Friday, April 29, 2011

Pugin Style Cope at Royal Wedding, Westminster Abbey

I was watching the Royal Wedding earlier today and I took note of the cope being worn by Rowan Williams; my immediate thought was that this was one of the Pugin reproduction fabrics available from Watts and Co of London. Sure enough, on the Watts site today:

A beautiful cope. The original Pugin cope, from whence this textile was based, was made for St. Augustine's, Ramsgate. Here it is:

Easter in Hong Kong

A few Easter photos from a church we have shown you before, Mary Help of Christians in Hong Kong. The celebrant was Fr Francis Li, a priest of the Diocese of Hong Kong. The deacon was Fr Peter Tsang, SDB. The subdeacon was Bro Carlos Cheung, SDB.

The Italian Debate About Continuity... Continued

Just prior to Easter, we spoke about the The Italian Debate About Continuity, Rupture and the Second Vatican Council which Sandro Magister has been detailing in part on his site, Chiesa. And so it continues with the following entry from yesterday: Who's Betraying Tradition. The Grand Dispute.

This particular article is focused on the subject of religious liberty.

Our Lady, Star of Evangelisation by Marek Czarkecki

Here is an authentic Catholic icon by Marek Czarnecki who is based in Connecticut in the United States. He is trained in the Russian style and he works firmly within the principles of the iconographic tradition. A look at his gallery indicates that he is able to portray Western saints without stepping outside the bounds of the tradition . He is by all accounts and excellent teacher as well. This was commissioned by the Franciscan friars at Steubenville to illustrate John Paul II's characterisation of Our Lady as the 'Star of Evangelisation'. He is drawing on Western artistic traditions as well as Eastern in doing this. The style of the eight-pointed star, which is created by drawing two squares, is a common theme in the Western, Romanesque iconographic form (though not exclusive to it) and is seen, for example, in the geometric patterned art at the 12th century Capella Palatina. Eight-pointed stars symbolise, the 'eighth day' of creation, the incarnation, passion, death and resurrection of Our Lord. Sunday is simultaneously the first day of the next week and the eight day of the previous. The Octave of Easter, such a special time in the liturgical calendar, could be thought of perhaps, as eight consecutive days of eighth days.

Below: opus sectile work from the Capella Palatina

Holy Week at Westminster Cathedral

Palm Sunday:

Chrism Mass:

Mass of the Last Supper:

Good Friday:

Easter Vigil:

(Photographs © Mazur/

Thursday, April 28, 2011

University of Illinois St. John's Newman Centre Usus Antiquior

We mentioned this past Monday that a Mass was being planned by the University of Illinois' St. John's Newman Centre with Fr. Michael Driscoll celebrating.

In follow-up, we are pleased to present the following images from the Mass. The NLM is told that approximately 150 people attended.

To give you a further flavour, the following is a recording of the Kyrie from the Mass:

Benediction of New Abbot of Heiligenkreuz

In February, the Cistercian Abbey of Heiligenkreuz in Austria, which we have often covered here on the NLM elected a new abbot, cf. our report here. This Easter Monday, the new abbot, Rt. Rev. Maximilian Heim, received his abbatial benediction from the Abbot General of the Cistercian Order, the Rt. Rev. Dom Mauro Lepori, during a Pontifical Mass celebrated by the ordinary of the diocese, Card. Christoph von Schönborn. Here are some photographs and a video of the ceremony:

(Photos by via Heiligenkreuz.)

Life on Mount Athos Filmed by 60 Minutes

On Easter Sunday, the news program 60 Minutes broadcast the following report on the monastic communities of Mount Athos in Greece. This was the first time in 30 years that television cameras were allowed to film on “the Holy Mountain”, as it often called today, offering us a very rare close look at the monastic life of the Orthodox Church, the liturgy, the buildings, the artistic treasures, and the tremendous natural beauty of the Athos peninsula.

Part 1

Part 2

The program's website also offers a number of supplementary videos related to those which were broadcast. (Scroll down to Web Extras.) I am very taken with the description of the role of monasteries in the Church given by the producer, a Greek Orthodox American: "like a blast furnace for prayer for the rest of the world...while you and I are going about our business Monday to Saturday, they're picking up the prayer for us while we're paying the rent and taking the kids to school."

Part 3

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Icons by Fabergé at the Vatican Museums

Among the Christians of Eastern Europe, the custom of elaborately decorating eggs in a variety of styles is one of the most beautiful parts of the celebration of Easter. Each country has its own traditional types of decoration and traditional means of producing them; the Ukrainians, for example, have at least nine different techniques, and a Pysanka Museum in the western city of Kolomyia, which houses a collection of over 10,000 from various parts of that country and the world. (On the eggs pictured at right, the letters XB are the first letters of the two Russian words "Khristos Voskres - Christ is risen", the traditional greeting among Byzantine Christians of all languages in the Easter season.)

