Tag Archives: basilica

An awesome and beautiful work of art

ARCHIVAL MOMENT
March 9, 1855

The Redeemer in Death, Basilica Cathedral, St. John's.

The Redeemer in Death, Basilica Cathedral, St. John’s.

Edward Morris a St. John’s businessman and politician in his diary dated March 9, 1855 wrote:

“went to the Cathedral (now the Basilica) to see Hogan’s sculptured ‘Dead Christ’ which was placed today under the Great Altar. A magnificent piece of art ordered by Dr. Fleming , (Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming) before his death. It cost 600 ponds sterling in Rome besides the expense of freight.”

“The Dead Christ” – was sculpted in Carrara marble by the Irish sculptor John Hogan in 1854. Bishop John Thomas Mullock, on one of his visits to Rome, purchased the statue and had it placed beneath the table of the High Altar on March 19, 1855.

Since it was installed in the Basilica it has twice been moved to new locations, first in 1903 when the Sanctuary was expanded and again in the early 1970′s when it was moved to its present position.

The statue is Hogan’s masterpiece. One observer of the statue wrote:

“It is an awesome and beautiful work of art, full of dignity, and conveying a sense of the serenity which follows the acceptance of God’s will and the peace which is a prelude to the glory of the Resurrection.”

Hogan created two other versions of the statue; the first version (1829) is located in St. Therese’s Church, Dublin, Ireland, the second (1833) in St. Finbarr’s (South) Church, Cork, Ireland. Other works by Hogan include the Sleeping Shepherd and The Drunken Faun. Hogan assured his international reputation in 1829 with The Dead Christ; thereafter, his creations were snapped up by Irish bishops visiting his Rome studio, and Hogan was pronounced by the Danish sculptor Bertel Thorwaldsen as “the best sculptor I leave after me in Rome.”

Hogan was a great supporter of the Irish movement for independence and went on to create a marble statue of Daniel O Connell, an important figure in the movement. The statue stands today at City Hall Dublin, the same spot where O’Connell gave his first speech against the Act of Union in 1800.

Hogan died at his home in Dublin, in 1858.
Recommended Archival Collection: Edward Morris Diaries, Archives of the Roman Catholic  Archdiocese of St. John’s, NL.

Recommended ReadingA full account of Hogan’s life and works, with a catalogue raisonée and bibliography, is given by John Turpin in John Hogan: Irish Neoclassical Sculptor in Rome (Irish Academic Press, 1982).

Recommedned Tour: Visit the  Basilica Cathedral in St. John’s  and enjoy the large collection of art work that adorns the building. The Basilica Cathedral is home to art created by internationally celebrated artists like John Hogan, Edward Carew, Koch, and Gerry Squires.  If you were visting another city you would likely visit the Cathedrals and museums, why not do it in your own city!

 

The Basilica Cathedral Bells

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

January 1906

Basilica Cathedral Bells, St. John's.

Basilica Cathedral Bells, St. John’s.

If you were walking past Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) in St. John’s during this week in January of 1906 you might have been curious enough to approach the steps of the church to take a close look at the Joy Bells that sat on the steps of the Cathedral awaiting shipment to Ireland. They were being sent to the famous Murphy foundry on James Street, Dublin, where they were originally cast.

The bells in their day were considered some of the best in the new world.

The bell known as “St. John” built in 1850 was the largest ever cast in Ireland at that time, and won a Gold Medal at the Dublin Exhibition of Irish Manufacturers. The bell, a massive piece, weighs nearly two tons. Upon its arrival in St. John’s in February, 1851, it was hauled by hand to the Basilica, and installed in the East Tower.

The bells sitting on the steps of the Cathedral in January 1906 were made by Murphy, the celebrated Bell maker at Dublin in 1854.

In the tradition of the Catholic Church each of the bells was christened and named before being installed.   In addition to having its own name each bell when originally installed had its own sound or personality.

