Friday, December 31, 2010

Basilica of San Frediano, Lucca, Italy

Continuing on with our periodic "virtual tours" of some of the architecture of the Christian world (I do hope readers find these of some interest and value?), we turn our attention to the Basilica of San Frediano, located in Lucca -- which city is within the region of Tuscany in central Italy.

Detail of Facade

The mediaeval baptismal font
Images: Skyscraper City

Relief Carving - Painting in Shadow

The tradition of the Eastern Church is not to have statues in its churches. A statue occupies three-dimensions of space, unlike a painting, which only occupies two-dimensions (but can create the illusion of a third). Given that the iconographic form, which is the only artistic liturgical tradition that the Eastern Church will permit, seeks to eliminate as far as possible even the illusion of a third dimension, that is depth, it is hard to imagine how statues (in which the third dimension fully exists) could be created in accordance with the iconographic form.

The development of statues for churches came in the West in tandem with the desire to create the illusion of space in two-dimensional representations, generally identified with the beginning of the gothic period in about the 12th century. This did not cause the tradition of relief carving to die out in the West. It has always flourished in both Eastern and Western churches

Relief carving in effect, is a monochrome painting in shadow. So although there is a physical deviation from a strict two-dimensional representation not as a statue does, by imitating the three-dimensional shape, but rather by creating the illusion of depth by altering the tone of the shadow. Where the shadow is to be black (or darkest) the cut is deep and the surface angle close to perpendicular to the broad plane of the image. Where a grey or mid-tone is required, the cut is less deep and the surface angle somewhere in between, depending on how dark or light the artist wishes to make it appear. Where the tone required is white (or lightest possible) the surface faces us directly and is parallel to the broad plane of the image.

The conventional classification of relief carving is a division into bas relief (bas in French is low) and alto (ie high) relief. In the first the cut is shallow and there is no undercutting so that representation is never more than half in the round. Alto relief is where there is undercutting and so there are some elements that are carved more than half in the round. Sunken relief, or intaglio, is where the negative space around the figures is flat and the figures are cut out from it below that surface. For more information on this see article here.

Some might point out that the reason we can perceive form in a conventional statue that is not painted, for example all marble is due to shadow too. This is true. But the difference here is that the shadow is revealing is the true shape of the statue, which in turn imitates the idea in the mind of the artist. Whereas, in relief carving it paints, so to speak, the illusion of depth.

As with all these things, the division between the different techniques is never absolute. Bernini, the great baroque sculptor used to deviate from a strict representation of appearances in his statues and exaggerate certain elements by cutting deep into the stone and creating sharper contrast. He would say that as he didn’t have colour to manipulate the gaze of the viewer, shadow was the main tool that he had.

Below and above, Byzantine 10th century, St Demetrios

6th century Armenian, Virgin and Child

The Magi, Amiens Cathedral, 13th century

From the baptistry doors in Florence, early-mid 15th century, gilded bronze by Ghiberti.

Station of the Cross: the English artist, Eric Gill, 20th century, Westminster Cathedral

Some Interpretations of Mozarabic Chant

The blogs of Sacrificium Laudis and Fr. Ray Blake drew my attention to some video productions that have been put together about Mozarabic chant, using recordings of the same as interpeted by Marcel Peres and Ensemble Organum -- which recordings many will no doubt already be aware of.

The videos are well produced.

The first I would like to share is the recording of the Hymnus Trium Puerorum. (See an image of this chant from a Mozarabic Missal) Readers of the series on the Mozarabic rite that I have been working on may recall mention of this chant.

On Sundays and Feast days, the "Hymnus Trium Puerorum" or Benedicite (an abridged form of the Canticle of the Three Youths from the Book of Daniel) was sung. Historically speaking, W.C. Bishop notes that the Benedicite was to be required at all Masses by the fourth Council of Toledo in A.D. 633, but that "its use was by no means constant and appears to have been subject to much variation." (The Mozarabic and Ambrosian Rites: Four Essays in Comparative Liturgiology, "The Mass in Spain", p. 23) Archdale King further notes that the Missale itself would seem to restrict its use to the first Sunday of Lent and the Feast of St. James.

