Tag Archives: Rome

Leonardo da Vinci: Part 5 – His Final Years


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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The red-chalk drawing in Turin, claimed to be a self-portrait by Leonardo da Vinci (1510-1515). In April 2009, the American art historian, Louis A. Waldman, specializing in the Italian Renaissance made pathetic headlines when he publicly presented documentary evidence revealing that some time before July 1505 Leonardo da Vinci painted a portrait of his beloved uncle, Francesco da Vinci. Waldman argued that this red-chalk drawing — one of the most famous drawings in the history of art due to its frequent misidentification as a self-portrait — is likely to be a preparatory study for the lost painting of Leonardo's uncle.
The red-chalk drawing in Turin, claimed to be a self-portrait by Leonardo da Vinci (1510-1515). In April 2009, the American art historian, Louis A. Waldman, specializing in the Italian Renaissance made pathetic headlines when he publicly presented documentary evidence revealing that some time before July 1505 Leonardo da Vinci painted a portrait of his beloved uncle, Francesco da Vinci. Waldman argued that this red-chalk drawing — one of the most famous drawings in the history of art due to its frequent misidentification as a self-portrait — is likely to be a preparatory study for the lost painting of Leonardo’s uncle.

Due to the political instability in Milan, Leonardo left for Rome accompanied by Melzi and Salai on September 24, 1513.

Giuliano di Lorenzo de’ Medici, was an Italian nobleman, the third son of Lorenzo the Magnificent. One of his elder brothers Giovanni de‘ Medici was now Pope Leo X. Appointed Gonfaloniere of the Holy Church, Giuliano had heard much of Leonardo. Meeting Leonardo for the first time, Giuliano welcomed him with open arms like two friends meeting after years of separation. He gave Leonardo lodgings in Fort Belvedere, with a studio and several rooms for his companions.

An anonymous copy of the lost portrait of Giuliano de' Medici by Raphael.
An anonymous copy of the lost portrait of Giuliano de’ Medici by Raphael.

Giuliano and Leonardo became close friends. They discovered in each other the same interests – love of mathematics, mechanics, and nature, and they shared similar thoughts and feelings. Guiliano’s protection gave security to Leonardo and new impetus to carry on with his interests.

Like his father, Giuliano too was a friend and protector of many artists in Florence and Rome. He immediately commissioned two paintings, a Leda and a portrait of a Florentine woman.

In the Vatican Leonardo enjoyed a period of tranquility with a decent salary and no major obligations. He drew maps, studied ancient Roman monuments, started a project for a large residence for the Medici in Florence. He conducted experiments in human flight. From big models Leonardo went on to create tiny ones. He experimented with gliding flights and the curvature of the wings by modelling miniature birds in thin wax.

In Rome, Leonardo found an old acquaintance, Donato Bramante, the Italian architect, who introduced Renaissance architecture to Milan and the High Renaissance style to Rome. He also found the Pope’s favourite, Raphael, the Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance holding court like a prince.

There was no formal scientific research in the Middle Ages. Unable to suppress the writings of the ancient Greeks, the Roman Catholic Church allowed the teaching of ancient Greek science as long as it did not conflict with the Holy Bible and its own teachings. The scholars had to accept the observations of nature passed down from Aristotle and other ancient Greeks. The Church would not permit free inquiry. It imprisoned, tortured, and executed truth-seekers. Leonardo was a truth-seeker, and this fact would not endear him to the Roman Catholic Church.  In fact, Pope Leo X prohibited Leonardo from performing dissections and autopsies. Thus, ended Leonardo’s study of the human body.

Giuliano de‘ Medici died prematurely on March 17, 1516 (aged 37), and Leonardo felt that he had no friends in Rome to protect him, not even the Pope.

King Francis I of France by Jean Clouet.
King Francis I of France by Jean Clouet.

King Francis I of France, a patron of the arts, had earlier invited Leonardo to Amboise. So, Leonardo left Italy to spend the last three years of his life in France accompanied by Melzi and Salai. King Francis provided him the Château du Clos Lucé, then called Château de Cloux, as a place to stay and work.

The king treated Leonardo as a member of the nobility and not as an employee of the royal house. He arranged an annuity of 700 gold scudi to be paid to the elderly artist, to relieve him of any shadow of worry about money. In exchange the young King asked only friendship. The King often went to Cloux to visit Leonardo or sent a carriage to bring the aged artist to his castle.

In the autumn of 1516, Leonardo was not yet 65, but looked much older like an ancient prophet. From 1517, onwards Leonardo’s health started deteriorating. Even when his right arm was paralyzed,  he still worked with his left hand. He made ​​sketches for urban projects, drainage of rivers and even decorated for the holiday palace. He even conceived the idea of prefabricated houses.

The French greeted Melzi as an “Italian gentleman living with master Leonardo,” but accepted the 36-years-old Salaì, only as a “servant”. A dejected Salaì parted from Leonardo and left France in 1518. In reality, he understood that the young Melzi had taken his place in the heart of the Maestro.

The Death of Leonardo da Vinci by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 1818.
The Death of Leonardo da Vinci by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 1818.

Melzi remained in France with his master until Leonardo’s death at the Château du Clos Lucé on May 2, 1519.  According to a legend, King Francis I was at his side when he died, cradling Leonardo’s head in his arms

Upon Leonardo’s death, Melzi inherited the artistic and scientific works, manuscripts, and collections of Leonardo. Melzi then wrote a letter to inform Leonardo’s brothers. In this letter he described Leonardo’s love for him. He described his master’s feeling towards him as “sviscerato e ardentissimo amore” meaning “passionate and ardent love”.

Returning to Italy, Melzi played the role of a guardian of Leonardo’s notebooks. He prepared Leonardo’s writings for publication in the manner directed by his erstwhile master.

Melzi married, and fathered a son, Orazio. When Orazio died on his estate in Vaprio d’Adda, his heirs sold the collection of Leonardo’s works.

It is commonly believed that Leonardo bequeathed to Salaì several paintings including the Mona Lisa. Salaì owned Mona Lisa until his death in 1525. In his will the Mona Lisa was assessed at 505 lire, an exceptionally high valuation for a small panel portrait at that time. Through his estate, many works, including the Mona Lisa, passed into the possession of Francis I of France.

Salaì returned to Milan to work on Leonardo’s vineyard, where his father worked before, and which his erstwhile master had passed on to him through his will.

On June 14, 1523, at the age of 43, Salaì married Bianca Coldiroli d’Annono.

Salaì died in 1524 as a result of a wound received from a crossbow in a duel. He was buried in Milan on March 10, 1524.

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Next → Leonardo da Vinci: Part 6 – Did He Believe in God?

← Previous – Leonardo da Vinci: Part 4 – His Two Favourite Pupils 

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February 14 is Saint Valentine’s Day!


Myself

By T. V. Antony Raj

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Valentine's Day gifts

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The feast of Saint Valentine falls on February 14 each year.

Most people in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, and in many countries around the world, celebrate this centuries-old holiday popularly known as Valentine’s Day. In most countries, this remains a working day.

For centuries, people have cherished the month of February as a month for romance that has vestiges of both pagan Roman and Christian traditions.

It was a custom among the pagan Roman youths and maidens to select partners, on February 14. Alban Butler, author of Lives of the Saints has presented an aspect of the Roman Lupercalia as a festival of a “Juno Februata,” under the heading of February 14:

To abolish the heathens’ lewd, superstitious custom of boys drawing the names of girls in honour of their goddess, Februata Juno, on the 15th of the month, several zealous pastors substituted the names of saints in billets given on this day.”

On February 14, lovers exchange sweets, candy, chocolates, flowers and other gifts in the name of a mysterious Christian saint named Valentine. Why mysterious?  No one knows for sure who the real patron saint of the day is! The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different martyred saints named Valentinus.

Whoever he was, Saint Valentine really existed. Archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to Saint Valentine. The Catholic Church, however, recognizes at least three different martyred saints named Valentinus.

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Statue of St Valentine, Whitefriar Street Church, Dublin. (Source: shanepedia.wordpress.com)
Statue of St Valentine, Whitefriar Street Church, Dublin. (Source: shanepedia.wordpress.com)

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According to the most popular legend, Valentinus was a holy priest in Rome. With St. Marius and his family, Valentinus helped the martyrs during the persecutions of early Christians. Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage for young soldiers as he reckoned that single men made better soldiers than those married and having a family.

The holy priest Valentinus thought the emperor’s decree was not just and decided to defy it. He performed marriages for young lovers in secret. Eventually, the Emperor became aware of the marriages performed by the priest, and his ministry among Christians and ordered the arrest of Valentinus. The prefect of Rome, on finding Valentinus not ready to renounce his faith had him beaten with clubs, and then beheaded him on February 14, about the year 269.

Like all other saints, St. Valentine too is said to have performed miracles. The legends say that during his imprisonment Valentinus healed the daughter of his Roman jailer named Asterius and converted 46 members of his family to Christianity. The legends further say that Valentinus fell in love with the girl who visited him during his confinement, and before his execution wrote her a farewell letter and signed it: “From your Valentine.”

Another story states that Valentinus was condemned to death for attempting to help beaten and tortured Christians escape from Roman prisons.

Pope Julius I, built a church near Ponte Mole to honour the martyr. A large part of the saint’s relics is now in the church of St. Praxedes.

In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius marked February 14 to observe the martyrdom of St. Valentine said to have died in 269 AD. So, the Catholics are now celebrating February 14 as the feast day of St. Valentine – patron of love, young people, and happy marriages.

These sombre legends portray Valentinus as a sympathetic, heroic, and a romantic person. In the Middle Ages, as a result of the reputation created as a legendary hero. Valentinus became one of the most popular saints in England and France.

Now, the word “Valentine”, denotes a card or letter expressing one’s love and affection for a person of the opposite sex. Sending a ‘Valentine‘ may also involve flowers, candy, and other gifts.

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Prayer to Saint Valentine

Dear Lord, who art high in the Heavens,
Giver of Love and Passion,
And He who strings the heart’s cords,
Lead the Lovers this day, February ten plus four.
The day during the month of two,
When the date is the perfect number of God
Greater two souls and two hearts.
Some Loves are fleeting,
But that which is built on you will never fail.
So guide the Lovers to know what is to be.
Your truths the Lovers’ mouths should speak,
For Your truth is that which is honest to the heart.
Only this, then, should pass over the red lips of the Lovers.
Your art, the Lovers simply a medium.
It is only with True Hearts that You can create a Masterpiece,
So let the Lovers remember that their Soul’s Desire
Is the one for which You light their Fire.
And let it be You who creates the Art of the Lovers;
The art of two into one.

Amen.

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The Saint and the Simpleton (Dennis Aubrey)


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Posted by Dennis Aubrey on May 29, 2013

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There are so many wonderful stories and legends associated with the churches we photograph in France, but none is more pleasing than that of Saint Menulphe and his friend, the Simpleton of Mailly-sur-Rose, a town in the Allier.

Statue of Saint Menoux, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: Dennis Aubrey)
Statue of Saint Menoux, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: Dennis Aubrey)

Menulphe was the son of an Irish king and very devout. He traveled to England, Brittany and France and was recognized for his sanctity. When the Pope heard of this and asked him to come to Rome, Menulphe walked the route in poverty, a mendicant with no possessions. On his return, he stopped in Mailly-sur-Rose, exhausted with his journey. During that time, Menulphe took pity on an innocent named Blaise who was the scapegoat for local children. One day he intervened as the young urchins threw stones at Blaise. He chided the boys and took the young man under his protection. Blaise was described as a simpleton, one who could barely speak, and never left Menulphe’s side. He couldn’t pronounce his protector’s name and “Menulfe” became “Menoux”.

When Menoux died, Blaise thought that the holy man was asleep. He spent his days and nights at the grave, conversing with his friend. One day visitors to the cemetery saw that the coffin had been dug up and that there was a hole in the side. They discovered Blaise laying on his stomach, with his head in the hole, talking to someone. The local people were scandalized but the curé said, “Poor Blaise, he is a better and more faithful friend than we are. Perhaps he is the least crazy of all.”

The Curé placed Menoux’s remains in a sandstone sarcophagus and had an opening cut into one side. Blaise spent the rest of his life conversing with his friend, and miraculously, the troubles of his mind faded to the point that he was able to serve mass. At the time of his death, Blaise had the reputation of being a simple, faithful man, as sensible as anyone.

La Débredinoire, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: PJ McKey)
La Débredinoire, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: PJ McKey)

Thereafter, in memory of the miraculous healing of Blaise, parents led the bredins, the simple-minded, before the tomb of Menoux and placed their heads carefully into the sarcophagus – the débredinoire – hoping for the same healing that Blaise experienced. Eventually the site received such a number of pilgrims that the Benedictines built an abbey on the site under the direction of the Abbess Adalgasie and placed the sarcophagus with Menoux’s relics in the choir. They also changed the name of the village from Mailly-sur-Rose to Saint Menoux. The fairs held by the abbesses attracted vendors and buyers which led to the expansion of the village.

The church gives an idea of the importance of this abbey and the monastics who resided there. It was built in the classic Cluny style in the early part of the twelfth century. The nave has three tall, narrow bays with ogive arches covered with groin vaults.

Nave facing west, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: Dennis Aubrey)
Nave facing west, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: Dennis Aubrey)

The side aisles are, as usual, visually stunning. We see the long, uninterrupted flow to the ambulatory in the distance.

South side aisle, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: PJ McKey)
South side aisle, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: PJ McKey)

The north side aisle, however, has a unique feature. Just to the west of the transept arch is a rather clumsily executed structure that contains a stairway leading to a defensive tower on the exterior. Poking up through the roof, that tower looks almost like a minaret.

North side aisle, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: PJ McKey)
North side aisle, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: PJ McKey)

The raised apse is perhaps the finest element of the church. The choir has two elegant high bays topped with clerestory windows while the chancel features a seven bay hemicycle with an arcade of windows leading to the oven vault.

Apse, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: Dennis Aubrey)
Apse, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: Dennis Aubrey)

The débredinoire of Saint Menoux is found centered behind the altar in the chancel. These reliquaries have been placed between the pillars of the central hemicycle arch and the tomb can be seen just behind.

Reliquaries, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: PJ McKey)
Reliquaries, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: PJ McKey)

The oldest part of the church, built in the eleventh century, is the narthex on the west end of the church. This antechamber has beautiful arcades supporting a short barrel vault. Some of the pillars are topped with capitals, but it is clear that the restoration was not complete. Fragments of some of the original statuary are rather casually displayed in the arcades.

Narthex, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: Dennis Aubrey)
Narthex, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: Dennis Aubrey)

Today, the abbey is gone – only the church remains after the destruction of the French Revolution. The town of Saint Menoux is quiet and peaceful for its 1,009 residents. The church is not well tended; there are rat droppings and cobwebs throughout. Dust cakes the benches and the chairs, but pilgrims still frequent the Église Saint Menoux in order to use the débredinoire for relief from feeble-mindedness or headaches.

Lest we think that credulous in the Middle Ages were alone in these workings, look at this passage in “The Invisible Architecture” by George Prat (2000).

“For more than forty years I made fun of the débredinoire which I considered an example of public credulity … My surprise was great to see that the débredinoire works and is not a gimmick. Thedébredinoire is placed at the geometric center of the apse …. and is located at the junction point of thetelluric current and four streams of water. … When one realizes that this is a machine from another age and can be activated by an ‘acupuncture point’ located nearby, we are amazed at the electrical energy released … The débredinoire is actually an instrument of care-giving; when used correctly, the equivalent a high intensity shock is given to the user. This is certainly very effective in the case of some nervous breakdowns.” People will always find a reason to believe if the need is great enough.

Demon Capital, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: Dennis Aubrey)
Demon Capital, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: Dennis Aubrey)

Our daughter Sarah suffers from debilitating migraines and PJ placed her own head in the sarcophagus in hopes of helping. I guess it doesn’t hurt to try! But you must be careful not to touch the tomb while inserting your head. You run the risk of absorbing the feeble-mindedness and headaches of all who preceded you!

If you are interested in seeing some other churches in this region, follow this link.

Location: 46.585211° 3.156842°

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Re-posted from VIA LUCIS

KEZZW5R3W3YN

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My One Mass with Pope Benedict – It Brought Me into the Catholic Church!


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Dr. Taylor Marshall

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By Dr. Taylor Marshall

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A photo from the Mass attended by Dr. Taylor Marshall with Pope Benedict
A photo from the Mass I attend with Pope Benedict

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In 2006, when I was still an Episcopalian priest, Joy and I visited Rome. Intellectually we were coming to recognize that the Catholic Church was the true Church, but we needed the emotional push to bring the decision to fulfillment.

In Rome, we were able to take the Scavi tour underneath Saint Peter’s Basilica. At the end of the tour, we saw the bones of Saint Peter. I prayed earnestly that I would soon enter into full communion with Saint Peter and his successor on earth, Pope Benedict XVI.

After the tour, the Belgian priest, who had been our tour guide, stayed behind and struck up a conversation with us. We had been so excited and impressed by the tour. When I told him that we were not Catholics, but that I was an Episcopalian priest, his face lit up. He was writing his dissertation in Rome on some ecumenical matter.

Then he surprised us with a question: “Would you like to attend Holy Mass with the Pope this evening?” The answer to that question was obvious. The Belgian priest was pleased to make arrangements. We walked from the Scavi entrance on the south side of Saint Peter’s, across Saint Peter’s Square, and then up a staircase to the north. At the top were two Swiss Guards with pikes. The Belgian priest told us to wait there. He mumbled some Italian to the guards and disappeared.

A few minutes later he returned with two orange tickets, which were marked with that evening’s date and were issued by the Palazzo Apostolico Vaticano. The Belgian priest told us to return to Saint Peter’s an hour before the Mass with those tickets. We had a nice chat, and the priest went about his business. To my shame, I don’t know his name. (Father, if you’re out there, let me know!)

That evening, my wife and I attended the Holy Mass of the Purification with Pope Benedict. At this particular Holy Mass the Holy Father recognized the various religious orders of the world. We were in line with hundreds of nuns, friars, and monks. We were clearly out of place—a married Episcopalian priest in a cassock with a pregnant wife. My dear! I hope we did not scandalize all those nuns.

The Holy Mass was glorious. It began in total darkness.Pope Benedict XVI entered the back doors with only a candle. From this candle was lit all the candles of the nuns, monks, and friars. For the whole Mass, we were near the bronze statue of Saint Peter. I could see the Holy Father clearly. I knew that His Holiness was the true successor of the Fisherman, and recalling that just that morning I had been deep underneath that altar at the bones of Saint Peter, the connection between the ministry of Saint Peter the First Pope and that of Benedict XVI the present Pope was made manifest right before my eyes.

When it came time for Holy Communion, I knew that I could not go forward to receive. Although the Basilica was now lit with glorious light and joy, my soul remained in the darkness.

I was not a Catholic. I was not in communion with the Holy Father. I was in schism. It was a sickening feeling. I was out of communion with the Vicar of Christ, and I knew in that moment that my relationship with Christ was impaired. I also knew what I had to do. I had to resign the Episcopalian priesthood and become a Catholic.

That Mass was one of the most important events in my life. When we got back from Rome, the process began. When I think of Pope Benedict, I’ll always recall that Holy Mass on February 2, 2006 – a Holy Mass that changed my life forever. Viva Papa!

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The post above is an excerpt from my new book: The Eternal City: Rome & the Origins of Catholicism. Please take a quick look at the new book by clicking here.

Question: What was your favorite moment during the reign of Pope Benedict XVI? Please leave a comment below.

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Re-posted from canterbury tales
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The Legend of Saint Valentinus the Patron Saint of Valentine’s Day


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Myself .

 By T. V. Antony Raj

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Saint Valentinus

On February 14, the Valentine’s Day lovers exchange sweets, candy, chocolates, flowers and other gifts all in the name of St. Valentine, a mysterious saint.

Most people in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, and a few in India, Sri Lanka, Philippines and many countries around the world celebrate the day. However, this centuries-old holiday remains a working day in most of the countries.

February, cherished for centuries as a month for romance contains vestiges of both Christian and pagan Roman traditions. Moreover, no one knows for sure who the real patron saint of the day is. Why? Because the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different martyred saints named Valentinus.

According to the most popular legend, Valentinus was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage for young soldiers as he reckoned that single men made better soldiers than those married and having wives and children.

Valentinus thought the decree was not just, and he decided to defy the Emperor. He performed marriages for young lovers in secret. Eventually, the Emperor became aware of the marriages performed by the priest, and his ministry among Christians and ordered that Valentinus be put to death.

The legends say that during his imprisonment Valentinus healed the daughter of his jailer named Asterius and converted 46 members of his family to Christianity. He then fell in love with the young girl who visited him during his confinement, and before his execution wrote her a farewell letter and signed it: “From your Valentine.”

Other stories state that Valentinus was condemned to death for attempting to help beaten and tortured Christians escape from Roman prisons.

These murky legends portray Valentinus as a sympathetic, heroic and a romantic person. In the Middle Ages, due to the reputation created as a legendary hero, Valentinus became one of the most popular saints in England and France.

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