Orval Abbey in Belgium

Stained glass windows in the chapel of the bishops, executed by Boquet, after the cartoons of Miss Margot Weemaes, who, for the same oratory, also made two frescoes. Discreetly historiated stained-glass windows, simple illuminations in short, illustrating themes from the life of Notre-Dame, they provide this chapel with maximum clarity.

The Abbey of Orval, in Belgium’s Ardennes Forest, is truly a place of mystery. The name “Orval” means “Valley of Gold”.

Source: Quarterly review of sacred art published by the Benedictines of the Abbey of Saint-Andre (1947)

Limestone Roof Photo Archives
Orval Abbey

Related
MARGOT WEEMAES at M LEUVEN

2022: Year-in-review

A couple of paragraphs to close out 2022. This is the year I said goodbye to London and put an exclamation point on Kingdom Hearts. I spent a night in Gettysburg and a couple more in Paris. I crossed the English Channel via the Eurostar. I read the Brothers York and Faith of Our Fathers. I saw the Wilton Diptych at the British Museum and watched the Southampton Saints WIN under the lights against the Norwich Canaries. I tracked down stained-glass in Hereford from a Christmas card given to my mom and dad by our parish priest. I hiked to Towton, outside York, to visit a battlefield that was pivotal in the War of the Roses. I toured all of the northern cathedrals- York, Durham, and Lincoln. I also travelled to the very edge of Empire for a weekend in Penzance and Lands End. There were a couple of more Saints matches, including a memorable one in Cambridge for the Carabao Cup. There were three Championship League matches in Stoke, Norwich, and Sunderland. I hosted my brother in the spring and we went to Southampton, London, and Ramsgate. I also caught Football: Designing the Beautiful Game at the Design Museum before it closed.

My last couple of weekend trips in England were to Coventry, Exeter, and Bath. One of the highlights of the year was mass at the Cathedral Church St John the Baptist in Norwich.

My BIG birthday was at PNC Arena to see my beloved NY Islanders put a hurt on the Hartford Whalers Carolina Hurricanes and I was at the Bridgeport Islanders home opener. I also went to a Bridgeport Islanders game to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the NY Islanders.

Thames River Ride (1986) by Harper Goff. Scan is from The Art of Walt Disney World Resort

Pope Benedict XVI (1927 – 2022)

VENERATION OF THE HOLY SHROUD, MEDITATION OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI, Fifth Sunday of Easter, 2 May 2010 (Vatican)

Effectively, the Shroud was immersed in that profound darkness that was at the same time luminous; and I think that if thousands and thousands of people come to venerate it without counting those who contemplate it through images it is because they see in it not only darkness but also the light; not so much the defeat of life and of love, but rather victory, the victory of life over death, of love over hatred. They indeed see the death of Jesus, but they also see his Resurrection; in the bosom of death, life is now vibrant, since love dwells within it. This is the power of the Shroud: from the face of this “Man of sorrows”, who carries with him the passion of man of every time and every place, our passions too, our sufferings, our difficulties and our sins Passio Christi. Passio hominis from this face a solemn majesty shines, a paradoxical lordship.

A Real Indiana Jones Quest

This post is dedicated to my Mom.

What if I told you there was a priceless ancient work of art and relic that’s still in existence and just lost? It was the subject of an address and paper published by Lawrence E. Tanner for the Journal of the British Archaeological Association in 1954.

The artifact is the Cross of Edward the Confessor (1042 – 1066), and it was recovered from his shrine at Westminster Abbey during the coronation of King James II (1644–85). The story of its initial discovery is exciting, but it’s whereabouts after crossing the English Channel is where the mystery begins. It was given as a gift to Pope Benedict XIII in 1729 but then disappeared. After the death of Pope Benedict XIII, inquiries were made to the Vatican re: it’s whereabouts but those searches were unsuccessful.

