Sunday, November 22, 2009

Archdeacon Manning goes to Assisi

Print made by Ferdinand Schmutzer 1870 - 1928
Monastery kitchen in Assisi
Soft ground etching, with etching
205 millimetres x 191 millimetres
The British Museum, London

Domenico Anderson (1854-1938) -
"Assisi. An ox cart with oxen, the fountain and a part of Duomo square". pre 1900

Assisi was not a town on "The Grand Tour". It was very difficult to get to.

Goethe famously only spent an afternoon there to see the Temple of Minerva. The rest he dismissed with lofty disdain.

From the 14th to the 19th centuries, the tesoro was regularly pillaged--in riots, civil wars, revolutions and invasions

It was only after 1868 that foreign tourists started to come to Assisi. One reason was the popularity of Paul Sabatier`s (a French Calvinist) biography of St Francis of Assisi which went into many editions and was translated throughout Europe.

Another reason was the re-discovery of "the primitives" such as Cimabue and Giotto, Pietro Lorenzetti and Simone Martini (and other lesser known names as Guccio di Mannaia, the Master of St. Francis and others) through such art connoisseurs as John Ruskin and others. John Ruskin in particular was a great champion of Assisi.

Now of course it is the third most visited religious site in Italy.

In 1848, the then Archdeacon Manning was in Italy. He was a witness to some of the revolutionary happenings in Rome. It was the Year of the Revolutions in Europe.

In May 1848, for some reason he went to Assisi.

He was still an Archdeacon in the Church of England. Newman had already left the Church of England and had become a Roman Catholic and at that time was studying in Rome. Manning had not yet formed the intention of becoming a Catholic. He certainly had no idea that one day he would be a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church and be one of the main forces at The First Vatican Council.

His diary gives accounts of his friendly visits to Father Luigi at the Convent of Gli Angeli, Assisi, and frequent controversies with him and the other monks:

"13th May. Started for Assisi, saw S. Pietro of the Benedictines, a fine church and convent out of the town on high ground. St. Catherine of Siena, in the south arch of choir, beautiful.

View from Loggia, at back of Tribune (as in the church I visited, near Homburg), wonderfully fine. (Blessing and bowing.)

Then to Gli Angeli. Fra Luigi received me. He said, " Mi pare sacerdote"; I said, "della Chiesa Anglicana."

We then went to church where compline was just beginning.

Under the dome is the Porziuncula, a rude stone chapel 45 by 21, about 30 feet to gable. At the gable two niches with figures, four angels at the corners. The chapel has a west door, round-headed, with one round moulding. At the south side another large round-headed door; on the north side two windows, one square -headed, the other lancet, near the altar deep, broad.

Over west door is Overbeck's picture in fresco. The whole end frescoed and diapered. On each side of church (inside) kneeling desks for one each. Floor marble composition, steps of altar marble. Screen of iron rails about 9 feet high, wrought and gilded ; two or three rows of large lamps at intervals ; sides of roof panelled off, and carved with ex votos. Altar small, and covered with gold, reredos all gold or gilt.

F. Luigi led me in and told me to sit ; but I went up two steps of high altar till after compline.

Then to the Porziuncula ; then outside the door. After awhile the Host came under a canopy with about five attendants, one a priest, who knelt at altar. Then the friars, about 60, came in procession through the transept and aisle, chanting. They knelt in two lines down the church. Then followed paters and aves and glorias ; then the tune of Jesu dulcis memoria, and I think the hymn. Then some prayers. Then I think was sung Veni Creator (a triduo for the Roman State at this time), with some of the collects. Then Tantum Ergo and the Benediction. The whole was solemn and beautiful.

Then went into the sacristy and was introduced to the Father guardian.

The Porziuncula has an apse which seems modern, and is cut off at the back of the altar and railed in.

Then I saw the chapel where St. Francis died. His chamber, and a door said to be the original. (Here follows pen-and-ink sketch of chapel.)

7 o'clock. Walked up towards Assisi. The moon broke out and reminded me of Harrow and Oxford, under a cloudless sky and yellow moon. The whole country green with fresh verdure and foliage ; and the frogs croaking in the water by the roadside ; as the evening fell I got into Catonia.

