Monday, April 30, 2007

The Good Shepherd 6

VERHAEGEN, Theodoor (b. 1701, Mechelen, d. 1759, Mechelen)
Pulpit 1736
St. Janskerk, Mechelen

Verhaegen's best works are in the Church of St John in Mechelen. The pulpit depicts an expressive Christ as Good Shepherd.

The Good Shepherd 5

The Good Shepherd
Canvas (123 x 100 cm)
The Prado, Madrid

Murillo often represented the saints as children, thus inspiring the devoutness of the faithful through the representation of tenderness. In this case, the painting shows a young Jesus as a good shepherd, representing him in fact as Jesus described himself: "the good shepherd who gives his life for his sheep".

The market for Bartolomé Estebán Murillo's pictures was so large and lucrative that the king refused to allow their export from the country.

He probably spent some time in Madrid around 1648, where he copied works by artists including Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck. His work became softer and more tender as a result of these studies.

In Murillo's last years, the grace and lightness of his "vaporous" paintings gave them a Rococo quality decades before the Rococo style was firmly established.

The Good Shepherd 4

The Good Shepherd: Ravenna,
Mosaic in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, 5th c.

The Good Shepherd 3

The Good Shepherd (3rd Century AD)
Catacomb of Priscilla,

The Good Shepherd 2

Jesus as the Good Shepherd.
Ceiling - S. Callisto catacomb, Rome
Date: mid 3rd century A.D.

The Good Shepherd 1

Early Christian image of Christ as the Good Shepherd (Fourth Century A.D.), Museo Epigrafico, Rome

Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Second Noah

The Times reports that a devout Dutchman has spent two years and a million euros rebuilding Noah’s Ark after a dream that the Netherlands was suddenly submerged under water.

Johan Huibers, 48, a believer in the literal truth of the Bible, made his replica three storeys high and filled it with life-size models of giraffes, elephants, lions, crocodiles and zebras – all two-by-two.

At 230ft (70m) long it is around half the length of the biblical vessel described in Genesis.

But Johan’s Ark is drawing crowds to his home town of Schagen, 27 miles (45km) north of Amsterdam, from where he plans to sail it around the Dutch canal system to teach children about the Bible

Unlike the first Mrs Noah, Mrs Huibers is not keen on the project.

Probably there`s not much room left in the back garden. Apparently she keeps asking him "‘Why don’t you go dig wells in Ethiopia?"

Let Britannia Rise : A love letter to the British

Jeffrey Smith of The Roving Medievalist and others has created a new blog to join the other members of his stable.

It is called Let Britannia Rise : A love letter to the British

It is of the same high quality that we have come to expect from Jeffrey. The Brits will return his love.

How he has the energy to do all the blogs defeats me. Must be something he puts in his tea !

Archbishop Chaput on the Common Good: "More Than a Political Slogan"

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver recently delivered a lecture entitled "Promoting and Protecting the Common Good."

As Tea at Trianon puts it, the speech is "so incredible" that she was compelled to share it.

Here is an extract:

"When Cardinal Justin Rigali first invited me to talk about religion and the common good some months ago, I accepted for two simple reasons. First, I'm tired of the Church and her people being told to be quiet on public issues that urgently concern us. And second, I'm tired of Catholics themselves being silent because of some misguided sense of good manners. Self-censorship is an even bigger sin than allowing ourselves to be bullied by outsiders.

Only one question really matters. Does God exist or not? If he does, that has implications for every aspect of our personal and public behavior: all of our actions, all of our choices, all of our decisions. If God exists, denying him in our public life -- whether we do it explicitly like Nietzsche or implicitly by our silence -- cannot serve the common good because it amounts to worshiping the unreal in the place of the real.

Religious believers built this country. Christians played a leading role in that work. This is a fact, not an opinion. Our entire framework of human rights is based on a religious understanding of the dignity of the human person as a child of his or her Creator. Nietzsche once said that "convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies." But that's false. Not even he believed that, or he couldn't have written a single book.

In fact, the opposite is often true. Convictions can be the seeds of truth incarnated in a person's individual will. The right kinds of convictions guide us forward. They give us meaning. Not acting on our convictions is cowardice. As Catholics we need to live our convictions in the public square with charity and respect for others, but also firmly, with courage and without apology. Anything less is a form of theft from the moral witness we owe to the public discussion of issues. We can never serve the common good by betraying who we are as believers or compromising away what we hold to be true."

Monty Python: The Philosopher's Song

An oft-forgotten gem from the Pythons: a symposium of Australian professors of philosophy live at the Hollywood Bowl

Philosophy 101:The Philosophers' Football Match

As a follow up to the post below, Monty Python (with Spanish subtitles !) show famous German philosophers (and one actual footballer) facing off against the Greek philosophy squad in this sketch from "Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl"

The Unemployed Philosophers` Guild

Believe it or not, hat tip to Zenit for this one.

