Saturday, October 22, 2016

Illustrating the Parables – The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

The Pharisee and The Tax Collector
from a Picture Bible
French, St. Omer (Abbey of S. Bertin), c.1190-1200
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS 76 F 5, fol. 17v
Jesus addressed this parable
to those who were convinced of their own righteousness
and despised everyone else.

“Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity --
greedy, dishonest, adulterous -- or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;
for whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” *
(Gospel of Luke 18:9-14)

Gospel for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time,
Year C -- October 23, 2016

The parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (in some versions, a Publican) is one of those parables that are instantly understandable and applicable to even the most modern person.  We may sometimes have some problems relating to the shepherds, farmers, vineyard owners, servants and other characters in the parables of Jesus, but this one should be accessible to all of us.  We have two characters, the rather pompous, self-satisfied Pharisee, and the humble, despised Tax Collector. 
The Pharisee and The Tax Collector
from Composition de la sainte ecriture
French, 14th Century
Chantilly, Musee Conde
MS 26, fol. 210r

 Most modern people, be they religious or secular, believer or atheist, probably more resemble the Pharisee who has come to pray in the temple.  We pat ourselves on the back for our “good” qualities.  We are kind, we are generous to all, we pay our taxes, we “keep our nose clean”, we are good.  We are not like those deplorable people we read about in People Magazine.  We are self-satisfied and we are blind. 
Lucas van Doelecum, after Gerard Groenning, The Pharisee and The Tax Collector
from Thesaurus Novi Testamenti ... continens historias atque miracula domini nostri Iesu ChristiFlemish, 1572
London, British Museum
Anonymous, The Pharisee and the Tax Collector
Dutch, ca. 1630-1640
Private Collection
The Tax Collector on the other hand, is not so easy to find in contemporary society.  He is so aware of his own failings in relation to God that he won’t even approach the front of the temple area but stays toward the back.  He doesn’t mentally pat himself on the back.  Instead, he asks for mercy for his sinfulness.  And, Jesus says, because he has asked for mercy, mercy will be given to him and not to the self-satisfied Pharisee.  That is because the Pharisee never asked for mercy.  

In reality, the one and only unforgiveable sin is the one which you never ask forgiveness for.  But, if you are too enamored of your own good qualities, too busy patting yourself on the back, you may never notice your have any sins at all.

Barent Fabritius, The Pharisee and The Tax Collector
Dutch, 1661
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum
Fabritius here takes the story to its conclusion, showing not only the moment in which the two men are in the temple, but the effects on their souls after they leave it.  In the center of the painting, they are in the temple, the Pharisee kneeling  near the front and the Tax Collector standing near a column at the back.  On the far left, the Pharisee leaves the Temple, while above him in the sky is a demon, signifying the continued sin of his own pride.  On the far right the Tax Collector leaves the Temple and an angel appears above his head, signifying the mercy given to him.
Artists have not presented this scene too often.  My usual search, which can easily yield one hundred or more illustrations of other scenes, turned up only a few manuscript illuminations from the Middle Ages, a few paintings and prints from the Baroque period, including one painted by Barent Fabritius for the Lutheran Church in Leiden which is the most elaborate I found, and one example from the end of the nineteenth century.   
James Tissot, The Pharisee and The Tax Collector
French, 1886-1894
New York, Brooklyn Museum

It is true that the subject is not nearly as picturesque as some of the other parable scenes.  But, perhaps, the real reason is that it cuts a little too close to home.  For, human nature has not changed, there were just as many Pharisees in any other period of history as there are today. 

© M. Duffy, 2016

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Our Lady of the Rosary, a Forgotten Battle and an Almost Forgotten Pope

Andrea Vicentino, Battle of Lepanto
Italian, 1603
Venice, Palace of the Doge
The feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the title of Our Lady of the Rosary, is celebrated on October 7th each year.  This feast was established, under the name of Our Lady of Victory, by St. Pius V in 1571.

Pius, who reigned from 1566 – 1572, is one of those late 16th-century Counter Reformation popes remembered for helping to pull the Church out of the confusion and gloom that descended on it after the shock of the Reformation. After the frequent scandals that had accompanied the lives of the prince-popes of the High Renaissance (men like Alexander VI, Julius II, Leo X) these were mostly pious men of purpose, who lead fairly austere lives. Pius himself, born Antonio Ghislieri, was a friend of the great St. Charles Borromeo, one of the leading figures of the Counter-Reformation.

