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8 July 2010


Cockaigne is a land of plenty and idleness in mediaeval folklore, where buildings are made of cake and candy, rivers flow with wine and roast beasts and birds lazily wander the streets, inviting men to eat their flesh.

A satirical drunken speech by the Abbot of Cockaigne was included in the Carmina Burana:

Ego sum abbas Cucaniensis 
& consilium meum est cum bibulis, 
& in secta Decii voluntas mea est, 
& qui mane me quaesierit in taberna 
Post vesperam nudus egredietur, 
& sic denudatus veste clamabit: 
Wafna, wafna! quid fecisti, Sors turpissima? 
Nostrae vitae gaudia 
Abstulisti omnia!

6 July 2010


Ralph Adams Cram:
The term Gothic was first used during the later Renaissance, and as a term of contempt. Says Vasari: Then arose new architects who after the manner of their barbarous nations erected buildings in that style which we call Gothic, while Evelyn but expresses the mental attitude of his own time when he writes: The ancient Greek and Roman architecture answered all the perfections required in a faultless and accomplished building -- but the Goths and Vandals destroyed these and introduced in their stead a certain fantastical and licentious manner of building: congestions of heavy, dark, melancholy, monkish piles, without any just proportion, use or beauty. For the first time, an attempt was made to destroy an instinctive and, so far as Europe was concerned, an almost universal form of art, and to substitute in its place another built up by artificial rules and premeditated theories; it was necessary, therefore, that the ground should be cleared of a once luxuriant growth that still showed signs of vitality, and to effect this the schools of Vignola, Palladio, and Wren were compelled to throw scorn on the art they were determined to discredit. As ignorant of the true habitat of the style as they were of its nature, the Italians of the Renaissance called it the maniera Tedesca, and since to them the word Goth implied the perfection of barbarism, it is but natural that they should have applied it to a style they desired to destroy. The style ceased, for the particular type of civilization it expressed had come to an end; but the name remained, and when, early in the nineteenth century, the beginnings of a new epoch brought new apologists, the old title was taken over as the only one available, and since then constant efforts have been made to define it more exactly, to give it a new significance, or to substitute in its place a term more expressive of the idea to be conveyed....
Gothic architecture and Gothic art are the aesthetic expression of that epoch of European history when paganism had been extinguished, the traditions of classical civilization destroyed, the hordes of barbarian invaders beaten back, or Christianized and assimilated; and when the Catholic Church had established itself not only as the sole spiritual power, supreme and almost unquestioned in authority, but also as the arbiter of the destinies of sovereigns and of peoples. During the first five centuries of the Christian Era the Church had been fighting for life, first against a dying imperialism, then against barbarian invasions. The removal of the temporal authority to Constantinople had continued the traditions of civilization where Greek, Roman, and Asiatic elements were fused in a curious alembic one result of which was an architectural style that later, and modified by many peoples, was to serve as the foundation-stone of the Catholic architecture of the West. Here, in the meantime, the condition had become one of complete chaos, but the end of the Dark Ages was at hand, and during the entire period of the sixth century events were occurring which could only have issue in the redemption of the West. The part played in the development of this new civilization by the Order of St. Benedict and by Pope St. Gregory the Great cannot be over estimated: through the former the Catholic Faith became a more living and personal attribute of the people, and began as well to force its way across the frontiers of barbarism, while by its means the long-lost ideals of law and order were in a measure re-established. As for St. Gregory the Great, he may almost be considered the foundation-stone of the new epoch. The redemption of Europe was completed during the four centuries following his death, and largely at the hands of the monks of Cluny and Pope St. Gregory VII, who freed the Church from secular dominion. With the twelfth century were to come the Cistercian reformation, the revivifying and purification of the episcopate and the secular clergy by the canons regular, the development of the great schools founded in the preceding century, the communes, the military orders, and the Crusades; while the thirteenth century, with the aid of Pope Innocent III, Philip Augustus, St. Louis, and the Franciscans and Dominicans, was to raise to the highest point of achievement the spiritual and material potentialities developed in the immediate past.