The Gloria:

The Inlatio (or preface) and Sanctus:

Of course, other recordings exist of Mozarabic chant, giving different interpretations of the chant. For example, here is a recording of the Inlatio again, this time by the monks of Santo Domingo de Silos -- the sound of which will be much more familiar to many.

Back to the interpretation of Ensemble Organum, I cannot help but share this Alleluia sequence.

Listen to more Mozarabic chant:

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Santa Maria Nuova, Cortona

Cantiones Sacrae II: Hodie Scietis

Jeffrey Ostrowski pointed me to this video for Christmastide, which is taken from a new publication, Cantiones Sacrae II.

Christmas in Des Moines

Some readers in Des Moines, Iowa, send in some images from Christmas day. The celebrant was Msgr. Frank Chiodo and those who read the comment boxes on this and other Catholic blogs may recognize the name of the Master of Ceremonies, Andy Milam.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Midnight Mass from the Benedictine Monastery of Norcia

The Monks of the Benedictine Monastery of Norcia very kindly sent us notice that their recent midnight Mass has been posted in its entirety on Here it is.

December 29th: King David

As readers will know, for the past year or two I have been highlighting some of the Old Testament prophets, prophetesses and righteous as they arise in the liturgical books and calendars of the Roman and Byzantine rites. I thought it was perhaps time to review why we have been doing this.

In part my intent has simply been to promote an awareness that these figures are to be found in our liturgical books. But as well it has been my intent to indirectly refer back to a point that has been made here before (see for example: Old Testament Righteous: Liturgical Feasts and References, Icons and Mosaics, and the Importance of Biblical Typology, Sept. 2009), namely that there is great profit to be found in having a greater familiarity with the great men and women of the Old Testament and the events of Old Testament generally for it brings with it a knowledge of salvation history, of biblical typology, can be a key to understanding some of our liturgical symbols and texts, and further provides us with theological and spiritual insight generally.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us in paragraph 129:

Christians therefore read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen. Such typological reading discloses the inexhaustible content of the Old Testament; but it must not make us forget that the Old Testament retains its own intrinsic value as Revelation reaffirmed by our Lord himself. Besides, the New Testament has to be read in the light of the Old. Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament. As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.

With that, we come to today, December 29th, in which the Roman Martyrology remembers St. David, King and Prophet, "the shepherd who prays for his people and prays in their name" (CCC 2579), a "type" of Jesus Christ. Read more about King David here.

Burke Celebrates Pontifical Mass in Rome at Seminary of Franciscans of the Immaculate

The good friars of the Franciscans of the Immaculate sent in the following news to the NLM yesterday of a Pontifical Mass offered by Cardinal Burke in Rome.

Here is their summary of the event:

On Sunday, December 26th, His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke offered a Pontifical Solemn High Mass at the Seminary of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate in Rome. The Mass was offered in honor of Fr. Stefano Maria Manelli, being his patronal feast day, and in thanksgiving for the elevation of His Eminence to the Cardinalate. The Mass was sung by the combined choirs of the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Immaculate from various convents of the F.I. in Italy, and was conducted by Sr. Maria Cecilia Manelli and Fr. Giovanni Maria Manelli – resulting in an outstanding example of the magnificence the Mass is meant to have. The Friars and Sisters also had the honor of hosting His Excellency Bishop Gino Reali of the local diocese of Porto-Santa Rufino, Rome.

In his homily, Cardinal Burke focused on the need for beauty and splendor in the sacred liturgy, echoing what His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI wrote in the letter accompanying his Moto Proprio “Summorum Pontificum:” “It is not appropriate to speak of these two versions of the Roman Missal as if they were ‘two Rites’. Rather, it is a matter of a twofold use of one and the same rite.” And “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place…”

Here are a few select photos from the event.

New Members of the Congregation for Divine Worship

The Supreme Pontiff has today assigned to the Cardinals elevated at the Consistory of 20 November 2010 their memberships in the various dicasteries of the Roman Curia. Of particular interest to NLM readers will be the Cardinals appointed members of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments:

  • Raymond Leo Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura

  • Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, Archbishop of Colombo

  • Mauro Piacenza, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy

  • Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints

  • Kazimierz Nycz, Archbishop of Warsaw

  • Velasio De Paolis, President of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See

The first three, in particular, are well known to NLM readers and are reason to be glad.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Some Franciscan Churches in Italy

St. Francis of Assisi has always been numbered amongst my favourite saints and continues to be so as a man of the Church who was inspired by the gospels, by the apostolate, by the wonder of God's creation and by a most literal and heroic poverty, also maintaining his fidelity to the Church of Rome and further understanding the importance of divine worship and that the worship and temple of God should itself not be impoverished.