Battle Standard Carried at Lepanto
Italian, 1571
Gaeta, Museo Diocesano
Among the notable events of St. Pius’ pontificate are the reforms of the breviary and of the liturgy. It is Pius who authorized the Roman Missal that was in use until 1970. However, Pius is mostly remembered in the English speaking world for the promulgation of the bull “Regnans in excelsis“. In this bull, Pius excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I and released her subjects from their allegiance. Although well meant, this set the stage for such sad events as the death of Mary, Queen of Scots, the Armada, and the Elizabethan government’s persecution of English Catholics, who were now deemed to be traitors almost by definition.

Martin Rota. The Holy League
Croatian, c.1571
London, Trustees of the British Museum
  Here Pope Pius V is shown with his arms 
  spread over the shoulders of King Philip II of 
  Spain (left) and the Doge Alvise I Mocenigo (right) joining
   hands to form the Holy League of 1571.  
  God the Father and the Holy Spirit are seen above them, 
  while a male angel holds a crown above 
  the head of the King and a female angel holds the 
  cap of the Doges above the head of Doge Mocenigo.

What Pius is not remembered for among English speakers is his leadership of the Holy League which gained a tremendous victory in the last great naval battle of the classical world. That is the last great battle between naval forces composed entirely of oar powered galleys. The foe was the previously all-conquering Muslim Ottoman navy.

Most people know little of the Ottoman Empire, although they may have heard of it. From the 14th century the Ottoman Turks (the name comes from the founder of the ruling line, Osman) expanded their rule throughout the remains of the old Byzantine Empire, until, by 1400, all that remained of the Empire was the city of Constantinople itself and some tributary territories in the Balkans and Greece. In spite of desperate efforts by the Byzantines, their Empire, direct descendent of the ancient Roman Empire, fell to the Ottomans, led by their young Sultan, Mehmet II, on May 19, 1453.  Mehmet imposed his religion on his empire, favoring those who converted to Islam and oppressing those who remained Christian, thus laying the foundation for much of the conflict in the region in the centuries that have followed.

From this point on the Ottomans controlled the entire Middle East and Anatolia and pushed both east and west, into Persia and Egypt. They also began to push into Central Europe, conquering Hungary and reaching Vienna in 1529, although they were unsuccessful in their attempts to take it. The Ottomans also organized a fleet, which began to capture the islands of the Mediterranean, and they began to harass the Mediterranean mainland, especially in Italy.
Anonymous, Battle of Lepanto
Italian, after 1571
Private Collection

In 1570 they began their attack on Cyprus, then a possession of the Venetian Republic. Finally, the powers of Southern Europe became willing to follow the urgings of Pope Pius and to unite in the Holy League. They gathered a fleet to meet the Turkish navy. The command was given to Don John of Austria, an illegitimate son of the former Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, and, therefore, half-brother to Philip II of Spain.

Spain, Genoa, Venice and the Papal States formed the backbone of the Christian fleet. On board the Spanish ship, Marquesa, was a young man who would later become known world-wide as the author of “Don Quixote”, Miguel de Cervantes.

Martin Rota, Battle Formations at Lepanto
Croatian, c. 1571 or later
Boston, Museum of Fine Arats
The ships of the Holy League met the Turkish fleet on October 7, 1571 off the coast of Greece, at Lepanto, which is now called the Gulf of Patras. Both fleets were primarily composed of oared galleys. The ships of the Holy League gained a tremendous victory, sinking or capturing the majority of the ships in the Turkish fleet.1

By all accounts, the battle was an extraordinarily ugly fight.2  The Turks lost not only a disproportionate number of ships, but huge numbers of sailors and soldiers, by some estimates as many as twice the Christian losses.

Adriaen Collaert, the Battle of Lepanto
Flemish, after 1571
London, Trustees of the British Museum

Contemporary or near-contemporary paintings and engravings suggest some of the ferocity of the battle and, especially, the rather tight engagements that were at its core.

Andries van Eertvelt, the Battle of Lepanto
Flemish, c.1629
Private Collection
The victory helped to lift the pressure of Turkish aggression from the mainland Mediterranean countries. Although the Turks were able to replace the ships quickly, it took them much longer to replace the lost seamen. They continued to press into Central Europe by land for another hundred years, but the security Southern Europe gained from the victory of Lepanto helped to usher in the age of the Baroque in Italy and Spain.

