Monday, May 31, 2010

The Vision of the Blessed Juliana of Mont Cornillon

Philippe de Champaigne 1602 - 1674
The Vision of St. Juliana (1191-1258) of Mont Cornillon (about 1645/50)
Oil on canvas
15.24 inch x 18.70 inch
The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, Birmingham

It is surprising how often many of the important devotions and feasts of the Catholic Church have been or are initiated or promoted through nuns

Many of the devotions have spread like wild fire. They are picked up and suddenly they spread. There is no calculation. Often the devotion "catches on" long after the originator is dead.

One of them is the devotion for the Feast of Corpus Christi.

It was primarily promoted by the petitions of the thirteenth-century Augustinian nun Juliana of Liège, (also called St. Juliana of Mt. Cornillon) (1193–1252). She was in charge of a leper colony.

She did not promote the idea for personal agrandissement or for political ends. The important thing for her was the spread of the idea. The idea spread despite very strong opposition.

The feast was first celebrated in Liège in 1246, and later adopted for the universal church in 1264.

Here is an extract from The Feast of Corpus Christi by Barbara R. Walters, Vincent Corrigan, Peter T. Ricketts. 2006 The Pennsylvania State University Press. It describes her life and her work in establishing the feast.

"Juliana was born ca. 1192–93 at Retinne, a small village near Liège, the younger of two daughters born to wealthy but non-aristocratic parents. Although their identity is unknown, Mulder-Bakker astutely asserts the plausibility that Juliana’s natural parents were related to the Abbess Imena of Loon or her stepbrother, the archbishop of Cologne, Conrad of Hochstaden, both of whom demonstrated a special and particular protectiveness toward Juliana in her later and more troubled years.

These natural parents of Juliana, in their advancing years, prayed for descendents. Their prayers were answered by the birth of two daughters, Agnes and Juliana ...

The two girls were orphaned at a young age in 1197 and were placed by friends of the family in a newly founded (1176) hospice at Mont Cornillon, along with a gift of approximately 250 hectares of land. Mont Cornillon was located outside Liège, along the route to Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen) at the foot of a hill where the Premonstratensians had an abbey.

The house functioned as a leprosarium with four types of residents: men and women suffering from leprosy, and healthy men and women entrusted with various duties in the care of those afflicted. The men and women who provided care were celibate and celebrated the divine office, but were not under religious rule until 1242, when the bishop placed the house under the Rule of Saint Augustine. ...

When Agnes and Juliana were placed at Mont Cornillon, they were immediately moved to an adjacent farm under the care of Sister Sapientia, prioress of the house.

Juliana was a precocious child, mature and gifted in her studies. She mastered French and Latin at an early age and had by adolescence memorized the Psalms, the Song of Songs, and twenty of Saint Bernard’s sermons. Moreover, she routinely displayed the characteristic asceticism, obedience, humility, piety, charity, and eucharistic devotion that typified the religious prototype in the Cistercian vitae of the epoch.

Juliana was also a prophetic and mystical visionary.

In 1210, at age eighteen, her hallmark vision of a full moon with a small fraction missing began.

Through constant prayer she came to interpret this vision as a revelation from Christ. The moon symbolized the Church, and the missing quarter symbolized the absence of a feast day that Christ wanted his faithful to celebrate:

“institutio sacramenti corporis et sanguinis sui quolibet anno semel sollempnius ac specialius recoleretur quam in cena, quando circa lotionem pedem et memoriam passionis sue ecclesia generaliter occupatur”[once every year the institution of the Sacrament of his Body and Blood should be celebrated more solemnly and specifically than it was at the Last Supper, when the Church was generally preoccupied with the washing of the feet and the remembrance of his passion].

After long years of prayers, protest, and revelations from Christ, Juliana embraced as her divinely inspired vocation the task of initiating and promoting the new feast, which should “deinceps per personas humiles promoveri” [from then on be promoted by humble people].

In 1230, after the death of Sapientia, Juliana became prioress, serving under Prior Godfrey, in the episcopacy of the Liège prince-bishop, John of Eppes. She began to confide her vision for the new feast day to her close circle of friends: Eve, an anchoress and recluse at Saint-Martin’s, the collegiate church in Liège; Isabella, a béguine from Huy; and John of Lausanne, the canon at Saint-Martin, who knew the many French theologians and Dominican professors in Liège.

She requested of Canon Dom John that he set her visions of the new feast before his distinguished acquaintances without disclosing her identity. And thus the idea of the new feast day was explained to Jacques of Troyes, archdeacon of Liège, later bishop of the church of Verdun, then Patriarch of Jerusalem, and finally, pope, under the name of Urban IV.

Her idea also was put forward before Hugh of Saint-Cher, Prior Provincial of the Order of the Dominicans, who was later promoted to cardinal of the Church of Rome, and before the most reverend Father Guiard, bishop of Cambrai. Additionally, these matters were shown to the chancellor of Paris, to the friars Gilles, John, and Gerard, who were lectors to the Dominican preachers in Liège, and to many others.

All of these luminaries were of one mind and spirit and could find no reason in divine law that might prohibit the institution of a special feast day celebrating the Sacrament

Juliana was elated by the approbation.

However, she had no erudite or distinguished scholars on whom she could depend to compose the office and Mass for the new feast, and so she chose a young and innocent brother, John, “(q)uem licet in litterarum scientia nosceret imperitum” [although she knew him to be inexperienced in literary matters].

The vita reports that John centonated the office, that is, he employed a process in between rote reproduction from memory and extemporization, which was characteristic of oral transmission, through “the miraculous intervention of the Holy Spirit” while Juliana prayed. When their work was shown to the learned theologians in Liège, it was found theologically perfect and aesthetically pleasing. “Hec autem omnia tante suavitatis et dulcedinis sunt in littera et in cantu, ut etiam a lapideis cordibus devotionem merito debeant extorquere” [And all of the texts and melodies are of such beauty and sweetness that they should be able to wring devotion even from hearts of stone]. ...

