London approach. So I got myself a fine baroque map of the world, published by the great Willem Blaeu in 1635, and set about deciding which bits of that world I could afford to ignore. I needed to be ruthless. The whole of Latin America had to go. Russia went. Central Europe went. And Germany. The hardest omission, though, was France. Having only recently stopped drooling from a chronic attack of bling rabies, triggered by a fabulous display of baroque silver at Versailles, I was grimly aware of France’s enormous contribution to the age. But three films is three films.

Fortunately, the baroque helped me out by proving so convincingly in its own glorious history that size does not always matter. I mean, look at Vermeer. His pictures are about as big as a kid’s exercise book, but what a fierce emotional wallop they pack. And one of my favourite baroque buildings in the world, the church of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, in Rome, by Francesco Borromini, is crammed into such a tiny Roman corner that a half-decent long-jumper would easily clear the entire complex: church, sacristy, monastery and cloister.

That said, the baroque definitely liked bigness. Some of its most spectacular achievements, from Padre Pozzo’s illusionistic heaven in Sant’Ignazio, in Rome, to the huge, militaristic facade of Blenheim Palace, behind which Winston Churchill was born, are XX Large. The quest, therefore, was to identify a defining quality, and to understand how this defining quality could lead to a massive, nude-strewn Rubens ceiling at the same time as it gave us a tiny still life of a cabbage and a lemon by the quiet Spanish genius Juan Sanchez Cotan. What drove the baroque? What united its madly varied international strands?

To answer that, I went back to the start and stared my eyes out at Caravaggio. Whatever Caravaggio was trying to do, I reasoned, the baroque in general was probably trying to do.

Now, the problem with Caravaggio is that the modern world has misunderstood him grotesquely. Ever since Derek Jarman whipped off his top in a ravishing but thoroughly misleading film biography, Caravaggio has been mistaken for a knife-loving, sadomasochistic Roman crazy. It’s a classic case of exporting crude modern preferences into the past. If, however, you look properly at Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus in the National Gallery, or the soulful Madonna di Loreto in Sant’Agostino, in Rome, you clearly find yourself in the presence of an intense and proselytising Catholic believer: a religious genius who hunts you down with predatory skill.

By setting his action in the shadows of the night, by using real people for models, by making his saints so touchable, Caravaggio plucks religious art out of the middle distance and shoves it under your nose. First he gets close to you, then he gets into you.

This revolutionary approach — the opening salvos of the baroque — can be traced back to the great Catholic council that convened in northern Italy in 1545 specifically to find ways of battling Protestantism. The Council of Trent had as its overriding aim the reconquest of the Christian soul. It specifically instructed Catholic artists to involve themselves in this struggle. Yet it wasn’t until Caravaggio finally appeared, half a century later, that a genius of the appropriate heft actually took up the cudgel.

You may be wondering what any of this has to do with St Paul’s, or Vermeer, or a Spanish still life? A lot, as it happens. When the Council of Trent urged its artists to involve themselves in the hunt for the human soul, it was actually urging them to grab an audience. Earlier art movements were merely concerned with producing the best art; the baroque needed also to have that art noticed. And there are, of course, different ways of getting noticed.

The baroque liked big things because big things are unmissable. Rembrandt comes over all vulnerable on us because vulnerability presses our sympathy button. Padre Pozzo’s huge illusionistic ceilings wow us with their miraculousness. Velazquez's royal portraits play psychological ping pong with us, confronting us with kings so present, we can touch them.

As the baroque spread and drifted and expanded, it forgot the origins of its religious message and began working for emperors as well as popes, Protestants as well as Catholics. The ideas that drove it proved useful in all manner of hands. And the arts, I suggest, have also never forgotten that driving idea: if you want people’s attention, you need to grab it."

