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 9, 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.

Hogan was recognized by by his fellow artist, he  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, Louis 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 Bells on the steps of the Basilica Cathedral 1906.

Basilica Bells on the steps of the Basilica Cathedral 1906.

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.

Basilica Bells 2In 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 

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.

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

 

Lived for his work after death of wife and child

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

December 16, 1852 

Photo Credit: Front facade, O’Dwyer Block, Water Street, St. John’s.

On December 16, 1852 the prominent Waterford, Ireland born merchant Richard O’Dwyer who had established himself as one of the more wealthy businessmen in St. John’s was in mourning over the loss of his infant daughter Mary Wilhelmina. The infant child was baptized immediately after birth with Reverend Kyran Walsh serving as both godfather and priest at the baptism.

The loss of his daughter was compounded five days later on December 21 by the death of his young wife Mary Frances McKenna O’Dwyer.

It is believed that the young mother (Mary Frances, age 26) and infant child (Mary Wilhelmina) are both buried in the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) that was still under construction at the time of their deaths.

There were in the 1850’s few public memorials in St. John’s but being a wealthy citizen of the town Richard O’Dwyer had the financial resources  to commission a memorial to celebrate the life of his wife and child. On the west wall in the Basilica Cathedral is a memorial that O’Dwyer commissioned that depicts an angel carrying a young mother and child to heaven.

O’Dwyer Legacy

With the death of his wife and child all of Richard O’Dwyer’s energy was directed to his business interests.  He is also responsible for at least three significant architectural contributions to the town (now city) of St. John’s.

He was responsible for the construction of the  O’Dwyer Block of Buildings at (295-301 Water Street, St. John’s. Built in the mid-nineteenth century, the stone and mortar O’Dwyer Block was one of St. John’s earliest major merchant buildings, not made of wood. The structure is a classical commercial block constructed after the St. John’s fire of 1846.  Richard O’Dwyer built the block of buildings for his offices and retail stores with sufficient space to accommodate other merchants.

O’Dwyer also built the nearby Murray Premises as a warehouse storage area.

He is also credited for building The Thompson Building  at (303-305 Water Street) For decades, the Thompson family owned the building and ran their family jewellery store business there until it closed in the mid-1990s. A store specializing in Newfoundland merchandise and the offices of the popular Newfoundland magazine The Downhomer, now operates in the building.

Recommended Reading:  Robert Mellin: A City of Towns: Alternatives for the Planning and Design of Housing in St. John’s, Newfoundland (CMHC Canadian Housing Information Centre, 1995: Ca1 MH 95C37), Residential Heritage Conservation in St. John’s (Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, 2005.

THE “DE PROFUNDIS” BELL

Archival Moment
2 November

THE “DE PROFUNDIS” BELL
FOR THE HOLY SOULS

November 2

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 city 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.)
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 as “those 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 Reading: Psalm 130

Follow “Archival Moments” on twitter @larrydohey

For more “Archival Moments” go to www.archivalmoments.ca

The Pope in Newfoundland 30th Anniversary

Photo Credit: Pope John Paul II holding Monica Walsh daughter Des Walsh and Eleanor Dawson. In the background is their son Brendan Walsh. Papal Mass, Pleasantville, St. John’s, NL, September 12, 1984.

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

September 12, 1984

On September 12, 1984, Pope John Paul II made a “pastoral visitation” to Newfoundland and Labrador, a milestone in the history of Catholicism in the province. The Pope came to help celebrate the 200th anniversary (1784-1984) of the establishment of the Catholic Church in Newfoundland.

While in the province he maintained a hectic schedule.  His itinerary included: The Blessing of the Fishing Fleet at Flatrock; Meeting with the Handicapped at Memorial Stadium, St. John’s;  Celebration of Mass at  Pleasantville,  near Quidi Vidi Lake; Meeting with Youth at Memorial University of  Newfoundland and a Meeting with Catholic Educators  at the Basilica Cathedral.

John Paul II died on April 2, 2005, at the age of 84, after leading the world’s 1 billion Catholics for 26 years.