The Unemployed Philosophers` Guild is a site where philosophers sell their wares.

Its philosophy ?

"Here in the our Ivory Tower we haven’t yet discovered the first principles of Being (though we concur that the world is watery and pace the whole 20th century Anglo-philosophizing, not formalizable!), but we have discovered that people seem to really like the giants of our educations reduced to little finger puppets, mugs and witty jokes. (Alright, we really should leave Hegel alone, but oddly he sells!) The Unemployed Philosophers Guild kills two birds with one stone: We make people laugh and earn enough money to read Spinoza and raise some families."

Here are some examples:

Walk in the masters footsteps with these newly redesigned Freudian Slippers! Price: $24.95

A little book with assorted sticky notes.Price: $6.50

They seem to have run out of the Nietzsche Will to Power Energy Chocolate Bar.

Mstislav Rostropovich

Mstislav Rostropovich, the celebrated and renowned cellist and conductor, died on April 27, 2007, aged 80.

The obituaries of his life and career have been published all over the world: such was his talent, and accomplishment as a musician and a force for moral good.

One passage in the obituary in the Guardian caught my eye:

"Rostropovich's birth - in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan, then part of the Soviet Union - was not wanted, but even in the womb he asserted himself.

"My mother understood too late that she was pregnant. She cried all over the house. My parents decided she would have to be aborted because she already had a little child. It was a joint decision. So my mother started to fight against me, but as you see, I won this war.""

Saturday, April 28, 2007

L'église Notre-Dame in Raincy, Seine-Saint-Denis , Ile de France

La vierge aux taxis: Souvenir de la victoire de l'Ourcq en 1914

La vierge aux taxis: Souvenir de la victoire de l'Ourcq en 1914

Diplomatic relations between France and the Vatican were severed from 1904 to 1921.

After relations were repaired, the parish priest at Raincy, l'abbé Félix Nègre, obtained permission for a new church to be built at Raincy.

He commissioned two brothers, Auguste and Gustave Perret. The commission attracted great publicity. The Perrets were not exactly known as being on the Catholic side during the preceding troubles. The reaction was polemical especially amongst some Catholic architects who were not chosen.

The result: the first modern Catholic church building in France, constructed of reinforced concrete.

The Dominican priest,Father Couturier with Maurice Denis were responsible for the first abstract stained glass windows in the church.

But most of the stained glass work was executed by the master glazier Marguerite Huré based on drawings by Maurice Denis.

One of the ten large windows, based on an incident in the Battle of the Marne, was called "The Virgin of the Taxis". It represented the time in September 1914 when taxis brought troops from the town of Raincy to the battle fields of the Marne to save Paris and were successful at the Battle of l`Ourcq.

Between 1988 and 1996, the church was entirely restored.

L'Arbre de Vie

Henri Matisse (December 31, 1869 – November 3, 1954)
L'Arbre de Vie (1949)
The Collection of Modern Religious Art
Vatican Museum

Christ and Veronica

Otto Dix (December 2, 1891 - July 25, 1969)
Christ and Veronica (1943)
The Collection of Modern Religious Art
Vatican Museum

Emanuel Kaja in Brighton

Fr Ray Blake, of St Mary Magdalen, Brighton is allowing the installation of a work of modern religious art during the month of May.

It is a work by Emanuel Kaja.

Father Blake explains the work as follows:

"The stones symbolise separate human beings. Each of them is marked with a different name to represent Christ sacrifice for all. They also represent human sin that brought Christ to the Cross. Each stone is wrapped with wire which represents toil and sorrow that make us fall repeatedly. Having died Christ turns our hearts of stone into something alive, into his body."

I hope it is a success and the parishoners like the temporary installation. Hopefully, the experiment will be a success and the first of a series.

Church encouragement of contemporary modern artists who wish to create religious art of quality should be applauded.

Saints and Morality

The post on St Gianna Molla illustrates a life of great heroic virtue.

Most lives of the saints also illustrate such heroic virtue, moral selflessness and unbounded altruism motivated by faith.

The Catholic view of saints has always been controversial: perhaps today more than ever.

But the need for saints is stronger than ever.

Their stories are moral parables illustrating that Man has a moral sensibility which sharply distinguishes him from mammals and other animals. The moral sense is one of the few remaining exclusively human characters which distinguishes us from the Animal Kingdom.

Nowadays there seems to be an attempt to equate what seems to be moral behaviour of animals and primates with that of human beings, and that what we regard as a moral sense is not the result of a rational choice but raw, unprocessed emotion making us more like our animal cousins than philosophers and psychologists have hitherto supposed.

This week`s Times Literary Supplement publishes a review entitled Are mammals moral? by Matthew Cobb

It is a review of three books:

Frans de Waal, Primates and Philosophers:How morality evolved; Richard Joyce, The Evolution of Morality; and Lee Alan Dugatkin, The Altruism Equation: Seven scientists search for the origins of goodness.

