Tag Archives: Florence

In Praise of the Virgin Mary


“To us up here you are the torch of noon
Blazing with love, and for the mortals down there
You are the living fountainhead of hope.

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“Lady, you are so highly placed and helpful,
Whoever seeks grace and does not call on you
Wants his desires to fly up without wings.

–Dante’s Paradiso, Canto XXXIII
[Saint Bernard speaking]

The artworks are from the Bargello Museum in Florence.

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In Praise of the Virgin Mary

As we come near to the Feast of the Assumption, it seems natural to let the arts of Florence speak to each other of the beauty of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Here Dante, in his sublime Canto  XXXIII, has Saint Bernard speak of Mary. The artworks are from the Bargello Museum.

“Virgin mother, daughter of your Son,
Humbler and higher than all other creatures,
Fixed aim and goal of the eternal plan,…

“You are the one who lifted human nature
To such nobility that its own Maker
Did not disdain to be made of its making.

“Within your womb was lit once more the flame
Of that love through whose warmth this flower opened
To its full bloom in everlasting peace.”

–Dante’s Paradiso, Canto XXXIII
[Saint Bernard speaking]

Sunday AfterWords: The Illuminated Page

During these final days of Advent, I continue to make a part of my prayer the collection of icons at the Chrysler Museum. Today I spent time pondering the Mother of God and her relationship to the mystery of the Nativity.

Ivory from the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, Virginia.

Ivory from the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, Virginia.

After all Mary is an important dimension of our Advent spirituality. In fact the Proper appointed for this Sunday Mass and the Gospel of the Visitation point to the Virgin Mother.

Skies let the just one come forth like the dew, let him descend from the clouds like the rain. The earth will open up and give birth to our Savior.

The Chrysler museum has a beautiful manuscript illumination of the Liturgy of the hours.

Liturgy of the Hours, manuscript in the Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, Virginia

Liturgy of the Hours, manuscript in the Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, Virginia

In the museum of the San Marco monastery in Florence are beautiful manuscripts. These manuscript illuminations radiate the beauty of the Annunciation as well as the coming solemnities of the Nativity and Epiphany.

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I spent some time caught up in the beauty of the illuminated pages. Just as icons radiate a light from within so too for me the illuminated page manifests an interior radiance that reminds me of the “O” Antiphon:

Radiant dawn splendor of eternal light, Sun of Justice,
Come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.

This is a fascinating short video from the Getty Museum on how illuminated manuscripts are made.

Finally, here is a lovely medieval setting of the Ave Maria. This chant can move our hearts to honor the Virgin Mother of God who gave birth to the Savior of the race.

Last Day in Italy

Thursday, Sept. 10. Today is our last day In Italy and so, facing all day traveling tomorrow, we decided to take it easier.

The morning started with a visit to the Bargello Museum, a collection of Renaissance art in a building that was both palace and jail. The art was captivating, but as attractive was the setting. The building has been restored along with frescoes and ornaments; a great way to round out our trip.

Bargello Museum. Florence, Italy.

Our Lady of Mercy. Bargello Museum. Florence, Italy.

Courtyard of the Bargello Museum. Florence, Italy.

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After our encounter with the Santo Volto in the cathedral in Lucca, the crucifix that was miraculously completed by angels, we had to visit Santissima Anunziata which has a miraculous image of Mary. Again, the story goes that an artist, overwhelmed by painting the face of Mary, prayed for divine inspiration and went to bed, only to find the image completed when he awoke. The image is hard to see in the photos below.

Santissima Anunziata. Shrine. Florence, Italy.

Santissima Anunziata. Florence, Italy. (image at far right)

In the evening we joined the New Jerusalem community for vespers and Mass. We had encountered this community in Paris. Their vespers are wonderfully chanted and the spirit among the community is palpable. A very moving end to our time away. Tomorrow we meet the taxi to go to the airport at 4:15am.

New Jerusalem community. Florence, Italy.