The bells are:

Mary – 1854 – octave D

Patrick – 1854 -octave E

Bonaventure – 1863 – F sharp

Michael -1906

Matthew – 1906

Anthony – 1906

Francis – 1906

James – 1906

These five bells completed the peal, viz.:  G A B C (sharp) and D (octave)

Following their installation in 1906 the bells rang without interruption until 1988 at which time the cluster of bells was removed from the west tower of the Basilica because of structural weakness in the tower. The bells were placed in storage on site at the Basilica Cathedral. Following years of silence, the bells were again re-installed ringing out on (June 9, 2009) at noon, the first time in over twenty years.

Today you can hear the bells being rung on special “feast days” or special occasions like a wedding.  The largest bell “St. John” rings at noon every day.

Recommended Reading: Tour of the Basilica Cathedral, St. John’s:  http://www.thebasilica.ca/index.cfm?load=page&page=186

Recommended Website: After 21 years, the bells have been reinstalled in the bell tower of the Basilica of St. John the Baptist in St. John’s.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_n-ht7bQ8zA 

Old Christmas day – first mass at the Basilica

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

January 6, 1850

R.C. Cathedral, St. John’s, 1841

Though unfinished, the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) was opened for worship on 6 January 1850. (The Feast of the Epiphany – Old Christmas Day). Ill and exhausted by his labours, Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming who had conceived of the idea of building the massive Cathedral celebrated mass.

 “It was the last time the dying Bishop was to assume the vestments, and the first and last time he would offer mass in his new Cathedral. He was so weak a chair had to be placed at the Altar, and several times he had to stop and rest.”

His death later that year was widely attributed to his exertions on seeing that the Cathedral (now Basilica) was built.  The Patriot & Terra Nova Herald the local newspaper stated, “The Cathedral . . . has been that building upon which he seems to have staked all.”   The mass was Bishop Fleming’s last public appearance.

In the spring of 1850 an ailing Fleming, in semi-retirement, moved from the Episcopal Residence on Henry Street  to Belvedere, the Franciscan house. (near what was to become known as Belvedere Orphanage building, now the MCP  building 57 Margaret’s Place (off Newtown Road) in St. John’s.)There he died a few months later on July 14, 1850.  Thousands turned out to pay their last respects as his body was interred in the cathedral he had struggled so hard to build.

Rome had appointed a coadjutor bishop, John Thomas Mullock, who had been a friend and adviser to Bishop Fleming as his successor. Bishop Mullock completed the cathedral and it was officially consecrated in September 1855.

Recommended Archival Collection:  Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming Collection, Archives of the R.C. Archdiocese ofSt. John’s.

Recommended Reading: Fire Upon the Earth: The Life and Times of Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming , O.S.F.  by Brother J.B. Darcy, C.F.C.  Creative Publishers,St. John ’s, 2003.

Recommended Website: From Cornerstone to Cathedral: http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/Exhibitions/Basilica/en/index.html

The Tradition of Midnight Mass

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

December 23, 1895

Midnight Mass has been celebrated in the Basilica since 1895.

On December 23, 1895 the St. John’s newspaper The Daily News announced that:

 “His Lordship the Right Reverend Dr. Michael F. Howley  (Roman Catholic Bishop of St. John’s, Newfoundland) has decided to revive the custom of celebrating  the first Mass of Christmas morning  at the very opening of the ever glorious day.”

Bishop Howley was reviving the tradition of the celebration of Midnight Mass, a custom that has continued at the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) since that announcement in 1895.

Bishop Howley noted that midnight mass was “long in existence in the Roman Catholic Church though allowed to lapse for some years past in this country – Newfoundland.”

The article does not explain why the tradition of the midnight mass was dropped before 1895 in St. John’s.

The newspaper account went on to describe the elaborate decorations of the cathedral. 

Basilica Cathedral St. John's

Basilica Cathedral St. John’s

“The interior of the Roman Catholic Cathedral is already beginning to assume the festive garb which always marks the anniversary of the Nativity. The altars and the pulpit are artistically festooned with evergreen to which will be added extensive floral ornamentations interspersed with countless twinkling lights, before the joy bells ring out their glad peal at midnight, to proclaim the birth of the God Man.”