"De Waal’s aim is twofold. First, he wants to convince us that primates, and in particular the great apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, orang-utans and ourselves), show behaviour that can be interpreted as a product of morality. Second, he seeks to use these data to undermine what he calls “veneer theory”. This is the idea, which he traces back to T. H. Huxley, that human morality is a thin “veneer” laid on top of a brutish and selfish core, a view that implies a fundamental discontinuity between humans and our closest animal relatives. In other words, this is not only a discussion of how we became moral, but also of what we really are. The key question addressed by de Waal is whether non-human animals “possess capacities for reciprocity and revenge, for the enforcement of social rules, for the settlement of disputes, and for sympathy and empathy”. "

If of course there is no distinction between Man and the animal kingdom, then why bother about the right to life (we kill animals, don`t we ?), chimera, the individual above and over the collective.............

Friday, April 27, 2007

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla (October 4, 1922 - April 28, 1962)

Pierluigi, Mariolina,Laura and Gianna-Emanuela at Courmayeur(Aosta),Summer 1963

Pope John Paul II with Gianna and Mr Molla Snr

Pope John Paul II with Gianna and Laura

Most people think that their mothers were or are saints. Almost none have it confirmed officially by the Catholic Church during their lifetimes. Almost.

The canonisation of Saint Gianna is the first of its kind.

Many mothers have been beatified for their heroic virtues but they entered religious life after becoming widowed. In St Gianna’s case, the very condition of her being a spouse and mother is being exalted and highlighted.

St Gianna is the first canonised woman physician and professional who was also a “working mom”.

Gianna Beretta Molla was born in Magenta (Milan), Italy, on 4 October 1922, the 10th of 13 children.

After earning degrees in medicine and surgery, from the University of Pavia in 1949, she opened a medical clinic in Mesero (near Magenta) in 1950. She specialized in pediatrics at the University of Milan in 1952 and thereafter gave special attention to mothers, babies, the elderly and the poor.

She became engaged to Pietro Molla and they were married on 24 September 1955 in St Martin's Basilica in Magenta, and she became a happy wife. In November 1956, to her great joy, she became the mother of Pierluigi; in December 1957 of Mariolina; in July 1959 of Laura.

She combined the demands of mother, wife, doctor and her passion for life.

In September 1961, towards the end of the second month of pregnancy,she developed a fibroma in her uterus. Before the required surgical operation, and conscious of the risk that her continued pregnancy brought, she pleaded with the surgeon to save the life of the child she was carrying, She refused both an abortion and a hysterectomy despite warnings that continuing with the pregnancy could result in her death.

She spent the seven months remaining until the birth of the child in her tasks as mother and doctor.

A few days before the child was due, although trusting as always in Providence, she was ready to give her life in order to save that of her child: "if you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child - I insist on it. Save the baby".

On the morning of 21 April 1962 Gianna Emanuela was born by Caesarian section. Despite all efforts and treatments to save both of them, on the morning of 28 April, amid unspeakable pain and after repeated exclamations of "Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you", the mother died of septic peritonitis. She was 39 years old.

Her husband and family were present at the ceremonies of beatiication in 1994 and canonisation in 2004 at the Vatican.

On the Feast of All Saints on the eve of the Great Jubilee in 1999, a stained glass window of Blessed Gianna Molla was installed in the chapel of the Newman Centre at the University of Toronto. The window was unveiled by Pierluigi Molla and Gianna Emmanuela Molla, son and daughter of the Blessed.

Text of Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla:

I am very honoured and moved to be here today with all of you and I thank Fr. Thomas Rosica with all my heart, and his staff, the parishioners and friends of the Newman Centre who are present at this important ceremony. Three days ago, when Padre Tom showed me the church windows for the first time and I saw my mother smiling, I was filled with joy and so pleased, because I have always imagined her in this way, knowing that the message of her life couldn’t be represented better.

Every moment of her entire existence was a real testimony of Christian love and faith, lived concretely and with joy in everyday life: as a young girl, as a fiancée and wife, as a mother and doctor. She always trusted in Divine Providence and she has crowned her exemplary life in the name of a love without measure. She is always with me and since the momentous day of April 24, 1994, I have felt myself to be part of an ever growing family comprised of so many people throughout the world who, like me, pray to her, confide in her, and feel close to her. I believe that this is also the design of Divine Providence, that now I shall never be alone.

Dear Mom, I ask you to fill me and all those who suffer and are in difficulty with your own strength of soul, your hope, your courage to live life to the full. Protect and help all mothers, their families and all who turn to you and entrust their needs to you.