“From the date of its presentation to Pope Benedict XIII on June 17th, 1729, to the present day no trace has ever been found of the cross of St. Edward. The interesting fact of the presentation, recorded among the Stuart Papers, has only come to light in recent years, and it caused the late dean of Westminster (Dr. de Labilliere) to make inquiries through the late Sir Eric Maclagan and the Apostolic Delegate whether or not anything was known at the Vatican about the cross. The Vatican authorities took the greatest interest in the matter and instituted a thorough search in the hope of being able to throw some light on the subject. A letter, now amongst the Abbey Muniments, states that ‘the cross is not in the Vatican Museum, nor in St. Peter’s, nor in the Vatican Galleries, nor in St. John Lateran, nor with the Dominicans (of whose order was Pope Benedict XIII)’. It also states that the diaries of the Papal Masters of Ceremonies had been searched in which mention was found ‘of the visits of British sovereigns and also of the Confirmation of the Prince and of the gifts and kindness of the Pope, but not a word about a cross or gold chain.'”

The quest for the cross of the Confessor still goes on. Somewhere, I am convinced, it still exists, probably unrecognizable and with its fascinating history unknown. – Lawrence E. Tanner

Related
The Quest for the Cross of St. Edward the Confessor by Lawrence E. Tanner
Edward the Confessor and John the Evangelist (New Liturgical Movement)
Edward the Confessor Shrine (Official Westminster Abbey Postcard)

A quote from Faith of Our Fathers by Joseph Pearce:

“The most ambitious project he [Edward the Confessor] undertook was the founding of Westminster Abbey, which would become and has remained the place for the coronation of the kings and queens of England. It was completed and consecrated shortly before his death and became his place of burial, his tomb and relics being undisturbed to this day, having survived the ravages of the Reformation with its iconoclastic destruction of England’s shrines to her saints.”

Other Facts
King James II was the last Catholic monarch of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

Feast Day of St Thomas Becket

“They found in him a model of opposition to royal tyranny.” — Thomas Becket murder and the making of a saint

There are two very slim titles on Thomas Becket that should be included in your library. The first is A Murder in the Cathedral by T. S. Eliot. The second is The Book in the Cathedral by Christopher de Hamel.

A quote from Hilaire Belloc:

“That the Church of God is a visible single universal society, with powers superior to those of this world, and therefore of right, autonomous. That principle is the negation of the opposite…the principle that the divine and permanent is subject to the human and passing power. St. Thomas died for the doctrine, the truth, that the link with eternal things must never be broken under the pressure of ephemeral desires, that the control of eternal things cannot, in morals, be subjected to the ephemeral arrangements of men.”

Related
Becket’s shrine recreated digitally (Medievalists.net)
Murder and the making of a saint (British Museum)

Limestone Roof Photo Archives
Thomas Becket Exhibit
Canterbury
Canterbury Part II

Catholicism in England

“This is your dowry, O Holy Virgin, wherefore, O Mary, may you rule over it.”

One of my first daytrips in London was to Tyburn Convent. This was still at the height of lockdown when travel was restricted. As is the case with many daytrips, the visit spurred my interest in the history of the convent and its link to the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Montmartre (in Paris) and the Tyburn Tree.

The visit also led me to the Gordon Riots and Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens. Although I didn’t find that book, serendipity lead me to The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400–1580 by Eamon Duffy. This was a scholarly work and for months my posts were wholesale quotes from this tome.

I also bought Book in the Cathedral via book-store roulette and this wonderful little gem was the impetus behind my first trip to Canterbury in search of Thomas Becket. Although COVID restrictions made touring impossible, I did manage to pray in the nave. I also visited St Augustine’s Abbey. St Augustine was instrumental in introducing Catholicism to England in the 6th century.

I eventually made it back to Canterbury for a proper tour and to visit the place where Thomas Becket was murdered. I also read Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot on the train to Canterbury.

The Thomas Becket exhibit at the British Musuem was another moment of serendipity. The exhibit included stained-glass from Canterbury and the supposed book from the aforementioned Book in the Cathedral. It was the fountainhead for a planned pilgrimage to France across the English Channel to retrace the steps of Becket’s exile. My attempt at pilgrimage to France failed twice but was greatly supplanted by one to Walsingham.