After the death of Bishop John of Eppes, the bishopric remained vacant for two years, ultimately resolved by pontifical arbitration in 1240. In the meantime, Prior Godfrey of Mont Cornillon died and was replaced by a Prior [Roger]. The new prior was an enemy of Juliana who allegedly obtained his office through simony, pandered to the bourgeoisie, and befriended those brothers and sisters in the house opposed to her strict enforcement of the religious rule.

He further took advantage of the opportunity afforded by the transition of authority in the bishopric to incite the citizens of Liège to riot by accusing Juliana and several nuns of stealing the charters of the house and diverting funds to bribe the bishop for the institution of the new feast. The townspeople assaulted the monastery and destroyed Juliana’s oratory but did not find the charters, which the nuns had carefully hidden.

Juliana fled to the cell of the recluse, Eve of Saint-Martin, but actually was received into Canon John’s larger residence adjacent to the basilica.

Bishop Robert of Thourette was named successor to John of Eppes by a pontifical council in 1240 but never received the then-customary investiture from Emperor Frederick II. He initiated an inquest at Mont Cornillon and in 1242 deposed the simoniac Prior Roger, ordering him to the leprosarium at Huy.

He installed the young and naïve brother John as prior at Mont Cornillon. Bishop Robert then reinstated Juliana as prioress, had her oratory rebuilt, reconfirmed the religious Rule of Saint Augustine, and excluded the lay citizens of Liège from further participation in the governance of the house.

Following these events, Bishop Robert was introduced to the new feast of Corpus Christi. “[V]iri venerabiles et religiosi sollempnitatis ordinem et processum exposuerunt reverendo patri domino roberto leodiensi episcopo et eidem ut divine munus gratie agnosceret et exaltaret verbis efficacibus suggesserunt”[Venerable religious men set the order and progress of the feast before the reverend father Dom Robert, Bishop of Liège, and effectively persuaded him to acknowledge and exalt the gift of divine grace].

Bishop Robert died at Fosses on 16 October 1246. On his deathbed, in a letter to all clergy, he established the feast for the diocese of Liège on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday.

The letter notes two reasons for instituting the new feast. The first, “to counteract the madness of heretics,” was a rationale later repeated in nearly exact wording by both Hugh of Saint-Cher and Urban IV. The second reason was explained by reference to the saints, whom the Church commemorates every day and yet still honors individually in a yearly feast on their death date. Robert exhorted those around him to love and promote the feast and had them celebrate the new office immediately before his last breath.He concluded his letter with a quote from Matthew 28: 20: “And behold I am with you always, to the end of time.”...

The young Henry of Gueldre, cousin to Count William of Holland and nephew of Duke Henry of Brabant, replaced Bishop Robert of Thourette in 1247, following the death of the latter. Bishop Henry was appointed with the encouragement of the papacy as part of its efforts to secure political support and a suitable successor to Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, upon his deposition in 1245.

As bishop, Henry initiated a statute reconfirming the rights of the bourgeoisie in the administration of the house at Mont Cornillon, deposed the young prior John, and brought back the simoniac Roger, who had earlier been sent to Huy by Bishop Robert. The citizens again invaded the monastery and destroyed Juliana’s oratory.

In 1247, Juliana fled Mont Cornillon for a second time with sisters Agnes, Isabella, and Ozile and found refuge in the Cistercian monasteries at Robermont, Val-Benoît, and Val-Notre-Dame. However, the new bishop, Henry, pursued the women, and at each place through cunning machinations prevented their benefactor from extending their stay.

The women departed for Namur, where they initially found shelter among the poor. Their situation came to the attention of Abbess Imène, sister of the most reverend Conrad, archbishop of Cologne, who contacted the reverend John, archdeacon of Liège. The archdeacon procured a house for the women close to the church of Saint Aubain.Abbess Imène also used her connections to obtain annuities from Mont Cornillon commensurate with the considerable inheritances that each had bestowed upon the monastery and took the women under the protection of the monastery.

“Que de consilio peritorum et religiosorum virorum maxime autem reverendi patris Guiardi cameracensis episcopi subiectioni et protectioni prefate abbatisse se quamdiu viverent subdiderunt, ne absque superiore sed solo proprie voluntatis arbitrio vivere dicerentur” [On the advice of experienced religious, especially the reverend father Guiard, Bishop of Cambrai, they submitted to the obedience and protection of the abbess for as long as they lived, lest anyone should say they were living merely at their own whim without a superior].

After the deaths of Agnes and Ozile between 1248 and 1252, Isabella, no doubt influenced by the abbess, persuaded Juliana to move to the larger abbey at Salzinnes; this came under the protection of Cardinal Hugh of Saint-Cher around 1252. After the death of Isabella, Sister Ermentrude from Mont Cornillon later was persuaded to join her there. But the house at Salzinnes was dispersed in 1256, after a furious revolt on the part of the townspeople of Namur against a certain Empress Marie, who managed the county of Namur in the absence of her husband between 1253 and 1256. ...

Upon the dispersal of the abbey at Salzinnes, the abbess took Juliana to the house of a cantor at the Cisterican abbey at Fosses. The cantor provided Juliana with a cell, initially built for a recluse who had recently died. Juliana remained there until her death on 5 April 1258.

On her deathbed she asked for her confessor, John of Lausanne, the canon at Saint- Martin’s. “Desiderabat autem illum ea specialiter ut creditur intentione, ut secreta sua que tantopere in vita celaverat eidem vel in vite sue termino revelaret” [I believe she wanted him specifically so that at the end of her life, she could reveal the secrets she had hidden so long]. Neither he nor any of her friends from Liège came, and so these secrets, perhaps concerning her work on the feast, remain unknown.