Text of Mr. Pierluigi Molla:

I am deeply grateful to Fr. Thomas Rosica and the Newman Centre of Toronto and would like to express my gratitude for three reasons:

•for having chosen the beautiful and endearing image of my mother, now Blessed, to be among “this cloud of witnesses” of holy ones of this century, particularly in the company of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, Blessed Brother André, Franz Jägerstätter, Archbishop Romero, and Georges and Pauline Vanier; as well as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta [whose images appear in the Newman Centre windows].
•for the welcome invitation to participate in this most beautiful ceremony of blessing and dedication;
•and for his most cordial visit to our home in Milan several weeks ago on September 26.

Accompanying my thanks is the gratitude of my father, Pietro, and that of my sisters Laura and Gianna Emanuela, who is here with me; our aunts and uncles — brothers and sisters of our mother, Fr. Alberto, a Capuchin who was a missionary in Brazil, Monsignor Giuseppe Beretta, Mother Virginia of the Cannosiana Sisters, and Zita. You must also know of the gratitude of my wife Lisi who is here present with me.

Already in March 1986, the witness and message of my mother had spread to Newfoundland, where the Natural Family Planning Association had printed in a newsletter a brief biographical profile of mom, entitled “A Portrait of Love.” In December 1990, in the city of Vancouver, Gianna House, a pro-life support centre, was opened for women. We were touched and consoled to know of the richness of the witness and message of my mother, even before the cause for her beatification was concluded. Then almost six years ago, in December 1993, with great joy we were very moved that the Friends of Gianna Society had begun in Vancouver. In February 1997, we were again deeply touched to read in the Family Life section of the weekly BC Catholic, a beautiful article by Marie Luttrell, entitled “For Courage, Faith and Humility”– an article which focused on the roots of the choices and the exemplary life of my mother.

On April 24, 1994, in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, His Holiness Pope John Paul II proclaimed Gianna Beretta Molla, Mother of a Family, “Blessed.” From that moment onward until today, the number of friends of my mother in Canada has grown to be so many. Today we have the honour of seeing my mother honored by all those present, especially by so many young people and all of those who minister to them at the Newman Centre Catholic Mission at the University of Toronto. This Centre truly represents what my mother lived for and died for: Jesus Christ and the Gospel of Life.

There are three reasons why I think it is so important to have the image of my mother placed in the chapel of the Newman Centre:

First, the witness of my mother was a hymn to life, to a love for life, and the beautiful things of life; it was a hymn to a faith lived with joy and nourished by the Eucharist and by prayer. Even in her medical profession, she knew how to see Jesus in her neighbour whom she loved and served with such great generosity.

Second, my mother knew how to live her earthly, daily existence with simplicity, balance, and constant service, all in a beautiful harmony, first as a young student and professional person, as a woman, then as wife and mother. Her generous commitment to and involvement in the Catholic Action and to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, along with her joie de vivre, was crowned with her love of piano, painting, tennis, mountain climbing, skiing, the symphony, theatre, and traveling.

Third, even in her earliest youth, my mother fully accepted the gift of faith and an explicitly Christian education received from her excellent parents who, in their vigilant wisdom, knew how to accompany her in her human and Christian growth. Whether it was in her youth, in primary school, in her secondary education, or in her university courses in medical school, Gianna received from exemplary priests, religious, and from wise professors, a pedagogical formation that was clearly in harmony with Cardinal John Henry Newman’s idea of a university in which theology, the arts, and sciences would be taught in dialogue with one another.

In her daily living, my mother was faithful to the pedagogical formation that she received and she knew how to transpose that formation into a joyful living of the Gospel, all the while being a brilliant example of true love and respect for life, even to the summit of the love that Jesus teaches in the Gospel: laying down one’s life for one’s friends.

On April 25, 1994, the day after the Beatification, His Holiness Pope John Paul II in his address to an audience of pilgrims who had come to the ceremony, defined the life of my mother with these words: “What a heroic testimony her life was… a true hymn to life!” I firmly believe that today, the hymn of my mother’s life has joyously resounded in the Newman Centre to pay honour to the life and witness of Cardinal John Henry Newman and to exemplify so beautifully the prophetic value and the full actualization of his ideas and desires for a strong commitment of lay people in the Church and the mutual dialogue between theology, the arts, and sciences.

Once again, my most profound gratitude to Fr. Thomas Rosica and all those here present.


Gianna Beretta Molla

Who is Saint Gianna?

Vatican website

Homily of Pope John Paul II on her Canonisation

Catholic Insight

Parrocchia Santa Gianna (Italian)


Ervin Bossanyi
The Good Shepherd window at Port Sunlight, 1949

Adam`s Ale tours a church and unlocks the secrets of the symbols contained within various stained glass windows.

What secrets are in your church ?

Hybrid Embryo Consultation

Mulier Fortis helpfully reports that The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is holding a Public Consultation on the creation and use of hybrid embryos (clones, cytoplasmic hybrid embryos, chimeras and transgenic human embryos) for research purposes. The consultation period will run up until July 20th 2007

There is also going to be an evening consultation meeting (the location of which hasn't yet been advertised) on Tuesday 26th June. If you are interested in attending, you need to register your interest by sending an email.