Johann Jakob Zeiller, Pius V Prays to the
Madonna and Child During the Battle of Lepanto
German, 1762-63
Ottobeuren, Monastery Chuch of
Saints Theodore and Alexander
While the Holy League fleet was at sea the Pope had urged Catholic Europe to pray, in particular to pray the Rosary. The sailors and soldiers of the fleet were also urged to pray the Rosary before the battle began. The victory was, therefore, credited to Our Lady’s intercession. In gratitude, Pope Pius instituted the feast of Our Lady of Victory on October 7. The name of the feast was subsequently changed by his successor, Gregory XIII, to Our Lady of the Rosary, which is how we celebrate it to this day.

Franz Martin Kuen, Thanksgiving Procession and
Feast of the Rosary at Rome
After the Victory at Lepanto
German, 1768
Erbach Alb-Donau-Kreis, Church of St. Martin

Titian, Philip II Offering the Infante
Don Fernando to Heaven
Italian, 1573-1575
Madrid, Museo del Prado

Many of the artists who have pictured the Battle of Lepanto were Venetian, quite appropriate since Venetian ships played a major part in the battle. Among them are the contemporary painters, Titian and Veronese. Whereas Titian’s picture “Philip II Offering the Infante Don Fernando To Heaven” is a predominantly secular image (Victory (or an angel) hands the palm of victory to Philip’s baby son, Ferdinand, as Philip holds him. In the background is a scene of the battle, in the foreground, a Turkish prisoner.

Titian, Spain Comes to the Aid of Religion
Italian, 1572-1575
Madrid, Museo del Prado

Titian also painted an allegorical picture which promoted Spain's leadership in the struggle against both the Muslim Turks and the emerging heresies of Protestant Northern Europe, while recalling the role the Spanish monarchy had played in the reconquest of Spain from the Muslim Moors.  Spain, personified as two warrior women (presumably representing the double crowns of Castille and Aragon), come to the aid of the near naked figure of Religion, who is beset and apparently wounded by serpents, which infest the tree stump behind her.  On the left we can see the burning ships of the Turkish fleet at Lepanto.  The two commissions together suggest how Philip II, who was the great-grandson of Ferdinand and Isabella, wished to be seen by the world.

Paolo Veronese, Battle of Lepanto
Italian, 1572
Venice, Galleria dell'Accademia

On the other hand, Veronese’s picture “The Battle of Lepanto”, while giving us a view of the battle, actually celebrates the miraculous intercession of the Virgin Mary. The upper portion of the picture presents a view of heaven, where among the clouds and choirs of angels, the city of Venice, la Serenissima herself, clad in white, kneels before Our Lady. Saints, including Peter, Rocco, Justine and Mark, join her in supplication, urging Mary to intercede. From heaven rays of light fall to earth, underlining the intercession that she grants.

However, like Titian, Veronese also painted another work that offers a slightly more secular view of the battle and its aftermath.  This is The Allegory of the Battle of Lepanto, painted by Veronese in the late 1570s or early 1580s and possibly repainted in part sometime later.

Paolo Veronese Allegory of the Battle of Lepanto
Italian, 1577-1582
Venice, Palazzo Ducale
In it we see the victorious Venetian admiral, Sebastiano Venier, in his later years when he was Doge of Venice, being presented to Christ by Faith, holding a chalice, and St. Justine, holding the palm of martyrdom and the knife that killed her. Between them is the figure of the lion of St. Mark, one of the emblems of the Venetian Republic. Speculation has suggested that the figure now seen as Christ was originally that of St. Mark, the patron of Venice.  This seems a distinct possibility, especially since Christ appears to be holding an anchor stone, which would seem to be a more appropriate attribute of St. Mark.  In the left background there is a scene from the battle.  This heavenly reception for Venier is his reward for the victory.

One might think that, because Lepanto is now a widely ignored event, no artist has represented it since those who were contemporaries. But, in 2001, the American artist, Cy Twombly, who lives in Rome, executed a twelve painting series , called “Lepanto” for the Venice Biennale.
Cy Twombly, Lepanto
American, 2001

Although abstract, the pictures do evoke the confusion and intensity of the battle and their bright colors recall both the rays of light from heaven in Veronese’s painting and the bloody decks of contemporary accounts. The cycle has since been exhibited in New York, Houston and Munich. So, there is still some resonance from the battle even in the secular world.

Cy Twombly, Lepanto
American, 2001
Cy Twombly, Lepanto
American, 2001

And so, every October 7th for the last 445 years Catholics have celebrated this victory that freed Southern Europe from a serious threat, guaranteed the continuing existence of Catholic Christianity and allowed a breathing space in which the arts could flourish.

© M. Duffy, 2008, 2016

1.  For a summary of the battle and its importance see
2.  For a description of the intense battle see

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Has St. Thomas Becket's Personal Copy of the Psalms Been Found?

