Sunday, January 31, 2010

Saint John Bosco

WERE TODAY NOT a Sunday, this would be the feast of Saint John Bosco, better known as Don Bosco.

Saint John Bosco Roman Catholic Church, in Saint Louis County, Missouri, USA - stained glass window of Saint John Bosco

A stained glass window of Saint Bosco, taken today at Saint John Bosco Church, in Saint Louis County, Missouri.

Grace working in this Saint produced both material and spiritual fruit. Don Bosco was an educator who based his methods on the example of Saint Francis de Sales. He said, “As far as possible avoid punishing and try to gain love before inspiring fear.” He is also known for his many prophetic dreams.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Photo of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque Church, in Oakville, Missouri

Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque Roman Catholic Church, in Oakville, Missouri, USA - exterior side at night

Many thanks to the Knights of Columbus, who invited me to speak here last night.

Parish website.

“We... are in a meth-lab infested trailer park”

WE ARE ACCUSTOMED to bad Catholic art, according to Kevin O’Brien, founder of the Theater of the Word Incorporated:
“...It’s no secret that most Catholic or Christian drama companies do horrible work, ponderous, self-congratulatory, boring. Why is this?

I think it’s because it’s a ghetto out there. We really are in a meth-lab infested trailer park. Because the culture at large is so secular, and increasingly so anti-Christian, the market for the cultural work Christians do is more and more limited to the select few, the true believers, the fringe. So our artists end up working in a vacuum, where the market that exists for their work is a contrived one; and the patrons of Catholic art so forgiving and desperate that they take very literally Chesterton’s quip that a thing worth doing is worth doing badly – even though obviously a thing done badly is not worth patronizing, whether it be a book, a play, or a movie.....”


— From the article Bad Catholic Art, on the Theater of the Word Incorporated blog.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

MacArthur Bridge

MacArthur Bridge, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - view at night

The MacArthur Bridge, crossing the Mississippi River, in downtown Saint Louis. Originally called the Municipal Bridge, and now named after General Douglas MacArthur, this crossing opened to automobiles in 1917, and now only serves railroad traffic on its lower deck.

This photo was taken at night, but is artificially bright due to long camera exposure time. The lights on the bridge are for river boat navigation.

Upcoming Event at the Oratory

FROM Saint Francis de Sales Oratory, in Saint Louis, Missouri:
Friday, January 29th — Feast of St. Francis de Sales, 6:30pm Solemn High Mass — parton of our Oratory, and patron of journalists.

Bishop of Geneva, Doctor of the Universal Church. Born at Thorens, in the Duchy of Savoy, 21 August, 1567; died at Lyons, 28 December, 1622.

After the Solemn High Mass we will have a reception for all those who are in the journalistic profession in the "fleur de lys" room of the rectory.

The choir of St. Francis de Sales will be singing "Missa Cunctipotens Genitor Deus". This was written by Mr. Kevin Allen of Chicago.

We are much honored to host Mr. Allen at the Oratory on January 29th.

Mr. Allen's works, sacred and secular, have been performed in churches and concert halls throughout Europe and the United States of America. In Chicago, Mr. Allen is the founding director of the Collins Consort, American Composer's Project, the Schola Immaculata, and a co-founder of the Musicam Sacram Choir of Chicago. He is also the choirmaster of the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Chicago.

Mr. Allen and our very own Mr. Nick Botkins, Director of Sacred Music and Master of the Choirs here at the Oratory featured on KFUO-FM, Classic 99 on the morning of Friday January 29th at around 11:20am.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Photos of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis

HERE ARE PHOTOS of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, the episcopal church for the Latin Rite Archdiocese of Saint Louis.  This is the grandest church in the region of Saint Louis, Missouri, and is one of the finest cathedrals in the United States.  This church is a frequent subject  on this website, but it has been some years since I've taken a lot of photos here.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - exterior

These photos were taken on January 8th.  The church has a Romanesque exterior, Renaissance dome, and the interior has Byzantine mosaics inspired by Saint Mark's in Venice, as well as Italian mosaics and some Art Deco detail.

Plans for building a cathedral on this site began with Archbishop Kain in the late 19th century. The old Cathedral located near the riverfront in downtown Saint Louis is a fine church, but it was located in what was then a dangerous warehouse district — and for this reason another church, Saint John Apostle and Evangelist, was used as a pro-Cathedral.  With industrialization following the Civil War, the population was moving out of downtown, and a new Cathedral was needed.