The cantor of Fosses administered the last rites to her immediately before her death, and a sacrifice for the dead was offered the next day in the Fosses church. Then, in accordance with Juliana’s wishes, her friend, the monk Gobert d’Aspremont, moved her body by carriage to the Cistercian monastery at Villers. On the following Sunday, an unknown priest arrived and gave an eloquent sermon on the Sacrament, after which Juliana was buried in the section of the cemetery at Villers reserved for saints.

Her cult developed immediately, although it did not receive official recognition until 1869, under Pius IX."

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lead up to Corpus Christi

The Book of Hours (`Hours of Philip of Burgundy') The Hague, KB, 76 F 2 is in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The National Library of the Netherlands

It was made at Oudenaarde for Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy (1396-1467)

During his reign Burgundy reached the height of its prosperity and prestige and became a leading centre of the arts. Philip is known in history for his administrative reforms, patronage of artists such as Henri Bellechose, Jan van Eyck, Rogier Van der Weyden, Hans Memling, musicians such as Guillaume Dufay and writers such as Jean Wauquelin , Michault Taillevent. As well as the capture of Joan of Arc.

The scribe was Jean Miaelot. The illuminators were Jean le Tavernier and follower c. 1450-1460. Added sections were by the Master of the Prayer Books of Bruges c. 1500 (illuminator)

The first two images are from the Mass of the Holy Sacrament for Corpus Christi

The other three are self-explanatory

Thursday Hours of the Holy Sacrament
The adoration of the Holy Sacrament
Fol. 88r: miniature (grisaille)

Mass of the Holy Sacrament
A procession with the Holy Sacrament
Fol. 92v: miniature (grisaille)

Prayer to the Holy Sacrament
Holy Mass attended by Philip the Good, Duke of BurgundyFol. 41v: miniature (grisaille)
85x70 mm

Prayer to the Holy Sacrament
Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, going to communion
Fol. 43v: miniature (grisaille)
85x65 mm
Prayer to the Holy Sacrament
Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, at prayer
Fol. 44v: miniature (grisaille)

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach (20 July 1656 – 5 April 1723)
Dome of the Dreifaltigkeitskirche (Church of the Holy Trinity)
Begun 1694
Salzburg, Austria

Antonio Galli Bibiena (1 January 1700 - 28 January 1774)
Dome of The Holy Trinity 1744-45
Bratislava, Slovakia

The nature of the universe which stilleth
the centre and moveth all the rest around
hence doth begin as from its starting point
And this heaven hath no other where than the Divine mind.
—Dante Alighieri, Paradiso, Canto xxvii, 106–110

"Thanks to the Holy Spirit, who helps us understand Jesus' words and guides us to the whole truth (cf. Jn 14: 26; 16: 13), believers can experience, so to speak, the intimacy of God himself, discovering that he is not infinite solitude but communion of light and love, life given and received in an eternal dialogue between the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit - Lover, Loved and Love, to echo St Augustine."

The Fire of Pentecost

Pentecost Dome
Begun 1063
Mosaics c 1160-80
St Mark`s, Venice

Antonio Gherardi (1644–1702)
The Dome of the Avila Chapel of Santa Maria in Trastevere
Begun 1680

Carlo Ceppi (1829–1921)
Dome of Madonna degli Angeli 1901
Turin, Italy

"The Son of God, dead and Risen and returned to the Father, now breathes with untold energy the divine breath upon humanity, the Holy Spirit.

And what does this new and powerful self-communication of God produce?

Where there are divisions and estrangement the Paraclete creates unity and understanding.

The Spirit triggers a process of reunification of the divided and dispersed parts of the human family. People, often reduced to individuals in competition or in conflict with each other, when touched by the Spirit of Christ open themselves to the experience of communion, which can involve them to such an extent as to make of them a new body, a new subject: the Church.

This is the effect of God's work: unity; thus unity is the sign of recognition, the "business card" of the Church throughout her universal history.

From the very beginning, from the Day of Pentecost, she speaks all languages. The universal Church precedes the particular Churches, and the latter must always conform to the former according to a criterion of unity and universality.

The Church never remains a prisoner within political, racial and cultural confines; she cannot be confused with States nor with Federations of States, because her unity is of a different type and aspires to transcend every human frontier. ...

At Pentecost the Holy Spirit is manifest as fire.

The Spirit's flame descended upon the assembled disciples, it was kindled in them and gave them the new ardour of God. Thus what Jesus had previously said was fulfilled: "I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!" (Lk 12: 49).

The Apostles, together with diverse communities of the faithful, carried this divine flame to the far corners of the earth. In this way they opened a path for humanity, a luminous path, and they collaborated with God, who wants to renew the face of the earth with his fire.

How different is this fire from that of war and bombing! How different is the fire of Christ, spread by the Church, compared with those lit by the dictators of every epoch of the last century too who leave scorched earth behind them.

The fire of God, the fire of the Holy Spirit, is that of the bush that burned but was not consumed (cf. Ex 3: 2). It is a flame that blazes but does not destroy, on the contrary, that, in burning, brings out the better and truer part of man, as in a fusion it elicits his interior form, his vocation to truth and to love. ...

We just observed that the flame of the Holy Spirit blazes but does not burn.

And nevertheless it enacts a transformation, and thus must also consume something in man, the waste that corrupts him and hinders his relations with God and neighbour.

This effect of the divine fire, however, frightens us; we are afraid of being "scorched" and prefer to stay just as we are. This is because our life is often based on the logic of having, of possessing and not the logic of self-gift.