Thomas Caldwell, St. Thomas Becket
Window assembled using rescued medieval
and modern stained glass
English, c. 1900
Canterbury, Cathedral
In checking one of the blog's I follow, Stephanie Mann's blog on the English Reformation, I found the following new post.

Supremacy and Survival: The English Reformation: St. Thomas a Becket's Psalter: According to this story in The Guardian , St. Thomas a Becket's Psalter (the Book of Psalms, which are used in the Divine Office) ma...

Checking further, I found the articles to which she refers and also was able to go to the Parker Library site to see what the book actually looks like.  What I found was a plain and somewhat battered book, shorn of the decorative cover that once embellished it.  This is not surprising as very few of these jeweled covers of precious metal still survive, having been all too easy prey for appropriation of the jewels and melting down of the metal.

Jeweled Front Cover of the Lindau Gospels
Swiss (St. Gall), c. 880
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library

The few that do survive suggest the splendor that this book may once have had.  One survivor from the ninth century is the bejeweled cover of the Lindau Gospels, now at the Morgan Library in New York.

This particular psalter is not one of the highly decorated, richly illuminated books that feature predominantly in my usual posts.  This is a working psalter.
The Beatus Vir
Opening page of Psalter
Franco-British, 10th Century
Cambridge, Parker Library
MS 411, fol. 1v
Facing Page with Opening of the Psalm "Beatus Vir"
from Psalter
Franco-British, 10th Century
Cambridge, Parker Library
MS 411, fol. 2r

It boasts only three, fairly simple pictures.  The decorative initials are simply larger capital letters in colors, not the highly decorated examples one frequently sees. The psalms are copied in an easily readable script and, on a few pages, there are explanations, called "glosses" written in a different hand between lines.

Psalm 52, Opening Words
from Psalter
Franco-British, 10th Century
Cambridge, Parker Library
MS 411, fol. 40r
Psalm 102, Opening Words
from Psalter
Franco-British, 10th Century
Cambridge, Parker Library
MS 411, fol. 81v

Typical Page
from Psalter
Franco-British, 10th Century
Cambridge, Parker Library
MS 411, fol. 107v
Glossed Page
from Psalter
Franco-British, 10th Century
Cambridge, Parker Library
MS 411, fol. 3r

Probably the most interesting page is the one towards the back, which says, in a 16th century hand:

Page with list of male (left) and female (right) saints
and the note regarding the history of the book
from Psalter
Franco-British, 10th Century
Cambridge, Parker Library
MS 411, fol. 140v
"Hoc psalterium laminis argenteis deauratis et gemmis ornatum, quondam fuit .N. Cantuar. Archiepiscopi, tandem venit in manus Thomae Becket quondam Cant. archiepiscopi quod testatum est in veteri scripto."

("An old writing says that this psalter had been decorated with plates of gilded silver, and jewels.  It was at Canterbury. And at last came into the hands of Thomas Becket of Canterbury. the archbishop." (my translation)

It is this inscription, backed up by a 14th century inventory of the shrine of St. Thomas at Canterbury, that suggests that this is the book from which St. Thomas may have been praying Vespers when he was attacked and murdered in the Cathedral.

It is highly possible that this may be the case, for, if this rather ordinary copy of the Psalter, is indeed the bejeweled book that was displayed at the shrine as a relic of St. Thomas' martyrdom its very plainness suggests that it is the book that belonged to the archbishop.  For, it is highly likely that a "manufactured" relic of St. Thomas' Psalter would have been a deluxe edition, with many gilded images, chosen to honor his status as saint, instead of just a few simple ones.  This looks more like the everyday personal copy of an individual.  What is fascinating, but cannot be proved without some forensic checking, is whether this book was in his hand as he died and whether some of the wiped out stains or the cut off corner and edges toward the back show any traces of his blood.

© M. Duffy, 2016  

Friday, September 30, 2016

Saint Jerome -- Man of Multiple Images

Scenes from Life of St. Jerome
from Premiere Bible of Charles the Bald
called the  Vivien Bible
French (Tours), 845-851
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 1, fol. 3v
I had planned on doing a full length essay on Saint Jerome for today, which is his feast day. However, I've been fighting a virus most of the month of September and this has sapped my energy greatly, so I have done far less prep than usual.

My first step in preparing for a post is to collect as many images of the subject as I can.  Most of this work had been done before the virus hit, so I have decided to share some of it with you and to return at a later date to a more analytical essay.  What I will do is to share a few images of the most frequent types of iconographic images of St. Jerome.