This is the epoch of Gothic architecture. As we analyse the agencies that together were to make possible a civilization that could blossom only in some pre-eminent art, we find that they fall into certain definite categories. Ethnically the northern blood of the Lombards, Franks, and Norsemen was to furnish the physical vitality of the new epoch. Politically the Holy Roman Empire, the Capetian sovereigns of the Franks, and the Dukes of Normandy were to restore that sense of nationality without which creative civilization is impossible, while the papacy, working through the irresistible influence of the monastic orders gave the underlying impulse. Normandy in the eleventh century was simply Cluny in action, and during this period the structural elements in Gothic architecture were brought into being. The twelfth century was that of the Cistercians, Carthusians, and Augustinians, the former infusing into all Europe a religious enthusiasm that clamoured for artistic expression, while by their antagonism to the over-rich art of the elder Benedictines, they turned attention from decoration to plan and form, and construction. The Cluniac and the Cistercian reforms through their own members and the other orders which they brought into being were the mobile and efficient arm of a reforming papacy, and from the day on which St. Benedict promulgated his rule, they became a visible manifestation of law and order. With the thirteenth century, the episcopate and the secular clergy joined in the labour of adequately expressing a united and unquestioned religious faith, and we may say, therefore, that the civilization of the Middle Ages was what the Catholic Faith organized and invincible had made it. We may, therefore, with good reason, substitute for the undescriptive title Gothic the name the Catholic Style as being exact and reasonably inclusive.

27 June 2010


Arthurian lore holds that St. Joseph of Arimathea traveled to England after Christ's Passion, and founded the Abbey at Glastonbury. The old thorn tree in the above photograph is said to have sprung from the saint's staff. King Arthur's tomb is nearby.

23 June 2010


Hilary Jane Margaret White:
Nietzsche said, I am afraid we are not rid of God because we still have faith in grammar. If only Nietzsche had lived long enough to see the 1970's and the new education he would have rejoiced at the final triumph of the human will over God...

The Restoration is not only a matter of politics, or even education qua education. It is an essential re-construction of ruined thought. Imagine Western Civilization not as a set of... precious cultural artifacts like the Mass or the Divine Office or legally indissoluble natural marriage or even any philosophical school. Imagine that it is a larger thing than that; it is a framework for our thought, our creative efforts. Imagine that it is the structure that makes something like Chartres or Salisbury Cathedral possible. The container for the idea of Chartres, without which no Chartres could be conceived.

Try to imagine this framework, for a moment, as a ruined castle that contains in its fabric, in the manner of its construction, a kind of key or code, that, if deciphered, will allow all the treasures of a dimly remembered quasi-legendary civilization to be brought back.

Now imagine that the people who live in the vicinity of the ruins are indeed the direct descendants of those who built it and they have in their cultural memory the means of deciphering the code. Their local language, their songs and stories about the life of their ancestors in and around the castle, are also part of the code. They know what the castle means.

Grammar is something that postmodernists hate (which is why it is very difficult to read their books). They fear its return because they know that you can use it to rebuild the castle.

Becoming a philologist in the traditional sense, then, is an act of subversion against the new regime, a means of preserving and rebuilding The Before. The revolutionaries knew what they were about with the abolition of grammar education. I caught the tail end of it by going to a Catholic parochial school in the mid-seventies. I was actually taught how to diagram sentences and I'm told that such things are now utterly extinct; even the memory of them is gone.

Grammar, the idea of having a set of linguistic rules governing the use of words to convey a meaning that everyone agrees upon, is one of those universals of culture. The idea that there are rules, and that breaking the rules creates chaos and confusion, is universal... except for us. The postmodern West has decided that this, along with everything else that helps us make sense of the universe, is too confining; that we must emancipate ourselves from grammar as we did from social mores. Grammar is oppression to the postmodern man.

The revolutionaries thought, We cannot be free until we have killed God, the ultimate oppressor. To kill God, we must kill all order, all sense, all law governing thought. Grammar is the law of thought; the grammar of the West (Greek and Latin) will bring back the thought of the West, which will make it possible for all the other things we love to be restored.

20 June 2010


17 June 2010


A few years after Matthäus Roriczer published his treatise on deriving architectural proportions from a square, Hans Schuttermayer of Nuremburg published a similar, shorter work. Click on the images below to see it in its entirety.