As Mulier Fortis says:
"This really is of vital importance. I'm pretty sure that they have already made up their minds to allow the experimentation on embryos to be pushed even further (in the name of scientific "progress") but we need to register our opposition as clearly as possible."

All the links needed are in her post.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A virtual tour of the Vatican (Part 1)

The first part of a virtual tour of the Vatican (an excerpt from a National Geographic documentary titled "Inside the Vatican").

A virtual tour of the Vatican (Part 2)

The second part of a virtual tour of the Vatican (an excerpt from a National Geographic documentary titled "Inside the Vatican").

"Vatican Click"

The photo department of L'Osservatore Romano is offering "Vatican Click," an exposition of 11 papacies.

The exposition is also available by Internet in English and Italian at

More than 5 million images are distributed among five categories: "Benedict XVI," "John Paul II," "John Paul I," "Paul VI" and "The Giordani Collection."

Vatican Click offers the possibility to see the faces of the last 11 popes and opens a window to daily life at the Vatican.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Pope Benedict XVI: the first official portrait

Michael Noakes is a portrait and landscape painter who has painted everyone from the Queen, Prime Ministers and Presidents to famous actors.

He has just painted the first official formal portrait of Pope Benedict XVI which is being exhibited at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition, Mall Galleries, London from 26th April – 13th May 2007.

The Pope’s only suggestion was that the picture ought to show him with his mouth closed.

For Noakes, he came over as a slightly shy man: “I wanted to imply that. He also smiles a great deal, but it’s an oil painting and is going to be around as part of the records for a long time. So I made him look cheerful, with a degree of gravitas and a bit of a twinkle.”

Noakes has been President of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters and Chairman of the Contemporary Portrait Society. He is a Member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and a Freeman of the City of London. Himself a Catholic, he is also a past President of the Society of Catholic Artists

In the Catholic world, Michael has painted Cardinal Basil Hume and his portrait of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor was completed last year to hang in the Cardinal's Corridor of the English College in Rome.

He has painted many of the world's leading figures. Among those who have sat for him are the Queen, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, the Prince of Wales and the Princess Royal, as well as most other members of the Royal Family.

He was commissioned to paint Margaret Thatcher when she was Prime Minister.

He has also painted President Clinton, making preparatory studies with the President in the Oval Office - one of only very few painters to have been given such access to any President of the United States.

See also

The Times: Artist asked to paint Pope adds ‘gravitas and bit of a twinkle’

Official Michael Noakes site

Murillo and the Immaculate Conception

MURILLO, Bartolomé Esteban (b. 1617, Sevilla, d. 1682, Sevilla)
Immaculate Conception 1665-70
Oil on canvas, 206 x 144 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

MURILLO, Bartolomé Esteban (b. 1617, Sevilla, d. 1682, Sevilla)
Immaculate Conception
Oil on canvas, 96 x 64 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

MURILLO, Bartolomé Esteban (b. 1617, Sevilla, d. 1682, Sevilla)
The "Soult" Immaculate Conception c. 1678
Oil on canvas, 274 x 190 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid
His culminating version of the Virgin Immaculate, in which the last of the traditional attributes is eliminated except for the crescent moon, and the putti, some painted so thinly that they seem to dissolve into the fluffy clouds.
In 1813 in return for sparing the life of two monks condemned to death, the painting was taken to France by Marshal Soult. It was returned to the Prado in 1941.

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo was born in Seville, Spain in 1617, where he lived until his death. He was a pupil of Velasquez

Murillo founded a prestigious painting academy in 1660 which he presided over with great ability. His vast production of paintings, for the most part, are of a religious nature and theme.

Murillo's influence in Spanish painting, even more in Sevillian painting, was perpetuated until the 19th century.

Murillo is often accused of being too idealistic, too anodyne. His style, 'estilo vaporoso' (vaporous style) shows idealized figures, soft, melting forms, delicate colouring, and sweetness of expression and mood.

In religious painting, his favourite theme was the Immaculate Conception. Murillo's appealing vision of the Immaculate Conception became canonical.

Sacred: discover what we share

St John's Gospel, 'Codex Sinaiticus' c.AD 350
British Library Add. MS 43725, f.247

Gospels of Tsar Ivan Alexander: The Royal Family. Turnovo, 1355-56
British Library Add. MS 39627, f.3

Golden Haggadah: Biblical scenes based on Genesis, 19-37. Northern Spain, probably Barcelona, c.1320
British Library Add. MS 27210, ff.4v-5

From 27 April – 23 September 2007 The British Library in London is putting on an exhibition entitled Sacred: discover what we share.

