Sunday, March 30, 2014

At the beginning of the Charterhouse God did show

An Anonymous Carthusian Monk in England
f. 22r, A four-part image of The founding of the Carthusian Order by St Hugh of Grenoble 
f. 22v, A Carthusian monk at the Grande Chartreuse, mother house of the Order
From ff. 22r-v, A poem on the founding of the Carthusian order (29 couplets), incipit:’At þe begynyng of þe chartirhows god dyd schewe To þe byschop of Gracionapolitane saynt Hewe’; explicit: ‘ Upon þe liif of J[es]u crist god almyghty’ 
From A Carthusian miscellany of poems, chronicles, and treatises in Northern English, including an epitome or summary of Mandeville's travels
1460 - 1500
Ink on paper
27 x 20 mm
The British Library, London

One manuscript that was a priority for digitisation by The British Library was a 15th-century collection of Middle English religious verse, Additional MS 37049.

The catalogue entry is here

The Transcription of the first twelve lines of the poem below the drawings, is taken from Jessica Brantley: Reading in the Wilderness: Private Devotion and Public Performance in Late Medieval England, University Of Chicago Press, 2007, ISBN 0226071324, p. 19:
At þe begynyng of þe chartirhows god dyd schewe
To þe byschop of gracionapolitane, saynt hewe,
Seuen sternes goyng in wildernes to þat place
Wher now þe ordir of þe chartirhows abydyng has.
And when þes sternes at þat place had bene
At þe bischop's fete, þai felle al bedene;
And aftyr þis visione þe sothe for to saye,
þe doctor Bruno and sex felows, withouten delay,
Come to þis holy bischop, cownsel to take,
To lyf solytary in wildernes, and þis warld to forsake
And at his feete mekly downe þai al felle,
Praying hymn of informacioun and his cownsell to telle.

The first English charterhouse was founded at Witham in Somerset by King Henry II in 1178, the tenth and last by Henry V in 1414 at Sheen. 

At the time of Henry VIII's breach with Rome the monks, especially those of the London charterhouse (founded 1370), offered resistance. 

On 4th May 1535, there were executed as martyrs  three Carthusian Priors, John Houghton of London, Robert Lawrence of Beauvale, and Augustus Webster of Axholme. 

During the next five years, fifteen of the London Carthusians perished on the scaffold or were starved to death in Newgate Gaol

The founding of the Order involved dreams

Eustache Le Sueur (1616 - 1655) between 1645 and 1648 painted a series of 22 paintings showing the life of St Bruno, the founder of the Carthusian Order, all for the convent of the Carthusians in Paris

In the work below Le Sueur depicts the vision of three angels in a dream which St Bruno had. They commanded him to seek out Saint Hugh, the Bishop of Grenoble, who would show Bruno and his companions where they should found their monastery: La Grande Chartreuse

Eustache Le Sueur (1616 - 1655)
Le songe de saint Bruno 
1645 - 1648 
1,93 m  x 1,30 m.
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Likewise St Hugh had a dream in which he saw seven stars approaching, a foretelling of the seven companions coming to attend on him and seek his advice

Eustache Le Sueur (1616 - 1655)
Arrivée de saint Bruno à Grenoble chez saint Hugues
1645 - 1648 
1,93 m  x 1,30 m.
Musée du Louvre, Paris

On being shown the site, the seven set to work building their monastery on the site of the Grande Chartreuse

Eustache Le Sueur (1616 - 1655)
Saint Bruno fait construire le monastère
1645 - 1648 
1,93 m  x 1,30 m.
Musée du Louvre, Paris

The seven were given the white habit of their order from the hands of St Hugh

Eustache Le Sueur (1616 - 1655)
Saint Bruno et ses compagnons reçoivent l'habit blanc des Chartreux des mains de saint Hugues.
1645 - 1648 
1,93 m  x 1,30 m.
Musée du Louvre, Paris

The role of Saint Hugh of Châteauneuf (1053 – 1 April 1132), the Bishop of Grenoble from 1080 to his death in the foundation of the great Cartusian Order can not be underestimated

Hugh was canonised on 22 April 1134 by Pope Innocent II, only two years after his death

In his article (1908) in The Catholic Encyclopaedia, Douglas Raymund Webster noted:
"The Carthusian liturgy differs considerably from the Roman Rite, being substantially that of Grenoble in the twelfth century with some admixture from other sources."