Cinque Terre: Pesto Paradise on the Italian Riviera

Tuesday, Sept. 9. Cinque Terre. We left this morning to go to Cinque Terre, five little villages spaced along the rugged coast of the Liguria region of Northern Italy. The cities were isolated, and even had their own language, but now are linked by boat, railroad and hiking trail. It is a popular destination for tourists since the 1970’s, as we found out traveling in the swarm of visitors.

We arrived by bus to Manarola, and had to descend a considerable distance through the village to the shore. Like all the towns, Manarola is small but has a developed shoreline. The reason to visit is definitely the shore, and at each village we found swimmers, sunbathers and incredible views.

Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy.

Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy.

      

The roads between the villages are limited, so going from town to town requires taking the boat or train or hiking trail. We took the train to Riomaggiore. Although a little larger, Riomaggiore was similar, a small village and developed shoreline. Like the other towns, tourism is its life blood.

  

 

A view of Riomaggiore from the water.

A view of Riomaggiore from the water.

We took the boat to Monterosso, which afforded us wonderful views of the coast by sea. There were hundreds of people on the boat from all over the world, and with only a narrow access to the boat, embarking and disembarking was tedious. Monterosso was the largest so far and provided the most services. We had lunch which included seafood, pasta with pesto (which is the traditional sauce of the region), and a local white wine that tasted of apples. After lunch we walked to the shore to wade, then hiked up to a Franciscan monastery church, that provided views all the way up.

  

Altar at Franciscan monastery at Monterosso.

We took the train to Vernazza, which was another lovely shoreline. There was a rustic church near the water; we assumed its simplicity reflected leaner times before tourism. At each place we regretted not having swimsuits since the water was clear and inviting. The sun was blazing, requiring those on the beach to seek shade under beach umbrellas.

From the window of the church at Vernazza.

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We took a train again to Spezia, the largest of the towns, to catch the bus back to Florence.

Father Tom was overwhelmed by the number of tourists flowing into these small towns and filling up the restaurants, beaches and bars.

At the same time the coast is magnificent and a great draw to tourists.

Santa Maria Novella in Florence.

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A street shrine in Florence to the Virgin on her nativity.

Exploring Renaissance Florence

Monday, Sept. 7. We started our first full day in Florence with morning prayer at the basilica of San Lorenzo. Like most major churches here there is a special door for those who wish to pray or attend Mass so that aspect is preserved in contrast to tourism. This was the parish church of the Medici family and many are buried.

          

We attended Mass at the Duomo, again, entering at the prayer door. This might be the only way we enter this trip because even before it opened the line to enter was down the street. This cathedral is awesome inside and out, with many colors of marble creating geometric patterns. The dome is largest brick dome in the world engineered by Brunelleschi.

Main doors of the Duomo (cathedral). Florence, Italy.

Main doors of the Duomo (cathedral). Florence, Italy.

Duomo. The Florence cathedral.

Bell tower of duomo

Interior of the dome.

Morning Mass at the Duomo

High altar.

We were excited to go to the Museum of San Marco. It was the monastery which was home to Fra Angelico, and his frescoes are in every room and monastic cell. Like the Scrovengni chapel in Padua it is considered a masterpiece of European art. The works are familiar but it was amazing to see them in their original context.

Annunciation.

The Last Supper. Monastery tefectory (now a gift shop). Museum of San Marco.

Crucifixion with saints. Monastery chapter room. Museum of San Marco. Florence, Italy.

Crucifixion with saints. Monastery chapter room. Museum of San Marco. Florence, Italy.

Fra Angelico fresco in monastery cell. Museum of San Marco.

Fra Angelico fresco in monastery cell. Museum of San Marco.

San Marco Church sanctuary in Florence, Italy.

San Marco Church sanctuary in Florence, Italy.

Side altar with local saint, Antonio Pierazzi. San Marco Church. Florence, Italy.

Side altar with local saint, Antonio Pierazzi. San Marco Church. Florence, Italy.

A local sanctuary. Florence, Italy.

A local sanctuary. Florence, Italy.

