Guest article by Jeff Ostrowski
The patient reader is doubtless wondering why I am speaking of "gestures at Mass" while the topic of this article, the third in a series of six, is supposed to be "Religious Artwork & Illuminated Letters in the St. Edmund Campion Missal & Hymnal for the Traditional Latin Mass." Permit me a personal anecdote: A friend recently celebrated Mass in the private castle of the Pustet Family in Germany. (Most readers probably know that Frederic Pustet was a famous 19th century printer and staunch Roman Catholic.) In the Chapel, the Mass book he used (Extraordinary Form) was a large Altar Missal, a family heirloom. Each and every Proper and Reading was splendidly illuminated with colorful decorations. My friend was astounded and thrilled. The point is, these are the types of things that help our devotion and assist our prayer. Man has a soul but also a body. Ancient gestures can help, and so can beauty . . . and it is of beauty that I would speak.
One of the very first prayers I ever set to polyphony was the "Rorate Caeli." The second part is Psalm 18:2, "Caeli enarrant gloriam Dei et opera manuum ejus annuntiat firmamentum." — The heavens show forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of his hands. That statement remains true, regardless of whether humans (e.g. atheists) are willing to admit this. There is almost an "excess" of beauty in the universe: think of the dazzling fish at the bottom of the ocean, whose gorgeous colors show forth God's glory, in spite of the fact that no light exists down there! The astounding order of the galaxy is made manifest in a million staggering ways I cannot enumerate here (for want of space), and this truth is written on each every human heart. Beauty has a major role to play in the liturgy. As Dr. William Mahrt has said, "sacred polyphony, in its perfect order and counterpoint, shows forth the splendor of the universe." The medieval ecclesia orans understood, and we can see this in the following example of how they wrote down the Mass prayers (using the example of the "Rorate Caeli" I mentioned earlier):
Surely we've all seen examples of medieval manuscripts, which never fail to delight by their majestic art, pleasing colors, and balanced design (structure). The same can be said of stained glass, captured so magnificently on this blog by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. — it's what I call an "arresting beauty." It makes one pause and exclaim "Ah!" from one's heart. Before Danjou's discovery of Montpellier H. 159, many medieval chant manuscripts were, quite literally, inscrutable on account of the adiastematic notation system, but they were saved (i.e. not destroyed) because they were "pretty to look at," and musicologists are so grateful for this!
Consequently, it seemed to us absolutely imperative that we try to make the Campion book as beautiful as possible. During the rest of this article, I will share some examples of our efforts in this area.
The Campion book has more than ninety (90) pieces of black and white line art. Before publication, it was necessary for us to locate, transport, copy, clean, and (finally) digitally enhance hundreds of line art pictures. These "woodcuts" came from 19th century Breviaries, Rituals, Graduals, Antiphonals, Missals, etc. stored by the Benedictines. My sister, Kristen Ostrowski, spent hours combing through the books, which (sadly) had deteriorated tremendously. In the end, she saved about 300 total pictures. Here is an example of the marvelous artwork Kristen found:
Here is a closer view, to better show the level of detail:
Finally, here is an even closer view, which still does not show the full level of detail (the resolution is very high on these images once we have finished enhancing them):
Corpus Christi Watershed is releasing several hundred of these images to the public. If you are interested, you might want view the details by clicking here. For those who desire to download these images, simply bookmark the Blog "Views from the Choir Loft", where these pictures will be posted every week or so.
The Campion book is graced with stunning artwork by James Ridley, much of it original. However, in some cases, the artist has added color to black & white images. I have put together a "simulation" to give the reader a sense of what Mr. Ridley has done. Bear in mind, this is a SIMULATION ONLY, to show the reader the juxtaposition. Also, to show the level of detail, the image below is a very close up view of a much larger "fresco" included in the Campion Book:
In many instances, the artistry of James Ridley matches the medieval sensitivity. For instance, I have highlighted the flooring in the following medieval illumination by making the rest of the image black & white:
This reminds me very much of a section of Mr. Ridley's work (the flooring):
Throughout the book, careful use was made of "Drop Caps," especially to highlight particularly pregnant passages in the sacred liturgy:
For the Campion book, James Ridley also created more than 100 stunning illuminated letters. Some are more detailed, some less, depending on the section in which each is used. Incidentally, not all 100 letters from the alphabets ended up being used, since certain letters don't occur as capitals in the Mass texts — "Z," for instance. Presented in the following low resolution PDF document are some variations of Mr. Ridley's Capital "A":
* Low resolution sample
I picked out a few random letters, so the reader can begin to get a sense of the extraordinary art of James Ridley:
In Part 5 of this series, I will show examples of the color page layouts, which were specifically designed to "fit" these beautiful illuminated letters. To better show the intricate detail, here is a larger image of the Capital "S":
And here is the Capital "A," which is slightly more ornate (again, always based on where the individual letter happens to fall):
To learn more about the Campion book, please visit:
* St. Edmund Campion Missal & Hymnal
Part 1 of this series can be found here. Part 2 can be found here.