Monday, July 30, 2012

St Eusebius of Vercelli

Mahiet and others
The Vision of St Eusebius of Vercelli and The Baptism of St Eusebius
From Vincentius Bellovacensis, Speculum Historiale (trans. Jean de Vignay in Le mireoir hystorial, livres IX-XVI)
Illuminated manuscript on parchment
Arsenal 5080, fol. 346v
Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, Bibliothèque nationale de France

Mahiet and others
Saint Eusebius of Vercelli and Saint Athanasius the Great of Alexandria: Their firmness against the Arians
From Vincentius Bellovacensis, Speculum Historiale (trans. Jean de Vignay in Le mireoir hystorial, livres IX-XVI)
c. 1335
Illuminated manuscript
Arsenal 5080, fol. 346v
Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, Bibliothèque nationale de France

The Dominican friar Vincent of Beauvais (Vincentius Bellovacensis or Vincentius Burgundus) (c. 1190 – 1264?) wrote the Speculum Maius, the main encyclopedia that was used in the Middle Ages. It was produced by Vincent at the command of Saint King Louis

The most widely disseminated part of the Speculum Maius was the Speculum Historiale

This was a history of the world down to Vincent's time. 

Jean de Vignay (c 1283 - 1340?) of the Order of Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas,was a French translator renowned for his prodigious output of translations from Latin into French 

His translation of the work by Vincent of Beauvais  above was in Le Mirouer hystorial. This work was dedicated to Jeanne de Bourgogne,,Queen of France (c 1293–1349), the first wife of Philippe VI de Valois for whom Jean de Vignay also produced many translations

In the image below we see the complementarity of Vincent de Beauvais and Jean de Vignay:

The commanding princes
Vincent de Beauvais, Miroir historial, translated by Jean de Vignay
Français 308, fol. 1
Département des Manuscrits, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris

On the left King St Louis orders Vincent to start on his major work. On the right we see Jeanne de Bourgogne commanding the translation be carried out  by Jean de Vignay

Jeanne was actually the grand-daughter of King Saint Louis

The writing of histories in medieval times was a preoccupation of Kings and royalty, and those in power. The circulation of these histories was limited to the Royal circle and the nobility. The Chronicles were the tales of Kings and their preoccupations

The light from the past was meant to illuminate the present and be a possible guide to the future

The Life of St Eusebius of Vercelli (283 – August 1, 371) was for the medieval religious one of the great lives in the early Church and therefore the world

Along with St Hilary of Poitiers and St Athanasius, he is recognised as one of the great opponents or hammers of Arianism. For him Jesus Christ was fully divine

He was the first bishop of the West who united monastic with clerical life.

Along with St Augustine he was regarded as one of the Western founders (or reformers) of the Canons Regular of St. Augustine to persuade the clergy in the diocese to live secundum regulam sub sanctis Apostolis constitutam, (to live in accordance with the rule of the Apostles)

Eusebius was the first Bishop of Vercelli after it was established after the Peace of Constanine. It was from there that Christianity spread along the Po and across the whole of Lombardy in Northern Italy

It was one of his successors, Saint Simenus (370), who baptized and consecrated Saint Ambrose

The royal readers of the works of Vincent of Beauvais and Jean de Vignay would no doubt have been reminded of Eusebius`s disputes with the Emperor. They were being warned. As were the Bishops who might have been tempted to temper truth on the grounds of political expediency

In his Catechesis on the life of St Eusebius on Wednesday, 17 October 2007, Pope Benedict XVI described it this way:

"With his sound formation in the Nicene faith, Eusebius did his utmost to defend the full divinity of Jesus Christ, defined by the Nicene Creed as "of one being with the Father".  
To this end, he allied himself with the great Fathers of the fourth century - especially St Athanasius, the standard bearer of Nicene orthodoxy - against the philo-Arian policies of the Emperor.  
For the Emperor, the simpler Arian faith appeared politically more useful as the ideology of the Empire. For him it was not truth that counted but rather political opportunism: he wanted to exploit religion as the bond of unity for the Empire.  
But these great Fathers resisted him, defending the truth against political expediency.  
Eusebius was consequently condemned to exile, as were so many other Bishops of the East and West: such as Athanasius himself, Hilary of Poitiers - of whom we spoke last time - and Hosius of Cordoba. In Scythopolis, Palestine, to which he was exiled between 355 and 360, Eusebius wrote a marvellous account of his life.  
Here too, he founded a monastic community with a small group of disciples. It was also from here that he attended to his correspondence with his faithful in Piedmont, as can be seen in the second of the three Letters of Eusebius recognized as authentic.  
Later, after 360, Eusebius was exiled to Cappadocia and the Thebaid, where he suffered serious physical ill-treatment.  
After his death in 361, Constantius II was succeeded by the Emperor Julian, known as "the Apostate", who was not interested in making Christianity the religion of the Empire but merely wished to restore paganism.  
He rescinded the banishment of these Bishops and thereby also enabled Eusebius to be reinstated in his See. In 362 he was invited by Anastasius to take part in the Council of Alexandria, which decided to pardon the Arian Bishops as long as they returned to the secular state.  
Eusebius was able to exercise his episcopal ministry for another 10 years, until he died, creating an exemplary relationship with his city which did not fail to inspire the pastoral service of other Bishops of Northern Italy, whom we shall reflect upon in future . ... 
Just like the Apostles, for whom Jesus prayed at his Last Supper, the Pastors and faithful of the Church "are of the world" (Jn 17: 11), but not "in the world".  
Therefore, Pastors, Eusebius said, must urge the faithful not to consider the cities of the world as their permanent dwelling place but to seek the future city, the definitive heavenly Jerusalem.  
This "eschatological reserve" enables Pastors and faithful to preserve the proper scale of values without ever submitting to the fashions of the moment and the unjust claims of the current political power.  
The authentic scale of values - Eusebius' whole life seems to say - does not come from emperors of the past or of today but from Jesus Christ, the perfect Man, equal to the Father in divinity, yet a man like us.  
In referring to this scale of values, Eusebius never tired of "warmly recommending" his faithful "to jealously guard the faith, to preserve harmony, to be assiduous in prayer" (Second Letter, Ep. extra collecitonem 14: Maur. 63). 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Private Meditation

Michelangelo 1475 - 1564
Christ on the Cross between the Virgin and St John
Black chalk and white lead (oxidised in places)
412 millimetres x 285 millimetres
The British Museum, London 

Michelangelo 1475 - 1564
Christ on the Cross between the Virgin and St John
Black chalk and white lead (oxidised in places)
410 mm x 278 mm
The British Museum, London 

These two drawings in The British Museum in London are late and amongst the last  drawings in a series of six which Michelangelo produced for his own meditation

The other sheets are in the Louvre, the Ashmolean and at Windsor

The catalogue of The British Museum states:

"The appearance of this group of drawings, with multiple contours and changes, in some cases leading to the near obliteration of the original motif, suggests that these sheets are autonomous works without a destination beyond themselves: as Berenson observes (1938), these are in no sense presentation drawings - no attempt has been made to 'burnish them up'.  
The very process of production was surely for Michelangelo a meditation upon Christ's sacrifice, a central preoccupation of the artist's old age also reflected in his late devotional poetry ... 
De Tolnay observes (1960) that these images derive from the 'process of the creation of inner mental images.'  
He explains their spareness, and concentration, thus:  
'The spiritual effort which begets them cannot simultaneously produce the numerous elements which go to make up a complete world.'  
Michelangelo did not use a model since his private purpose in producing the drawings did not require one. In this Crucifixion group, the very act of drawing becomes a spiritual exercise - and the resulting images, independent of any definite space, undefined towards the periphery, are images conjured by mental expenditure ... 
The various symmetry of the Crucifixion image, its complex simplicity, the isolation of the image with no extraneous detail, and the unblemished nature of Christ's body, display the function of the drawing - combined with the others in the series - as an ideal image, summoned to mind through profound meditation.  
The Crucifixion drawings thus have no destination or purpose beyond themselves: they represent the ever various meditation one the central Christian theme - ever present in Michelangelo's devout old age - of Christ's sacrifice."

The English Catholic poet Elizabeth Jennings  (1926–2001)  in the 1960s produced an English translation of the sonnets of Michelangelo. It  is still the standard version and remains unsurpassed. 