He is remembered as a “champion of human freedom,” a “tireless advocate of peace” and a man with a “wonderful sense of humor” who was easy to talk to. (The latter can be attested by the young men who served the mass at Pleasantville – breaking with protocol – the Pope broke away from the formal procession to the altar to the chagrin of security to greet those who were serving the mass. (We chatted for a very short time!)

On May 1, 2011 Pope Benedict XVI beatified the late Pope John Paul II. Beatification means that a person’s life has displayed certain qualities that are worthy of imitation by other Christians. He was canonized a saint in the church on April 24, 2014. (I can now say that I spoke and shook hands with a saint!)

Recommended Archival Collection: To read the addresses and homilies given by the Pope go to:   http://www.cccb.ca/site/Files/Pope_speeches_1984.html 

To view video clips go to: http://archives.cbc.ca/society/religion_spirituality/topics/242-1217/

Recommended Publication: Upon this Rock the Story of the Roman Catholic Church in Newfoundland and Labrador, Paul O’Neill, Breakwater Books (1984)

 

Grand Organ for the Cathedral of St. John’s, Newfoundland

An organ built by Thomas J. Robson organ builder to her majesty. Likely like the first organ in the Basilica Cathedral, St. John’s.

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

August 12, 1852

On  August 12, 1852 the local newspaper The Newfoundlander copied an article from a London newspaper The Sun that made reference to a grand organ that was destined for Newfoundland

The article reads:

 “A magnificent organ, destined for the above Cathedral, (the R.C. Cathedral) as just been completed by Mssers Robsons of St. Martin’s Lane, where, prior to its transmission across the Atlantic, a numerous and fashionable assemblage of ladies and gentlemen, including many amateurs and professors, have for several days past  attended to hear the merits tested by Messer’s, Rea, Noble, Pritchard, Nottingham, and other eminent artists. The whole cost, amounting to 1500 has been defrayed by the Right Reverend Dr. (Bishop John  Mullock),  who presents this stupendous and brilliant instrument to the Cathedral in St. John’s, Newfoundland.”   – Sun

Thomas J. Robson  was no ordinary organ builder,  he carried the title “organ  builder to her majesty.”

Upon the arrival of the fine instrument in St. John’sthe first organist appointed to the R.C. Cathedral and to the care of the organ was Thomas Mullock an accomplished organist in Limerick, Ireland, he came toSt. John’s at the invitation of his brother (the bishop). He stayed inSt. John’s and remained as organist for about fifteen years.

For much of his life, Thomas remained in the shadow of his brother. He lived quietly supplementing his income by teaching music and raising his young family. In December 1854 he was devastated when his only child Charlotte Mary died at the age of 2 years,10 months.

Upon returning toIrelandhe was employed as the organist at St. Mary’s,Irish Town, Main Street, Clonmel. He knew the town well as he was married to Charlotte Frances O’Brien daughter of Daniel O’Brien of Clonmel.

Due to deterioration this “Grand Organ” over the years, it was dismantled in 1938 under the direction of (Sir) Charles Hutton and was replaced by a Hammond electronic organ.

This, in turn, was replaced in 1954-55 by the organ that is presently used in the Cathedral Basilica. The new organ has 66 stops and a total of 4050 pipes.

The installation actually comprises two organs; the main organ of 51 stops located in the organ gallery, and the sanctuary organ of 15 stops arranged behind the main altar. Each organ may be played from the main organ gallery either separately, or, if desired, simultaneously with the main organ. The organ was built and installed by Casavant Freres Limited ofSt. Hyacinthe,Quebec.

Recommended Archival Collection:  Take some time to explore MG 590 at The Rooms Provincial Archives; MG590 is the Charles Hutton and Sons fonds. It consists of textual records relating to the business interests of Charles Hutton & Sons in St. John’s 1930-1938.  The collection consists of correspondence between the company and patrons inNewfoundland andCanada, requesting songs, musical instruments and other enquiries.

Recommended Reading: An introduction to the Pipe Organs in Newfoundland and Labrador by Dr. David Peter’s, 2012 (unpublished)

Recommended Reading: The British Invasion Lives on! Pipe Organs of Newfoundland and Labrador Canada by Lester Goulding and William Vineer : The Diapason, July 2013.