"If you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another"

Chiesa on line gives the full text in English of Pope Benedict XVI`s letter to the Catholic bishops in reply to the "avalanche of protests" against his decision to lift the excommunication from the Lefebvrists

Amongst other things he said:

"Of course there are more important and urgent matters. I believe that I set forth clearly the priorities of my pontificate in the addresses which I gave at its beginning. Everything that I said then continues unchanged as my plan of action. The first priority for the Successor of Peter was laid down by the Lord in the Upper Room in the clearest of terms: "You… strengthen your brothers" (Lk 22:32). Peter himself formulated this priority anew in his first Letter: "Always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you" (1 Pet 3:15).

In our days, when in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel, the overriding priority is to make God present in this world and to show men and women the way to God. Not just any god, but the God who spoke on Sinai; to that God whose face we recognize in a love which presses "to the end" (cf. Jn 13:1) – in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. The real problem at this moment of our history is that God is disappearing from the human horizon, and, with the dimming of the light which comes from God, humanity is losing its bearings, with increasingly evident destructive effects.

Leading men and women to God, to the God who speaks in the Bible: this is the supreme and fundamental priority of the Church and of the Successor of Peter at the present time. A logical consequence of this is that we must have at heart the unity of all believers.

Their disunity, their disagreement among themselves, calls into question the credibility of their talk of God. Hence the effort to promote a common witness by Christians to their faith – ecumenism – is part of the supreme priority. Added to this is the need for all those who believe in God to join in seeking peace, to attempt to draw closer to one another, and to journey together, even with their differing images of God, towards the source of Light – this is interreligious dialogue. Whoever proclaims that God is Love "to the end" has to bear witness to love: in loving devotion to the suffering, in the rejection of hatred and enmity – this is the social dimension of the Christian faith, of which I spoke in the encyclical "Deus caritas est".

So if the arduous task of working for faith, hope and love in the world is presently (and, in various ways, always) the Church’s real priority, then part of this is also made up of acts of reconciliation, small and not so small. That the quiet gesture of extending a hand gave rise to a huge uproar, and thus became exactly the opposite of a gesture of reconciliation, is a fact which we must accept.

But I ask now: Was it, and is it, truly wrong in this case to meet half-way the brother who "has something against you" (cf. Mt 5:23ff.) and to seek reconciliation? Should not civil society also try to forestall forms of extremism and to incorporate their eventual adherents – to the extent possible – in the great currents shaping social life, and thus avoid their being segregated, with all its consequences? Can it be completely mistaken to work to break down obstinacy and narrowness, and to make space for what is positive and retrievable for the whole?

I myself saw, in the years after 1988, how the return of communities which had been separated from Rome changed their interior attitudes; I saw how returning to the bigger and broader Church enabled them to move beyond one-sided positions and broke down rigidity so that positive energies could emerge for the whole. Can we be totally indifferent about a community which has 491 priests, 215 seminarians, 6 seminaries, 88 schools, 2 university-level institutes, 117 religious brothers, 164 religious sisters and thousands of lay faithful? Should we casually let them drift farther from the Church? I think for example of the 491 priests. We cannot know how mixed their motives may be. All the same, I do not think that they would have chosen the priesthood if, alongside various distorted and unhealthy elements, they did not have a love for Christ and a desire to proclaim him and, with him, the living God. Can we simply exclude them, as representatives of a radical fringe, from our pursuit of reconciliation and unity? What would then become of them?

Certainly, for some time now, and once again on this specific occasion, we have heard from some representatives of that community many unpleasant things – arrogance and presumptuousness, an obsession with one-sided positions, etc. Yet to tell the truth, I must add that I have also received a number of touching testimonials of gratitude which clearly showed an openness of heart. But should not the great Church also allow herself to be generous in the knowledge of her great breadth, in the knowledge of the promise made to her? Should not we, as good educators, also be capable of overlooking various faults and making every effort to open up broader vistas?

And should we not admit that some unpleasant things have also emerged in Church circles? At times one gets the impression that our society needs to have at least one group to which no tolerance may be shown; which one can easily attack and hate. And should someone dare to approach them – in this case the Pope – he too loses any right to tolerance; he too can be treated hatefully, without misgiving or restraint.