Here is her rendition of Sonnet 60:

At times, pure love may justly be equated
With fervent hope; nor need it be deceived
If by all human loves the heavens are grieved,
Then to what end was the whole world created? 
If I indeed honour and love you, Lord,
And if I burn, it is a heavenly calm
That emanates from you and makes me warm;
Such peace is far removed from all discord.  
True love is not a passion which can die,
Or which depends on beauty that must fade;
Nor is it subject to a changing face.  
That love is true and holy which finds place
Within a modest heart, and which is made,
Far above earth, a pledge of love on high.  
Sonnet LX(ii), from The Sonnets of Michelangelo, Translated by Elizabeth Jennings, 1970, Doubleday, NY, p. 97.

It has been said that Painting is a poetry that is seen and Poetry is imagery in words.

Painting has also been called silent poetry  as a painter is said to write out his feelings in silent words

For Michelangelo the distinction between Painting and Poetry did not exist.

Elizabeth Jennings took up this theme when she wrote:

‘Painting means a tremendous amount to me. If I had to choose between music and painting, I’d probably choose painting. I love to look at pictures and scenes and my favourite painter is Rembrandt, and some of the impressionists or post-impressionists, Manet and Cezanne.  
But there is something else, they were right when they said, these Renaissance people, in a way all the arts – specifically painting, sculpture, poetry and music – they are all the same eventually. All express the aspirations and the failures of human beings, though I do think, perhaps music is the highest of all.’

The Dream

Michelangelo Buonarroti
1475 - 1564
The Dream (Il Sogno)
Circa 1533
Black chalk on paper
39.6 cm x 27.9 cm
The Courtauld Gallery, London.

One of the star exhibits in The Courtauld Gallery`s present exhiibition Mantegna to Matisse: Master Drawings from The Courtauld Gallery is The Dream

A naked, sleeping man is woken by an angel. The angel who is  also naked is blowing a trumpet in his face. Behind the sleeping man jostles a circle of figures representing the deadly sins

Its precise meaning has remained elusive.

It is one of the Gallery`s greatest treasures

The sleeping man is being wakened by God`s messenger from his lethargy or comatose state - the Mortal Life - to the bright ever vigilant Eternal Life

It is thought that the work was composed by Michelangel for Tommaso de’ Cavalieri  the great love of his life

Michelangelo always inssisted that the gossips and rumour mongers were wrong and that his love for the young man was strictly Platonic:
“Alas, then, how shall the chaste desire that sets aflame my heart within be seen by those who always see themselves in others?”

It was one of a series of "presentation drawings" which Michelangelo did for the young nobleman and which the young nobleman presented to the court of Pope Clement VII. 

Cavalieri wrote to Michelangelo that they had been admired by ‘the Pope, Cardinal de Medici and everyone’,

In 1568, Vasari said of the drawings that "the like of which have never been seen"

The title and subject of the work bring to mind Plato`s The Republic and in particular The Republic IX

Sleep is compared to "opinion" grounded in sensibles which are both true and false. Wakefulness is compared to "knowledge" which is founded in truth.

A normal person may sometimes have lustful dreams in his sleep.

However a man can become a slave to lust if lustful thoughts predominate in his waking thoughts and acts

The tyrant is a slave to lustful thoughts and erotic love, living as if in a dream and a realm of the unreal, totally oblivious to the truth, to goodness, and to  beauty. 

For the tyrant, the viciousness of his waking activities becomes indistinguishable from the viciousness of his dreams. Unable to distinguish between Truth and Falsehood, the tyrant`s character degenerates and is unable to conduct rational relations with others. 

He lives in Fear and by Fear. A nightmare of the soul which to the dreamer appears to be without end. It is the state which some Christians call "Hell"

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

La Chapelle de la Trinité, Lyon

Fr. Étienne Martellange 1569-1641
Collège de la Trinité de Lyon, France : projet d'ensemble comprenant aussi le plan de l'église
Pen brown ink and aquarelle on paper
38,5 x 29 cm
Département Estampes et photographie, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris

La Chapelle de la Trinité is one of the most historic of the churches in the city of Lyon in France. It is also one of the most beautiful. It is pure Counter-Reformation Baroque.