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Madonna with Child and with Saints

Benozzo Gozzoli 1420 - 1497
Madonna with Child and with Saints
Chapel of St Jerome, Church of St Francis, Montefalco

These works are renowned, many still in situ, especially the fresco cycle on the Life of St Francis some abroad in national galleries

He enlisted the help of some co-workers as was customary in the fifteenth century artist workshops

The Church was run by the Conventual Franciscans rather than the Observants

The rivalry between the two branches in the town was intense. 

It was scandalous. They shared more in common than divided them. Both were convinced that their way was the way of doctrinal purity and despite the efforts of the Church, great time and effort was wasted

The eventual legal split did not come about until 1517

In the chapel dedicated to St. Jerome, where scenes illustrating episodes from the life of the saint is accompanied by a mock Gothic polyptych. His  illusionistic  fresco has a painted altar with a painted  altar-step, all framed by a carved and gilded wood carpentry. 

The chapel was owned by a local nobleman: Ser Giovanni Battista de Filippis

The work properly commenced in the chapel on 1st November 1452 (The Feast of All Saints) which was quite apropriate in view of the subject matter

We know this from the inscription: 
Local assistants included Jacopo Vincioli (active 1444-1495)  and Niccolo di Liberatore (1430–1502)

Some of the work was based and copied from another work by Gozzoli in one of the chapels in the the Church of St Augustine in Montefalco

The centrepiece is the Madonna in Majesty with the Infant Christ

To the left of her are St Anthony of Padova and St Jerome. To the right are St John the Baptist and St Augustine

Further up in the centrepiece  with the Eternal One are the Four Doctors of the Church: St Augustine, St Gregory the Great, St Jerome and St Ambrose

The saints in the predella include: St Christopher, St James, St Claire of Assisi and St Fortunato (a local saint)

Above the centrepiece is a dramatic Crucifixion. The Crucified Jesus is surrounded by four angels who recover the precious blood as it spurts from various wounds

At the foot of the Cross are four kneeling Saints: Saint Dominic, St Francis, Saint Romuald and Saint Silvester

The scenes in the Chapel of the Life of St Jerome are naturally based on "The Golden Legend"

These two scenes depicted above are first, when St Jerome leaves Rome

He does not so much leave it but abandons it as if he wants nothing more to do with it.

He throws his red hat of his cardinalship to the ground, showing his distaste for ecclesiastical preferment and politics. Nothing much changes, does it ?

If one peers closely one can see the Castel San Angelo and the Aurelian walls

The second highlighted work shows St Jerome in Bethlehem taking the thorn out of the lion`s paw. He seems to be a  Franciscan. The three monks with him have varied reactions to the "miracle"

The story would have recalled to mind the story of St Francis and The Wolf of Gubbio, a town also in Umbria and not far distant, a reminder of the need for peace and reconciliation

The Church is now no longer a Church but a Museum

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Saint Francis de Sales Doctor of the Church

Charles Mellin (1597–1649) 
Saint François de Sales en extase
St Francis de Sales in ecstasy
Oil on canvas
Musée historique lorrain, Nancy

Although trained in Lorraine, Mellin spent his whole career in Italy

He was chosen over Poussin and Lanfranco to decorate the chapel of the Virgin in the church of Saint-Louis-des-Français in Rome

He became the official painter of the Marquis Muti Papazzurri for whom he decorated a palace

Like Georges de la Tour, he was forgotten and has now been rediscovered

St Francis de Sales was renowned in his time and has never gone out of fashion. He certainly has never fallen into obscurity

St Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church is known and renowned for many things and writings in his too short life (1567 – 28 December 1622)

As a mystic, he is perhaps not as well knnown

In his catechesis on the Life of St Francis de Sales, Pope Benedict touched on this aspect of the Doctor`s life

