Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Church of Santa Chiara in Florence

Santa Chiara in Florence now

The monastery and church was founded in 1356 with support from the Albizi family. Maria di Maso degli Albizzi was the first abbess here

The convent was suppressed in 1808 

In 1860 J. C. Robinson bought the chapel on behalf of the V&A, and it was dismantled and shipped to London

Other precious works of art went to various museums: Lorenzo di Credi`s Adoration of the Shepherds is in the Uffizi, and Perugino`s The Lamentation over the Dead Christ is in the Galleria Palatina at the Pitti Palace in Florence

The building itself  is now the Galleria Pio Fedi used for temporary exhibitions

We are extremely fortunate in London to have the V and A where one of the attractions is a reconstruction of the Interior of the Chapel (where the website has a special microsite devoted to the Chapel alone)

Detail of chancel chapel from Santa Chiara, about 1493–1500
The Victoria and Albert Museum, London

In this section of the V and A website on Renaissance Music  1400 - 1600 we can hear and download a rendition of the hymn Jesu Corona Virginum

The hymn praises a virgin, revelling in her spiritual marriage to Jesus and praying for her continued guidance. It is dedicated to virgin martyrs. The recording is performed as it would have been in the Santa Chiara chapel many many years ago before it was destroyed by the forces of an alien and brutal ideology

The website provides a beautiful and faithful English translation of the hymn:

Jesus the Virgin's crown
conceived by her, His Mother,
as the only begotten Son,
from whom alone we accept mercy.
Thou who dwells among the lilies
And with the seven Virgin choirs
with glory decked and pledged
the rewards of a bride.
Those virgins who still attend
and follow Thee with praises
and songs, sing well
sweet hymns resounding.
We therefore Beseech thee
To make us sensitive to
Thy grace so we may be pure
of all trace of corruption.
Praise, honour, virtue, and glory
God the father, and the Son
And also the Holy Spirit,
World without end, Amen

It is of course very sad to think that for nearly five hundred years the building which echoed continually with the Divine Praises is now silent and empty and that now the only Divine Praise to the Trinity is from an .mp3 file on the website of a historical museum situated over a thousand miles away.

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