Many people believe in God and admire the person of Jesus Christ, but when they are asked to lose something of themselves, then they retreat; they are afraid of the demands of faith. There is the fear of giving up something pleasant to which we are attached; the fear that following Christ deprives us of freedom, of certain experiences, of a part of ourselves.

On the one hand, we want to be with Jesus, follow him closely, and, on the other, we are afraid of the consequences entailed. "

Friday, May 28, 2010

Henri Matisse and the Chapelle du Rosaire, Vence

Some time ago I did a number of posts on Matisse`s last great commission: the Chapelle du Rosaire at Vence.

The posts The Chapelle du Saint-Marie du Rosaire and others on the same subject for some reason get at least one or two lengthy visits per day.

Some people do not like "the modern style". But it is one of the great churches.

I recently came across a clip of the conclusion of the BBC Modern Masters episode of Henri Matisse which included a visit to the Chapelle du Rosaire which some interesting footage of the construction of the chapel.

Here it is. Ignore the rather OTT commentary. Turn the sound down down especially at the end and let the church speak for itself. The chapel was meant to be a place of silence, prayer and devotion to God which the presenter seems to have forgotten.

O Mary of Graces

Sung by the Daughters of Mary http://www.daughtersofmary....

Babel and Pentecost

Lodewyk Toeput
[ ca.1550-1605]
The Tower of Babel 1587
Oil on canvas 167 × 217 cm
Private collection

Hendrick van Cleef (1525 - 1589)
The Building of the Tower of Babel
Oil on copper
The Kröller-Müller Museum, Hoge Veluwe

Rodolfo Papa,
Torre di Babele 2005

"[W]hen a person or a community limits itself to its own way of thinking and acting, it is a sign that it has distanced itself from the Holy Spirit.

The path of Christians and of the particular Churches must always coincide with the path of the one, catholic Church, and harmonize with it. This does not mean that the unity created by the Holy Spirit is a kind of egalitarianism.

On the contrary, that is rather the model of Babel, or in other words, the imposition of a culture characterized by what we could define as "technical" unity.

In fact, the Bible tells us (cf. Gen 11: 1-9) that in Babel everyone spoke the same language.

At Pentecost, however, the Apostles speak different languages in such a way that everyone understands the message in his own tongue. The unity of the Spirit is manifest in the plurality of understanding. The Church is one and multiple by her nature, destined as she is to live among all nations, all peoples, and in the most diverse social contexts. She responds to her vocation to be a sign and instrument of unity of the human race (cf. Lumen gentium, n. 1) only if she remains autonomous from every State and every specific culture.

Always and everywhere the Church must truly be catholic and universal, the house of all in which each one can find a place. "

"The Acts of the Apostles show us the first Christian community united by a strong bond of fraternal communion: “All who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44-45).

There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit is at the root of this demonstration of love.

His outpouring at Pentecost lays the foundations of the new Jerusalem, the city built on love, quite the opposite of the ancient Babel.

According to the text of Genesis 11, the builders of Babel had decided to build a city with a great tower whose top would reach the heavens. The sacred author sees in this project a foolish pride which flows into division, discord and lack of communication.

On the day of Pentecost, on the other hand, Jesus’ disciples do not want to climb arrogantly to the heavens but are humbly open to the gift that comes down from above. While in Babel the same language is spoken by all but they end up not understanding each other, on the day of Pentecost different languages are spoken, yet they are very clearly understood.

This is a miracle of the Holy Spirit. "

Ave Maria (Arcadelt)

Performed on October 31st 2008 in Mehrn near Brixlegg, Tyrol, Austria by the vocal ensemble "Cantaturi"

Canticum Novum at the Festival "Horovi medju Freskama" Belgrade 12. July 2008

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Saint John's Bible: Genesis

The Saint John's Bible one of the first completely hand-written and illuminated Bible to have been commissioned since the invention of the printing press

Part of The Saint John's Bible, Volume 1 (Genesis) By Donald Jackson, St. John's University (Collegeville, Minn.) is illustrated above

Donald Jackson, official scribe of Queen Elizabeth II, created a new script specifically for this project.

Fr. Michael Patella, OSB, Chair of the Committee on Illumination and Text said: “The illuminations are not illustrations. They are spiritual meditations on a text. It is a very Benedictine approach to the Scriptures.”

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Visitation

Luca Giordano 1634 – 1705
The Visitation 1697
Ink on paper
280 mm x 287 mm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!" (cf. Lk. 1:40-42)
"And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord" (Lk. 1:45).
"The most high Father made known from heaven through His holy angel Gabriel this Word of the Father – so worthy, so holy and glorious – in the womb of the holy and glorious Virgin Mary, from whose womb He received the flesh of our humanity and frailty. Though He was rich, He wished, together with the most Blessed Virgin, His mother, to choose poverty in the world beyond all else." ("Letter to the Faithful” of Saint Francis of Assisi)

Monday, May 24, 2010


Gaetano Previati (1852–1920)
Maternità. 1890-1
Oil on canvas
177 × 411,5 cm
Banca Popolare, Novara

Gaetano Previati (1852–1920)
Il carro del sole 1899
Oil on canvas
Collection Camera di Commercio di Milano

Gaetano Previati (1852–1920)
La crocifissione
Oil on canvas

Gaetano Previati (1852–1920)
The Three Marys at the Foot of the Cross
Oil on canvas 125 x 170 cm.
Collection Calmarini. Milan.

Gaetano Previati (1852–1920)
Religious scene: At the Foot of the Cross
Mixed technique on board
68 x 43 cm
Private collection

Gaetano Previati (1852–1920)
The Assumption 1903 - 1910
Oil on canvas
cm. 65 x 52
Private collection
Gaetano Previati (1852–1920)
Study of an Angel
Pencil on paper
Private collection

Previati was an Italian painter and writer. He was one of the leading exponents of Divisionism, particularly skilled at large-scale decorative schemes, and especially important for his writings on technique and theory.