Dear Brothers, during the days when I first had the idea of writing this letter, by chance, during a visit to the Roman Seminary, I had to interpret and comment on Galatians 5:13-15. I was surprised at the directness with which that passage speaks to us about the present moment: "Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’. But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another."

I am always tempted to see these words as another of the rhetorical excesses which we occasionally find in Saint Paul. To some extent that may also be the case. But sad to say, this "biting and devouring" also exists in the Church today, as expression of a poorly understood freedom. Should we be surprised that we too are no better than the Galatians? That at the very least we are threatened by the same temptations? That we must always learn anew the proper use of freedom? And that we must always learn anew the supreme priority, which is love?

The day I spoke about this at the Major Seminary, the feast of Our Lady of Trust was being celebrated in Rome. And so it is: Mary teaches us trust. She leads us to her Son, in whom all of us can put our trust. He will be our guide – even in turbulent times. And so I would like to offer heartfelt thanks to all the many Bishops who have lately offered me touching tokens of trust and affection, and above all assured me of their prayers.

My thanks also go to all the faithful who in these days have given me testimony of their constant fidelity to the Successor of Saint Peter. May the Lord protect all of us and guide our steps along the way of peace. This is the prayer that rises up instinctively from my heart at the beginning of this Lent, a liturgical season particularly suited to interior purification, one which invites all of us to look with renewed hope to the light which awaits us at Easter."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Pope calls for renewal of Eucharistic Adoration

The Blessed Sacrament Chapel, St Peters Basilica, The Vatican
Tabernacle and angels (guilded bronze) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) (1674) based on the Gianicolo temple by Bramante

Zenit reports that Pope Benedict XVI:

" is calling for a renewal of Eucharistic adoration, which he said helps to bring about a "fundamental transformation."
The Pope said this recently upon receiving in audience participants in the plenary assembly of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, who have been meeting to consider the question of Eucharistic adoration.

The Pontiff said he hoped the meeting would help to clarify "the liturgical and pastoral means by which the Church of our time can promote faith in the real presence of the Lord in the Blessed Eucharist, and to ensure that the celebration of Mass fully incorporates the aspect of adoration."

"The doctrine of the transubstantiation of the bread and wine, and of the real presence, are a truth of faith," the Holy Father affirmed, "already evident in sacred Scripture and later confirmed by the Fathers of the Church."

"Adoration must become union," Benedict XVI added, "union with the living Lord and with His mystical Body."

Citing his address at the 2005 World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, Benedict XVI explained that in the Eucharist, "God no longer simply stands before us as the One who is totally Other. He is within us, and we are in him. His dynamic enters into us and then seeks to spread outward to others until it fills the world, so that his love can truly become the dominant measure of the world."

The Pontiff said that in Cologne he also told the youth present that in the Eucharist "we experience the fundamental transformation of violence into love, of death into life. This brings other changes in its wake."

He noted that a renewal of Eucharistic adoration "will only be possible through a greater awareness of the mystery in complete faithfulness to sacred Tradition, and by enhancing liturgical life within our communities." "

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Museum of Pisa Cathedral: some exhibits

Reliquary chest
13th Century
Museo dell'Opera of Pisa Cathedral, Pisa

Studio of Giovanni Pisano
Madonna and Child
Beginning of the 14th Century
Museo dell'Opera of Pisa Cathedral, Pisa

Cristoforo da Lendinara (c1420.-1491)
View of the City of Pisa
Wood and inlay
Museo dell'Opera of Pisa Cathedral, Pisa

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The coronation of Cosimo I de' Medici

Etienne Dupérac (1520 - 1604)
The coronation of Cosimo I de' Medici as Grand Duke of Tuscany in the Sala Regia in the Vatican; Cosimo kneeling by Pope Pius V, cardinals and various figures watching the event (c. 1570)
From Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae
Etching, engraving on paper
370 millimetres x 490 millimetres
The British Museum, London

Inscription Content: Caption lettered at the right of image 'Essendo venuto in Roma il Gran Duca di Toscana.../...e fu ricevuto da S. Sta in Concistoro pubblico nella Sala Regia come nel presente disegno si vede'.

