Sunday, 28 October 2007

A Brief Pause

There will be a brief pause in entries, until 1 November.

A Mournful Anniversary

Yesterday afternoon was busy - the wedding of the great-great-grand nephew of Cardinal Vaughan, followed by the lovely baptism of the Headmaster's new baby. But after these life-giving events, the next was very different; an ecumenical service to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the passing of the Abortion legislation in this country. It was a moving and prayerful event, led by the Cardinal, marking a sad milestone. The Paschal candle burns in the Holy Souls chapel this weekend, as we pray for the unborn dead, and for our society that has lost the value of the sanctity of life.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

O Light Celestial

The pure light - which in Byzantine churches represents the illumination of the Holy Spirit - floods into the Cathedral. For this reason, there is no stained glass in Byzantine ecclesiastic architecture.

Friday, 26 October 2007

The Cathedral That Never Was

With recent postings on the foundations of the Cathedral in 1895, it might be worth looking at an earlier project. Cardinal Vaughan himself considered other designs before settling upon the surprising Byzantine proposal of John Francis Bentley. But as early as 1867, Cardinal Manning had approached the architect Henry Clutton to come up with designs - this was even before he purchased the Victoria site in 1884. The illustrations here were produced by Clutton in 1873.

Clutton's design was for a French style gothic Cathedral - an idiom never beloved of Cardinal Manning who preferred Italianate architecture. In the end, the Cardinal had other priorities, most notably the building of catholic schools and the relief of the poor. It was Clutton's pupil, Bentley, who enventually was to build the Roman Catholic Cathedral.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Laying the Foundations II

As chance would have it following the posting of two days ago, I came upon these photographs from the 1896 Cathedral record. The first, above, is dated October 10 1895.

The second and third are dated May 1 1896, and show the considerable progress that had been made. Above, St Anne's anglican church, destroyed by bombing in the the Second World War, may be seen. It is astonishing to think that the Cathedral was completed by 1904.

Canon Law Society Mass

The Cardinal celebrated a Mass of the Holy Spirit for the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland, celebrating its 50th anniversary. The Society aims to foster and protoe the study of canon law in the Catholic Church. Below, Bishop John Arnold, himself qualified in both canon and civil law, delivers the homily.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Our Lady of Sorrows

An atmospheric view of the reverse of the Great Rood, taken on a grey October morning.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Laying the Foundations I

The foundations of the Cathedral in 1895. To the right, the familiar mansion blocks of Ashley Gardens are already in place. Ahead, the buildings that flank the south side of Victoria Street, and that were to face the west door of the Cathedral. One of them was to house Burns and Oates, the Catholic publishing house. They were demolished in the 1970s, when the Cathedral piazza was built.

The foundations of Westminster Cathedral utilised those of the Westminster Poorhouse (or 'Bridewell'), demolished in 1884.

Monday, 22 October 2007

The Gate of Glory

The October sunshine catching the Baldacchino early yesterday morning.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Mass with the Ghanaian Community

A joyful occasion took place yesterday, when Cardinal Peter Appiah Turkson, Archbishop of Cape Coast, celebrated Mass for the Ghanaian community. Above, our own Cardinal greets him at the beginning of Mass. Note the altar frontal, in traditional Ghanaian kente cloth!

An enthusiastic choir, beautifully robed, led the singing.

Cardinal Turkson was in England to strengthen the bonds between the two countries, and also to underline the importance of World Mission Day. His strong message is that Missionary activity is not simply about economic help; it is first and foremost the spreading of the Gospel. He also said that it was the duty of the Church in Africa to support the Church in Europe - not necessarily in terms of sending priests here (he points out that while England has a priest for every 900 people, Ghana only has a priest for every 2,500), but in the recognition that we are are united Church, called to respond to the needs of our neighbour.

The Knights and Ladies of Marshall (equivalent to the Catenians) were out in force for the Mass, in their distinctive sashes.