15 June 2010


St. Anthony of Egypt

St. Catherine of Alexandria

St. Christopher

St. Dorothy

St. Elmo

St. Leonard

St. Margaret of Antioch

St. Osyth

St. Ursula

9 June 2010


His life, according to Adamnan of Iona.

7 June 2010


Istria on the Internet:
Johann Weichard Freiherr von Valvasor (1641-1693) is remembered today not as a baron, but as a scholar - more specifically, a historian, historiographer, geographer, ethnographer, cartographer, scientist, collector, painter and publisher - as well as a soldier and military commander....
In Valvasor's workshop, a total of eleven different copperplate printed works were produced in eleven years, six of a topographical nature and three with religious content....
To be able to carry out his scientific and publishing plans, he compiled a library and a valuable graphics collection. He also collected various instruments, both musical and scientific, minerals, coins, antiques and unique objects, so that the Bogensperk castle was transformed into a museum....
In spite of his massive body of work he still found time for technical designs and inventions. He made a plan for a tunnel under the Ljubelj pass on the border between the provinces of Carniola and Carinthia, which is today the border between Slovenia and Austria. He also invented a new method of casting metal. This method was used in casting the pillar of the Virgin, which was erected in 1682 in front of the St. James's church in Laibach and which today represents one of the oldest monuments in present-day Ljubljana....
Valvasor was aware that foreigners did not know his region well enough, so he undertook the presentation of Carniola in words and pictures, and he states this in his single most important work, also published in 1689, the monumental The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola, a genuine encyclopedia of natural science, local customs and folklore, history, and topography....
Valvasor's masterpiece is the first systematic overview of the history, territory, and way of life of Carniola and nearby regions. It consists of 15 volumes divided in four parts with 3532 pages, including 528 pictures and 24 supplements. This work offers a universal 17th century description of a large part of what is now Slovenia, a feat that is virtually unparalleled in any other country of that time.
Valvasor's Opus Insignium Armorumque (1688) is an archive of 2041 coats of arms for notable families in Slovenia and Austria. Valvasor made the drawings, which were painted by artist Bartholomaeus Ramschisslu.

2 June 2010


TIME Magazine ~ 23 April 1951:
Bishop Cesbron had heard complaints about the crucifix over the church's main altar. He motored over to Assy, spent half an hour studying the sculpture, decided that it was a caricature representing nothing, and ordered it removed.

What troubled the bishop about the crucifix was that it had no cross, but only a green bronze, faceless figure cast roughly in the shape of a cross. The sculptor, whose fame has not yet spread to the United States, is a woman named Germaine Richier. She explained that: the cross has been taken with the suffering into the flesh, and its outlines can just be made out coming from the undersides of the arms. There is no face because God is the spirit and faceless....

The townspeople of Assy sided with the bishop. They had come to accept their church's Rouault windows, Lurçat tapestry, Léger mosaic and Matisse sketch, but never the Richier crucifix. It was evil, a woodcutter ventured. A young girl agreed: The figure was thin and frightening. The colors of the other art in the church make me feel alive and strong, but this thing only scared me like a dark devil.

Inevitably, such bizarre crucifixes will find defenders, who will praise them for showing Christ's immeasurable suffering, and even invoke St. Gertrude and St. John of the Cross as witnesses for the defense.

Christ indeed suffered beyond measure, and it is to the credit of the occidental religious genius that, in the late middle ages, it developed a sacred art capable of expressing such suffering. This is the art that expresses in sculpture, painting and glass what St. Gertrude and her contemporary mystics expressed in words - an art unlike the unsuffering art of the Florentine Renaissance.

But this is not what is seen at Assy. Christ indeed suffered beyond measure, but He suffered as a man. That is to say, in His sufferings He never ceased to be a man, or to have the flesh and bones of a man. Crucified men bleed and bruise and contort. They do not melt like waxworks in an oven. They do not transform into two pieces of jerky tied at perpendiculars and cast in metal. Waxworks and dried meat feel no pain at all. In this abstract art, it is not Christ's comeliness that disappears, but rather His humanity.

In the case of the crucifix at Assy, the artist could not have been more explicit in her intentions: There is no face because God is the spirit and faceless, she said. This thing, this abominable mockery, was made to deny the Incarnation of Christ.

It was restored to the altar in 1971 and remains there today, protected as an official historical monument.

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