"The ideal of a reconciled humanity was expressed in the harmony between prayer and action in the world, between the search for perfection and the secular condition, with the help of God’s grace that permeates the human being and, without destroying him, purifies him, raising him to divine heights. To Theotimus, the spiritually mature Christian adult to whom a few years later he addressed his Treatise on the Love of God,  St Francis de Sales offered a more complex lesson. 
At the beginning it presents a precise vision of the human being, an anthropology: human “reason”, indeed “our soul in so far as it is reasonable”, is seen there as harmonious architecture, a temple, divided into various courts around a centre, which, together with the great mystics he calls the “extremity and summit of our soul, this highest point of our spirit”. 
This is the point where reason, having ascended all its steps, “closes its eyes” and knowledge becomes one with love (cf. Book I, chapter XII). The fact that love in its theological and divine dimension, may be the raison d’être of all things, on an ascending ladder that does not seem to experience breaks or abysses, St Francis de Sales summed up in a famous sentence: “man is the perfection of the universe; the spirit is the perfection of man; love, that of the spirit; and charity, that of love” (ibid., Book X, chap. 1). 
In an intensely flourishing season of mysticism The Treatise on the Love of God was a true and proper summa and at the same time a fascinating literary work. 
St Francis’ description of the journey towards God starts from recognition of the “natural inclination” (ibid., Book 1, chapter XVI), planted in man’s heart — although he is a sinner — to love God above all things. 
According to the model of Sacred Scripture, St Francis de Sales speaks of the union between God and man, developing a whole series of images and interpersonal relationships. His God is Father and Lord, husband and friend, who has the characteristics of mother and of wet-nurse and is the sun of which even the night is a mysterious revelation. Such a God draws man to himself with bonds of love, namely, true freedom for: “love has neither convicts nor slaves, but brings all things under its obedience with a force so delightful, that as nothing is so strong as love nothing also is so sweet as its strength” (ibid., Book 1, chapter VI). 
In our Saint’s Treatise we find a profound meditation on the human will and the description of its flowing, passing and dying in order to live (cf. ibid. Book IX, chapter XIII) in complete surrender not only to God’s will but also to what pleases him, to his “bon plaisir”, his good pleasure (cf. ibid., Book IX, chapter I). 
As well as by raptures of contemplative ecstasy, union with God is crowned by that reappearance of charitable action that is attentive to all the needs of others and which he calls “the ecstasy of action and life” (ibid., Book VII, chapter VI). 
In reading his book on the love of God and especially his many letters of spiritual direction and friendship one clearly perceives that St Francis was well acquainted with the human heart. He wrote to St Jane de Chantal: 
“... this is the rule of our obedience, which I write for you in capital letters: do all through love, nothing through constraint; love obedience more than you fear disobedience. I leave you the spirit of freedom, not that which excludes obedience, which is the freedom of the world, but that liberty that excludes violence, anxiety and scruples” (Letter of 14 October 1604).
It is not for nothing that we rediscover traces precisely of this teacher at the origin of many contemporary paths of pedagogy and spirituality; without him neither St John Bosco nor the heroic “Little Way” of St Thérèse of Lisieux would have have come into being."


Thanks to hard detective work by my blog pal Terry Nelson of Abbey Roads it would appear that the proper identity of the picture above has been identified. See comments below

It would appear that the subject of the picture is not St Francis de Sales but probably St. Francis of Paola at prayer

Apologies for the error. However if anyone has any more information to definitively identify the subject and the artist that would be most welcome

Thanks once again to Terry for his hard work

Monday, March 24, 2014

Annunciation by Fouquet

Jean (or Jehan) Fouquet 1420 - 1481
The Annunciation 
From Heures d'Étienne Chevalier
c, 1452 - 1460
Illuminated manuscript
Ms 71, f 6r
Musée Condé, Chantilly

The image is from The Office of the Holy Spirit (Matins)

The setting for the scene is the inside of the Sainte-Chapelle de Bourges commissioned by the Duke Jean de Berry and constructed in 1450

It was razed to the ground in 1757

The Angel Gabriel appears to Mary

Mary is seated on a carpet on the ground on which are two Books: one closed and the other open. They represent the Old and New Testaments

The dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit, is above

As can be seen from below all lines of perspective lead towards the statue of Moses on the altar. Moses is holding the two Tables of the Law. The statue is behind the altar which is beneath a large canopy

The BNF of Paris has done several exhibitions on Fouquet and the Heures d'Étienne Chevalier

The great skill and craftsmanship of the work can be seen from the following two images and commentary from the BNF:

The circle of radius OO'', intersecting the previous level of the crown of light passes through the face and hands of the Virgin and the open pages of the New Testament, the new Book of the Law. The circle encloses the torso of the angel Gabriel.

O''X = O'' Y  and both these sides are sides of the pentagon inscribed within the circle. Mary, the angel, the dove and the canopy are all on the edges of the pentagon as well as the circle

Another drawing shows the great labour in draftsmanship in making sure everything is proportionate and all elements are in harmony with each other

It is interesting to compare the Annunciation with "The Second Annunciation" below

It depicts an extra Scriptural story that before Mary died she received a second visit from the Angel Gabriel when he announced that her death was approaching

The story has no Scriptural warrant

It derives from The Golden Legend by Jacob de Voragine as retold from an ancient apocryphal source attributed to St John the Evangelist

The words of the angel and the response of Mary are in very small gold letters

Her response was that she wished the Apostles to be present at her death (Dormition)

Jean (or Jehan) Fouquet 1420 - 1481
The Annunciation  of the Death of the Virgin
From Heures d'Étienne Chevalier
c, 1452 - 1460
Illuminated manuscript
Ms 71, 
Musée Condé, Chantilly