It was built as the chapel for the adjoining Jesuit College between 1617 and 1622

It was consecrated by St Francis de Sales in 1622

The style is baroque. Its architect was the Jesuit Fr. Étienne Martellange 1569-1641

After its restaoration in the 1990s, the chapel is now the setting of many major Baroque and other musical concerts

In October of this year there is a concert by La Magnifica Comunità wth the German soprano Simone Kermes reliving the sounds of the great Baroque castrati Caffarelli, Farinelli, and Carestini in works by Handel and Vivaldi. Here is a preview:

As can seen from the great performance by Simone Kermes,  Counter-Reformation Baroque never really died. It was only resting

On a different level, here is an extract from a forthcoming concert by the ensemble Doulce Mémoire (November 2012) entitled Laudes et Chants Soufis Chants de transe d'Orient et d'Occident

For those who like more traditional renditions by Doulce Mémoire here is something more traditional by them

Monday, July 16, 2012

Some Jesuit architecture: old and new

The Jesuits have always been interested in architecture and new religious  buildings

Father Tommaso Blandino, Brother  Guiseppe Valeriano, Father François Derand and Brother Martellange are only some members of the Order without whom « Jesuit architecture » would not have spread in France, Italy, Germany, Poland and other areas in Europe during and after the Counter-Reformation. 

It was not only Churches and chapels which they designed and helped construct but colleges, seminaries, novitiates, residences and the other buildings necessary in the spread and consolidation of a religious  institution

Here are two of the drawings for the Jesuit Novitiate in Paris in the 1630s :

Father Etienne Martellange
Aspect contre le Novitial de Paris, 1634, 23 7.bre : Veüe des Environs du Noviciat de Paris, le 23 7.bre 1634
Drawing :Pencil and  Brown ink on paper with brown wash
38,9 x 54,3 cm

Father Etienne Martellange
Des fondations de l'Eglize // du novitial de Paris. 1631 : Fondations du Noviciat de Paris, en 1631
Pencil and brown ink drawing on paper
40,5 x 54,5 cm
Département Estampes et photographie, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris

Many other drawings for the Novitiate in Paris  are in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris and can be accessed here

On less precarious foundations than the Church for the novitiate in Paris, the Jesuits in Maryland have just had constructed  a brand new (and almost fully occupied) retirement and health-care facility which they call “New Colombière.” The design was not by the Jesuits unlike in days of old. As is usual these days it was outsourced this time  to the architectural firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, It cost more than 5 million dollars

Officially it is called the St. Claude la Colombiere Jesuit Community Residence.

It is set in a 14 acre bucolic site outside Baltimore

Here is a video celebrating the new project:

One father who was one of the first residents declared that he felt that he had moved  to “paradise.”
The centre of the new 66000 square feet complex is the chapel:

A central feature of the new chapel is the chapel`s tree canopy
It is a complex structure with a  delicate layering effect achieved with six tons of wood and steel It is meant to simulate the natural light effects  of a   natural tree canopy
The article linked to above says:
“While the non-traditional form of the chapel and even the tree canopy itself seems to have taken the Jesuit brothers by surprise, they appreciate how the presence of the canopy lends the chapel sanctuary a sense of sublime light and a state of repose appropriate to a place of worship.
Others of a more traditional cast may dispute this. 
For more images of the construction of the complex see Colombiere Community's Gallery Albums (49)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Benedict on Subiaco

The workshop of Lorenzo Monaco (c. 1365 - c. 1426) 
St Benedict at the "Sacro Speco" (Holy Grotto) at Subiaco
c. 1415 -1420
Egg Tempera and paint on wood panel
36.5 x 27.8 cm
The National Gallery, London

According to The Golden Legend  the young Saint Benedict is receiving food from Saint Romanus at the Sacro Speco in Subiaco

Ambrogio di Stefano Bergognone (also called Amnrogio da Fossano) (c 1453-1523) 
The Temptation and Penitence of Saint Benedict
Oil on wood
27 x 48 cm
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nantes

Workshop of Fra Angelico 1400 ; 1455 
Saint Benedict on Subiaco
Tempera on wood panel
17 x 26 cm
Musée Condé, Chantilly

The work by Fra Angelico is one panel of a greater work. Panels of this work are preserved in Museums across the world including the Philadelphia Museum of Art

During the Second World War, the Arch-Abbey of Monte Cassino, the head house of the Benedictine Order,  was virtually destroyed

In 1947 after the Allies and Italy formally declared peace, Pope Pius XII wrote an Encyclical, Fulgens Radiator,  on St Benedict of Norcia and the 1400th anniversary of his death

