On Roman Transennae (Latticework) and Its Potential For Our Time

On Roman Transennae (Latticework) and Its Potential For Our Time One of the more endearing features of classical architecture that has regrettably all too seldom survived is an architectural element which is known by various names. Sometimes it is referred to as simply as "transenna," other times "lattice" or latticew…

The Papal Falda

The Papal Falda The papal falda ( fibria ) was a papal vestment that formed a long skirt with a train that extended beneath the hem of the alb.  There was a longer and even a shorter falda corta ( fimbria minori ) version (worn with the rochet for the creation of cardinals).  Popes wore this f…

Minor Roman Churches: Santa Barbara dei Librai

Minor Roman Churches: Santa Barbara dei Librai Rome is a city known for its momentous churches, but it is also a city of chapels and smaller churches and one of the quainter ones is the church of Santa Barbara dei Librai located near Campo de' Fiori. History buffs may find it of interest that the church sits adjacen…

The Spanish Cut Chasuble

The Spanish Cut Chasuble After living many years in Rome and being accustomed to seeing differing versions of the Roman style chasuble, it is always interesting for me to see the slim Spanish versions.  This example is from the baroque city of Zarazoga in northeast Spain, probably from around the 1…

Lampada Over the Centuries - Some Examples

Lampada Over the Centuries - Some Examples One of the elements found within churches that are at one at the same time both readily noticed and at the same time readily ignored are "lampada" -- or, to sound slightly less exotic, lamps.  That might sound like a contradiction of course; how can something be b…

The St. Louis Cathedral: Monumental Display of Mosaics (Archdiocese of St. Louis, Missouri)

The St. Louis Cathedral: Monumental Display of Mosaics (Archdiocese of St. Louis, Missouri) In 1992 my mother brought me to see the Cathedral Basilica of St Louis , dedicated to the victorious Christ and St. Louis IX, King of France, patron saint of the city.  It was an unforgettable experience.  Since that visit this mighty fortress has captured my imagination and…

Envisioning Old St. Peter's: The Interior from the Time of Constantine through the Renaissance

Envisioning Old St. Peter's: The Interior from the Time of Constantine through the Renaissance In a previous article we considered what the exterior of Old St. Peter's was like and today we will turn our attention to the interior of the same.  In many regards, to envision the interior of the old Constantinian basilica, just as with the exterior, we should first b…

Spanish Liturgical Tradition of the "Scruple" Spoon

Spanish Liturgical Tradition of the "Scruple" Spoon I took these photos in a sacristy in Madrid, Spain staffed by the Institute of Christ the King.  The spoon (buscar) caught my eye, an old Spanish custom that was used to place the drop of water in the chalice during the Offertory.  In English the spoon is called a "scr…

Minor Roman Basilicas: San Silvestro in Capite

Minor Roman Basilicas: San Silvestro in Capite For pilgrims of Rome, the main churches one sets out to see are usually fairly obvious, with St. Peter's reigning topmost of course, followed by the other major basilicas like St. Paul's, St. Mary Major and the Lateran archbasilica. Even amongst the minor basilicas,…

Gold Mitre (Mitra Auphrygiata) of Pope St. Pius V

Gold Mitre (Mitra Auphrygiata) of Pope St. Pius V A few years ago I was privileged to visit the truly impressive Vatican Splendors exhibit in California.  Looking back at the images, I thought it opportune to share these photos of the gold cloth miter of Pius V that dates from the year 1566.  The orphreyed miter (in Latin,…

Minor Roman Churches: San Cesareo de Appia

Minor Roman Churches: San Cesareo de Appia The Roman church San Cesareo de Appia (also known as San Cesario in Palatio) is -- as you might have guessed already -- located on the ancient Appian Way (Via Appia) on the site of what was around the second or third century, originally a Roman bath.  The patron saint of th…

Ordination and First Mass of Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong

Ordination and First Mass of Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong has shared a few precious photos of his Ordination and First Mass on social media.  Readers will recognize the Servant of God Fr. Carlo Braga, SDB in the images (known as "the Little Don Bosco of China").  Cardinal Zen was born in …

The Empress Helena and the Finding of the True Cross

The Empress Helena and the Finding of the True Cross September 14th marks the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and with that it seemed like a good day to give some consideration to St. Helena, Empress and mother of Constantine, as well as to the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome.  The former because it i…