It was a joyful and moving celebration, that brought a little African sunshine into a cold London autumn!

Saturday, 20 October 2007

The Photographer Photographed

Marcin Mazur was blinded by the light yesterday, as he set about taking photographs of the Crib for our literature over the Christmas season. Despite the Christmas decorations already appearing in shops, it proved very difficult to find Poinsettas in mid-October.

It was all done in a few hours, and Marcin has taken some wonderful shots - of which more in their appointed season. The crib is now away again until Christmas, and the Poinsettas distributed among the ladies working in the Clergy House.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness

As autumn settles gently on the Clergy House Terrace, I confess to being on tenterhooks; my citrus trees decided to burst into fruit in late August. However, given the appalling weather, they have been slow in ripening - but are now tantalisingly close.

Although we are enjoying some autumn sunshine, it is weak, and the temperature has fallen notably. Already the leaves are looking pale and sun-starved.

I have purchased some portable green-houses, to take advantage of what heat and light there may be. Who knows; it may yet be oranges and lemons ( - mandarines, to be precise!).

Elsewhere on the terrace, the olive trees are producing abundant fruit, and I look forward to a magnificent harvest! Having visited an Olive museum in Greece this summer, I picked up information about what is needed to turn these into table olives; they must first be soaked in water for a week to remove the bitterness, and then in brine for three months.

Elsewhere, there is still a surprising amount of colour on the terrace. Summer bedding plants may be long gone, but the Fuschias are thriving, and several bushes give a thrilling display.

By the pond, they mix with nasturtiums, to cheer the heart on a cold day.

Geraniums seem to be indestructible, but the delicate nicotiana is still flowering.
And, of course, the Coleus is Fabulous!

Thursday, 18 October 2007

His Master's Voice

The Master of Music, Martin Baker, has the full attention of a group of choristers at the chamber organ in the Lady Chapel.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

The Palermo Chalice

One of the great Cathedral treasures, the chalice is silver-gilt, the cast base with figures in purgatory beneath a representation of Christ feeding the five thousand, and the bowl (calyx) cast with the Last Supper. It was made in Palermo, Sicily, in 1691 by Giacinto Omodei.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

The Monteverdi Vespers of 1610

Last night, Westminster Cathedral took on for a while the role of St Marco's in Venice, as the Cathedral Choir performed Monteverdi's sublime Vespers to a packed Cathedral. It was part of the South Bank festival, which this year is devoted to Venetian music.

The Concert was preceded by a talk given by the greatest living expert on Venice and Byzantium, John Julius Norwich. Lord Norwich spoke of Venice in the age of Monteverdi, and recalled a famous performance of the Vespers given by John Eliot Gardiner in San Marco's Basilica. On that memorable occasion, the soloists were placed high up in opposing galleries, creating what he described as a 'celestial Wimbledon'!

Although Claudio Monteverdi was born in Cremona, his name will always be associated with Venice. Originally composer to the court of Mantua, his Vespers of 1610 brought him to the attention of the Serene Republic, and in 1613 he was appointed conductor of the choir of San Marco – the Doge’s magnificent Byzantine basilica. There, Monteverdi established Venice at the pinnacle of European music; the scale and glory of his music reflects the conditions in the basilica, where he often placed choirs or soloists in opposing galleries to contrast their sound. Monteverdi died in 1643, and is buried in the vast Basilica of the Friari.

I went into the Cathedral earlier in the day to rake some pictures of rehearsals. The musicians are the New London Consort, one of our finest early music groups. It is usually the practice nowadays to perform the Vespers with a small ensemble of instrumentalists, rather than a massed band.

A particular thrill was to see the two theorbos. The theorbo is a form of lute - two metres high -developed in the sixteenth century with a powerful bass range, and as such is often used to accompany soloists.