Pope Pius XII recalled that as a young man, St Benedict gave up his family and the promising career which was promised him in Rome. He went to Subiaco and stayed there three years:

"[L]eaving Rome behind, he sought out wild and solitary places where he could devote himself to the contemplation of the divine. Thus he came to Subiaco and there retiring into a narrow cave he began to live a life that was more heavenly than human. 
Hidden with Christ in God he there strove for three years with great fruit to acquire the perfection and holiness of the Gospels to which he seemed to be called by divine instinct. He made the practice of shunning all earthly things to seek alone and ardently heavenly things; of holding converse with God day and night; of praying incessantly for his own salvation and for the salvation of men; in curbing and mastering the body by voluntary punishment, and checking and controlling the evil motions of the senses.  
In this way of life he found such sweetness of soul that all the former delights he had experienced from his wealth and ease now appeared distasteful to him and in a way forgotten.  
One day the enemy of human nature aroused in him very strong allurements of the flesh; at once he strenuously resisted - noble and strong soul that he was, and casting himself into a thicket of briars and sharp nettles by voluntary wounds he conquered and quenched the interior fire.  
Victorious over himself he seemed to have been strengthened from on high as a reward. 
"After which time, as he himself related to his disciples, he was so free from the like temptation that he never felt any such motion. . . Being now altogether free from vicious temptation he worthily deserved to be a master of virtue".
Our saint, then, living for a long time this secluded and solitary life in the cave of Subiaco, shaped and set himself in sanctity, and laid those solid foundations of Christian perfection on which he was given later to raise a mighty building of lofty heights.  
As you well know, Venerable Brethren, zealous and apostolic works become useless and vain unless they proceed from a soul enriched with those Christian qualities which alone with God's grace can make human undertakings contribute to the glory of God and the salvation of souls. 
This Benedict knew well and had found to be true.  
Before undertaking and executing those great designs and plans to which he was called by God, he first devoted his most earnest efforts and fervent prayers to make himself fully master of that integral, evangelical holiness which he desired the others to acquire"

It was this period of the saint`s life at Subiaco that Pope Benedict XVI emphasised in his General Audience on Wednesday, 9 April 2008 when the subject of his talk was Saint Benedict of Norcia, or as Pope Benedict put it "the Patron of my Pontificate":

"The period in Subiaco, a time of solitude with God, was a time of maturation for Benedict. It was here that he bore and overcame the three fundamental temptations of every human being: the temptation of self-affirmation and the desire to put oneself at the centre, the temptation of sensuality and, lastly, the temptation of anger and revenge.  
In fact, Benedict was convinced that only after overcoming these temptations would he be able to say a useful word to others about their own situations of neediness. 
Thus, having tranquilized his soul, he could be in full control of the drive of his ego and thus create peace around him. Only then did he decide to found his first monasteries in the Valley of the Anio, near Subiaco"

Silence, prayer and meditation, humility, penitence and purification, and Love: what St Benedict learned on Mount Subiaco
All lessons frequently preached by the present Pope in his catecheses, Letters and Encyclicals

A useful reminder for the forthcoming Year of Evangelisation

Monday, July 02, 2012

Papa Luciani - no, not forgotten

The tomb of Pope John Paul I in the Crypt of St Peter`s Basilica in the Vatican
Source: Wikipedia

The last time I was in Rome was shortly before the death of Blessed Pope John Paul II

I visited the Vatican crypt where many of the tombs of the Popes are

At that time the tomb for Papa Luciani seemed rather forlorn - a bit out  on a limb. For some reason it was rather sad that the Pope who only reigned for little more than a month had seemed to be forgotten. 

Outshone by the supernova  that was Blessed John Paul II

Therefore it is good to report that the process of canonisation for John Paul I is proceeding apace athough rather more slowly than for Blessed John Paul II

Lori Piper from New York has a very strong devotion to the cause of The Smiling Pope and in her blog On Pilgrimage  reports that the Positio on John Paul I’s cause for beatification will soon be turned in to the Holy See. 

It will go in on the centenary of the birth of Papa Luciani

Miss Pieper`s blog is an excellent source of information in English on the life and works of the Pope as well as comment. She provides translations into English from many Italian sources. In Italy it would appear that devotion to the late Pope is far stronger than in Englsih speaking countries. Hence the importance of her translations, especially of the book The Smiling Pope: The Life and Teaching of John Paul I