Archbishop John J. Glennon announced the new Cathedral in 1905, and needed to raise funds of the amount of one million dollars to begin construction. Groundbreaking started in 1907, the cornerstone was laid in 1908, and the first Mass was held here on October 18th 1914.  The cathedral was consecrated on June 29th 1926, on the centennial of the creation of the Diocese. The cathedral was not finished until 1988, with the completion of the mosaics in the transepts.  More history from the Cathedral's website is here.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - nave

I frequently attend Mass here, but I must admit that I often don't notice the mosaics high up in the church. When I'm just looking forward, I see the plain wood pews and the yellow stone walls. Bringing a camera along helps me see things in a new way — and looking at the final photos reveal detail I've hardly noticed before.

The purpose of a church is not merely a meeting place for the brethren. It ought to be a place suitable for — and dedicated to — the liturgy and for public and private devotion. Also, it ought to both instruct and inspire the faithful, and as an icon, provide a foretaste of things to come. The beauty and harmony of a church also provides repose in the spirit. The great expense of such a structure is usually a small part of a diocesan budget, and God willing, will be used over centuries.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - full sanctuary

The Gothic Revival of the 19th had noble aspirations to good effect, but sometimes the results of that movement were churches that produced nice feelings but were often not logically designed — although this logic was indeed the case with the original Gothic style. The later Liturgical Movement was a reaction to this, and attempted to bring intellectual order to liturgical art and architecture.

The sanctuary of the Cathedral Basilica was designed to emphasize the altar and crucifix as the focal points, and the art around the sanctuary symbolically reinforces the liturgy.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Ombrellino

The Umbraculum, ombrellino, pavilion, or umbrella, signifies that this is a minor basilica, having achieved that status in 1997. It is adorned with Papal symbols, as this honor is bestowed by the Pope.

In the background is the Archbishop's cathedra, or chair. The presence of a bishop's cathedra is what makes a church a cathedral.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Blessed Sacrament Chapel

Blessed Sacrament Chapel.  While having the tabernacle centered along the axis of the altar and crucifix is fitting for a parish church, a great cathedral or shrine often has lots of tourists and a separate chapel for adoration is appropriate.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Photo of Pope John Paul II at Our Lady's Chapel

Next to Our Lady's Chapel is a photograph of Pope John Paul II praying in that chapel, in January of 1999.

The lighting in the Cathedral is dim, yellowish, and irregular, and so most snapshots taken here tend to be disappointing, and do not adequately portray the color and detail found here. Because of this problem, I processed my photos here as if the church were brightly lit by uniform white lighting. I have recently color-calibrated my camera, so these photos should be at least somewhat more accurate than previous ones.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - ambulatory

Ambulatory between the Our Lady's Chapel and the sanctuary features Italian style mosaics on the ceiling.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - arms of Bishop du Bourg and statue of Saint Louis

In the ambulatory is this statue of Saint Louis IX, King of France and patron of the Archdiocese; above is the episcopal arms of Bishop du Bourg.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - arms of Archbishop Kenrick

The arms of Archbishop Kenrick. His motto was Noli irritare leonem — ‘do not irritate the lion’.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - organ console behind high altar

The organ console and choir reside unseen behind the high altar. An organist practicing.

Mosaics of angels surround the sanctuary, reflecting the Heavenly liturgy; up above is a scene from the Old Testament, which acts as a type or prefigurement of the Eucharist.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - mosaic of Last Supper in sanctuary

Opposite, above the west side of the sanctuary, is a depiction of the Last Supper.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - mosaics in west sanctuary arch

A closer view of the arch surrounding the Last Supper.  The pendentive shows Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - mosaics in east sanctuary arch

Opposite shows the sacrifice of Abraham, which prefigures the Eucharist, the Christological symbol of the Lamb of God laying the book of seven seals from the Apocalypse, and a six-pointed Star of David, also known as the Star of Creation.  Saint Ambrose is on the pendentive.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - view of nave from sanctuary

From the side of the sanctuary, showing the presider's chair to the left and the east transept in the background.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - mosaics of Old Testament figures

Priestly figures of the Old Testament depicted on the arch in the front of the sanctuary.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - mosaics of Doctors of the Church

Doctors of the Church.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Dome of the Apostles over the sanctuary

The dome above the sanctuary depicts the twelve Apostles.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Resurrection mosaic in east transept

The transept mosaics were completed in 1988, and are of a different style from the other mosaics here. While the sanctuary contains mosaics of a liturgical character, the main body of the nave shows artworks depicting the mysteries of faith, and a vision of future glory.

These mosaics have the theme of the Resurrection. "If Christ has not risen your faith is in vain."