Many theologians say that the Midnight Mass evolved from individuals making pilgrimages to the Holy Land and the actual birthplace of Christ. Because the Bible states that Jesus was born at night and in a manger, to fully immerse oneself in the story and the liturgical significance of the moment, a Midnight Mass seems the best place to achieve these goals. The darkness and the gentle hush that nighttime helps set the scene and enhance the spiritual component of Christmas.

On the Christian calendar – Midnight mass has been observed since at least the year 381. In  381 a Christian woman named Egeria made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, observing for three years and keeping a journal of the customs and liturgies she saw there. She witnessed the Christians celebrating the birth of Christ at midnight with a vigil in Bethlehem, which was followed by a torchlight procession to Jerusalemculminating with a gathering in Jerusalemat dawn.

Recommeded to Listen: The Audience joins in with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra and Philharmonic Choir at the Basilica of St John the Baptist in St John’sNewfoundland, Dec 14, 2012 singing the chorus from the end of act 2 of J F Handel’s Messiah, the NSO’s 26 annual production of this piece at the Basilica. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKAbgBnnrYA

Recommended Archival Collection:  Archives of the R.C. Archdiocese of St. John’s, Bishop Michael Francis Howley Collection.

Recommended Reading: The Daily News, December 23, 1895

 

Kneeling and prayers in the streets

Archival Moment

2 November

Photo Credit: The Basilica Cathedral bells, St. John’s, NL

The parishioners of the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) in St. John’s were informed  at the end of every Sunday mass  in  November of 1902 that

“During the month of November the “De profundis bell” will be tolled at nine o’clock every evening for the Holy Souls.  All people who at the sound of the bell shall recite, on their knees (if possible) the Psalm De profundis with the verses and responses.

The De Profundis is found in scripture – Psalm 130.

Upon hearing the sound of the church bell wherever Catholics were at 9:00 p.m. they would fall to their knees and recite Psalm 130.

The Roman Catholics in the town of St. John’s  were also informed that:

“Those who do not know the De profundis  may say instead an Our Father  and Hail Mary  for the repose of  the faithful departed.”  (Source: Basilica Cathedral Publication Book, October 26, 1902.

And there was no escaping the toll of the Cathedral (now Basilica) bells. It is said that the bells could be heard as far away as Torbay.

The De profundis  bell was not the only one that was sounded.

A beautiful and pious custom which prevailed in many countries was the “passing bell,” which was rung slowly when a death was imminent in the parish. When the sick person was near his end the solemn tones of the bell reminded the faithful of their Christian duty of praying for his happy death and for his eternal repose; and after his spirit had departed, the bell tolled out his age — one short stroke for each year.

A bell that continues to be sounded in St. John’s  is the Angelus Bell.  The Angelus, consists essentially in the reciting of certain prayers at the sound of a bell at fixed hours. At the Basilica Cathedral the angelus bell is struck at noon each day.

By tradition, the Catholic Church dedicates each month of the year to certain devotion. In November, it is the Holy Souls in Purgatory, described in Catholic theology asthose faithful Christians who have died and gone before us.” Praying for the dead, especially for those we have known, is a requirement of Christian charity.

New Word:  De profundis    (Latin) “out of the depths of misery or dejection” (from the first words of Psalm 130

Recommended Archival Collection:  Archives of the R.C. Archdiocese of St. John’s, NL  (ARCASJ).

Recommended Song: Psalm 130

Old Home Week, 1904

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

October 5, 1903

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives Division 1.502.050 A Regatta crowd on the north side slopes of Quidi Vidi Lake. One of the events held during Old Home Week, 1904

On  October 5, 1903 James J McAuliffe of Everett, Mass. U.S.A. wrote the Catholic bishop of St. John’s, Michael Francis Howley.

McAuliffe was born in St. John’s in 1848 and emigrated to Boston in 1866 to study at the Boston Art School.  As a young artist he established a reputation as a “marine water color artist” but also did some “fine religious pictures”.

