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Library Girolamini

Published May 10, 2014 by Tony

 

Thieves of books: a scandal in Naples

Library Girolamini

 

The “Library Girolamini” was one of the most valuable Italian libraries of seventeenth-century.
Among relic of saints, tombs and masterpieces of the seventeenth century, it was a state cultural institution in Naples, with very important collection of books, as well as an important operatic music archive. Having been opened to the public in 1586 it is the oldest library in Naples and the second in Italy after “Malatesta” library in Cesena.
From an architectural point of view, the library is part of the church complex Girolamini that with its 68 x 28 meters is one of the biggest religious buildings in Naples. Because of its decoration in gold, marble and mother of pearl, it earned the title of “Domus aurea“;  its interior has a concentration of high quality works by Neapolitan artists but also from Tuscany, Emilia Romagna and Rome. Attached there is the homonym convent, home of the Congregation of the Oratory of St. Filippo Neri, whose members, known as “oratoriani” o “filippini”, dedicated to the sanctification of souls through education, spiritual direction, preaching and liturgical apostolate, especially among young people, as it was in the tradition of Filippo Neri.

The library of the Girolamini treasured more than 160 000 titles, mostly antique, including incunabula and sixteenth, (ie printed documents with the technology of movable type in vogue in the mid-fifteenth century till the year 1500), numerous manuscripts, with many compositions and musical works from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. Holdings also included the private collection of Giuseppe Valletta, with rare editions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with the classics of Greek and Latin literature, history and philosophy.
Due to the earthquake of 1980, the monastery and library’s premises were used as temporary shelter for the displaced, and has since started an era of abandonment that has lasted until last year. The institution has been closed to the public for decades, and was in a state of decay. The precariousness of the housing, according to an estimate of its conservative father Sandro Marsano, would have led over the years to the disappearance of hundreds of books and works of art.

In 2011, Marino Massimo De Caro became director of the Library,  whose appointment by the Minister for Cultural Heritage Lorenzo Ornaghi, has raised some concerns. After a series of articles of complaint signed by the art historian Tommaso Montanari of Federico II University, the professor Francesco Caglioti became the organizer of a petition together other exponents of the culture, in order to solicit the De Caro impeachment.
As a result of these events, on April 19, 2012 the entire library complex was impounded by the police and the director of De Caro investigated. The investigation leads to the discovery, in the province of Verona, of a deposit containing 240 volumes stolen from the library. Investigations acquire evidence that many other books had already gone abroad for being sold, including the names of some buyers, located in England, Japan and USA. For the latter, procedures for recovery already have been initiated. The investigation leads to the arrest of De Caro and the curator Sandro Marsano, and the start of the investigations against the Senator Marcello Dell’Utri. On 15 March 2013, Massimo De Caro has been convicted after an abbreviated trial, with the prison sentence of seven years and perpetual interdiction from public office.

171 thousand volumes of which one hundred thousand uncatalogued, while four thousand had disappeared. Some sold at an auction in Monaco of Bavaria, other priceless sold between 5000 and 50,000 Euros: a real looting . The senator Dell’Utri, an expert bibliophile, with the help of director De Caro, and with the excuse of wanting to make the library a museum admired throughout the world, they empties and upset it. With their authority they forced the library staff to step aside, and at night plunder the library. The stolen books end up with various tricks in the hands of various collectors, and to the director De Caro is attributed the most serious theft, the precious book: the “Sidereus Nuncius”  of 1619 by Galileo Galilei.

From the initial investigation turns out that De Caro did not even have the qualifications to be appointed director of a library, and that he had dealings with Pastor Daniel Guido, involved in the investigation of thefts to the libraries of Madrid and Zaragoza. Yet, even though it was a state institution, he became the director with the support of Sandro Marsano and validation of the Ministry of Culture, where meantime the senator Dell’Utri was performing his task under Berlusconi government. Dell’Ultri, collaborator of Berlusconi, has been a Deputy of “Forza Italia” party from 1996 to 2001, when he was elected Senator of the Republic and held, among other tasks, the Chairman of the Commission for the Senate Library. In 2008 he was re-nominated to the Senate, and elected in the PDL party, despite in the meantime he had been convicted for collusion with Mafia. On 25 March 2013, the Third Chamber of the Court of Appeal in Palermo sentenced Dell’Ultri in the second degree of judgment and with a penalty of 7 years imprisonment for collusion with the Mafia. The judgment considered Marcello Dell’Utri an intermediary between mafia and Silvio Berlusconi. As a fugitive shortly before the measure of arrest, he has been tracked down and arrested April 12, 2014 in Beirut by Lebanese police, where he is currently being held pending extradition to Italy.
For a long time, thanks to new manager Umberto Bile, the library is again open to the public and after rummaging around in rooms closed for decades, he has found relics of saints, forgotten tombs, hand-embroidered copes of the eighteenth century, some paintings and even the column used by Caravaggio to paint the ” Flagellation of Christ “.  A funny thing in having found the remains of a man who was 2 meters and thirty centimeters tall in a crypt which is just a few steps from a nearby street called “Giant’s alley.”  Everything will be photographed , cataloged and restored if possible.

Girolamini Church

Girolamini cloister

A NEWS

Published April 22, 2013 by Tony

SEX IN THE CHURCH

I have read that there are polls determining who has sex in the strangest place and the couple who was arrested a few days ago, in the province of Livorno, could clinch the top spot in the standings.
In the afternoon of Tuesday, some believers who were in the cathedral of Cecina heard (unambiguous) moans coming from a confessional and horrified called the police.
Once at the church and opened the confessional, the agents found themselves in front of a half-naked couple engaged in a sexual intercourse. Although the two tried to escape, were arrested and charged with resisting at public officers and obscene acts in public.
Umm, if the case, they will participate in an upcoming poll when they will come out of jail.

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Cappella Sansevero

Published March 24, 2013 by Tony

SANSEVERO CHAPEL
Raimondo of Sangro

San Severo

Who has had the opportunity to read some articles in which I speak of Naples, about the long-standing problems facing the city, will be became aware of my love-hate feeling towards it. Different matter, however, is to consider this city under a cultural and artistic point of view. As many assert, and I am convinced, it is a city – if not the only – with the highest concentration of natural beauty and works of high historical and artistic interest, a truly huge cultural heritage. Among these is included the “Chapel of San Severo” or “Santa Maria della Pietà” in the historic center of the city.
Its creator, Raimondo di Sangro VII, Prince of Sansevero was a scholar, a soldier, an inventor, anatomist and esoteric Freemason born in Foggia in 1710 and died in Naples in 1771, around which many legends were born.   The members of his family were grandees of Spain, owners of countless feuds in Apulia (as Sansevero Torremaggiore, Castelnuovo, Casalvecchio), and, by paternal line, claimed to be directly descended from Charlemagne.
Motherless since childhood, he was assigned to the paternal grandparents who at 10 years sent him to study at the Jesuit School of Rome, where he remained until 20 years.  His father was gone to Vienna, to escape incarceration because accused of having killed a girl’s father in Sansevero, with whom he had fallen in love, and later retired to a monastery in Rome where he took his vows. Naples was the permanent residence of Raimondo’s family where he came back as soon completed his studies. In the same year, by proxy, since she lived in the Andes, he married the fourteen Carlotta Gaetani d’Aragona, who met only six years after the wedding. During his life, the prince of Sansevero took care of many things of a military nature, arts and culture, but also of inventions and alchemy. Adjacent to the family  mansion, separated by an alley, is still the chapel of his family, and according to legend, it was built by the ancestors of the prince in 1593 on an ancient temple of Isis, while in 1744, 100 years later, Raymond resumed the restoration works. Construction’s works that drained the family’s coffers and lasted until the death of the prince, but that made the small church with his Masonic influences and allegories, a masterpiece of Baroque Neapolitan, attended by famous artists.

Cristo velato

The chapel is known mainly for three idiosyncratic statues that adorn it, two of which “Veiled Modesty” and “Veiled Christ“, seem to be covered by a transparent veil of marble – that is all one with the sculpture –  and to date critics has not yet figured out the technique used. Same goes for the third statue entitled “Disillusion” on which there is a network created by marble. One of the hypotheses, by modern admirers of the Prince, is that it is the result of a process invented by the Prince to “marbleize” the fabric. This procedure, however, has not yet been put to the test, and still do not seem to be a convincing explanation. One possible interpretation of these works’ allegorical message, focuses on the Enlightenment, which is that through the reason man reaches the disappointment and gets rid of false truths. In the of the chapel’s “Underground Cave” we find two special “mummies” defined  “anatomical machines” by the prince, two human skeletons (a black woman and one man) with their entire circulatory system (including capillaries) perfectly visible.
It is not known how such structures have been obtained and legend has it that the Prince would obtain the “metallization” or “plastination” of the blood circuit “injecting” a compound of his invention and, therefore, the two subjects had to be alive at the time of the experiment (note that the syringe did not yet exist at the time). However, whether they are machines or real bodies is not certain, since the owners of the Chapel have always refused to let perform any type of investigation.

Disillusion

It was easy for the common people to give birth to magical stories on the erudite and mysterious Prince of Sansevero, who, however, did nothing to discredit the rumors rather, cloaked in the secrecy of his life, for days he remained closed in in his alchemical laboratory, where studied and realized his experiments and his inventions. It should be added that, in the basement of the palace, a printing press had been placed and its noise, very original for the time, could well fuel further rumors. From general accusations of alchemy, witchcraft and atheism, other more serious charges took root, without any basis as far as we know, such as kidnapping poor and homeless for his ignoble experiments. For this and more, he was nicknamed the “black noble”.
The Cappella Sansevero also known as the Capella Sansevero de’ Sangri received its alternative name of Pietatella (from the word pity) from a painting of the Virgin Mary (La Pietà), spotted there by an unjustly arrested prisoner, as reported in the book “Napoli Sacra” by Cesare d’Engenio Caracciolo in 1623. When the chapel was constructed it was originally dedicated to Santa Maria della Pietà, after the painting.
With its thirty works of art and decoration in late-Baroque, the chapel has always been a destination for tourists and visitors.

Metal Veins

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LO STRUSCIO

Published March 11, 2013 by Tony

‘Paschal struscio’
A sort of stroll

sepulcher

All over the world, the Holy Week for Catholics is the period before Easter, from Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday.
In Italy, the Holy Week’s representations are numerous and often very charming, popular in almost every region, in which strictly religious elements mix with folk components.
In Naples, one of these is the “lo struscio“.
From Good Friday the Sacrifice of the Mass is no longer officiated, and therefore the Eucharist is not consecrated. In addition, the repose of the  Eucharist is a way to invite the faithful to worship, in the night between Thursday and Friday (that we called Holy Sepulchers time), the establishment of a so big mystery and meditating on the sufferings of the Passion of Christ.
It was customary to decorate every altar with buds. In the days of Lent (which lasts forty-four days, starting from Ash Wednesday), many people placed in small flowerpots or bowls, containing wet soil or cotton wool, seeds of wheat or pulses, and then placing them in the dark. After a few weeks, they germinated in the form of greenish-yellow long and thick filaments, and on Holy Thursday each person brought the vase in church. (The seed, place in the ground -sepulcher- is transformed into a new plant that will look something different in appearance from the seed, but it is essentially the same thing, and maturing generates new seeds allowing the renewal of the life cycle).


In the past, during ‘Holy Sepulchers days’ many believers went in mass in the different parishes, generally seven (like the days of the week) to pray and visit the churches (the number of visited churches had to be odd and never less than three or more than seven, otherwise it was ominous).
Keep in mind that in Naples there are a lot of churches, often not very far from each other. In the eighteenth century in Naples there were a hundred convents and monasteries and about 500 churches, so that Naples earned the nickname of “the city with 500 domes”. Naples still has a large number of churches and convents, a value that is around thousand units, which places it among the cities with the highest number of worship’s place in the world. If we consider only the historical churches, the number is very high, in fact, they even surpass the 200 units in the old town and 450 in the entire city center.

“Ce qui nous to the paru plus extraordinaire à Naples, c’est le nombre et de ses the magnificence églises; puis je vous sans exagérer say this hides surpasse the immagination”  – Maximilien Misson –

Although in many parts of Italy and in general “lo struscio” (rub) is strusciodefined the evening Sunday stroll in provincial towns, once in Naples it referred to the visit of the Sepulchers made during Holy Week, (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) in the churches. The name comes from the Neapolitan verb “strusci-are” (to rub) and stems from the fact that, in the past, so much was the persons who moved into the street for this occasion, that crowding led people to touch and “strusciate” (rubbing) each other, or it can also refer to the sound of their shoes “rubbing” on the pavement.
Over time, this custom has lost its religious significance and although many people still leave their homes for a walk on Friday or Saturday evening, the ‘Paschal struscio’ has become an opportunity to go shopping, to show off new clothes or meet friends and people.
Even today, for young people it is a good opportunity to get “panni nuovi” (new clothes) from parents. This custom originated in the postwar years, when people bought some new clothing only on special occasions such as Christmas and Easter.

Easter in Naples

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THE PAPAL CONCLAVE

Published March 9, 2013 by Tony


ELECTIONS OF THE NEW POPE

conclave

After the political elections of a week ago, and after the resignation given by Ratzinger on 28 February, now it’s time for the nomination of the new Pope
Thus, after the Pope traveled by helicopter to reach Castel Sant’Angelo, the first encounters between the various cardinals began.
Before the Pope went away, the famous “Fisherman’s Ring“, the papal ring of Pope Benedict XVI that he wore, has been canceled. It is no longer expected its destruction, as tradition demanded until the death of John Paul II, the Apostolic Constitution drafted by John Paul II specifies that the ring can only be Papal Fisherman's Ringstreaked. The person in charge of destroying the “Anulus Piscatoris” is the cardinal Camerlengo, who runs one of the most symbolic ceremonies of the Church with a silver hammer and a chisel, putting now a simply mark and the ring is then preserved in the Vatican archives.
The dismissed Pope can only bring away his personal effects, all the things closely related to his office must remain in the Vatican, including clothes as the camauro (cap of red velvet and ermine), the mozzetta (the skirt), the baleen (the liturgical vestment), any kind of miter and even the slippers.
In the meantime, however, the Vatican is not without government. In fact, according to the canon law’s norms, some figures can manage the ordinary administration of the Church of Rome. In the absence of the Pope only the secretary of state and heaads of department lose their tasks, while all the others remain in office. They have the task of guiding the transition and to monitor the election of his successor.
The Camerlengo is the most important figure after the Pope, because has the task of chairing the seat vacant until the new appointment. Currently he is the cardinal of bishops’ order who plays this role. His functions are varied, from verifies that the pope is actually died,  to the removal of the Fisherman’s Ring, as well as the management of  the Church’s daily affairs.
The Dean of the College of Cardinals is the president of the College of Cardinals who is responsible for convening the Conclave.
The Protodeacon is the title given to the cardinal deacon appointed for the longestblack smoke time. He is responsible for announcing the new Pope
The Cardinal Archpriest of St. Peter is, finally, one of the four cardinals who remains in office after the death or resignation of the Pope.
The Conclave has already taken the first steps through the general congregations of the college, where cardinals dialogue and exchange viewpoints, and this eighth congregation decided that the Conclave for the election of the new Pope will begin Tuesday, March 12, 2013.
Everything is held in the strictest confidence. While assembled in conclave, a Latin word for “locked by key”, nobody knows what they say. We only know the rules. In order to vote, a cardinal must have less than 80 years.
As always, the Conclave will be held in the Sistine Chapel closed for the occasion, and in the afternoon of Tuesday, 12  the cardinals will go in, and probably the first vote and the resulting smoke by the chimney visible from St. Peter’s Square.
white smokeThe first day of the conclave, the cardinals vote only once. In the case of black smoke (produced burning voting cards, notes and documents of the vote by adding a special substance that makes it black), in the following days they vote twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon. 77 votes are needed to ascend to the throne of Peter, because they now are 115 cardinals to vote. A cardinal is elected Pope when he gets two-thirds of the votes. After the 34th polling, the ballot takes place between the two cardinals who got more preferences so far.
When a cardinal gets a qualified majority, the Cardinal Dean – presently the Archbishop Angelo Sodano – asks the newly elected whether he accepts and what is the name he intends take. After that, the vote cards are burnt in the stove that will produce white smoke (once wet straw was used, now a particular chemical). A cardinal may also be excommunicated unless he complies with the rules of the conclave.
To avoid any external influence, the cardinals are hosted in the close hospice of Santa Marta where they can not have any contact with the outside. There is no radio, TV or phone line.

nuntiovobis

The eyes of Catholics will be focused on the fireplace. When the smoke is white, the cardinal proto-deacon will look down from the balcony of St. Peter and officially will announce to the world:

“Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum! Habemus Papam!

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