The Roman Style Cotta Griccia

The Roman Style Cotta Griccia A handful of readers have reached out to ask if we can provide crisp images of the wonderful cotta griccia alla Romana .  Following are several photos I took in Rome that help reveal the different patterns evidenced on the same cotta.  It is a fascinating sight to behold.  I …

Lost Roman Customs: The Illuminated Cross in St. Peter's on Holy Thursday and Good Friday

Lost Roman Customs: The Illuminated Cross in St. Peter's on Holy Thursday and Good Friday One of the lost customs of Holy Week in the Vatican was the custom of illuminating a grand cross within St. Peter's Basilica.  This particular custom was captured in an etching which was done by Giovanni Battista Piranesi in the 18th century.  As you will see in this det…

Liturgical Notes on the Traditional Requirement for Green Sanctuary Carpeting on Solemn Occasions

Liturgical Notes on the Traditional Requirement for Green Sanctuary Carpeting on Solemn Occasions Until the latter half of the twentieth century, Rome was generally known for its conservatism -- which is to say, its preservation of its own rich tradition and history. In many instances, these customs and traditions came to be lost in many places, but were held onto in Ro…

Book Review: Ministers of Christ - Recovering the Roles of Clergy and Laity in an Age of Confusion

Book Review: Ministers of Christ - Recovering the Roles of Clergy and Laity in an Age of Confusion Dr. Peter Kwasniewski has written yet another outstanding book entitled Ministers of Christ (Crisis Publications, 2021).  This solid book comes highly recommended and in my opinion should be required reading in every minor and major seminary to help address the storm cloud …

The Paleochristian Art of the Roman Catacombs

The Paleochristian Art of the Roman Catacombs Rome is famously known for its catacombs and in point of fact there are some forty catacombs to be found around the Eternal City. These catacombs are all underground and could be easily missed by pilgrims as it requires venturing "outside the walls" -- for reason …

Cathedral Liturgy in Savannah, Georgia

Cathedral Liturgy in Savannah, Georgia The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Savannah, Georgia is the mother church of the Diocese of Savannah.  It is also an iconic symbol of the French Gothic in the American South.  Recently I was privileged to visit here for Sunday Mass.  The grandeur of the ornate interio…

Ornamental, Polychrome Marble Altars of the 17th and 18th Centuries

Ornamental, Polychrome Marble Altars of the 17th and 18th Centuries In the modern era we've become accustomed to seeing altars that are rather monochromatic in form -- perhaps accented by gold, but otherwise usually found in white, grey or, wood painted white or stained. It would be easy to assume this is the only form altars take  Howe…

From the Vatican Basilica: Alb of Blessed Pius IX

From the Vatican Basilica: Alb of Blessed Pius IX This antique alb (camice) of Pope Pius IX caught my attention in the Treasury Museum of St. Peter's Basilica.  I naturally thought readers might like to see it and so here are a few images.  It probably dates from sometime around the 1870s or even before.  The cuffs are…

The Spanish Missions in California: Mission San Luis Rey de Francia

The Spanish Missions in California: Mission San Luis Rey de Francia The Spanish Missions in present-day California are a subject of interest to many though for many outside of that region of the world it is more familiar in name that anything more tangible. By way of background, the Spanish missions were comprised of twenty one outposts -- …

A Brief Survey of the Altar Cards of St. Peter's Basilica

A Brief Survey of the Altar Cards of St. Peter's Basilica The old altar cards of St. Peter's Basilica were many and varied.  Those on the side altars were simple, in a sort of Arts and Crafts style.  Those on the Altar of the Chair and in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and the Canons Chapel were understandably Baroque in design.…

Vestments of Velvet Through the Centuries

Vestments of Velvet Through the Centuries One of the materials that we frequently see used in vestments coming especially from the later middle ages through the renaissance was velvet -- thought it obviously can also be found in other periods as well. Velvet, traditionally speaking, was made from silk and was time-…

Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Fontgombault

Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Fontgombault My favorite place to visit in France is the Abbey of Our Lady of Fontgombault (Fontgombault Abbey).  I wish everyone could visit here on retreat in the summer months, especially priests.  This is a Benedictine monastery of the Solesmes Congregation, located down the road fr…

Minor Roman Basilicas: San Crisogono

Minor Roman Basilicas: San Crisogono Continuing on with our considerations of some of the 'must-see' basilicas in Rome -- outside the usual, well known suspects -- we turn today to the minor Roman basilica of San Crisogono.  San Crisogono is named after the martyr St Chrysogonus who was killed during t…