In his letter he reminded the bishop that he had made a substantial contribution to the Cathedral (now Basilica) with his painting of ‘Ecce Homo” (Behold the Man) that he presented to the Cathedral and the people of St. John’sin 1899.  The large painting contained 75 life size figures showing Christ before Pilate and hung on the west aisle of the Cathedral.

TOURISM

McAuliffe who had never forgotten his Newfoundland roots was passionate about promoting the colony. He lectured on a regular basis in the “Boston States” at clubs frequented by Newfoundlanders.

During this time (1903-1905) it is estimated that there were 11,000 Newfoundlanders in the Boston States. Many frequented the Newfoundland social clubs in theBoston area that were founded for and by Newfoundlanders including:  the Cabot Club (1899),  the Boston Terra Novian Association  (1865),  Newfoundlanders Mutual Benefit Association  (NMBA) (1891), the United Sons of Terra Nova (1904) and the Avalon Society (1905).

In October 1903 McAuliffe was very active in promoting “Old Home Week” that was to take place the following year. He suggested that the Old Home Week would not only provide “a great source of revenue” for Newfoundland, but it would also promote a “spirit of patriotism” and be a means of “rolling back the clouds of misrepresentation and calumny indulged in by some of the representatives of the foreign press”. It would also, he argued, be a means of spreading tourist information about the country.

Old Home Week took place from  3-10 August 1904 and attracted some 600 ex-Newfoundland residents from the United States.

A VISIT TO THE CATHEDRAL

McAuliffe would have visited the Cathedral (now Basilica) with his friends from the “Boston States” to see his painting (Ecce Homo) that hung in the west aisle of the Cathedral. Today he would be most disappointed!!  His large painting is missing, likely removed for the renovations to the Basilica in 1954.

Only one of his paintings remains in the province described as a “fine painting”  it depicts  John Cabot’s entry in to the harbor of St. John’s. It was regarded as one of his masterpieces.” This painting is  now in a private collection in St. John’s.

James J. McAuliffe, the great promoter of Newfoundland died in his adopted Boston States in August 1921.

Recommended Tour: Immerse yourself in our culture at Newfoundland  and Labrador’s largest public cultural space.  It’s the place where it all comes together – our history, heritage and artistic  expression. The Rooms unites the Provincial Archives,  Art Gallery and Museum. A place for people,  The Rooms is a portal to the many stories our province has to tell.

Recommended Reading: Newfoundlanders in the Boston States:  Newfoundland Studies 6, 1 (1990)  see  http://journals.hil.unb.ca/index.php/NFLDS/article/view/894

 

 

Basilica of St. John the Baptist declared a National Historic Site.

Archival Moment

August 10, 1984

Basilica of St. John the Baptist, St. John’s, Newfoundland, 1841

The Basilica-Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in St. John’s is the metropolitan cathedral of the Roman Catholic archbishop of St. John’s and the mother church and symbol of Roman Catholics in Newfoundland. The structure is a testament to the faith and determination of the Irish-Catholic population of the province.

The project began under the leadership of Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming, who went through great pains to secure a grant of land to build the cathedral. After making five trips to England, Fleming acquired nine acres of land on which to build the church and related buildings. Work commenced with the fencing of the land in 1838, and on the May 21, 1841 the cornerstone was laid.

Sixteen years elapsed from the time excavation work began in 1839 until the cathedral was consecrated in 1855.

On August 10, 1984 the Basilica was designated a National Historic Site by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

Recommended Archival Collection: Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John’s.

Recommended Museum: The Basilica Cathedral Museum and Library has one of the largest collections of church related artifacts in the country and is home to one of the oldest collections of books in the province.  Tours are available during the summer season.

Recommended Reading: Fire Upon the Earth, the Life and Times of Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming, O.S.F. by J.B. Darcy, Creative Publishers,St. John’s, 2003.

Recommended Website:  From Cornerstone to Consecration:  http://www.museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/expositions-exhibitions/basilique-basilica/en/index.html

List of National Historic Sites in Newfoundland and Labrador: http://www.newfoundlandlabrador.com/placestogo/nationalhistoricsites