The angel approaches Mary with a palm: the "palma mortis", a symbol of death and of paradise to come

Beside Mary lies an open book: the New Testament

The bed and the table cloth are covered with material with the arms of Étienne Chevalier

The work decorates the Office of the Virgin (Terce)

Other examples of this rare subject include Duccio`s Maestà in Siena

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Annunciation and the Eucharist

Blessed Fra Angelico 1387 - 1455
The Annunciation from the Door Decoration of The Silver Cabinet for The Church of Santissima Annunziata, Florence
1451 - 3
Tempera on wood panel
39 x 39 cm
Museo di San Marco, Florence

A far less magnificent composition than some of Fra Angelico`s compositions for The Annunciation such as that in The Prado or in The Convento di San Marco in Florence itself

On the face of it it is a simple work

It is a work of the mature artist towards the end of his life

He had painted the subjects for all his artistic life

It is a work for what was at the time the main Marian shrine in Florence at Santissima Annunziata

Mary is in a hortus conclusus. A long mysterious passage runs from the room to the infinite distance

No rays but there is a dove, a representation of the Holy Spirit

One of a number of images on the cabinet and therefore the iconography is reduced to the essentials

The work is framed by the relevant quotations from Scripture: Luke 1:26-38Isaiah 7:14

Mary, Angel and the Holy Spirit within what seems to be a cloister or Church. A mystery leading to a faithful contemplation of other mysteries: the Incarnation, the Trinity, the Eucharist, the Passion and Crucifixion, the Resurrection, Pentecost and the Church

In his Encyclical on the Eucharist, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Blessed Pope John Paul II made the point that the Blessed Virgin Mary was not present in the Upper Room on the night of Holy Thursday

But he went on to say:

"55. In a certain sense Mary lived her Eucharistic faith even before the institution of the Eucharist, by the very fact that she offered her virginal womb for the Incarnation of God's Word. 
The Eucharist, while commemorating the passion and resurrection, is also in continuity with the Incarnation. At the Annunciation Mary conceived the Son of God in the physical reality of his body and blood, thus anticipating within herself what to some degree happens sacramentally in every believer who receives, under the signs of bread and wine, the Lord's body and blood. 
“Blessed is she who believed” (Lk 1:45). Mary also anticipated, in the mystery of the incarnation, the Church's Eucharistic faith. When, at the Visitation, she bore in her womb the Word made flesh, she became in some way a “tabernacle” – the first “tabernacle” in history – in which the Son of God, still invisible to our human gaze, allowed himself to be adored by Elizabeth, radiating his light as it were through the eyes and the voice of Mary. 
And is not the enraptured gaze of Mary as she contemplated the face of the newborn Christ and cradled him in her arms that unparalleled model of love which should inspire us every time we receive Eucharistic communion? 
As a result, there is a profound analogy between the Fiat which Mary said in reply to the angel, and the Amen which every believer says when receiving the body of the Lord. Mary was asked to believe that the One whom she conceived “through the Holy Spirit” was “the Son of God” (Lk 1:30-35). 
In continuity with the Virgin's faith, in the Eucharistic mystery we are asked to believe that the same Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Mary, becomes present in his full humanity and divinity under the signs of bread and wine."


Francisco Pacheco  1564-1644
The Last Communion of St Peter Nolasco
Or The Last Communion of Saint Raymond Nonnatus
Oil on Canvas
249 x 204 cm
Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, County Durham

In 1600, Francisco Pacheco  and Alonso Vázquez were commissioned to decorate the large cloister of the Mercedarian convent of Seville with a series of pictures representing the lives of the founders of the order, Saint Peter Nolasco and Saint Raymond Nonnatus

It is not clear whether the subject of the painting is the last communion of Saint Peter or Saint Raymond

Saint Peter Nolasco was canonised in 1655. St Raymond was canonised in 1681

The two saints were not canonised according to the ordinary procedure but through the  historically extraordinary channel called the "canonization equivalent"