Abbaye Sainte-Madeleine du Barroux (Le Barroux)

Abbaye Sainte-Madeleine du Barroux (Le Barroux) I remember once having lunch with an eminent French priest in Lourdes who explained that France is the perfect place to live because it is the land of "wine, castles, and cathedrals."  Indeed, I had to agree but I reminded him to not forget to include monasteries.…

Mosan Masterpieces: Phylacteries of Hugo de Walcourt

Mosan Masterpieces: Phylacteries of Hugo de Walcourt The D’Oignies Treasure is a 13th century collection of liturgical artworks that belonged to the Priory of St. Nicholas in D’Oignies. All religious artefacts that are part of the Treasure represent finest Mosan art accomplishment, a splendid regional variety of the Romanesqu…

Sacristy Art: the Custom of Denoting "Titulus Ecclesiae" and "Nomen Ordinarii"

Sacristy Art: the Custom of Denoting "Titulus Ecclesiae" and "Nomen Ordinarii" In sacristies there is an old custom of having a "titulus" sign that reads the name of the church ( titulor ecclesiae ) and the local ordinary ( nomen ordinarii ).  Sometimes it will also say Orationes Imperatae  or Oratio Imperata at the bottom (to remind priests of a…

A Brief History on the Concept of Titular Churches in Rome

A Brief History on the Concept of Titular Churches in Rome One of the traditions Catholics might hear of but know little about is that of a cardinal taking his "titulus" (i.e. titular church) in Rome. The concept of a titulus itself, some suggest, reaches back to antiquity when stones marked the confines of a property. Wh…

Liturgical Arts Flourishing at Prince of Peace in Taylors, South Carolina

Liturgical Arts Flourishing at Prince of Peace in Taylors, South Carolina Good things are happening at Prince of Peace parish in Taylors, South Carolina.  The pastor, Fr. Christopher Smith, is doing terrific work.  Earlier this year I was privileged to visit the parish twice, witnessing the splendor of the Sunday High Mass.  The liturgical arts f…

A Sneak Peak of the Private Papal Chapel at Castel Gandolfo

A Sneak Peak of the Private Papal Chapel at Castel Gandolfo One of the most interesting places I have ever visited are the papal apartments at the papal summer villa of Castel Gandolfo.  Until recently this has been off limits of the public.  Under the current papacy the gardens and villa are open for tours.  Part of one of the tour…

Prince, Prelate or Pauper: Memento Mori

Prince, Prelate or Pauper: Memento Mori As we have noted many times before, the use of memento mori (reminders of mortality) have a long tradition in the Church. From vestments to funerary monuments, they have a long and venerable tradition in the life of the Church and served a very great purpose: they remind us…

Restoration of Cemetery Chapel in the Philippines by Escuela Taller

Restoration of Cemetery Chapel in the Philippines by Escuela Taller In Catholic culture funerary and cemetery chapels are busy places.  Here the rites of final commendation and burials take place as well as Requiem Masses on certain anniversaries, most especially on All Souls Day.  It is common for every Catholic cemetery to have at least a…

Development in the Styles of Missal Art as Seen in the Assumption

Development in the Styles of Missal Art as Seen in the Assumption Missal art is a favourite topic of mine and since today is the feast of the Assumption it seemed like a good day to consider how missal art has been approached within the 'modern' period -- i.e. the post incunabula era. In the seventeenth and eighteenth century, we t…

A Renaissance Chasuble from the Workshops of Sandro Botticelli

A Renaissance Chasuble from the Workshops of Sandro Botticelli The following chasuble is of Florentine manufacture, coming from the period of 1485-95,  but what perhaps makes it particularly unique is that it is associated with the famed Florentine artist, Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi -- better know to us and to the world as…

The Great Pietà of Melchor Pérez Holguin in Los Angeles

The Great Pietà of Melchor Pérez Holguin in Los Angeles In the United States and abroad, LACMA in Los Angeles has established itself as foremost proprietor of viceregal paintings. The collection and expertise of their staff in the area of South American art has been growing steadily over the years and very recently another wonde…

Popular Saint of the Romans: St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr

Popular Saint of the Romans: St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr, was of  born in what is today Spain and lived from A.D. 225 to 258, being martyred at the age of 33 on this day in the times of the persecutions of the Emperor Valeria against the Christians. He was one of the seven deacons of the Roman chur…

A Closer Look at the Leonine Mantum Shown in This Famous Photographic Portrait of Pope St. Pius X

