Wednesday, July 23, 2008

St. Liborius - Traditional Processions and a Flabellum

"Cenómanis, in Gállia, sancti Libórii, Epíscopi et Confessóris" - At Le Mans in France, St. Liborius, Bishop and Confessor. This is today's lapidary entry in the Roman Martyrology for St. Liborius, and in fact not much more is known with certainty about his life than he was bishop of this city in the fourth century - tradition has it that he was the fourth bishop, a friend of St. Martin of Tours, and died in 397. But in 836 the bishop of Le Mans at that time, Aldric, gave his relics to the young diocese of Paderborn in Saxony (today state of Northrhine-Westfalia), which had only been founded in 799 when Pope St. Leo III. stayed with Charlemagne at the source of the river Pader for three months. They were carried in solemn procession to Paderborn (the feast of the translation is still celebrated annually), and since then the cult of St. Liborius has been extraordinary in Paderborn. Also, the strong bond with the diocese of Le Mans exists until this day, with the bishop of Le Mans regularly attending the festivities of St. Liborius in Paderborn (this year, however, the See of Le Mans is vacant, but in addition to the diocesan administrator, Bishop Pansard of Chartres and 13 other bishops from around the world, Abbot Philippe Dupont OSB of Solesmes, which lies within the diocese of Le Mans, will be present). These festivities take place in the week following the feast day. On Saturday evening, the Triduum begins with Pontifical Vespers in the Cathedral, at which the relics in their precious shrine are elevated and exposed in the choir of the Cathedral (Vespers is sung in the traditional manner, i.e. according to what is now the EF, in Latin; the psalms are sung with 5 voices as falsibordoni [by Ludovico da Viadana, 1560-1627], the Magnificat [also five voices] is by Ignaz Mitterer, 1870 – 1930; if someone is interested in the text of the antiphons and/or the hymnus, let me know in the comments, then I will post it there). On Sunday morning, Pontifical Mass is sung (Mozart, Coronation Mass) and the Papal Blessing is being imparted, then the grand procession with the relics and the Blessed Sacrament leaves the Cathedral, makes a statio before the city hall and returns to the Cathedral. After more Pontifical Masses on Monday (Haydn, Missa S. Joannis de Deo) and Tuesday morning (Giovanni Croce, Missa prima sexti toni), Tuesday afternoon another outdoor procession with the relics takes place, after which they are again "buried" in the Cathedral crypt (Pange lingua by Michael Haller is sung, then part of the Te Deum of Charpentier). The festivities then go on until the next Sunday; it is a huge celebration for the whole area, with popular entertainment and more than a million visitors each year.

Before I show you some images of these events from past years, I would like to mention the attribute of St. Liborius, which is the peacock, as seen to the right. This is because according to the legend, a peacock accompanied the translation of the relics from Le Mans to Paderborn (see picture on the left), and when the procession reached Paderborn, it settled on the pinnacle of the Cathedral, but when the relics entered the Cathedral, it fell from the roof dead. Because of this connection, a flabellum with peacock feathers is always carried in front of the shrine in procession, and is put behind the shrine while it is exposed.

Now for the pictures. First some close-ups of the shrine, which was newly made in 1627, after the relics had been robbed in 1622 by Duke Christian of Brunswick in the Thirty Years' War (who melted the shrine down to coin "priests' foe dollars" [Pfaffenfeindttaler]) and recovered in 1626:



And a close-up of the flabellum:


Now the opening Vespers with the elevation of the relics - the Shrine exposed:




The celebrant (in all pictures), Archbishop Becker of Paderborn:


A special guest, Archbishop (now Cardinal) Cordes, President of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", who was once an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Paderborn:


After Vespers, a smaller relic is venerated by the clergy and faithful:

Pontifical Mass and procession on Sunday morning:

Here you can see Archbishop Becker wear the rationale, the special episcopal shoulder ornament only by worn by four bishops in the world. The set of vestments, parts of which have already been shown above, is the one specifically made for the St. Liborius feast, decorated with embroidered peacocks and images of the Saint and other holy bishops of Le Mans and Paderborn. While it is modern, I think it is rather nice, and of decent quality.



The relics and the Blessed Sacrament leaving the Cathedral:






The Procession and statio at the city hall:




To conclude here are two videos, the first of the Elevation Vespers, the second of the procession:

Source of most of the pictures: website of Karl-Michael Soemer.

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