It is an exhibition of the world's greatest collection of Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy books

For Christianity, there are the earliest known manuscript of the complete Greek New Testament (Codex Sinaiticus, fourth century), one of the three earliest manuscripts of the complete Greek Bible (Codex Alexandrinus, fifth century), and the seventh-century masterpiece of Anglo-Saxon art, the Lindisfarne Gospels. The printed books include the Gutenberg Bible (Mainz, 1454-55), one of only two copies of the earliest English translation of the Bible by William Tyndale (Worms, 1526) as well as the King James Bible of 1611, otherwise known as the Authorised Version.

The various national churches comprising Eastern Orthodox Christianity are also well covered, including Russian, Bulgarian (with the beautifully illustrated Gospels of Tsar Ivan Alexander from the 14th century), Armenian, Georgian, Coptic, Syrian, Nubian, and from the Ethiopian Church, beside Gospels and Psalm Books, favourite texts such as the Miracles of Mary. The Ethiopian scriptures also hold significance for the Rastafarian community.

For Judaism, one of the earliest surviving manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible from the 10th century, and some beautifully illustrated examples, especially from Spain and Portugal in the 14th and 15th centuries, scrolls of the Book of Esther read during the Jewish Spring Festival of Purim, Haggadot manuscripts, such as the sumptuously decorated Golden Haggadah and the Barcelona Haggadah, read in Jewish homes on Passover Eve, and many early printed editions such as the copy of the Babylonian Talmud printed at Venice 1520-23 that once belonged to King Henry VIII.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

17th Century Spain and The Immaculate Conception

Spain always hotly adhered to the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. This heightened in the period of the Counter-Reformation.

Francisco Pacheco (1564-1654)
The Immaculate Conception
of the poet Miguel Cid 1621

Francisco Pacheco (1564-1654) was a Spanish painter, active in Seville. He was familiar with the works of El Greco. Nowadays he is better known as a writer and the teacher of Diego Velázquez and Alonso Cano.

He was also the father-in-law of Diego Velázquez.

He was very influential in his sphere. He acted as an advisor on artistic matters to the Spanish Inquisition.

In 1649 his book Arte de la pintura (The Art of Painting) was posthumously published. The book is a major source of information for the period. The highly detailed iconographical prescriptions in his book were often strictly adhered to by contemporary artists.

Pacheco in his Art of Painting lays down in detail the rules for painting an Immaculate Conception. He wrote:

"The version that I follow is the one that is closest to the holy revelation of the Evangelist and approved by the Catholic Church on the authority of the sacred and holy interpreters...

In this loveliest of mysteries Our Lady should be painted as a beautiful young girl, 12 or 13 years old, in the flower of her youth...

And thus she is praised by the Husband: tota pulchra es amica mea, a text that is always written in this painting.

She should be painted wearing a white tunic and a blue mantle... She is surrounded by the sun, an oval sun of white and ochre, which sweetly blends into the sky.

Rays of light emanate from her head, around which is a ring of twelve stars.

An imperial crown adorns her head, without, however, hiding the stars.

Under her feet is the moon. Although it is a solid globe, I take the liberty of making it transparent so that the landscape shows through."

The title of the Tota Pulchra is drawn from chapter 4 verse 7 of the Song of Solomon: “Tota Pulchra es. Amica mea, et macula non est in te.” [“Thou art all fair, my love, there is no spot in thee.”] This verse had been associated with the Immaculate Conception since the twelfth century.

Among the attributes, the most popular was the spotless mirror, the “speculum sine macula,” which came from the Book of Wisdom, chapter 7 verse 26, which reads: “For she is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God.”

St. Bernard was the first to apply Song of Solomon 4:7 to the Virgin. The Song of Solomon was first associated with the Immaculate Conception in the twelfth century by Abelard, in his treatise about the doctrine.

Scripture had decribed the Virgin`s robes as a pink robe and blue mantle.The change in colour of the Virgin’s robe occurred after the founder of the Conceptionist Order (1511), Beatriz de Silva, attested to seeing the Virgin dressed in white robe and blue mantle.

Murillo and Zurbarán followed these strictures of Pacheco in their paintings.

These mainland Spanish influences spread throughout the Spanish Empire including those possessions in Europe and in its lands in the Americas.
CANO, Alonso (1601, Granada, d. 1667, Granada)

Immaculate Conception 1648

Oil on canvas

Provincial Museum, Vitoria 

VELÁZQUEZ, Diego Rodriguez de Silva y (b. 1599, Sevilla, d. 1660, Madrid)
The Immaculate Conception c. 1618
Oil on canvas, 135 x 102 cm
National Gallery, London
Originally this painting was in the Carmelite Convent in Seville

El Greco and the Immaculate Conception (1585)

GRECO, El (b. 1541, Candia, d. 1614, Toledo)
The Virgin of the Immaculate Conception and St John c. 1585
Oil on canvas, 237 x 118 cm
Museo de Santa Cruz, Toledo

The Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was very highly venerated on the Spanish mainland. This was even more noticeable after the Council of Trent.