His Via Crucis Stations of the Cross (for the Cemetery at Castano Primo ) are exhibited in the Diocesan Museum of Milan

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Villa Medici, Rome

The Villa Medici is the seat of the French Academy in Rome and has been since 1803

Cardinal Ferdinand of Medici (1551-1609) was responsible for most of its present character.

In 1576, he put the Florentine architect Bartolomeo Ammannati in charge of the extension of the country pavilion he had bought from Cardinal Ricci’s heirs, in order to transform it into a palace able to show to the Romans his greatness and his ambitions, on the location of the legendary Luculus’ villa.

The mannerist painter Jacopo Zucchi carried out the inner decorations while Ammannati adorned the façade looking onto the garden with an extraordinary collection of ancient bas-relief.

The works lasted until 1587, when the Cardinal left Rome to become Grand-Duke of Tuscany

The Liberation of St Peter

Gerard van Honthorst 1592 – 1656
The Liberation of St Peter
Oil on canvas, 129 x 179 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Gerard van Honthorst 1592 – 1656
The Liberation of St Peter from Prison 1630
Oil on canvas 139x198 cm,
Augustiner Chorherrenstift, St. Florian, Austria

Peter was imprisoned by Herod in Jerusalem.

Herod, to win the favour of the Jews, had thrown him into prison, intending “to bring him out to the people” (Acts 12:4).

Ardent prayer was offered by the Church for him: "Peter was being kept in prison, but prayer was fervently being made to God on his behalf" (Acts 12:5).

Peter is miraculously saved from prison by an angel while the guards lie sleeping (Acts of the Apostles 12:5-12).

The angel says "Wrap your mantle round you and follow me" (Acts 12:8)to the Apostle. Guided by the angel, Peter escaped from prison and regained his freedom.

"The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him” (Ps 34 [33]:7).

Peter then proceeds to Jerusalem, then Rome where he will endure martyrdom.

In Italy Gerard van Honthorst is known as as Gherardo delle Notti for his nighttime candlelit subjects, was a Dutch Golden Age painter of Utrecht.

Following a sojourn in Italy in the 1610s, he returned to Utrecht in 1620. The influence of Caravaggio is unmistakeable. He was one of the so-called Dutch Caravaggisti

Honthorst became the court painter at The Hague, where he largely devoted himself to portraits, becoming one of the few seventeenth-century Dutch artists to earn an international reputation.

The difference in the two compositions of the same theme is particularly striking and interesting.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Angels in the Church

Guariento di Arpo, ca.1310-1370
Principatus/ Armed angel 1354
Tempera on wood,
90x55 cm,
Museo Medioevale e Moderno, Arezzo

On Saturday, 29 September 2007 (the Memorial of the three Archangels: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael), Pope Benedict XVI episcopally ordained six bishops.

He said:

"We are celebrating this Episcopal Ordination on the Feast of the three Archangels who are mentioned by name in Scripture: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

This reminds us that in the ancient Church - already in the Book of Revelation - Bishops were described as "angels" of their Church, thereby expressing a close connection between the Bishop's ministry and the Angel's mission.

From the Angel's task it is possible to understand the Bishop's service.

But what is an Angel?

Sacred Scripture and the Church's tradition enable us to discern two aspects.

On the one hand, the Angel is a creature who stands before God, oriented to God with his whole being.

All three names of the Archangels end with the word "El", which means "God". God is inscribed in their names, in their nature. Their true nature is existing in his sight and for him.

In this very way the second aspect that characterizes Angels is also explained: they are God's messengers. They bring God to men, they open heaven and thus open earth. Precisely because they are with God, they can also be very close to man.

Indeed, God is closer to each one of us than we ourselves are.

The Angels speak to man of what constitutes his true being, of what in his life is so often concealed and buried. They bring him back to himself, touching him on God's behalf.

In this sense, we human beings must also always return to being angels to one another - angels who turn people away from erroneous ways and direct them always, ever anew, to God.

If the ancient Church called Bishops "Angels" of their Church, she meant precisely this: Bishops themselves must be men of God, they must live oriented to God. "Multum orat pro populo" - "Let them say many prayers for the people", the Breviary of the Church says of holy Bishops.

The Bishop must be a man of prayer, one who intercedes with God for human beings. The more he does so, the more he also understands the people who are entrusted to him and can become an angel for them - a messenger of God who helps them to find their true nature by themselves, and to live the idea that God has of them. "

Perhaps that is why this year the Comitato di San Floriano at Illegio (Friuli VG in Italy) decided that the theme of this year`s exhibition of religious art would be on the theme of Angels - Faces of the Invisible ( 22 April – 3 October 2010)

The Bishop as Angel is not a new comparison. About thirty years after his death, Pope Paul V said of Saint Charles Borromeo:

"In His wonderful dispensation He has set a great light on the Apostolic rock when He singled Charles out of the heart of the Roman Church as the faithful priest and good servant to be a model for the pastors and their flock.

He enlightened the whole Church from the light diffused by his holy works.

He shone forth before priests and people as innocent as Abel, pure as Enoch, tireless as Jacob, meek as Moses, and zealous as Elias. Surrounded by luxury, he exhibited the austerity of Jerome, the humility of Martin, the pastoral zeal of Gregory, the liberty of Ambrose, and the charity of Paulinus.

In a word, he was a man we could see with our eyes and touch with our hands.

He trampled earthly things underfoot and lived the life of the spirit.

Although the world tried to entice him he lived crucified to the world.

He constantly sought after heavenly things, not only because he held the office of an angel but all because even on earth he tried to think and act as an angel."
(Paul V, Papal bull of November 15, 1610, Unigenitus)

On Pentecost many years ago...