Jerome is best known as a Biblical scholar, especially for his monumental translation of the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin.  Known as the Vulgate it was the translation that was used in Western, Latin-speaking, Europe for over a thousand years.  During the Reformation other scholars, such as Luther or the committee that produced the King James Version in England, made translations into the vernacular languages that had replaced Latin in everyday speech.  However, the Vulgate remained the standard for Catholics until recent times when it was replaced with newer translations which draw on older texts than were available to Jerome.  He was also known as a biblical commentator, as a theologian, as a hermit, as a penitent and as the focus of several charming tales.  All of these found expression in art, but some themes were more common than others.

Below I am showing a selection of these images without much commentary.  At a later date I will add more.

Jerome as a Theologian

Saint Jerome is often shown as scholar, working in his study.  Sometimes he is seen as a cardinal. This is anachronistic, as the position of Cardinal did not exist in his lifetime.  However, this does represent the fact that for part of his life he was an adviser, even a secretary, to more than one Pope.
Antonio da Fabriano, St. Jerome in his Study
Italian, 1451
Baltimore, Walters Art Museum
Jan Van Eyck, St.Jerome
Flemish, 1442
Detroit, Institute of Arts

Antonello da Messina, St. Jerome in his Study
Italian, c.1460
London, National Gallery
Domenico Ghirlandaio, St. Jerome in his Study
Itaalian, 1480
Florence, Ognissanti

Jerome as a Hermit

Jerome is frequently shown as a hermit in a "desert" setting, although the desert may, at times resemble a forest or a fairyland.  Not too many European artists had ever seen a genuine desert.  For two distinct periods of his life Jerome lived in near desert areas near Antioch and later near Bethlehem.  
Dieric Bouts the Elder, St. Jerome
Left wing of the
Martyrdom of St. Erasmus altarpiece
Flemish, c.1458
Leuven. Sint-Pieterskerk
Giovanni Bellini, St. Jerome Reading in the Countryside
Italian, c. 1480
Florence, Galleria degli'Uffizi

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Cardinal Albrecht
of Brandenburg as St.Jerome in a Landscape
German, 1527
Berlin, Staatliche Museen
Anthony Van Dyck, St. Jerome
Flemish, 1615-1616
Vienna, Liechtenstein Museum

Jerome as Penitent

Saint Jerome is frequently shown as a penitent, often on his knees and even holding a rock in his hand to use when beating his breast.  This reflects Jerome's acknowledgment of how frequently he was assailed by temptations, even while in prayer.  This is a situation which many of us know all too well.  Jerome seems to have not only acknowledged it but to have punished himself severely for it. Since these temptations occurred to him when he was in the "desert" this scene is usually shown as occurring there.
Fra Angelico, Penitent St Jerome
Italian, c.1424
Princeton, University Art Museum
Possibly Antonio Rossellino_St. Jerome in the Wilderness
Italian, c.1470
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Domenico Ghirlandaio, St. Jerome
Italian, c.1471
Cercina, Church of Sant'Andrea
Penitent St. Jerome with a Donor
from Book of Hours
Dutch, c.1495
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS 135 G 19, fol. 5r

Joachim Patinir, Penitence of St. Jerome
Central Panel of Triptych
Flemish, 1512-1515
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Federico Barocci. Penitent St. Jerome
Italian, c.1598
Rome, Galeria Borghese

Jerome and the Lion

This is the first and most frequently seen of the charming tales associated with him.  Like Androcles, whose story may have been the model, he is reported to have removed a large thorn from the paw of a lion and gained the beast's devotion thereafter.  The lion followed Jerome and stayed by his side thereafter, like one of his smaller domestic cousins.

MaĆ®tre du Roman de Fauvel, St. Jerome and the Lion
from Vie de saints
French (Paris), 1300-1325
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 183, fol. 155v

Giovanni di Benedetto, St.Jerome and the Lion
from Missal for use of the Friars Minor (Francsicans)
Italian (Milan), c.1385-1390
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de Frane
MS Latin 757, fol. 377
Benozzo Gozzoli, St. Jerome Pulling a Thorn from the Lion's Paw
Italian, 1452
Montefalco, San Francesco, Chapel of St. Jerome

Jacques de Besancon, St. Jerome and the Lion
 from The Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine
French (Paris), c.1480-1490
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 245, fol. 119v

Lazzaro Bastiani, St. Jerome Bringing the Lion to the Convent
Italian, c. 1470
Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera

© M. Duffy, 2016