St. Francis, as with other saints, has much to teach us today. The Holy Father reminded us in an audience earlier this year about St. Francis and his own context:

"Three times the crucified Christ came to life and said to him: "Go, Francis, and repair my Church in ruins." This simple event of the Word of the Lord heard in the church of San Damiano hides a profound symbolism. Immediately, St. Francis is called to repair this little church, but the ruinous state of this building is a symbol of the tragic and disturbing situation of the Church itself at that time, with a superficial faith that does not form and transform life, with a clergy lacking in zeal, with the cooling off of love; an interior destruction of the Church that also implied a decomposition of unity, with the birth of heretical movements."

But as he also reminds us:

"... it is important to note that St. Francis does not renew the Church without or against the Pope, but only in communion with him."

It is an important point which can hit anyone, of any school of thought, any movement, wherever they sit within the Church.

Now all of this is simply a preface to the actual intent of this post -- which is architectural as hard as that may be to believe. How that is so is that with St. Francis being on my mind of recent, my mind naturally turned to his spiritual sons and daughters, particularly within Italy and to some of the great churches associated with that order. I am so struck by their beauty, both architecturally and the beauty of their surroundings, that I felt a post might be edifying and inspiring.

Feel free to add further churches in the comments.

* * *

Santa Croce, Florence

Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi, Assisi

Sanctuary of La Verna

Rorate Mass at St. Ann's, Buffalo, New York

One of our readers sent in the following report of a recent Rorate Mass held in Buffalo, New York. I was intrigued to read the commentary about some national customs. If anyone wishes to comment or add to this in the comments, please do so.

Saturday, December 18th, feast of the Expectation of Mary saw the return of the Rorate Mass to the Diocese and city of Buffalo, New York after decades of absence. The Rorate Mass (Roratemesse in German, Msza Roratnia or Roraty in Polish) was celebrated at St. Ann's Church and Shrine, an ethnically German parish that later welcomed many Polish immigrants and their families, and is now a predominantly Black parish in the inner-city.

The Rorate Mass was offered according to the usus antiquior by the Reverend David Bialkowski, pastor of St. John Gualbert's Parish in Cheektowaga, NY (just outside of Buffalo). Fr. Bialkowski regularly celebrates the Extraordinary Form at the historic Maria Hilf, or Our Lady Help of Christians Chapel, also in Cheektowaga.

Organized by a parishioner, the Mass was a normal sung Mass with incense, with a few ethnic variations: the presence of a seventh candle near the altar, called in Polish the Roratka or Świeca roratnia. The candle traditionally has some Marian attribute including a flower (usually a lily to symbolize Our Lady's perpetual virginity) tied to the candle with a blue or white ribbon. The candle symbolizes Christ, the Light of the World, coming from Mary.

The other (Polish) custom was that the lights were turned on at the intonation of the Gloria, whereas the German tradition is to remain in darkness, with the faithful holding their lit candles throughout the Mass.

Matutinum de Nativitate Domini, Budapest

While this recording is now over a year old, it is worth sharing both for its contents, as well as to show again some of the liturgical goings-on in Budapest and with the Capitulum Laicorum Sancti Michaelis Archangeli. Enjoy the chant.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Midnight Mass, Usus Antiquior, Rome

(Image courtesy of John Sonnen)

Sacred Music at the Service of Truth continues its "Spirit of the Liturgy" column with an article by Fr. Paul Gunter, OSB, a professor at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute of Rome and a consultor of the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, Sacred Music at the Service of Truth.