In "L'Osservatore Romano" on October 12, 2013 by Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the causes of saints explained:
"For such a canonization, according to the teaching of Benedict XIV, three elements are required: an ancient tradition of devotion, the constant and common attestation of trustworthy historians on the virtues or martyrdom, and the uninterrupted fame of miracles. ... 
If these conditions are satisfied - again according to the teaching of pope Prospero Lambertini - the supreme pontiff, by his authority, can proceed with the 'canonization equivalent,' meaning the extension to the universal Church of the recitation of the divine office and the celebration of the Mass [in honor of the new saint], 'without any definitive formal sentence, without any preliminary juridical process, without having carried out the usual ceremonies.'"
Before 1758, there were 12 cases of such canonisations in the period 1740 to 1758:
Romuald (canonized in 1595), Norbert (1621), Bruno (1623), Peter Nolasco (1655), Raymond Nonnatus (1681), Stephen of Hungary (1686), Margaret of Scotland (1691), John of Matha and Felix of Valois (1694), Gregory VII (1728), Wenceslaus of Bohemia (1729), Gertrude of Helfta (1738).
The current legislation on beatification and canonisation is based above all on the special work of Prospero Lambertini/Pope Benedict († 1758), De servorum Dei beatificatione, et beatorum canonizatione , the Apostolic Constitution Divinus Perfectionis Magister (January 25, 1983), and the Normae servandae in inquisitionibus ab Episcopis faciendis in Causis Sanctorum, in AAS 75 (1983) 396-404.(February 7, 1983) published during the pontificate of John Paul II and the Instruction Sanctorum mater of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints (May 17, 2007)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Last Breath

Julien-Michel Gué (1789-1843)
Le Dernier soupir du Christ 
Oil on canvas
185 x 260,5 cm
Musée de Picardie, Amiens

Gué was runner up of the Prix de Rome in 1815

This image in 1840  was extremely popular when first exhibited

Many prints were made. One of the prints is even in The Royal Collection at Windsor

John 19 describes the scene:
"25  Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. 
26 When Jesus saw his mother  and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” 
27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. 
28 After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.” 
29 There was a vessel filled with common wine.  So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. 
30 When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit."

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Roma, città aperta

One of the classics of Italian and world cinema is Roberto Rossellini`s  Roma, città aperta (Rome, Open City) (1945)

The setting is  in Rome during the Nazi occupation in 1944

The film was shot just a few months after the Nazis had evacuated their forces from Rome

The script was written by Federico Fellini and Sergio Amidei

One of the main characters is Don Pietro Pellegrini played by the Italian actor Aldo Fabrizi

In the film, Don Pietro is executed by the Germans

The character of Don Pietro is based on that of two Roman Catholic priests in Rome who were executed by the Nazis: Don Giuseppe  Morosini  (1913 - 1944) who had been shot by the Germans for helping the partisan movement in Italy, and Don Pietro Pappagallo (1888 - 1944), an Italian anti-fascist who assisted victims of Nazism and Fascism in Rome during World War II and who was killed in the Ardeatine Caves

At  execution of Father Morosini, the bishop who had ordained him, and like a true father to his priests, Archbishop Traglia (later Cardinal and Dean of the College of Cardinals) was present

Don Pappagallo was the  priest among the 335 victims massacred on 24 March 1944 by the SS at the Caves

Despite the pleas of the Vatican including Pope Pius XII, the executions were carried out

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Japanese Martyrs

Giovan Mauro Della Rovere ("il Fiamminghino") (1575 - 1640)
The Martyrdom of the Franciscans 
(Also known as The Martyrdom of the Franciscan and Japanese martyrs at Nagasaki)
c 1621
Oil on canvas
The Chapel of the Franciscan Martyrs, Church of San Bernardino di Siena, Chiari, near Brescia

Giovan Mauro and his elder brother Giovanni Battista were known as "I Fiamminghini"

Both from Milan they were responsible for many religious art works commissioned in Northern Italy by a number of orders and in particular the reformed Franciscans

Their greatest work is probably to be found in the transept of The Abbey of Santa Maria di Rovegnano, Chiaravalle Milanese in Milan dedicated to the  Cistercian martyrs

His work is also seen in the Sacred Mount of Varese

Chiari is now a small town near Brescia in Lombardy

The present Franciscan Convent or Monastery of St Bernardino of Siena was built in 1546 on an earlier foundation. Its size increased substantially in the 17th century

However like many other religious institutions it was suppressed during the Napoleonic conquest

After the restoration it was taken over by the Jesuits, then the Benedictines until now it is College run by the Salesian order, the Istituto salesiano San Bernardino

The website of the Curazia San Bernardino at Chiari has an interesting commentary on the painting

It is in a .pdf file in Italian here

Another illustrated guide to the convent and the church is here in Italian (.pdf file)

Contrary to other catalogue entries on this work, the major attribution is not to Giovan Mauro but rather to Giovanni  Battista Della Rovere 

Again it  says that it is a work dedicated to all the Franciscan martyrs and not simply to the Franciscan Japanese Martyrs at Nagasaki as also narrated by some commentaries