Above, Andrew Carwood is accompanied by the theorbo in the pulpit. His voice is echoed by that of Nick Keay, singing from the Grand Organ gallery at the back of the Cathedral - thus recreating Lord Norwich's 'celestial Wimbledon'.
It is worth quoting from the programme note:

Tonight's performance does not take place in a concert hall, but in a sacred building - one full of architectural and devotional homages to the Virgin. In this modern concert performance, therefore, it is possible to detect undercurrents not usually present; the singing of the Office of Vespers is part of the Westminster Cathedral Choir's daily life, after all, and the pslam tones around which much of Monteverdi's music are based are still very much in the repertoire. Westminster Cathedral has much architecturally in common with St Mark's, and tonight's performance will use as much of the building as possible, taking its cue from the diverse combination of singers and instruments and the spatial separation implicit in certain movements.

Monteverdi wrote his music as a believer (he took Holy Orders later in life) who sought to express both the grandeur and the intimacy of God’s love. From thundering passages of grouped choirs and instruments, to tender hymns performed by a soloist and a lute, the listener is drawn spiritually and emotionally to the contemplation of the breadth of God’s saving acts. Never have angels sounded more angelic; never has divine love been expressed more tenderly. Monteverdi adorns the Church’s worship of God as surely as the great and glistening churches where his music sounded forth.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Seville's Illustrious Son

I was in Spain, recently, in the city of Seville. Its vast Cathedral is built over the former mosque and still employs the minaret as its bell tower. I wandered the streets early one morning, and came by chance upon this:

Which translates:

On 2 August 1802
was born in this house
Cardinal Wiseman
Archbishop of Westminster
Light of the Catholic Clergy
and glory of his homeland.
The esteemed Municipality
had this plaque erected
to preserve the memory of so illustrious a Sevillian.

Despite the information on the plaque, the future Cardinal's baptism record and the journal of his father gives the date of birth as 3 August. He was baptised the following day in the Church of Santa Cruz by an Irish Capuchin, Fr James Ryan, and given the names of Nicholas Patrick Stephen.

The child's grandfather, James Wiseman, of Waterford in Ireland, had settled in Seville at the end of the eighteenth century where he was in business as a merchant. The Cardinal's father, also James, was the youngest son, and was also a merchant. Nicholas was the son of James' second marriage to Xaviera Starange, whom he had married in 1800 while on a visit to London.

James died in 1804, and Xaviera took her young family to Ireland. However, Nicholas retained memories of the land of his birth, and recalled the sailors coming ashore after the Battle of Trafalgar.

The image below, from Cardinal Wiseman's tomb in the crypt of Westminster Cathedral, shows his ordination on 10 March 1825.

Cardinal Wiseman died on 15 February 1865, and his tomb now stands beneath the high altar of the Cathedral

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Memorial Mass for General Anders

The Polish community was here in force yesterday to honour General Wladyslaw Anders, a war hero and politician. After the invasion of Poland during World War II he led 'Anders Army' in exile, which later became the 2nd Polish Corps, and which distinguished itself at Monte Cassino. Following the War, unwilling to return to Soviet-dominated Poland, he was prominent in the Polish govenment in exile in London. General Anders died in London in 1970, and was buried, in accordance with his wishes, alongside his comrades at the large Polish war cemetery at Monte Cassino.

For this celebration, the current Polish government sent two solders, who stood guard by the General's portrait throughout the Mass.

The celebrant was Archbishop Wesolego, who has responsibility for Polish migrants, assisted by Bishop Ploskiego, Bishop to the armed forces. We were fortunate that our own Fr Slawomir was able to act as interpreter and Master of Ceremonies.

There was a host of Polish scouts, and banners and medals were very much in evidence. It was a glorious celebration, with beautiful singing.

However, as Fr Slawomir pointed out, this was the long-standing Polish community in London, that represents those who came over during or after the war. The new wave of migrants, which has so transformed our society, was not present, as the figure of General Anders is less immediate to them.