9 o'clock. Went and talked with F. Luigi and the Infirmarian. F. Luigi spoke well of the English ; of their good writers. He then said he hoped for union. I said " It was my daily prayer."

He said " You are a young man and will see it, I am 80."

I said " I hope you will see the church finished." He begged 3 1/2 years.

He said "The last and the present Pope both looked for it."

I said "People here do not know us. We believe that we are baptized and believe the Faith."

He said "I know there are only a few points of difference."

Then he asked the number of our churches ; and whether we had the Succession ; about Absolution ; services.

The Infirmarian got uneasy.

F. Luigi asked whether we held Purgatory.

I said "We held a third state, in which all are; not mixed, but waiting ; the bad for torment, the good purifying."

The Infirmarian said, " The bad go to hell," which is the counter-proposition to Protestants sending all to heaven ; yet he admitted that the Resurrection would unite their bodies in torment. At last he got more uneasy and said, "One point is enough," as against F. Luigi's few points. I said " You mean the separation" I quoted invincible ignorance ; he would not admit it, and I said, because of separation ; then quoted Multi Oves. I said it was better to be less than more, and that he as an Infirmarian would admit the analogy, which he did unwillingly.

I argued there is only one Church ; I quoted St. Augustine, Multi Oves.

He, St. Paul.

I, St. Thomas ; he, the Church.

At last he got up and went, as if to testify. Spiritual light, which is love, overflows intellect like water in the basin of a fount ; intellect, which is light without love, dwells
in its own margin.

F. Luigi said, " We in Italy are on the eve of times worse than the Reformation ; lo dico con lagrime agli occhi.'

The things F. Luigi could least get over were the putting the bread into the hand of the communicant; the thought of breaking it with teeth ; and the rejection of the Extreme Unction.

He asked about confession and absolution, especially for the sick ; about ordination, ritual, accipe Spiritum Sanctum; absolvo te. (The Infirmarian said, "That without penances, absolutions avail nothing.") About one baptism in and out of the Church ; mitre ; priests' vestments ; feasts ; F. Luigi did not seem to hold to the objection of our not having them in offices for saints. But pressed the absence of saints and miracles, said that it left the people in crassa ignoranza (invincible) ; claimed both as frequent in the Roman Church.

After this (10 o'clock) went to supper, wine and tea, eggs and omelette. Two of the lay brothers waiting.

F. Luigi was like St. Francis, and the Infirmarian seemed to me to be a Catholic High Churchman of the Roman Church.

F. Luigi was as full and firm in dogmatic belief, but the sharp lines were melted off by a fervent charity. He seemed a loving old man, ripe in years, and loving knowledge of God and man ; gentle, hopeful, and just. The Infirmarian seemed zealous, eager for truth, unyielding, urging literal formulas to consequences contrary to axioms of natural religion, and of the revealed character of God. Withal by overstraining the doctrine of the Church he lost hold of it.

Sunday, 14th May. Went to the church at half-past eight; started and walked up towards Assisi ; fell in with three women, one of the third order of St. Francis; the other two of the confraternity of St. Stephen. They are bound by rule to go 6, 7, and 8 Sundays (as certain years run) to Gli Angeli. In bad weather the women may go to S. Francesco.

One, Soeur Cardelli, told me that there was a monastery of Bavarian Franciscan Sisters near her house, of saintly life ; one was made Abbess of Novara. As Cardinal Mastai [later Pope Pius IX] passed to the Conclave in 1846, she told him he was going to take up a great and bloody cross upon his shoulders. She explained that he was to be elected.

After this event Pope Pius IX. sent for her to Rome ; and she had revelations of attempts on his life. So they believe ; and much more, as of the appearance of Satan in token of the trials coming on Italy, and of one of the sisters carrying the child Jesus through their garden.

When we got to Assisi I went first to S. Francesco. I shall never forget the first entrance into the church. The sunlight outside was white with brightness; the door, a pointed narrow door, with red marble shafts, twofold and a centre, looked black ; when I got in I saw little but the windows of chapels and transept. After awhile I began to see the frescoes looming through the darkness.