The centre of the work is indeed dominated by the Martyrdom of the Martyrs at Nagasaki: 6 Franciscans and 20 Japanese and  amongst whom is the Jesuit martyr Paul Miki who was martyred on 5th February 1597

Beneath the cross of Christ a disciple embraces with love his cross prior to execution

The Franciscans first came to Brescia in 1220 and quickly spread throughout the area round Brescia 

By the 15th century the Franciscans around Brescia had become decadent and in need of great reform which took place after 1482 when  a General Chapter at Brescia was held, 

The painting and the other works in the chapel was an example to those in more comfortable surroundings who were tempted to be less fervent 

It was meant to shame as well as to inspire

Monday, March 17, 2014

Elijah comforted by the Angel

Alessandro Bonvicino (known as  Il Moretto da Brescia) (c. 1498 – December 22, 1554)
Elijah comforted by the Angel
Duomo Vecchio, Brescia

The theme of the painting is 1 Kings 19

Elijah, the dejected prophet of Carmel, is in fear of his life and has to flee the forces of Evil, intent on destroying him

He prays for death

“Enough, LORD! Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.”

He falls asleep under a solitary juniper tree
"5 He lay down and fell asleep under the solitary broom tree, but suddenly a messenger touched him and said, “Get up and eat!” 
6 He looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water. After he ate and drank, he lay down again, 
7 but the angel of the LORD came back a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat or the journey will be too much for you!” 
8 He got up, ate, and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb."

The Lord provides sustenance and help in times of adversity and he that shall endure to the end, shall be saved.

Il Moretto was apparently a man of great personal piety and painted many religious art works in the Venetian and Lombardan style

This of course should not be a surprise as Brescia is roughly half way between Venice and Milan

Flair and invention combined with a concern for realism

The work was in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in the Old cathedral of Brescia

Moretto was often commissioned by Confraternities in Brescia to decorate their chapels, a number also situated in the Old Cathedral and elsewhere in Brescia and other cities and towns in Northern Italy

It was the time before the Council of Trent when lay people through Confraternities aware of the corruptions in the Church became inflamed by religious zeal and attempted reform themselves but within the Church and not outside it. But reforming themselves they realised they would reform the Church

Il Moretto  himself was a member of the Scuola del Santissimo Sacramento in the cathedral

In this work we see Elijah ("My God is Yahweh") as an awesome figure

Up against the forces of Baal and Jezebel, it appears that even this giant is in the throes of defeat and dejection

Elijah is on the run, solitary and apart from the society around him who are apparently getting on with daily life oblivious to his torment. Where else have you seen an image in a church of a man relieving himself ?

Yet. He is given assistance. From a small seemingly insignificant figure, A figure who looks like a baby,  one of the weakest and the most helpless. Elijah is then transformed and restored

He listens to the word of the Lord and is given sustenance to carry on his journey and his mission

Through perseverance he encounters the Lord

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Transfiguration Gospel in Lent

The Master of David scenes in the Grimani Breviary
f. 39v: Miniature of the Transfigured Christ before astounded Apostles, flanked by a horned Moses carrying the tablets of the Law and Elijah, with God above, enclosed in an architectonic border.
From: The Book of Hours, Use of Rome (the 'Hours of Joanna I of Castile' or the 'Hours of Joanna the Mad')
Illuminated manuscript
Add. Ms. 18852
The British Library, London

The Master of David scenes in the Grimani Breviary
f. 40r: decorated initial ‘I’ of a tree with flowering strawberries, surrounded by a full border of shelves laden with metal vessels and strings of beads, with a peacock and an open book in the foreground.
From The Book of Hours, Use of Rome (the 'Hours of Joanna I of Castile' or the 'Hours of Joanna the Mad')
Illuminated manuscript
Add. Ms. 18852
The British Library, London 

The so-called Master of the David Scenes in the Grimani Breviary was a Flemish illuminator active around 1500

As well as the illuminator of much of the Hours of Joanna of Castile (London, British Library, Add. Ms. 18852), he was also involved in The Grimani Breviary (Venice, Bib. N. Marciana) (naturally). the Brukenthal Breviary in the Brukenthal Museum in Sibiu (Romania) and The Flemish Book of Hours of Marie de Medici among many others 

In Volume II of his Life of Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI took the period of Christ`s life from The Baptism of Christ to The Transfiguration

At his Baptism and Transfiguration Christ receives witness from heaven  to his Divine Sonship. Further  the Prophets of the Old Testament are not rivals, but servants in comparison with Him 