In his article, Fr. Gunter comments:

Necessary is an effective liturgical catechesis at the center of the New Evangelization to foster the immersion of the faithful in the mysteries celebrated per ritus et preces -- through the rites and prayers (cf. SC 48). The Motu Proprio of 2007, "Summorum Pontificum," offered a determinant opportunity for the revival of Gregorian chant, in those places in which it was previously practiced, as well as its insertion in contexts in which it is not yet known. It would be sad, however, if, because of the desire to understand everything, the use of Gregorian chant in the parishes were to be limited to the celebration in the "extraordinary form," thus relegating the ancient language of this chant to the history of the Church and to a symbol of polarization. Among the pastoral opportunities, it's not too much to ask that persons might have the experience of the universality of the Church at the local level, being able to sing the parts that correspond to them in Latin (cf. SC 54). This was the intention of the Fathers of the Council. With due moderation and pastoral sensitivity, this practice would be united harmonically to the rich expressions of the Catholic faith in the vernacular.

Tornielli Interviews Cañizares Llovera

Yesterday's edition of the Italian daily Il Giornale, has an interview between Andrea Tornielli and Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship: Basta con la messa creativa, in chiesa silenzio e preghiera (Enough with the Creative Mass, in Church, Silence and Prayer)

Tornielli sets up the interview as follows:

The Catholic liturgy lives "a certain crisis," and Benedict XVI wants to form a new liturgical movement that brings back more sacrality and silence in the Mass, and more attention to beauty in chant, sacred music and art. Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, 65, Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship, who, when he was bishop in Spain was called "the little Ratzinger," is the man to whom the Pope has entrusted this task. In this interview with the newspaper, the "minister" of the liturgy of Benedict XVI reveals and explains the programmes and projects

The interview includes discussions surrounding the rapidity with which the postconciliar reform was undertaken, the need for a hermeneutic of reform in continuity, and the new liturgical movement promoted by the Holy Father.

One item which struck me particularly was this announcement by the Cardinal:

The new liturgical movement will have to discover the beauty of the liturgy. Therefore, we will open a new division in our congregation dedicated to "Art and Sacred Music" at the service of the liturgy. This will lead us to offer soon a criteria and guidelines for art, song and sacred music. As well we offer as soon as possible criteria and guidelines for preaching.

The article concludes with the following thought:
...we must devote ourselves to revive and promote a new liturgical movement, following the teaching of Benedict XVI, and revive the sense of the sacred and of mystery, putting God at the centre of everything.

If time permits, the NLM will endeavour to provide a full translation. [Certainly as well if any reader wishes to help with this, by all means do so.]

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Byzantine Liturgical Studies Sought

I am looking to expand my reference library in the area of the study of the Byzantine Liturgy. I am hoping to particularly acquire volumes from Fr. Robert Taft's, A History of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.

Perhaps we have a reader who has a collection of such studies that they no longer refer to nor require in their own library. Email me if so to discuss possibilities.

While on the topic, I would likewise mention the same with regard to the Old Testament volumes of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture.

St. Stephen, Protomartyr

Then the twelve calling together the multitude of the disciples, said: It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying was liked by all the multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith, and of the Holy Ghost...

These they set before the apostles; and they praying, imposed hands upon them. And the word of the Lord increased; and the number of the disciples was multiplied in Jerusalem exceedingly: a great multitude also of the priests obeyed the faith. And Stephen, full of grace and fortitude, did great wonders and signs among the people.

-- Acts 6:1-8

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Wishes from the NLM to Our Readers

From all of us here at the NLM to all of you and to your families, we wish you the very best for this holy season. May it be a fruitful time, not only to spend with family and friends, but to meditate on the Incarnation of Our Lord. A very Merry Christmas to each and everyone of you.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Proclaiming the Nativity and Incarnation: December 25th in the Roman Martyology

In the 5199th year of the creation of the world, from the time when in the beginning God created heaven and earth; from the flood, the 2957th year; from the birth of Abraham, the 2015th year; from Moses and the going-out of the people of Israel from Egypt, the 1510th year; from the anointing of David as king, the 1032nd year; in the 65th week according to the prophecy of Daniel; in the 194th Olympiad; from the founding of the city of Rome, the 752nd year; in the 42nd year of the rule of Octavian Augustus, when the whole world was at peace, in the sixth age of the world: Jesus Christ, the eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to sanctify the world by His most merciful coming, having been conceived by the Holy Ghost, and nine months having passed since His conception was born in Bethlehem of Juda of the Virgin Mary, having become man. The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.