Up to the end of the seventeenth century, the Virgin was dressed in a pink robe and blue mantle, as the Virgin’s robes were described in the Scripture.

The painting`s theme is based on Saint John's Vision of the Apocalypse:

'And there appeared a great wonder in Heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: and she being with child cried, . . . And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne . . .' (Revelation, xii).

The twelve stars have been omitted in the painting.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Don`t Panic ! Don`t Panic !

Plans for New church in Belgium ?

Fr Joe posts a timely warning in Alien Invasion of the Church.

Star Trek is alive and well and being viewed in Belgium. Someone call The X-Files: we need to be saved.

Carlo Crivelli: The Immaculate Conception (1492)

CRIVELLI, Carlo (about 1430/5 - about 1494)
The Immaculate Conception 1492
Egg tempera on wood
194.3 x 93.3 cm.
The National Gallery, London

Before the Dogma of The Immaculate Conception was defined by Blessed Pope Pius IX in 1854, the Dogma had been held widely and extensively for many centuries before.

The Conception of Mary was celebrated in England from the ninth century. Other churches in the West celebrated the doctrine from this time too. It took a long time for this doctrine to develop. The Franciscan order was especially assiduous in the development and promulgation of the Doctrine.

Pope Sixtus IV gave his approval to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in 1475.

For centuries, artists had already been successful in communicating the idea of the Immaculacy of the Virgin, regardless of the abstract qualities of the doctrine.

The earliest known dated altarpiece depiction of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception may be that of Carlo Crivelli in 1492. This is the claim of The National Gallery in London. Originally made for the Franciscan church of San Francesco, Pergola, central Italy, it is now in The National Gallery who acquired it in 1874.

The emphasis is on the words "known", "dated", "altarpiece" and "may".

At the top of the panel, two angels crown the Virgin at the command of God the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Inscribed on the scroll held by the two angels is:

(As from the beginning I was conceived in the mind of God, so have I in like manner been conceived in the flesh.)

The inscription recalls various Biblical sources including Proverbs 8:22-35:

There, Hochmah is a feminine figure at God's side, before God's eyes, in creating the universe. There she says of herself:

"The Lord made me his own in the beginning of his ways, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, before the earth existed. When he prepared the heavens, I was there... when he established the clouds above; when he appointed the foundations of the earth; I was by him, I was daily his delight, playing always before him."

A standard format and symbolism developed for such pictures. The symbols derive from the Bible, including the Book of Revelation and The Song of Songs.

Here, the Virgin's purity is symbolised by a lily in a pure crystal glass.
"As a lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters." (Song of Songs 2:2)

But the important quotation from Song of Songs was and is:
"Thou art all fair, my love; and there is no spot in thee." (Song of Songs 4:7) ("Tota pulchra es amica mea et macula non est in te" )

Other lines from the Song of Songs which give rise to imagery relating to the Immaculate Conception are:

"Thy neck is like the tower of David builded with turrets, whereon there hang a thousand shields, all the armour of the mighty men." (Song of Songs 4:4)

"A garden shut up is my sister, my bride; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed."
(Song of Songs 4:12)

"Thou art a fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and flowing streams from Lebanon." (Song of Songs 4:15)

Other common contemporary symbols referring to The Immaculate Conception were:

The transparent glass as a symbol of Mary's virginity.

Fruit can be a sign of fertility. Christ is referred to as the fruit of Mary's womb.

The white lily is Mary's special flower, symbolising purity.

Snails were (erroneously) thought to reproduce asexually, referring to the Immaculate Conception.

The Image of Pity 2

Dear Readers, it would appear that I may have recently and inadvertentedly misled you. Apologies.

In The Image of Pity I wrote that The Image of Pity probably originated in the East, probably before the twelfth century and that the devotion was based on an icon (now lost) which was in Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome, one of the seven pilgrimage churches in Rome.

I was delighted therefore to receive a comment from Don Marco, O.Cist. that "The icon at Santa Croce in Rome was not lost. I live at Santa Croce and just today showed the icon to a visitor."

I hope Don Marco does an article to publicise this. Most of the textbooks declare that the original icon was lost. If it is not lost and is in Santa Croce, this fact deserves wider circulation.

You may also be interested to read Don Marco`s other posts on the relics at Santa Croce including one of St Thomas under Plagas, sicut Thomas, non intueor

"The Bones of Augustine "

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf of What Does The Prayer Really Say? has a "must-read" post entitled "The Bones of Augustine ".

Especially relevant since the Pope`s recent visit to Pavia, where the saint`s bones are kept and as St Augustine seems to be the Pope`s favourite saint and theologian.