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Pentecost mosaic in west transept

Pentecost mosaic.  "I will pour out my spirit on all flesh."

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - mosaic of the Baptism of Christ

On the arch surrounding the Pentecost mosaic. Shown here is John, baptizing Jesus.  Surrounding this are nautical symbols, which are among the most ancient symbols in Christianity.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - mosaic of Ascension

The Ascension.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - main dome

The main dome shows heavenly visions.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - mosaic of angel under dome 1

The pendentives under the main dome depict angels.  The arch here shows the resurrection of the dead.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - mosaic of angel under dome 2

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - mosaic of angel under dome 3

Depiction of Creation.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - historical mosaics

Another dome, in the back of the nave, is surrounded by mosaics depicting the history of the Archdiocese.  Note the use of hierarchy: liturgical art is in the sanctuary, eschatological art in the main nave, and historical art in the back.  The four side-chapels are used for devotion.

The life of Saint Louis IX, King of France is depicted by mosaics in the narthex. I would think that this art would have been better off being depicted in a side-chapel rather than in the noisy narthex.

Please see the side-bar for many more photos of the cathedral.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - view of exterior facade with flagpoles


Address:
4431 Lindell Boulevard
Saint Louis, Missouri 63108

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Photo of Mount Grace Chapel

Mount Grace Chapel of the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters (Pink Sisters), in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - exterior

Mount Grace Chapel, home of the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters, better known as the Pink Sisters, in Saint Louis. Photo taken last Monday.

Holy Mass is daily at 7:00 a.m.

Liturgy of the Hours are prayed here publicly at 5:45 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 11:45 a.m.,  and 12:45 p.m., with Vespers and Benediction at 5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and Sundays at 4:00 p.m.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bare Trees

Bare trees in winter, at Columbia Bottom Conservation Area, in Saint Louis County, Missouri, USA

Taken the other day at Columbia Bottom Conservation Area, in Saint Louis County, Missouri. This park is located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.

The Espousal of the Virgin

Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri - Marriage of the Blessed Virgin Mary.jpg

The Marriage of the Virgin (1515-1520), by Jan Mertens the Younger, at the Saint Louis Art Museum. Photo taken in 2007.

Chant

EVEN IN the Middle Ages, travelers to Rome would find distinct styles of chant for the Latin liturgy.



This video has Old Roman chant, an ancient style that was found in the city churches of Rome. Its Byzantine influences are obvious.

The texts used for the Old Roman chant were the same as those used in the regions that had adopted Gregorian chant. This particular chant text is an excerpt of Psalm 88 (Septuagint numbering) from the Missa Sancti Marceli.

But the musical root of the chant style goes deeper.  Click here for an audio clip of ancient Jewish chant, from the album Chants Mystiques, with the text of Psalm 133.

Christ and His disciples, and later the early Church, worshiped in the Temple at Jerusalem and the synagogues, so it is not surprising that the modes of liturgical chant used there would be transferred to Christendom. Further, this use also strengthens our understanding of ecclesiology and the continuity of the Church with the Old Testament. In recent decades, liturgists have told us that the Catholic mode of worship was to be restored to its ancient roots, but obviously what we got was anything but authentic, especially in modes of liturgical music.

Music is the link between our psyches and the order present in the cosmos.  Well-ordered and harmonious physical systems — notably musical instruments — will give off sound waves which we perceive as being well-ordered, harmonious, and beautiful. And indeed, the harmonies which are perceived as being most beautiful are in fact the most mathematically stable, which provides a strong link between metaphysics, physics, and psychology.

Chant in the Tradition of the Church uses those modes and intervals which the ancients knew to be the most beautiful and harmonious, and which happen to be provably the most harmonious mathematically and physically. Even secularists who are seeking peace and harmony in their souls understand this intuitively, and will listen to chant as a means of relaxation, although they are obviously missing a lot by not understanding the meaning of the chant texts and their context.

Some music theorists and composers have attempted to expand the acceptable range of musical intervals, far beyond what was considered most beautiful: some now say that all tonal intervals are beautiful, but this means that ‘music’ may be indistinguishable from noise.  Much contemporary liturgical music has a large, measurable component of noise — and what effect does noise have on the psyche? And if individual psyches become disordered due to the effects of music, what happens to society?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Saint Agnes

Saint Joseph Shrine, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - statue of Saint Agnes

For the feat of Saint Agnes, here is a photo I took at the Shrine of Saint Joseph, in Saint Louis, in January 2008. Saint Agnes was an early martyr, greatly venerated by the primitive Church. She is shown carrying lambs, which is a symbol of virginity. The pallium of Archbishops are made from the wool of two lambs which are blessed on this day.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Photos at the City Museum

ARTISTIC INSPIRATION, according to Plato, is a kind of divine madness. The City Museum, in downtown Saint Louis, is known for its fanciful and unique artwork, often made from discarded industrial and architectural material, and there does seem to be some sort of madness in these works — but I leave the discernment of the sources of this inspiration as an exercise for my readers. This museum is photographically interesting; I took these photos on December 4th, 2009, a Friday night when the museum is open late for adults to explore without the usual throng of children.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - serpent

The City Museum is the brainchild of Bob Cassilly, an artist who graduated from Fontbonne University. The museum opened in 1998 and occupies the former warehouse and offices of the International Shoe Company, located in the old garment district of downtown Saint Louis, Missouri. Bob and his crew of craftsmen have been busy ever since, expanding and elaborating the museum, as well as working on other projects.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - sculptures of fantastic sea creatures

Sculptures of fantastic creatures populate the museum.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - girl climbing in tube

Tunnels and crawlways are found around the museum, as seen here.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - slide

Most everything here can be crawled into and explored. The object to the left is one of many slides.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - sculpture of sea-serpent

The English word ‘museum’ derives from the ancient Greek μουσαιον ‘mousaion’, via the Latin musaeum, meaning a shrine to the Muses. According to the religion of the pagan Greeks, the Muses were spirits who provided artistic inspiration, and this is where we also get our word ‘music’.  Enlightenment thinkers looked back to the pagan past, and created the modern museum in imitation of these ancient shrines, displaying objects of art which are subject to inspiration of some sort or another.

Many modern museums are intellectually interesting, but are often boring; the City Museum shows little apparent logic or reason, yet offers excitement. However, the very earliest of museums and “cabinets of curiosities” combined scholarly study with amazing wonders, and also had a religious role. In particular, a grand church ought to be a ‘museum’ in the truest pre-modern sense.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - ticket booth

The box office where you buy tickets. Basic admission is $10. This structure, like many here, is made up of discarded architectural elements.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - "Edward Bates School"

More discarded architectural material, here from a school once found in north Saint Louis.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Sullivanesque stonework

Architectural ornament either by Louis Sullivan, or inspired by him.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Sullivanesque stonework 2

More Sullivanesque ornament.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - bust of piper

On Friday nights, many of the lights in the museum are turned off, making these areas more interesting to explore, but more difficult for photography. When it is dark, the light amplification in the camera adds so much noise to the colors that I convert to black and white.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - carved lion head

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - classical gate

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - pediment

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - architectural carvings of winged figures

More classical ornament.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - stone architectural detail - grotesque head

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - stone carving of beast

Gothic-inspired ornament.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - decorative grille

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - tunnel under the floor

A tunnel under the floor.  The width of this pathway is less than 2 feet, which is too narrow for my shoulders; it is also only about 4 feet high, although it considerably narrows in height in the middle as this photo shows.  Despite my best judgement, I crawled through it anyway, just so I could get this photo.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - cave

Artificial caverns offer more opportunity to explore in the darkness.  I would recommend wearing very sturdy clothing that can withstand the friction against the rough surfaces.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - cave 2

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - sculptures of fantastic beasts in caves

More fantastical beasts.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - view up at spiral ramps

A dizzying view looking up many stories.  Those are helical staircases going up — and slides going back down again.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - giant pencil

A giant pencil.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - insect collection

A small part of an insect collection.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - ship model

Ship model.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - fish

The museum also features large fish tanks.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - gargoyles spouting water

Gargoyles.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - tangled bars outside

Outside of the museum building is a large collection that may be best described as industrial scrap welded together into structures that allow visitors to climb around inside of them.  Although disordered and chaotic, these structures are strongly welded, as even postmodernism has its limits.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - airplane from below

An aircraft is perched atop a column.  Visitors, with some effort, can climb up into the fuselage via precariously suspended tubes of welded metal.

This museum has many dangers to unwary explorers. There are guards here, although you might not notice them.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - cage

Another structure to explore.  It was a cold night, and bare skin against cold metal was tolerable for short periods only.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - interior of school bus

Interior of a school bus, perched on the edge of the building.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - tram

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - copper dome

A copper neo-classical dome once graced the top of a building.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - view from rooftop 2

View from the rooftop, looking to the southwest.

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - view from rooftop 1

Another view, showing recently-developed loft apartments in former industrial buildings.

http://www.citymuseum.org