Hospital of the Innocents

After lunch we hiked up to an overlook of Florence, the piazzale of Michaelangelo. The hike was through a gate of the city walls and up into the surrounding mountains. From the city it is easy to forget that Florence is ringed with mountains.

This view posted is panoramic. If you wish you can download to see it in its entirety.

Saint Ann Church.

Saint Ann Church.

In Saint Ann church.

After dinner we attended a concert in Or San Michele. The concert was held on the upper floor, amidst original statues. The windows were open that afforded great views of the city, but also admitted the noise from the lively street life below.

San Michele sanctuary. Florence, Italy.

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The Palazzo Vecchio . Florence, Italy. (The statues are reproductions).

Santa Croce Church. Florence, Italy.

Santa Croce Church. Florence, Italy.

San Miniato Church. Florence, Italy.

San Miniato Church. Florence, Italy.

After dinner we attended a concert in Or San Michele. The concert was held on the upper floor, amidst original statues. The windows were open that afforded great views of the city, but also admitted the noise from the lively street life below.

Sunday Mass in Padua

Sunday, Sept. 6. Sadly we left Venice early this morning, catching a vaporetto to take us to the train station. We were treated to lovely views of Venice from the canal.


Our final destination for the day was Florence, but we took the train to Padua first, hoping to see the Scrovengi chapel and to attend Mass at the basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua. Padua was a walled medieval city and still retains some of the character from those times, making the walk very enjoyable for us. We stopped first at the civic museum where the Scrovengi is located. Entry requires advanced tickets. Since the earliest we could get tickets were for the 1:15 pm showing, that afforded us ample time to walk the 25 minutes to the basilica for the 11:00 am Mass. Along the way we were able to stop in various churches.

It was obvious when we got to the basilica because of the throngs of people making their way to Mass. Mass was nicely done, but under an hour.

During Mass people where we walking around the basilica, and a steady line was making its way to the saints tomb. We did as well after Mass. There also was a large crowd at the relic chapel where Saint Anthony’s tongue is reserved.

In line to visit the tomb of St. Anthony (tomb to far right). Basilica of St Anthony of Padua. Padua, Italy.

In line to visit the tomb of Saint Anthony (tomb to far right). Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua.

The Relic chael. Basilica of St Anthony of Padua. Padua, Italy.

The Relic chael. Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua.

We exited the basilica making our way to our appointment to see the Scrovengi chapel. We were excited to see the chapel partly because Father Tom hadn’t seen it but mostly because it is a masterpiece of art. It is a 14th century chapel built by Scrovengi as a family chapel, as a reparation for his father’s sin of usury. The frescos by Giotto that adorn its walls are considered one of the most important masterpieces of western art. Because of its age, importance and the fragility of the frescoes, entrance is limited, with persons entering an evironmentally controlled lobby before gaining entry to the chapel, and then only for 15 minutes. It was awe-inspiring to see not only the artistic merit but the theological merit as well. Afterwards we visited the galleries of Venetian paintings. Over 500 painting were given by one donor to the city in the 19th century. These are those works.

We had another two-hour ride on a high speed train to Florence. Our hotel is near the train station making it more convenient to transport bags, although we had some pains finding it due to the confusing Florentine address system.

We enjoyed a good meal in a nearby trattoria, and took a walk enjoying Florence at night.

St. Philip and James Church. Padua, Italy.

St. Philip and James Church. Padua, Italy.

St. Mary, Servant of God Church. Padua, Italy.

St. Mary, Servant of God Church. Padua, Italy.

Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua.

Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua.

Florence at night. Clocktower. Florence, Italy.

Florence at night. Clocktower. Florence, Italy.

Florence at night. Arno River.

Florence at night. Arno River.

Florence at night. Ponte Vecchio concert.

Florence at night. Ponte Vecchio concert.

Florence at night. Sculpture loggia. Florence, Italy.

Florence at night. Sculpture loggia. Florence, Italy.

Florence at night. Fountain.

Florence at night. Fountain.

Florence at night.

Florence at night.