Of The Transfiguration [Mt 17:1-9; Mk 9:1-9; Lk 9:28-36], Pope Benedict wrote:
“The hoped for salvation and the Passion are joined together intimately and then developed into a picture of the Redemption that accords with Scripture’s deepest intention, although in terms of the prevailing expectations of the day it constitutes a startling novelty. Scripture had to be read anew with the suffering of Christ, and so it must ever be. We constantly have to let the Lord draw us into conversation with Moses [the Law] and Elias [the Prophets]; we constantly have to learn from him, the Risen Lord, to understand Scripture afresh” (pp. 312-313).
“The Lord has pitched the tent of his body among us [re: the feast of tabernacles] and has thus inaugurated the messianic age” (p. 315).
“The [Father’s] solemn proclamation of [Jesus’] Sonship is followed by the command, ‘Listen to him.’… Jesus himself is the Torah. This one command brings the theophany to its conclusion and sums up its deepest meaning. The disciples must accompany Jesus back down the mountain and learn ever anew to ‘listen to him’… (p. 316).

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Adult Catechumenate

Maître de Hoo
Baptême de catéchumènes
From The Béthune Book of Hours
1430 - 1435
Paint on parchment
18 cm x 13.3 cm
Musée Condé, Chantilly

Girolamo Genga 1476 - 1551
St Augustine baptises the catechumens
Oil on wood panel
91,7 cm x 49,5 cm
Accademia Carrara - Museo, Bergamo

Yesterday by accident I was able to attend one of the two days given over at Westminster Cathedral to the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults

Over the weekend 712 people from 119 parishes were welcomed by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Auxiliary Bishops, along with four Episcopal Vicars and many Deans from the Diocese

Here are some of the photographs of the occasion

It is an unusual rite but yesterday`s ceremony was a joyful one at which to be present and I was glad to have been there

There were so many people from all different backgrounds and ways of life

The singing was of course excellent as usual

It is an old and antique rite and procedure which fell into disuse but was only revived again at the insistence of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council

In  Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Council stated:
"64. The catechumenate for adults, comprising several distinct steps, is to be restored and to be taken into use at the discretion of the local ordinary. By this, means the time of the catechumenate, which is intended as a period of suitable instruction, may be sanctified by sacred rites to be celebrated at successive intervals of time. 
65. In mission lands it is found that some of the peoples already make use of initiation rites. Elements from these, when capable of being adapted to Christian ritual, may be admitted along with those already found in Christian tradition, according to the norm laid down in Art. 37-40, of this Constitution. 
66. Both the rites for the baptism of adults are to be revised: not only the simpler rite, but also the more solemn one, which must take into account the restored catechumenate. A special Mass "for the conferring of baptism" is to be inserted into the Roman Missal."

The new rite was promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1972: RCIA: Ordo Initiationis Christianae Adultorum, Rite of Christian Initiations of Adults 

In his Doctoral Thesis, Dr David  Andrew  Pitt researched and wrote about what happened between 1964 and 1972. There are three volumes of his thesis presented to Notre Dame University, Indiana: Revising the Rite of Adult Initiation: The Structural Reform of the Ordo Initiationis Christianae Adultorum, Ordo Catechumenatus per Gradus Dispositus, 1964-1972

They are here

Of special importance in the process of revision has been the work of Abbé Louis Duchesne  and 20th century French and other Northern Western European theologians 

In particular, Balthasar  Fischer,  “The  Rite  of  Christian  Initiation  of  Adults:  Rediscovery  and  New Beginnings,” Worship 64 (1990), 102 said of the new approach and rite:
"it was progress in patristic studies which enabled the Second Vatican Council to  take such a radical approach to the catechumenate, namely, the restoration of the  ancient pattern as it was first set out in the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus in the first decades of the third century"
The prototype was "tested" in about fifty "sites" in: Algeria, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Mali, Togo, Upper Volta, Rwanda, France, Belgium, Quebec, Japan and  the United States

Perhaps it will be looked at again in the forthcoming Synod of Bishops as part of the increased effort towards evangelisation

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Catholics in International Women`s Day

Pieter de Jode 1606-ca. 1674
Portrait of Juliana Morell
c 1626
180 x 123 mm
Biblioteca Nacional de España, Madrid

The inscription reads:
""IVLIANA MORELLA, BARCINONENSIS / Virgo hispana Capuccinorum habitum pietatis ergo gestans, Latinae Graecae et / Hebraeae linguarum perita Philosophiae ac Iurisprudentiae studiosa: Theses philosophicas / anno Christi MDCVI aetatis XIII á se publicé disputas Margaritae Austriae / Hispaniarum Indiarumque Reginae inscripsit & evulgavit. Floret Lugduni / in Gallia, Musicis instrumentis aliisque ingenii Artibus apprime exercita"

Juliana Morell (16 February 1594 – 26 June 1653) was a Spanish Dominican nun, and the first woman to receive a Doctor of Laws degree.