Ettore Ferrari (1848 - 1929)
Statue of Giordano Bruno 1889
Bronze sculpture
Campo de' Fiori, Rome

I think it very doubtful that any Catholic tour of Rome would include a visit to see the statue above in the Campo de`Fiori even although it is quite near the Piazza Navona.

If any tourist does wander into the Square he or she is likely to think that the statue is of some Monk saint associated with the area which now is filled with a market and a great number of Irish pubs.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

Giordano Bruno (1548 – February 17, 1600), born Filippo Bruno, was an Italian Dominican friar.

He was burned at the stake in the Campo dei Fiori (Square of Flowers), in front of the Theatre of Pompey, a rectangular piazza near Piazza Navona in Rome by the authorities on 17th February 1600 after the Roman Inquisition found him guilty of heresy.

The Catholic Encyclopedia (1908) asserts that "Bruno was not condemned for his defence of the Copernican system of astronomy, nor for his doctrine of the plurality of inhabited worlds, but for his theological errors, among which were the following: that Christ was not God but merely an unusually skilful magician, that the Holy Ghost is the soul of the world, that the Devil will be saved, etc."

On the 400th anniversary of Bruno's death, (March 2000), the then Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano declared Bruno's death to be a "sad episode".

Despite his regret, he defended Bruno's persecutors, maintaining that the Inquisitors "had the desire to preserve freedom and promote the common good and did everything possible to save his life" by trying to make him recant and subsequently by appealing the capital punishment with the secular authorities of Rome.

However it was the erection and unveiling of his statue on Pentecost 1889 (June 9th, 1889) in the Campo dei Fiori (above) in Rome which led to a dramatic clash between Church and State in Italy.

It led the then Pope, Pope Leo XIII, to seriously consider moving the seat of the Papacy from Rome.

The feelings which the controversial figure arose in 1889 can be seen from Walter Pater`s essay on Giordano Bruno at (Note. pdf file)

In 1908, in his Roman Holidays and Others , William Dean Howells (1837-1920) wrote of his visit to the statue and square:

"I could not say what suggested so admirable a notion, but it may have been coining by chance one day on the statue of Giordano Bruno, and realizing that it stood in the Campo di Fiori, on the spot where he was burned three hundred years ago for abetting Copernicus in his sacrilegious system of astronomy, and for divers other heresies, as well as the violation of his monastic vows.

I saw it with the thrill which the solemn figure, heavily draped, deeply hooded, must impart as mere mystery, and I made haste to come again in the knowledge of what it was that had moved me so. Naturally I was not moved in the same measure a second time.

It was not that the environment was, to my mind, unworthy the martyr, though I found the market at the foot of the statue given over, not to flowers, as the name of the place might imply, but to such homely fruits of the earth as potatoes, carrots, cabbages, and, above all, onions. There was a placidity in the simple scene that pleased me: I liked the quiet gossiping of the old market-women over their baskets of vegetables; the confidential fashion in which a gentle crone came to my elbow and begged of me in undertone, as if she meant the matter to go no further, was even nattering.

But the solemnity of the face that looked down on the scene was spoiled by the ribbon drawn across it to fasten a wreath on the head, in the effort of some mistaken zealot of free thought to enhance its majesty by decoration. It was the moment when the society calling itself by Giordano Bruno’s name was making an effort for the suppression of ecclesiastical instruction in the public schools; and on the anniversary of his martyrdom his effigy had suffered this unmeant hurt. In all the churches there had been printed appeals to parents against the agnostic attack on the altar and the home, and there had been some of the open tumults which seem in Rome to express every social emotion.

But the clericals had triumphed, and an observer more anxious than I to give a mystical meaning to accident might have interpreted the disfiguring ribbon over Bruno’s bronze lips as a new silencing of the heretic."

It is extremely hard for us now to try to even recall such events or even try to understand how the unveiling of a statue could be regarded in such a light now.

But in certain circles the old feelings still rankle. It seems to the modern mind to epitomise the "battles" between Faith and Reason, Faith and Science, and Religion and Liberty of Thought.

See Hilary Gatti, The State of Giordano Bruno Studies at the End of the Four-Hundredth Centenary of the Philosopher's Death, Renaissance Quarterly, Spring, 2001 which is presently available at here.

But back to Pentecost 1889.

The conflicts surrounding the Giordano Bruno monument in Rome demonstrate the complexity of the culture and political war in Nineteenth century Italy.

Fanaticism and intolerance on the one side, blasphemy and sacrilege on the other, were the slogans flung at the enemy. Manichaean language – the battle of light against darkness – featured in the discourse of the chief spokesmen of both camps

The events of June 1889 show how central the Roman question was to the ideological and political conflict between church and state at that time.

These issues were not to be solved or resolved for many years.

But above all, the matter of the statue and its unveiling was a media spectacle. It was never simply a question of consolidating one’s own viewpoint or of demonstrating the rectitude of one’s allegiances.

Mass communication was the weapon with which one attacked real and imagined enemies. It was part of a larger battle between the protagonists.

In his essay, Roma o morte: culture wars in Italy, Martin Papenheim discusses the unveiling of the statue and the battles surrounding it:

"The history of the Giordano Bruno monument unveiled on the Campo de’ Fiori in Rome on Whit Sunday 1889 exemplifies the complexity of the culture wars in Italy.

In 1884, Leo XIII had once again denounced freemasonry in the encyclical Humanum genus.

In 1885, under the leadership of Adriano Lemmi, the masonic lodges had adopted an emphatically anti-church orientation. In 1887, the mason Francesco Crispi had become the Italian prime minister.

Efforts launched during the same year to effect a rapprochement between church and state had quickly foundered.

Leopoldo Torlonia, the mayor of Rome, was pressured by Crispi to leave office in December 1887 because he had congratulated the pope on behalf of the city of Rome on the occasion of the golden jubilee of his ordination.