Anno a creatióne mundi, quando in princípio Deus creávit cœlum et terram, quínquies millésimo centésimo nonagésimo nono: A dilúvio autem, anno bis millésimo nongentésimo quinquagésimo séptimo: A nativitáte Abrahæ, anno bis millésimo quintodécimo: A Moyse et egréssu pópuli Israël de Ægypto, anno millésimo quingentésimo décimo: Ab unctióne David in Regem, anno millésimo trigésimo secúndo; Hebdómada sexagésima quinta, juxta Daniélis prophetíam: Olympíade centésima nonagésima quarta: Ab urbe Roma cóndita, anno septingentésimo quinquagésimo secúndo: Anno Impérii Octaviáni Augústi quadragésimo secúndo, toto Orbe in pace compósito, sexta mundi ætáte, Jesus Christus ætérnus Deus, æterníque Patris Fílius, mundum volens advéntu suo piíssimo consecráre, de Spíritu Sancto concéptus, novémque post conceptiónem decúrsis ménsibus, in Béthlehem Judæ náscitur ex María Vírgine factus Homo. Natívitas Dómini nostri Jesu Christi secúndum carnem.

Live Coverage of Papal Liturgies of Christmas

VATICAN CITY, 23 DEC 2010 (VIS) - The websites of Vatican Radio ( and of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications (, as well as the website, in close collaboration with the Vatican Television Centre (CTV) and through an agreement with Telecom Italia, will be offering a new service for the Christmas holiday period: live coverage of the liturgical celebrations presided by the Holy Father.

The Pope's celebrations - Midnight Mass on 24 December, his Christmas Message and "Urbi et Orbi" blessing at midday on 25 December, and Mass for the World Day of Peace on 1 January - will be transmitted in live audio/video linkup with commentary in six languages: Italian, French, English, German, Spanish and Portuguese. The Midnight Mass will also have commentary in Chinese, and the Mass of 1 January in Arabic.

The service has been made possible thanks to Telecom Italia's technology platform "Content Delivery Network", which enables rapid and effective distribution of multimedia content, making it accessible to computers and iPhones all over the world.

Renovation: Mater Misericordiae Mission, Phoenix, Arizona

Yet another stunning renovation to show readers, this time Mater Misericordiae Mission in Phoenix, Arizona -- an apostolate of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter.

This renovation is a bit different from those we usually show insofar as this church was not originally a Catholic parish to begin with, but instead a Baptist church that was acquired and then converted into a Catholic church.

Here is what they were able to accomplish:



Certainly what I was struck by in the "after" photo were two things: first, the use of colour and pattern; second, the marbles. I have commented many times over the years that colour and pattern are often neglected in our churches today, but they can make a significant difference and positive impact when tastefully executed.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Four Part Conference on Sacred Art, Kenrick Glennon Seminary

Back in early October, our own David Clayton made the trip to Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis and gave four talks on the subject of sacred art.

I am happy to inform readers that those talks are now available off the Kenrick website in audio format:

KGS Workshop - Sacred Art - Talk 1
KGS Workshop - Sacred Art - Talk 2
KGS Workshop - Sacred Art - Talk 3
KGS Workshop - Sacred Art - Talk 3

Russian Icon of the Mother of God of Fatima

A reader sent to me an interesting article about the development of an icon of the Mother of God of Fatima, which I thought I would pass on to NLM readers. One inspiration for this image is one of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In order to accommodate the sensibilities of the Orthodox icon painter, Mary is shown pointing to the word 'Heart'. You can read more about it here.

Pontifical Mass of Dom Louis-Marie in Gricigliano

On November 17th, Dom Louis-Marie, the Abbot of Benedictine Monastery of Sainte-Madeleine du Barroux, celebrated a Solemn Pontifical Mass in the ICRSS seminary in Gricigliano, near Florence. The Mass coincided with the anniversary of the visit of another Abbot of Le Barroux, Dom Gerard Calvet, to the same seminary some 20 years earlier.

Here are a few images from the Mass.

The homily of Dom Louis-Marie is available here.

All images used with permission.
Images source:

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: