Category Archives: Europe

Happy New Year

Happy new year! May the Lord bless you!

The LORD said to Moses:
“Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them:
This is how you shall bless the Israelites.
Say to them:
The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon
you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and
give you peace!
So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites,
and I will bless them.”
Numbers 6:22-27

From Cologne Cathedral

From Cologne Cathedral

We Praise You O God

Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral

O GOD, we praise Thee: we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord.
Everlasting Father, all the earth doth worship Thee.

Te Deum laudamus: te Dominum confitemur.
Te aeternum Patrem omnis terra veneratur.

Read the rest of the Te Deum, traditionally recited on New Year’s Eve, as well as various times during the Liturgy of the Hours.

O Magnum Mysterium

During the 12 days of Christmas, we commemorate the great mystery, the Magnum Mysterium. The O Magnum Mysterium is a sublime chant that through the centuries many composers have set to music because indeed it speaks about the the mystery of the Incarnation. The unity of the seasons is spoken of so beautifully in this sublime text.

O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
jacentem in praesepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera
meruerunt portare
Dominum Christum.
Alleluia.
O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
Christ the Lord.
Alleluia!

 

The Cathedral in the City

This evening [last December] I attended Vespers and Benediction. I am stunned over the attendance. This evening was my third liturgical event in the Cathedral and my thoughts turned to my mother. She was with me in the summer of 1988 when she first saw the Cologne Cathedral. It was emotional for her because it was one of the last things her mother saw when she left Germany as a young teenager in the 1890s. My mother said her mother would tell her how beautiful it was and one day she would see the Cathedral. At these liturgical services I was thinking that my grandmother worshipped here since she lived in Cologne. I would look at the arches and art work and altars and think my grandmother looked at these same arches and art work and altars. Then thought how wonderful it would be if my grandmother could walk the streets of Cologne with me, knowing her love for her city.

As I was walking to my final reconstructed church I thought I wished my grandmother could be here to tell me what it was like when she saw them as a child. She could tell me the crucifix on the south wall of the church used to be on the rood screen and many other stories of the art salvaged from the wreckage

Gothic altar.

In my daydreaming I suddenly remembered that my mother said her mother always wanted to go back to Germany for a visit but after the war lost all desire do so. I never understood that but walking in the very small old city visiting all the Romanesque churches and looking at the pictures of before and after the bombings I understood. The city of her childhood that she loved had been reduced to rubble. Her Cologne no longer existed. I look at pictures of Cologne from 1875, the year of her birth, and yes it no longer exists. A modern city has emerged. Yet those churches so painstakingly reconstructed are an anchor in the past.


 

O Magnum Mysterium

During the 12 days of Christmas, we commemorate the great mystery, the Magnum Mysterium. The O Magnum Mysterium is a sublime chant that through the centuries many composers have set to music because indeed it speaks about the the mystery of the Incarnation. The unity of the seasons is spoken of so beautifully in this sublime text.

O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
jacentem in praesepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera
meruerunt portare
Dominum Christum.
Alleluia.
O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
Christ the Lord.
Alleluia!

The Sight of Cologne Cathedral

When the train crossed the river I saw the cathedral. It was thrilling. I saw it with my mother in 1990 and she reminded me that it was one of the last things her mother saw when she left Germany as a late teenager in 1895. My grandmother had a great love for the cathedral of the city where she spent most of her early childhood and life. The cathedral was spared major damage during the bombings. However the photos are very haunting in that only the cathedral stands in a city reduced to a rubble of stones.

O Magnum Mysterium

During the 12 days of Christmas, we commemorate the great mystery, the Magnum Mysterium. The O Magnum Mysterium is a sublime chant that through the centuries many composers have set to music because indeed it speaks about the the mystery of the Incarnation. The unity of the seasons is spoken of so beautifully in this sublime text.

O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
jacentem in praesepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera
meruerunt portare
Dominum Christum.
Alleluia.
O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
Christ the Lord.
Alleluia!

 

Aposteln and Saint Agnes


Aposteln is one of the 12 Romanesque churches in the old city of Cologne that suffered from the bombings. I always like to look at the photos to appreciate the marvel of what had been undertaken to preserve these churches which are a vital part of our catholic patrimony.

    

Apse, after bombing

Tower, after bombing.

Tower, after bombing.7

When I look at the photos I think most people would say “bulldoze it down” but I thank the Lord for those talented architects and everyone who made a commitment to preserve our heritage so that the worship of God may continue for years to come.

 

Altarpiece

Altarpiece

I am awestruck by the decades of research and patience that went into reconstruction to preserve the original form and salvage as much as possible in the process and then to place the art in such a way that it feeds the spirit.

These saints at Aposteln are from the 14th century.

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When I left the Aposteln church, I keep thinking about the canopy above the altar. With the art salvaged from the devastation of the bombing and set so beautifully in an austere setting, this canopy seemed jolting to me. I did not find myself attracted to it however it continued to be fixed in my mind’s imagination.

Later in the evening I attended a concert with a brass ensemble and organ. The church is a wonderful setting for such a concert of works by Purcell, Gabrieli, and Couperin. Since it was New Year’s Eve I was hoping that I would hear the Te Deum, that superb hymn of thanksgiving from the Catholic tradition. I was overjoyed when I saw that Jean Langlais Hymne d’Action de Grace, “Te Deum” would be performed. The image was right in front of me. The music was so powerful that all of a sudden the image appeared to be a powerful living presence. I continued to ponder that image of the Holy Spirit. I have seen so many churches in Cologne that were devastated by the bombings and in those bombings so much human life and priceless artistic treasures perished.

And earlier in the day along the river bank I had seen this sculpture that I found startling. It looked like a bird but also like a plane laden with destruction.

Yet the image above the altar that seemed so alien to me at first captured my imagination and spoke to me: From the rubble, ancient churches arise anew. What an incredible message of hope. Evil cannot diminish the power of God to bring about something new and unexpected snd beautiful. That is a gift for which my soul can sing: Te Deum, We praise you O God!

 

Saint Agnes

Saint Agnes is a Neo-Gothic church in Cologne. This is the Saint Agnes website.

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O Magnum Mysterium

During the 12 days of Christmas, we commemorate the great mystery, the Magnum Mysterium. The O Magnum Mysterium is a sublime chant that through the centuries many composers have set to music because indeed it speaks about the the mystery of the Incarnation. The unity of the seasons is spoken of so beautifully in this sublime text.

O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
jacentem in praesepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera
meruerunt portare
Dominum Christum.
Alleluia.
O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
Christ the Lord.
Alleluia!

Our Lady of Peace Monastery, and Saint Pantaleon

Our Lady of Peace

Besides venerating the tomb of Saint Albert the Great I also wanted to make a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Peace monastery. This is where Saint Doctor Edith Stein received the habit as a novice in April 1934. In 1938 she and her sister Rosa were sent to Echt in the Netherlands however in 1942 she was sent to Auschwitz and died in the gas chamber on the 9th of August of that year.
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Stumbling Stone in memory of Saint Edith Stein

Saint Pantaleon’s Church

This church is from the 10th century and is dedicated to Cosmos and Damien and is the oldest church dedicated to Saint Pantaleon west of Byzantium. When Prussia occupied Cologne it 1815 it became a Protestant church but in 1922 it became Catholic again. It suffered from the bombings as well.

Interior looking to apse.

So much precious art perished in the bombings but what was salvaged is so lovingly displayed with deep devotion.

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Reliquary

The Altar

The Altar

Follow the star to Pantaleon

Children at Pantaleon. They followed the star.

 

The apse after bombing.

Western wall after bombing.


This afternoon [last December] I attended a concert at Saint Pantaleon. The performer was Tom Daun who is very intetested in historical and folkloric harp music. He entitled his concert, Vom Himmel Hoch. From heaven on high I came to earth.  He took all the medieval German carols I have heard in the streets and in the churches and presented them in a very creative way. I was enthralled by the afternoon along with everyone else who packed the church.

O Magnum Mysterium

During the 12 days of Christmas, we commemorate the great mystery, the Magnum Mysterium. The O Magnum Mysterium is a sublime chant that through the centuries many composers have set to music because indeed it speaks about the the mystery of the Incarnation. The unity of the seasons is spoken of so beautifully in this sublime text.

O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
jacentem in praesepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera
meruerunt portare
Dominum Christum.
Alleluia.
O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
Christ the Lord.
Alleluia!

Saint Kunibert and Saint Maria Lyskirchen

Saint Kunibert

Saint Kunibert [German Wikipedia] is the youngest of the 12 Romanesque churches in the old city. it was consecrated in 1247 one year before work on the cathedral began. During the bombing of the historical center the roof went up in flames and the west tower was hit by a bomb.

At the end of the 1970s initiatives were taken to rebuild and in 1993 the church was reconstructed. In 1993 a Kuhn organ was installed. There are eight medieval stained glass in the apse. Once again the artistic treasures of our Catholic heritage perished in the bombings so all these buildings are very plain but the proportion and dimensions are original. In such a plain and noble setting the few pieces of art salvaged from the rubble are striking.

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Saint Maria LysKirchen

Santa Maria in Lyskirchen, a Romanesque church in Cologne, is “the smallest of the twelve Romanesque churches in Cologne.” Here is the  Lyskirchen website.

Facade of Lyskirchen

Apse of Lyskirchen

Lyskirchen altar

Historic vaulting of Lyskirchen. 12th century frescoes.

Schiffer Madonna (Seaman’s Madonna)

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O Magnum Mysterium

During the 12 days of Christmas, we commemorate the great mystery, the Magnum Mysterium. The O Magnum Mysterium is a sublime chant that through the centuries many composers have set to music because indeed it speaks about the the mystery of the Incarnation. The unity of the seasons is spoken of so beautifully in this sublime text.

O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
jacentem in praesepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera
meruerunt portare
Dominum Christum.
Alleluia.
O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
Christ the Lord.
Alleluia!

 

Vespers at Great Saint Martin

In the late afternoon I visited the church of Great Saint Martin which dominates the cityscape from the Rhine River. It is stunning at night.
    
The archaeological excavation under the church reveals remnants of the old Roman city of the 1st century AD. The church was badly damaged in the bombings of the old city and so the restoration was only completed in 1985.
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The photos may not be so clear (you can click to enlarge) but one can get an appreciation of the magnitude of the reconstruction of all these churches that were badly damaged when Cologne was bombed. The whole old historical center was leveled and only the cathedral withstood the bombing. When you look closely you can see how they took what ever architectural elements they could find and fit them into a new structure that was modeled on the original. So much liturgical art went up in flames however what pieces could be salvaged were beautifully placed.

The church prior to the bombing was lavishly ornamented however the restoration was faithful to the original structure and reveals a simple structure of noble simplicity with beautifully positioned pieces of art.

As I was caught up in imagining the devotion and meticulous care that went into the restoration of this church that spans 40 years, I noticed that it had been given to the Monastic Community of Jerusalem that was founded in 1975. I knew I had to return to Vespers at 6 pm. They chant Vespers in four part harmony that is akin to eastern liturgy so it touches the soul deeply. I returned that evening and the room was billowing with incense with a ritual movement of bold simplicity that befits the beautiful house of worship.

About ten minutes into the Vespers the side door opened and a father of middle age wheeled in his son who was in his early twenties. The young man was both physically and intellectually disabled. I watched the father so tenderly take his son out of the wheelchair and assist him to the chair near the altar.

This was not easy. I watched the movement and found it as moving as the liturgical ritual I was experiencing because both spoke of the tenderness of God. My eyes welled up again and again. This was truly an evening of beauty.

And when I was leaving I noticed this. The young man’s wheelchair was resting at the feet of the Man of Sorrows. This touched me deeply as the words of Isaiah that we proclaim on Good Friday,

“Yet it was our infirmities that he bore,
our sufferings that he endured,
while we thought of him as stricken,
as one smitten by God and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our offenses,
crushed for our sins;
upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole,
by his stripes we were healed.”

He has borne our burden.

The image of Jesus salvaged from the bombings proclaims the faith that God is with us and that God bears the burdens we have received with us, so we can bear those burdens with dignity.

Saint Ursula Basilica and Saint Gereon Basilica

Basilica of Saint Ursula

Saint Ursula is one of the 12 large Romanesque churches of the old city. This church was also devastated in the bombing of the old city.

Notice the dome with a baroque crown.

State of church after bombing the old historic center.

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The devastation which led to reconstruction also revealed through excavation a fourth century church and a grave stone for a young girl named Ursula.

The apse of Ursula church with relics.

The story of Saint Ursula and the virgin martyrs has always been beloved by the people of Cologne. It is fitting that between 2003 and 2005 a memorial chapel was constructed in the church to remember the Cologne martyrs of the present lest we forget the powerful witness of many who resisted the evil of the Nazi regime and were murdered. Their names are inscribed in a long list of those who from the beginning of Christianity have resisted evil. The chapel was awarded the Arthron Art Award.

Memorial to Saint Dr Edith Stein who was taken from the convent in Cologne to the concentration camp.

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The Basilica of Saint Gereon


In the 5th and 6th century this church was called the Golden Saints. It is a fine example of late antique and high medieval architecture.

It sustained heavy damage during the bombing of the old historic center during the war. Structural work was ongoing on the church on into 1968 to rescue the structure from collapse and reconstruction continued until 1984 to preserve this treasure of the Catholic faith.

This article is in German but discusses the art in Saint Gereon.
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