Portrait of Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia
18th century
Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan

Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia (1646 – 26 July 1684) was a Venetian philosopher of noble descent, and the first woman to receive a university degree.

The English sources do not really do this remarkable woman justice or highlight the scale of her achievements

For Italian sources see

the Biography in Treccani

Carlo Vandi (Bologna d. 1768)
Portrait of Laura Bassi
c 1750
Oil on canvas
Sala dello zodiaco e delle stagioni, Museo di Palazzo Poggi, Bologna

Laura Maria Caterina Bassi (29 November 1711 – 20 February 1778) was an Italian scientist, the first woman in the world to earn a university chair in a scientific field of studies. She received a doctoral degree from the University of Bologna in May 1732, only the third academic qualification ever bestowed on a woman by a European university, and the first woman to earn a professorship in physics at a university in Europe. She was the first woman to be offered an official teaching position at a university in Europe

She was described as "the woman who understood Newton"

She was supported strongly by the Church and in particular by the then Archbishop of Bologna,Prospero Lambertini, later Pope Benedict XIV. Bologna was of course part of the Papal States

Of Bassi it was said:
„Every day she holds public debates in her house, attended by those who are in the mood for discussion, and she fears nobody, and frequently someone, who is not afraid of her, leaves very bewildered and with their horns flattened.‟ (Giampietro Zanotti, writer and sculptor)
An early  Italian  prototype of Margaret Thatcher !

Anna Manzolini 1714 - 1774
Wax portrait model of herself by the artist showing her dissecting a human brain 
Museo di Palazzo Poggi, Bologna
Source: Scienza a Due Voci  

Anna Morandi Manzolini (21 January 1714 – 9 July 1774) was an internationally known anatomist and anatomical wax modeler, as lecturer of anatomical design at the University of Bologna.

On the death of her husband in 1755, she became professor of anatomy Knowledge of her talent in moulding anatomical models spread throughout Europe and she was invited to the court of Catherine II of Russia as well as other royal courts.

The British Royal Society elected her a member and invited her to lecture in London

Maria Pellegrina Amoretti (1756 - 1787)

Maria Pellegrina Amoretti (1756 - 1787) was the third woman in Italy to graduate first from Padua and then Bologna and was the first woman to teach at a University

She was a jurist of international repute and her thesis was on the Roman Law of gifts

Her graduation attracted international attention as can be seen from this book in the Internet Archive: Laurea della signora M. Pellegrina Amoretti cittadina d'Oneglia

There is a fresco of the event in the Cathedral here

Unfortunately she died very young at the age of 31 before her great talent could be fully manifest

Portrait of Clotilde Tambroni
Biblioteca dell'Archiginnasio di Bologna, Italy

Clotilde Tambroni (Bologna, 29 June 1758 – Bologna 2 June 1817), was an Italian philologist, linguist and poet. She was a professor in the Greek language at the University of Bologna in 1793–1798, and a professor in Greek and literature in 1800–1808

Here is her elegy in honour of Bodoni

When the French armies invaded Northern Italy and imposed the Cisalpine Republics, she (as well as Galvani) refused for religious reasons to take the oath of loyalty and was deprived of her chair

The selfless and courageous work of women in the Church will be celebrated  in the Vatican for International Women’s Day.

The few biographies of illustrious and talented women  illustrates that contrary to modern belief the Church has fostered in times gone by the talents of gifts of women in particular in Spain, Northern Italy and other areas where it has had influence

If they are not as well known as they should be, then that is the fault of society in general as well as the Church

From looking at the biographies of the women listed above, a number of questions arise:
Why and how did such women come to the fore at this particular time and at the same time as managing to adhere to the tenets of the then Catholic faith (rather than despite it) ? 
Was this resurgence in the role of women a limited phenomenon or was it more widespread ? (The evidence is that it was probably more widespread but the necessary study and scholarship has not been undertaken) 
Why did the role of women not increase thereafter and indeed would appear to have been snuffed out shortly thereafter and the roles of Bassi and the others forgotten until further advances were made about one hundred years later ? 
Or is it a coincidence that these tender shoots in the rise of the influence of women in Western Europe were along with other institutions apparently trampled underfoot by the Napoleonic armies which swept across and conquered Europe in the aftermath of the French Revolution ? In this connection the biography of Clotilde Tambroni seems instructive