Numbered in pen and ink in the top right corner '22'.

The coronation of Cosimo I de' Medici (June 12, 1519 – April 21, 1574) as Grand Duke of Tuscany in the Sala Regia in the Vatican; Cosimo kneeling by Pope Pius V, cardinals and various figures watching the event

In January 1537, Cosimo was elected head of the Florentine Republic and in the same year he styled himself Duke of Florence. He married Eleanora de Toledo in 1539.

He captured Siena in 1555, of which he became Lord in 1557.

He made Giorgio Vasari superintendent of buildings and had him build the Uffizi in Florence from which all public services could be run. He adopted as his residence the Pitti Palace.

In 1569, Pope Pius V named Cosimo Grand Duke of Tuscany. The title was the first of this kind in Italy. It was the recognition by the Pope of a sovereign ruler of a sovereign state.

This was th culmination of a long campaign by Cosimo to have himself reecognised as royalty.

In 1559 Pope Pius IV (Cardinal Giovan Angelo de' Medici) became pontiff. Cosimo had supported the new pontiff’s candidacy and, in the years that followed, his relations with the papacy improved dramatically. In October 1560 he traveled to Rome with Eleonora and made his triumphal entry to Siena en route. The principal goal of his mission was to have the Pope crown him king of Tuscany, which would have placed him above the other Italian princes and closer to the level of Philip and other European monarchs. In the event, fearing Italian and more especially Spanish and Viennese opposition, Pius IV balked at his request. Pius IV died in 1565.

The succeeding Pope, Pope Pius V, was willing to cooperate only in return for full compliance with Counter-Reformational reforms. The Duke lost no time implementing the decrees of the Council of Trent, which concluded in 1564.

In a further bid to mollify Rome, in 1566 he extradited Pietro Carnesecchi, who had long since been convicted of heresy but had never been handed over to the Inquisition. Carnasecchi was a humanist who had served as secretary of Pope Clement VII and who had been allowed to add de' Medici to his surname as he was regarded as a member of the family. After a trial based on his private correspondence on October 1, 1567 Carnesecchi was beheaded in Castel Sant'Angelo and then his body was burnt.

In December 1569 his efforts finally bore fruit when Pius made him grand duke. The next year the pontiff placed the crown on his head, marking the birth of the grand duchy of Tuscany.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Encouragement to catechesis and the sacraments

Jacob Jordaens. (1593-1678)
The Veneration of the Eucharist. c.1630.
Oil on canvas.
National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin

Zenit reports on on the meeting which Pope Benedict XVI had with the parish priests of Rome. At the meeting the Pope encouraged priests to to catechise parishioners about the depth of the liturgy and the meaning of the sacraments as encounters with God.

"He noted, "What is really important for me is that the sacraments [...] not be something foreign along with more contemporary endeavours." He added, "It can easily happen that the sacrament remains somewhat isolated in a more pragmatic context and becomes a reality that is not altogether inserted in the totality of our being."

The Pontiff stressed the need for catechesis in the parishes.

He affirmed that it is important that God "not be distant but reconcilable, concrete, that he enter our lives and really be a friend with whom we can talk and who talks with us."

He continued, "We must learn to celebrate the Eucharist, learn to know Jesus Christ, the God with a human face, up close, really enter into contact with him, learn to listen to him and to allow him to enter into us."

Sacramental communion, explained the Holy Father, is not just taking a piece of bread, but rather is opening "my heart so that the Risen One will enter the context of my being, so that he is within me and not just outside of me, and thus speaks with me and transforms my being."

"He gives me the sense of justice, the dynamism of justice, in zeal for the Gospel," noted Benedict XVI.

He affirmed, "This celebration, in which God not only comes close to us, but enters into the fabric of our existence, is essential to really be able to live with God and for God and to take the light of God to this world."

Body of Christ

The Pope stated that this understanding also "leads me to the other because the other receives the same Christ, as I do."