The most famous Easter eggs of all are of course those created by the house of Fabergé in the late 19th century. The first of these was made as an Easter present from the Tsar Alexander III to his wife, the Tsarina Maria Fyodorovna, in 1885, and pleased the Empress so much that it became a tradition to give a new one every year. Fifty such eggs, now known as the Imperial eggs, were produced for the Romanov family between that year and the fall of the monarchy in 1917, and more than a dozen others for a variety of wealthy clients. Most of the eggs are made to be opened, and contained a surprise of some sort, although many of these have been lost; the egg known as the Peacock, for example, contains a tiny mechanical peacock which walks around and opens and closes its tail.

The years of Soviet communism did incalculable damage to the cultural patrimony of Russia, whether through deliberate acts of destruction, the ravages of war, or the selling off of many artistic treasures to foreigners. A group of the Imperial Fabergé eggs were sold at Stalin's orders in 1927, and 14 more left the country in the early 1930’s. Several of these were acquired by the American magazine publisher Malcolm Forbes; after his death, the collection was bought en-bloc by Russian oil magnate Viktor Vekselberg, whose collection of fifteen eggs (including 9 of the Imperials) is currently the single largest. Vekselberg’s acquisitions are now in the hands of the Link of Times Foundation, created by himself to recover dispersed objects of Russia’s patrimony and return them to their native country. In 2007, for example, the foundation paid for a set of bells to be returned from Harvard University to the Danilov Monastery in Moscow; they had been saved from being melted down by the communists by American industrialist Charles Crane, and brought to Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1930. Not only were the eighteen bells restored to their original location, but the foundation donated copies of them to Harvard, which had kept the originals safe for so long. (One of the originals weighs 13 tons and has a 700 pound clapper!)

The foundation’s collection also includes a large number of late 19th and early 20th century icons, some of them the work of the same artists that crafted the famous eggs, others by artists of the same time, though not associated with the house of Fabergé, and in a similar style. A selection of these, along with a number of the eggs, and various non-religious objects (for example, a whole case full of snuff boxes), is currently being hosted by the Vatican Museums, in a show running until June 11th. Among these is the only one of the Fabergé eggs with an Easter theme to it, the Resurrection Egg, displayed in the same case as the Renaissance Egg, the last presented by Tsar Alexander to the Empress Maria, in 1894.

The Renaissance Egg (left) from 1894, and the Resurrection Egg. Recent research makes it seem very likely that the latter is really the "surprise" that originally came with the former.

An icon of a Guardian Angel, with frame by Carl Fabergé, 1908-17.

A folding triptych of Our Lady of Kazan, with the Mandylion, and Saints Nicholas and Catherine of Alexandria (the latter here hidden behind the left wing), by Carl Fabergé, 1894. This was a gift to the Empress Alexandra on the occasion of her marriage. (In the background, one can see a part of the famous Raphael tapestries, which were written about on NLM last July.)

A miniature Gothic reliquary, and other minatures by Fabergé, late 1890's.

The Easter Riders of Upper Lusatia

A few years ago, I wrote about the monastery of St. Marienstern (Mary's Star) in Panschwitz-Kuckau, in the Lusatia region of Germany. This Easter, I returned their for a beautiful Catholic custim. As mentioned in the article on St. Marienstern abbey, this region is inhabited by the Sorbs, a Slavic people with their own language and many traditions and the largest minority in Germany. The Sorbs of Upper Lusatia remained Catholic, and one of their most well-known customs are their Easter Day mounted processions. Every year on the morning of Easter Sunday Catholic riders announce the joyous news of Jesus Christ's resurrection, a tradition first mentioned in 1541. There are several processions taking place simultaneously, as essentially the men of one parish visit a neighbouring parish, and the visited parish makes a counter-visit. Each procession may consist of up to 200 festively adorned horses lead by the flag bearers and riders carrying the Christ statue and the cross; altogether, there are at present about 1700 riders participating. The Easter riders, clad in black trousers, frock coats, top hats and riding boots, celebrate mass together before the start of the procession. Afterwards, they ride around their local church and are blessed by the local priest before setting off to the sound of the ringing church bells across the countryside to deliver the joyous news of Jesus Christ's resurrection. The riders circle every church or village square along the route of the procession several times, singing Sorbian hymns but also German and Latin ones. Before leaving each village, they pray loudly.

I first attended Pontifical Mass in the Cathedral of Bautzen, the centre of the Catholic Sorbs.

The cathedral is interesting in particular because it is a simultaneum - in fact, the oldest simultaneum, exisiting as such since 1524 - the choir being Catholic, whereas the nave is used by the Protestants.

I then went to see the Easter riders gather around the Sorbian parish of Our Lady.

To get a better view, I climbed this tower (the Reichenturm).

Here the riders are circling the parish church of Our Lady.

Then I went on to see the riders' visit at St. Marienstern abbey. The riders entering the monastery courtyard:

And circling it:

Each horse's tail is decorated with a hand-embrodered bow.

Mother Abbess greeting the riders:

On their last round, the riders are blessed by the priest, for which hats are removed:

Two of the nuns look on from the nun's choir:

Here I've taken a short video clip to give you an impression:

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