A Closer Look at the Leonine Mantum Shown in This Famous Photographic Portrait of Pope St. Pius X One of the more popular formal photographic portraits of Pope St. Pius X shows him wearing tiara and vested in a white papal mantum either standing before or sitting down on a papal throne. I remember the first time I saw this photographic image, being impressed by the beau…

The Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica of St. John's (Archdiocese of St. John's in Newfoundland, Canada)

The Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica of St. John's (Archdiocese of St. John's in Newfoundland, Canada) I was immensely saddened to hear of the impending closure and sale of the Cathedral-Basilica of St. John's , Newfoundland.  This mighty church with its storied past is one of the most beautiful churches in Canada.  It is a major cultural loss that everyone should be talk…

The Carolingian Frescoes of the Church of Santa Perpetua in Tirano

The Carolingian Frescoes of the Church of Santa Perpetua in Tirano Discovered by accident in 1987 when plaster fortuitously fell off the walls like scales before eyes, what was revealed beneath in this very humble and simple monastic church of S. Perpetua in Tirano was a cycle of Carolingian frescoes that depicted not only the martyr St. P…

A Papal Mantum of Pope Leo XIII

A Papal Mantum of Pope Leo XIII For our second consideration of a papal mantum, we turn to one produced during the pontificate of Pope Leo XIII in 1879, once again by the atelier Romanini, this time Giovanni Romanini.  The base of this particular item is a beautiful red and gold silk lamé that has been em…

Zairean? Or Sarum? The Forgotten Congolese Liturgy

Zairean? Or Sarum? The Forgotten Congolese Liturgy The Zairean Use has been in the news lately , but despite an interest in the Catholic Congo , I’m afraid I know too little about it to comment intelligently. Little useful comes from polemicism—on either side—that insists on promoting or critiquing various attempts at incultu…

The Flabellum of Tournus - A Rare Surviving Example of the Liturgical Fan in the West

The Flabellum of Tournus - A Rare Surviving Example of the Liturgical Fan in the West Speak of "flabellum" and naturally one's mind turns toward the great feathered fans which are traditionally carried beside the popes. Historically the flabellum has its origins in ancient times, thought to originate in ancient Egypt, being used for practical a…

Early Roman Christian Sarcophagi from the Age of Constantine

Early Roman Christian Sarcophagi from the Age of Constantine Take a visit to Rome and one will invariably come face to face with countless sarcophagi -- almost to the point of overload. As such it can be very easy to begin to simply skip past these and not give them much attention, but in reality this would be a great mistake for the…

Minor Roman Basilicas: Santa Maria in Domnica

Minor Roman Basilicas: Santa Maria in Domnica Located just down the Via Claudia from the Colosseum is the basilica of Santa Maria in Domnica. The facade of this basilica is noble, simple and easily missed given the confluence of architecture and art that can be found in Rome. What perhaps might most catch one's att…

Largest Episcopal Consecration in U.S. History (Diocese of St. Paul)

Largest Episcopal Consecration in U.S. History (Diocese of St. Paul) The above photo commemorates one of the most solemn and forgotten liturgical events in U.S. history.  It was the day 6 missioner bishops were consecrated in one ceremony on the Midwestern frontier.  The date was May 19, 1910.  The ceremony is remembered as one of the most m…

The Cloister and Treasury Museum of San Paolo Fuori le Mura

The Cloister and Treasury Museum of San Paolo Fuori le Mura One of the main basilicas in Rome is that of St. Paul outside the walls (San Paolo fuori le mura). If you are going to that basilica, obviously the basilica with its splendid and majestic facade and forecourt is one of the key points of focus for many, along with the the to…

Restoration of Holy Week Statue of Christ in Chicago

Restoration of Holy Week Statue of Christ in Chicago In 2018 this beautiful statue of Christ was restored for St. John Cantius parish in Chicago.  The statue is utilized by the parish for its annual Holy Thursday and Good Friday devotions, displayed in a little shrine to the Divine Prisoner that is set up temporarily every Ho…

Possibly the Most Spectacular Church Interior in Florence: The Basilica of Santa Croce

Possibly the Most Spectacular Church Interior in Florence: The Basilica of Santa Croce If you're looking for one of the most stunning church interiors in Florence, it is natural to begin one's thoughts with a cathedral.  However, the most stunning church interior in Florence is not that of the duomo, nor is it that of the Medici family's personal …