He continued: "Hence, if the same Christ is in him and me, we also are no longer separate individual beings. Herein lies the birth of the doctrine of the Body of Christ, because we have all been incorporated if we receive the Eucharist correctly in the same Christ.

"Hence, my neighbour is truly close: we are no longer two separate 'I's, but we are united in the same 'I' of Christ."

The Pontiff told the pastors that "Eucharistic and sacramental catechesis must really go to the depth of our existence, to be, in fact, education to open myself to the voice of God, to let myself be opened to break this original sin of egoism and to open my existence profoundly, so that I will really be just."

He noted, "We must all learn the liturgy better, not as something exotic but as the heart of our being Christian, which does not open easily to a distant man, but which is, on the other hand, precisely openness to the other, to the world."

The Holy Father emphasised: "We must all collaborate in celebrating the Eucharist ever more profoundly: not only as a rite but as an existential process that touches me profoundly, more than anything else, and changes me, transforms me and, by transforming me, sparks the transformation of the world that the Lord desires and of which He wishes to make me an instrument."

Jacob Jordaens, a Flemish artist, was born in 1593 into the family of an Antwerp linen merchant

In 1615, he joined the St. Lukas Guild and, in 1621, became its deacon.

Jordaens painted religious, mythological, historical subjects, portraits and genre scenes, and big monumental decorations.

Jordaens did not visit Italy and never tried to imitate the Italian style.

After Rubens’ death, Jordaens became the leader of the Antwerp school, carrying out innumerable commissions for Church and Court between 1640 and 1650, including 22 pictures for the salon on Queen Henrietta Maria at Greenwich, work for the Scandinavia and French courts.

In 1650, the artist adopted Calvinism, but continued to receive commissions from the Catholic Church.

Jordaens was fined 200 pounds and 15 shillings for scandalous or heretical writings between 1651 and 1658.

George Mulvany (1809–69; director 1862–69) Keeper of the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin, in 1865 had a bargain by purchasing Jordaens’s large Veneration of the Eucharist for only £84

Rubens` The Triumph of the Eucharist series (tapestries) was the most ambitious of the four tapestry series Rubens designed in the course of his career. It reflected the passionate devotion of the Belgians towards the Eucharist. In the following years, the series by Rubens stimulated a slew of imitations featuring dramatic figures in billowing costumes set within tromp l'oeil architectural frames and tapestries within tapestries.

The first designer to pick up on the illusionist scheme of the Eucharist series was Jacob Jordaens

Life-size figures in shallow architectural settings produced an effect of spontaneity and a pleasurable illusionist effect. The architectural frames had the merit of being easier to weave in tapestries than complex landscape grounds.

William Shakespeare ?

The Telegraph reports that after three years of meticulous analysis, x-rays and infrared imaging, experts claim to have uncovered the only surviving portrait of William Shakespeare painted during his life

"The oil canvas is thought to have been painted in 1610 - six years before the playwright's death - when he was about 46 years old.

It remained in the same family for centuries and was inherited by art restorer Alec Cobbe. In 2006, he visited the National Portrait Gallery and saw a painting of Shakespeare that hangs in the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington.

It had been accepted as a life portrait of Shakespeare, but was discredited 70 years ago. Mr Cobbe saw the painting and realised the similarities with the painting he had inherited.

Believing his painting to be the original, he contacted Professor Stanley Wells, chairman of The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, who was initially sceptical.

Investigations were carried out by Professor Rupert Featherstone, director of the Hamilton Kerr Institute at Cambridge University which focuses on conservation of easel paintings, Hamburg University where they dated the oak panelling of the painting and Tager Stonor Richardson, which carried out infrared imaging. Mark Broch, curator of the Cobbe Collection also carried out painstaking research.

Prof Wells said: "My first impression was scepticism - I am a scholar. But my excitement has grown with the amount of evidence about the painting.

"I am willing to go 90 per cent of the way to declaring my confirmation that this is the only life time portrait of Shakespeare. It marks a major development in the history of Shakespearian portraiture."

The painting will go on display at The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon on April 23, Shakespeare's birthday. "