Then the high altar, with the wrought-iron screen and gilding. The pitch of the roof and the pillars gave it a most impressive look; like the under church of York, pointed. Also it is so irregular as to entangle one's eye. It had a solemn imposing effect, beyond almost any church I can remember. (Here follows a pen-and-ink ground-plan.) The form of the church is a Latin Cross with an end like the seven chapels at Durham. Windows like the style of Westminster Abbey. Over this, going up by the sacristy, is the upper church, a Latin cross of a style we should call Early English ; groined chief door opening upon a piazza higher than the roof of the second church. The windows, lancet lights, pointed and fourfoil, with apertures. The under church and sanctuary white marble, and of a modern French look, not pleasing.

Mass at the altar of St. Francis in the second church ; then through the cloister to the ambulatory round west and south sides of the convent.

View wonderful.

About 50 brothers, of whom 20 priests. At Gli Angeli 150 brothers; at S. Damiano about 12; at S. Chiava about 20 sisters. S. Apoll. Benedictine nuns, four veiled this morning.

From this I went to the Piazza, up a street with many marks of Lombard architecture, with chapels frescoed, one open, one shut. Fountains and a Monte di Pieta of Lombard architecture. In the Piazza a temple of Minerva, now a church. Fluted columns, and before it the old Roman altar with curious incisions. The old level about 10 feet below the modern.

Then to the Cathedral, a fine Lombard face, door, and wheel windows, but much ruined by modernism.

Then Chiesa Nuova, where is the old street door of St. Francis's house, and the place where they say he was crucified. They are now in the angles of an octagon church.

Then to S. Chiara. Lombard ; groined ; wheel window ; apse.

Going out of the gate to S. Damiano saw a cross into which was let another, being the same that St. Catherine of Siena carried in a mission at Assisi.

After dinner to S. Damiano, lying under the brow of the hill S.S.E. of the city ; reminded me of Herne Bay and the moat. A courtyard. Church with ambulatory. (Here follows ground-plan, with minute description.) Including the window through which St. Francis threw the money, and the choir of St. Clare and window of Saracens. Above was the dormitory reaching over the whole nave ; and at end the window which is painted outside with the Saracens falling, and St. Clare within carrying the ciborium, followed by her nuns.

An oratory of St. Clare, and her chamber, with steps out of the dormitory, also by the stairs up to the oratory. A small loggia with a place for flowers looking south over the plain. Hardly anything has more interested me. The church is like one of our rude Early English, with an apse ; much ruder than Upwaltham. The refectory reminded me of the groined roof at Old Waltham and Hardham. Altogether I felt it the most English sight I have seen, and it gave me a home feeling.

Among the relics are the alabaster ciborium St. Clare is said to have carried against the Saracens. Her breviary, and the bell of her convent which rings with a soft tone, a portion of linen with which she staunched St. Francis's wounds. A chalice to purify hands, as I understood, perhaps before carrying Host. The choir is most rude. The seats are as it were one bench divided into 12 or 13 squares.

There is an excommunication against innovation. In the refectory there is a cross let into the table where St. Clare sat. (Now the P. guardian.) St. Clare's chamber now the curia of the Provincial.

In the marble choir round the upper moulding of the canopy of stalls : Non Vox sed Votum. Non clamor sed Amor. Non cordula sed Cor.

Coming back, went again to St. Clare, to which after the attack of the Saracens St. Clare migrated. Her body lies under the high altar ; a door lamp is always burning under the grating ; so dark and hidden that the first time I did not see it The exact site of the body is not known, only that it is there ; which also I find said of St. Peter. This seems to me to be honest and religious.

Saw also the crucifix placed in Campo Doro which is said to have spoken to St. Francis, and the aperture through which St. Clare communicated.

Then came down to Gli Angeli.

Bid farewell to F. Luigi. He bade me consider and take counsel of some competent Catholic in England ; said that God loves England, and that many are coming to the true Church, as many have already. Chiesa dell' Inghilterra, Chiesa Inglese, Chiesa di Londra.

I asked his prayers ; said we may never meet again ; then I said, " My one only aim in life is to unite my soul with God. If an unworthy sinner dare say this, I will dare." He said Ah / and kissed my right cheek, much moved. We gave the kiss of peace and I went away."

If Manning had not been treated with politeness and courtesy by the monks and he had left with a bad impression, would he have converted. ?  The parties  had profound differences yet were still able to have a civilised conversation and discussion about these differences. It seems like a different world.

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