Before the Reformation, Walsingham was visited by kings. The Wilton Tryptic, on display at the British Musuem, portrays a young King Richard II. His father was the Black Prince, buried in Canterbury Cathedral, and his grandfather was Edward III. Richard II was deposed during some internecine fighting, and some attribute that event to the troubles that what would befall the nation and monarchy in WAR OF THR ROSES. The Wilton Tryptic features Edward the Confessor¹ (holding the ring he gave John the Evangelist), Edmund the Martyr, and St John the Baptist. The significance of The Wilton Tryptic cannot be understated since it symbolizes Richard II “giving his kingdom into the hands of the Holy Virgin, thereby continuing a long tradition by which England was known as ‘Our Lady’s Dowry'”.

My pilgrimage to Walsingham was momentous NOT because it was the ONLY time I rented and drove a car in England, but because it is arguably the place of Catholic birth and rebirth in England. A pilgrimage to Walsingham includes prayers to reconsecrate England to Our Lady.

The bookend to my time in England was reading the Faith of our Fathers by Joseph Pearce. I was introduced to Pearce whilst doing some research on the history of Walsingham. He mentioned the idea for this book in a video on Walsingham. The book helped me understand the skittishness of English Catholics given the grisly history of martyrs and the still recency of emancipation via the Catholic Relief Act of 1829.

There were three other pilgrimage related trips. The first was to Plymouth where pilgrims often left for Camino de Santiago. The second was touring the northern cathedrals and the shrines of Hugh of Lincoln, Saint William of York, and St Cuthbert. The third was a daytrip to Ely in search of St Edmund who was felled by the Danes in defense of the faith.

In London I visited The Chapel of St George and the English Martyrs at Westminster Cathedral which commemorates so many of those martyrs. I was also starting to understand WHY so many Catholics in England appeared to worship so awkwardly, apologetically, and accidentally. There was more than one occasion when I thought clergy and parishioners had one eye over their shoulder half expecting the monarch (or a Lollard) to strip the altar.

What I witnessed was the bravery of Catholics in almost every generation. The Church of England cathedrals are just museums now and many parish churches are shuttered or are coffee / community centers. There is a coldness and desperation in those once holy places now devoid of consecrated altars. What has been left is man trying to fill that vacuum with his own holy objects (usually hideous art that tries in vain to lift man to God-like status) or substitutes like earth worship. The faith though is very much alive in those Catholic parishes I visited every Sunday on those weekend trips.

Related
The Catholic Heart of England
Some of My Best Friends Are Paintings (The Imaginative Conservative)
2 Mc 7:1-2, 9-14

¹Edward the Confessor will have his own post.

Weekend 548.0

Apologies for the radio silence. I was in Sunderland and Norwich the last couple of weekends for football. I saw matches at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland and Carrow Road in Norwich.

I saw the Canaries play away and home fixtures. Josh Sargent looks like a good footballer. He had a goal (and assist) yesterday in the match against Coventry. Some football sites don’t have him making the WC 2022 roster and Berhalter would be NUTS not giving him a serious look given his recent form. Mass in Norwich was at the Cathedral Church of St John the Baptist. I love Westminster Cathedral (not Abbey), but St John is a proper cathedral built in the late 1880s after The Catholic Relief Act in 1829 that rivals those robbed during the Dissolution/Reformation. It was modelled after medieval churches of the Early English period (1189-1307). My favorite feature were the windows in the Walsingham Chapel. The windows show the Archbishop of Westminster visiting Walsingham in 1934 to celebrate the site becoming the national Shrine of Our Lady (for the first time since the Reformation).

“It became obvious why Catholics had built such beautiful cathedrals and churches throughout the world. Not as gathering or meeting places for Christians. But as a home for Jesus Himself in the Blessed Sacrament. Cathedrals house Jesus. Christians merely come and visit Him. The cathedrals and churches architecturally prepare our souls for the beauty of the Eucharist.”

—Allen R. Hunt, Confessions of a Megachurch Pastor: How I Discovered the Hidden Treasure of the Catholic Church

Related
(1) Visit of the Relics of St Bernadette to Westminster Cathedral (Westminster Cathedral)

Hymns of the fathers…

On Not Losing Heart (The Catholic Thing)

“Christianity’s centuries-long dominance in the West has led us to forget that the world doesn’t like the Good News, because it’s Bad News for many things the world would like to think are good. And the world doesn’t take the bad news lying down. It lashes out. Now that Christianity is weakening in the historic Christian nations, it should come as no surprise that the old attacks are appearing again.”