Pope Benedict XVI on St Augustine: Conversion is a lifelong journey

Following on the post here on St Augustine, Argent by the Tiber provides a report on the pastoral visit by the Pope to Pavia and lengthy extracts of his homilies there.

At the place where the relics of St Augustine are kept, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the saint’s life journey as the ideal itinerary for every Christian.

“It can be seen quite clearly that his conversion was not an event of one moment in time, but a journey”.

“What was the most essential aspect of this journey? Augustine on one hand was a product of his times, profoundly conditioned by the dominant habits and passions of his era, as well as all of the questions and problems pertaining to his young age. He lived exactly like the rest of the men of his time, and yet there was something special in him: he remained a person in continual search. He never contented himself with life as it was presented to him and as other lived it. He was forever tormented by the question of the truth”.

“He wanted to find the truth. He wanted to succeed in finding out what man is; where the world comes from; where we come from, where we are going to and how we can find out the truth. He wanted to find the road to truth and not just live blindly, without aim or objective. His passion for the truth is the key to reading his life. And there is yet another peculiarity regarding the saint. All that did not bear the name of Christ was of no use to him”.

“He tells us that, through Platonic Philosophy, he had learned that ‘in the beginning there was the Word’ - Logos, creative reason. But philosophy did not show him how to reach it; this Logos was intangible and distant. Only in the faith of the Church did he find the second essential truth: the Word became flesh. And thus it touches us and we touch it. "

"The humility of God’s incarnation must correspond to the humility of our faith, which does away with high-toned superbia and bows low as it enters to become part of the community of Christ’s body; which lives with the Church. Only in this way, can the faithful enter into concrete communion, bodily communion with the living God. It is unnecessary to point out how much all of this regards us today: be eternal searchers for the truth, do not content yourself with what others do or say. Do not be distracted from the eternal God and Jesus Christ. Renew the humility of your faith in the bodily Church of Jesus Christ”.

“Augustine reached yet another level of humility not only the humility of entrusting his great thought to the faith of the Church, not only the humility of translating his great knowledge into the simplicity of the Good News, but also the humility to recognise that the merciful goodness of God who forgives was continually necessary for him and for the entire pilgrim Church; and we become similar to Christ, the Perfect one, in the greatest possible way when we become merciful people like Him."

"I now give God thanks for the great light that irradiates from the knowledge and humility of Saint Augustine, let us pray that He gifts us all, each day the necessary conversion that leads us towards the one true life”.

See also Augnet.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

St Jerome by Bicci di Lorenzo

Bicci di Lorenzo 1373-1452
Saint Jerome
Museo Amedeo Lia, La Spezia

Bicci di Lorenzo was the son of the painter Lorenzo di Bicci, a traditional late follower of the artistic line of Orcagna.

Bicci was similarly educated in art in his father's workshop in Florence, in which he began to share in the production of artistic products between the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th century

The artist was in fact the head of a company of painters, with the less well known Stefano d'Antonio and Buonaiuto di Giovanni.

His workshop, situated in Camaldoli (now the area of Piazza Tasso), made the area take off in terms of artistic activity.

Many later generations of artists were trained there including Andrea di Giusto, Giovanni di ser Giovanni known as Lo Scheggia (brother of Masaccio) and Antonio di Maso (previously known by the false name "Maestro di Signa"). This latter went on to be one of the greatest exponents of the Bicci method in the second half of the Fifteenth century.

The above painting was originally part of a polyptych executed for the church of San Niccolo in Cafaggio, Florence.

Other pieces exist around the world, including St Augustine in Rome.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Episcopal Palace, Astorga

Antonio Gaudí (1852 — 1926)
Episcopal Palace (1889-1913)

The Syon Cope

Cope (known as the Syon Cope)
About 1300-1320
Linen, embroidered with silk, silver-gilt and silver thread.
Length 295 cm (along top), Depth 147.5 cm (at middle)
The Victoria and Albert Museum, London

English embroidery called Opus Anglicanum was one art form for which the English became particularly famous.

The Syon cope, named after Syon Abbey in Middlesex where it was kept by nuns in the sixteenth century was made for a priest of high rank, possibly a bishop, between about 1300 and 1320.

The Syon Cope has scenes from the Life of Christ and the Virgin Mary, with figures of the apostles embroidered in costly silk, silver-gilt and silver thread that entirely covers the linen background material.

The angels on wheels on the Syon Cope are six-winged seraphs.

Parts of the scenes at the top and bottom of the Syon Cope are missing because it was originally a chasuble.

It was later cut up to make a cope and the strips with heraldic shields added.

Princes and potentates of church and state all over Europe wanted English embroidery. We can get some idea of how highly prized it was by the fact that the Vatican Inventory of 1295 lists no less than 113 examples.

The Bologna Cope (c.1313-1315) and the Ascoli Piceno Cope (c. 1275-1280) are particularly beautiful examples of vestments decorated with Opus Anglicanum.