The hard-won successes of men like Torlonia in constructing a fragile equilibrium between Catholics and moderate liberals were thus undone.

In policy, too, there were important changes. In 1887, shortly after taking office, Crispi had travelled to Germany in order to meet Bismarck.

In the following year, a military convention was agreed within the framework of the Triple Alliance.

For Pope Leo XIII, this situation appeared suffused with threat.

For some time – at least since the winter of 1880/1, he had been thinking of leaving Rome. The reason lay in his fear of a socialist-republican seizure of power in Italy, an apprehension that was further sharpened by a vociferous campaign to extend the franchise. Leo XIII feared that the consequence of franchise reform would be a victory for the radical secularisers and the end of the monarchy in Italy.

As a result, the Congregation for Extraordinary Affairs, a kind of subcommittee responsible to the cardinal state secretary and the pope for the political concerns of the Holy See, had been more or less permanently occupied since February 1881 with developing plans for a possible departure of the pope from Rome. Evacuation plans and emergency regulations were drawn up for the government of the Catholic church.

The consolidation of Italy’s international position and the tense relationship between state and church during 1887 further intensified the climate of fear in the Vatican.

The idea of erecting a monument to Giordano Bruno in Rome stemmed from a student group founded in March 1876. Bruno had been burnt at the stake in 1600 on the Campo de’ Fiori on account of his pantheistic philosophical teachings.During the second half of the nineteenth century, masonic and free-thinking circles attempted to establish him as one of the great intellectual figures of the Italian nation, comparable with Voltaire for the French and Goethe for the Germans. But Bruno also stood for the victims of papalism, intolerance and fanaticism.

The Bruno cult was thus intended to furnish an alternative to the ecclesiastical cult of saints. The Bruno cult suffered, however, fromone notable drawback, namely that there appeared no obvious connection between the philosopher from Nola and Italian culture, language or political unification. The relationship between the ‘national Bruno’ and Bruno the critical theologian remained unclear.

Those European intellectuals who supported the plan to erect a monument tended therefore to see it as a demonstration in support of science and freedom of thought, rather than as a symbol of Italian nationhood.

In the words of Ferdinand Gregorovius, a sympathetic German observer:

"The Giordano monument will stand as a warning to future enemies of [freedom of thought and of conscience]: that the hand of the world’s clock can no longer be turned back, that science has become a triumphant force in the world, and that no human institution, however great and strong it may be, can prevail against the tempestuous waves of the new life of the peoples if it eschews the rejuvenating principles of modern society."

The Bruno activists decided to launch an international subscription campaign.

A number of free-thinkers, especially in England, responded with donations. But, generally speaking, the campaign was not a great success.

The more conservatively oriented municipal authorities did not dare to sabotage the monument project openly, but they prevaricated and confined  themselves to a merely symbolic contribution. Concerned not to endanger  the co-existence of the various interest groups and the fabric of compromise that made it possible to govern the city of Rome, the city authorities decided not to place a suitable location at the disposal of the monument committee. Public interest in the proposed monument gradually dwindled.

The death of Pius IX and the accession of the more conciliatory Gioacchino Pecci to the papal throne relegated the Bruno project to the margins.

The second initiative for a Bruno monument stemmed from university  circles. In April 1884, student protests broke out when the director of the University of Naples took part in an academic celebration of the Catholic Associazione Universitaria San Tommaso d’Aquino. A counter-grouping, the Circolo Universitario Giordano Bruno was founded in response. In Rome, too, the university had to be closed on account of student unrest.

By the end of May a committee had been founded in the capital to coordinate the construction of a monument for Giordano Bruno. The freemason Ettore Ferrari was chosen as the artist. The committee succeeded in winning the support of 278 renowned international figures, among them Victor Hugo, Ernest Renan, Ernst Haeckel and Ferdinand Gregorovius. In 1887, the Grande Oriente came out in open support of the campaign.

Yet success continued to elude the committee, partly because of the unhelpful attitude of the municipal authorities. Mayor Torlonia’s opposition to the project brought him into open conflict with Prime Minister Crispi, its foremost political sponsor.

The royal court, moreover, was ill-disposed towards the enterprise. Crispi succeeded nonetheless in forcing the resignation of the mayor on 30 December 1887. The public impact of this d´emarche was all the greater for the fact that it occurred just as pilgrimages organised by Catholic organisations set forth towards Rome in order to celebrate the golden jubilee of the pope’s ordination as a priest, and to demonstrate the solidarity of the masses of the faithful with their pontiff.

Whereas a Roman city council vote in May narrowly failed to support the motion to erect a monument, by December 1888 a majority of the councillors was ready to provide a suitable location.

The unveiling ceremony began on the eve of the feast of Pentecost. At five o’clock in the afternoon, a gathering formed in front of the Palazzo dell’Esposizione, where the former priest Veronese Gaetano Trezze gave a long address on Giordano Bruno. A telegram with greetings from Ernest  Renan was read out. In the evening a conference took place on the subject of Bruno’s scientific works.

The unveiling itself took place on 9 June, WhitSunday.

The Civilt`a Cattolica published a detailed report.

A procession of some six thousand persons, consisting mainly of delegates from the masonic lodges and the Italian communes, but also from student committees and other associations, sporting a total of 1,970 flags and accompanied by the music of ninety-seven bands, set off in the direction of the Campo de’Fiori. After further speeches, the monument was solemnly unveiled.

This was followed by a banquet and a gala celebration. On 10 June there was an excursion to Tivoli and the programme ended with a conference organised by Giovanni Bobbio on the subject of ethics from Dante to Bruno. In its structure, the celebration conformed to established patterns of practice, albeit with a stronger intellectual orientation than most.

Closer analysis of these events reveals that the celebration unfolded within a highly charged political setting. There were intensive security  precautions. The government went to great lengths to prevent any mishaps  during the festival. Troops and police, partly in uniform, partly in plain clothes, were deployed to enforce order. The Vatican was sealed off, a measure that was doubtless intended not only as a security precaution but also as a demonstration of power vis-`a-vis the curia.

Most telling of all, perhaps, was the fact that Prime Minister Crispi, who had earlier been such a prominent and vocal supporter of the project and who had forced the resignation of the conciliatory Roman mayor, chose not to take part in the celebrations. It was as if he now wished to avoid further burdening his relations with the church. The streets were left – with the necessary security measures – to the masses, while the political and intellectual leadership remained in the background: nowhere, for example, is it reported that the freemason grand master Lemmi took part in this celebration which his lodge, the Grande Oriente, had so energetically promoted.

The international intelligentsia was also strikingly reticent. Of the foreign members of the festival committee, none participated personally in the unveiling in Rome. Ferdinand Gregorovius ascribed this to the ‘emphatically anti- Catholic and anti-church character’ of the festival.

Yet it was precisely this aspect of the event that furnished the pope and the curia with the opportunity to draw public attention once more to the plight of the Holy See.

On the day of the sacrilege itself, Leo XIII knelt in prayer and implored God with the words of Jesus on the Cross, ‘non enim sciunt quid faciunt’ (Luke 23: 34), to forgive the blasphemers.

The events of Whit Sunday 1889 intensified Leo XIII’s fear of an occupation of the Vatican. There was even talk of plans to assassinate the Holy Father. Just as in previous years, evacuation plans were developed, along with secret contacts with various European governments. Leo XIII himself continually urged his curial functionaries to busy themselves with preparations for his possible departure and there were detailed plans outlining how the church would be governed in the temporary absence of its pope and how a conclave would be organised, if necessary, outside the city.

This was not merely a phobic over-reaction to events.

It was a cleverly conceived political game. Rumours to the effect that the pope might ultimately leave Rome were deliberately disseminated.

In a speech before the Consistory on 30 June 1889, Leo XIII claimed that the security of his person was under threat; the text of this address was subsequently passed to Civilt`a Cattolica for publication. Crispi is said to have responded with a nonchalant comment to the effect that the pope  could leave the country in safety whenever he wished, but the government  naturally knew that the departure of the pontiff from Rome would be a serious diplomatic setback.

The complexity of the political fabric within which the Bruno festival took place stands in stark contrast to the manichaean simplicity of the propaganda it generated: on Whit Sunday, the feast of the Holy Spirit, enemies of the church had glorified the spirit of science. Just as the protagonists of the project mobilised European intellectuals, above all in university circles, to participate in the unveiling of the monument, so the opponents of the project organised their own adherents.

Civilt`a Cattolica did not scruple to play upon the fears of the populace. Earthquakes and hurricanes, it was said, were ominous signs. A family had been trapped in a landslide near Bergamo after bad weather; a train had been delayed in Valle Seriana on account of a storm; the streets of Novara were flooded and in Nola, the very birthplace of Giordano Bruno, gale-force winds had been reported: were these not signs that Bruno was a bringer of ill luck, a jettatore, as one says in Naples?

For the promoters of the monument, the occasion was a total success.

It has since remained a fixture in the collective memory of Italian freemasonry, whose website today still shows a photograph of the unveiling. In the year 2000, on the occasion of the four-hundredth anniversary of the philosopher’s death, the freemasons organised a chain of memorial events across the country.

Civilt`a Cattolica reported smugly that although there had been verbal attacks on the pope and the church in the streets of Rome on the eve of the unveiling, the Romans as a whole had refrained from joining the procession, preferring to remain passive bystanders. Few flags were to be seen in windows. The Via Nazionale had been left undecorated. Apart from the participants themselves, the streets of Rome were largely empty. The Jesuit journal was full of praise for the ‘popolo Romano’ which had taught the organisers of the event such a hard lesson: the funereal tranquillity of the streets had made it clear that nothing in the world would make the Romans bow down to ‘the fetish’ on the Campo de’ Fiori.

In a speech to the Consistory, the pope lamented bitterly the events in Rome. Bruno – whose name was not explicitly mentioned – had been a heretic and a man of ‘estrema corruzione e malvagit`a’ (a man of extremely corrupt and wicked character). By erecting a monument to him, the freemasons were attempting to transform Rome from the ‘capitale del mondo cattolico’ into a ‘centro d’ogni empiet`a ed’ogni profano costume’ (from the capital of the Catholic world to the centre of every kind of faithlessness and profanity)

The Peruvian ambassador sent the Holy Father a letter in which he expressed his regret at the events in Rome.

From the entire Catholic world, Civilt`a Cattolica reported, telegrams to the pope poured in, expressing support for him and condemning the sacrilege of the monument. In Germany, where the passions of the Kulturkampf had not entirely subsided, the Roman events were a welcome pretext for mobilising the faithful in support of papacy and church.

There were some grotesque episodes:

"In Rosenheim in Bavaria, [Ferdinand Gregorovius reported,] the issue provoked a delightful misunderstanding: the peasants there prayed in their church for Giordano Bruno, whom they took to be a man who had suffered for many centuries in Purgatory and was now to be redeemed from this state by prayer on the orders of the pope." "

(From Martin Papenheim, Roma o morte: culture wars in Italy in CULTURE WARS: Secular–Catholic Conflict in Nineteenth-Century Europe, edited by Christopher Clark and Wolfram Kaiser, Cambridge University Press)

See also: Lars Berggren and Lennart Sj¨ostedt, L’ombra dei grandi. Monumenti e politica monumentale a Roma (1870–1895) (Rome, 1996).