Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Armorial Amicorum

So... the world takes us all in unexpected adventures.  When we began Klave Centesca it was both as a means of funding our private charity work, and also encouraging the use of embroidered coats of arms on the vestments of the Catholic Church as in olden days... especially in the USA.

First off, most of our commissions came from places outside of the US.  That has been fun and expanded our horizons.  We've come to make things for England, Scotland, Poland, Hungary, Italy, Vatican City, Canada, Australia and even Madagascar!

We've also made more than just things for the Catholic Church.  Through these things we do, we have found great friendships and charity and peace with Anglicans, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists and even the Jewish lady who not only sold us our machines! She has been a great friend thereafter and helped us use hers to finish embroideries when our machines have been away for repairs.  A true Godsend.

If there is one lesson, I'd say that it is good to be open to the possibilities of more than mere transactions, ultimately we see everything we do as collaborations, and the results are always extraordinary because of it.  

Speaking of collaborations, I should like to highlight one with some one who has become a good friend, Captain Jason Burgoin, who yesterday received his grant of arms from the Canadian Heraldic Authority in a private ceremony.


Again, we never thought to be making things outside of the church, but heraldry has been a link into these other interesting areas which we are so glad to have become acquainted with.  The CHA is a wonderful institution commissioned by the Governor General and in the name of Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II of Canada (and the UK, etc. etc. etc.) to research and execute these heraldic affairs for Her people of Canada.  It is innovative and refreshing, and active, which is a joy to witness in this day and age.  The Captain, our friend, represents the Royal Heraldic Society of Canada in Toronto.  And I think we have both learned things in our discussions, which are ever so interesting.

One day we spoke of the old Liber Amicorum (or book of friends) so popular in the 16th century and even into the 19th.  In these, friends, would write a blurb, or a poem, draw a picture, artistic representation or simply sign their name for you.  In essence it is a grown-ups version of a school year-book or even of a face book... I mean Facebook.

On the other hand, there was also the tradition of collecting images of the shield designs and achievements of armigerous persons in hand-painted books called Armorials.  For people who have friends with coats of arms, and perhaps enjoy coloring and painting, it is a nice idea to combine the two and somehow the Armorial Amicorum was born.  It is a book where one records the arms of friends, and has them sign or write something special on the page dedicated to them.  It becomes a record of friendships made, grand times, and a good resource for historians hundreds of years from now.

The Armorial Amicorum is also inspired by the old visiting-books one keeps at home so all special guests may leave record of their congress, but in it, not only royalty gets a dedicated page, but rather, each friend receives equal treatment.  For this, the book has to be blank.  It is an album, but its purpose must be marked in some way.  Bookbinding is a fascinating art, and in yesteryear it was not uncommon to combine it with other forms:  metal plates, carved ivory plaques, gemstones, and yes, also embroidered covers:










The 3 sizes on display in front of the heraldic banner of Captain Jason Burgoin of embroidered satin by Klave Centesca.


We've made them in three sizes: The Country Squire is the briefest, which makes it perfect for travel. The Lord of the Manor is the medium sized one which is still practicable for traveling, but large enough to make a nice conversation piece in a room for company.  And the The Great Estates, which is the largest with its pages spanning 11x14 inches and more ideal for a grand foyer or large library.

Maybe it catches on?  Remember you heard about it here first though.  It is definitely something of an heirloom and bound to collect history in its pages (pun intended).

In the age of books with dust-jackets, and Kindle, we thought we should bring back a little of the splendor of years past.  So this is what we made for Jason.
Final proof of frontispiece embroidery before execution.


For this particular design we used the arms of the owner in the centre, as per the blazon at that time authorized by the CHA though not yet officially granted until yesterday.  The shape of it is inspired by the pediment of the Cathedral of Havana, our birth home, and a place Jason has visited and has fond memories of.  It is the closest to a self portrait or a signature that we could approach! Plus, the baroque lines seemed to work well with the representation of the whole. Everything else reflects the Canadian content which the armorial will enclose.  The corners are maple leaves and the borders alternating English roses and French fleurs-de-lis.

First fruits shared of the embroidery.



On the back side, we reinterpreted the personal badge granted him, which is a heraldic tyger of red.


On the inside cover was embroidered a poem:


And on the inside back cover, the Canadian Army Badge.


Absolutely exciting to make and collaborate, and we hope that from its first use upon his official Grant of Arms, and thereafter, many worthy and true friends sign its pages.  Maybe even the Queen!  The world moves in unexpected ways.


What great fun it is!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Spatial Progression in the Liturgy of the Gothispanic Churches, An Allocution

I would like to share an allocution which I was invited to give some months back in front of a theological group and a few lay persons ever at odds between the "ad orientem" and "versus populo" discussion in the context of the celebration in the Mozarabic Rite.  I hope it makes sense once translated into English as one hopes it did in its original Spanish.  The context, of course is the architecture of the extant churches of the kingdom of Toledo and later of Oviedo when and where the Gothispanic Rite was codified and from which the Mozarabic descends.  The code in question is the collection of the canons enacted at the eponymous Councils, though they will not be quoted specifically. Some things were too obvious to codify and since this part of our own cultural patrimony is often overlooked or forgotten these days, even in the welcomed revival of Our rite, we think it is important to remember certain particularities. The erosion of tradition is disfiguring sometimes, and reconstruction can see reinterpretations of old things into... odd things.  It baffles, but it can also be a window into deeper discussions.  So we hope our bits can serve to fill some of the lost pieces of the puzzle, at least in our limited context without causing offense to anyone. Worthy too are the other traditions out there, but stewards we are of this one.  Reflection... it is reflection that we aim for, always.  So heavenwards and down: Dominus sit semper vobiscum!

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Communion is not a magic potion or cure-all panacea; communion is the climax of state of Grace in fulfillment of the precepts set forth by Our Lord and proclaimed in the Gospels.  The liturgical stages that precede the Eucharistic Meal are therefore, to be seen as integral parts of the said progression, of life itself: from being apart from God, to being near Him, with Him, and in Him. These stages were also most clearly seen in the architecture of our early churches and the diverse groups of people that were contained in each space there. 

One entered the temple by the western door onto the narthex or portico.  This is the covered space which is farthest from the altar at the east.  There is a linear axis to walk from the left, where the sun sets and darkness is; where an absence of God, who is the light of the world, but a hope that he will rise again.  It is here that our journey begins: in this portico where the catechumens stand and attend the liturgies - they are far from the representation of heaven on earth at the opposite end, but are directed to it, and with due instruction and profession of faith, once ready and baptized, they can proceed.  It is here too that the penitents must remain, but kneeling.  They have wronged in ways that exclude their conscience and spirit from partaking in the communion until they expiate their sins.  Penance is, however, not what so many interpret as excommunication, which bars someone from heaven and their candle is snuffed and their souls damned on earth so that may also be in heaven as the spiteful Roman Rite developed it in the second millennium - a political recourse because they held both the golden and the silver key - but in Our Church, this westernmost space was the farthest a Christian was allowed from God: Always with the hope that one can return to the nearness of Him as the liturgy predicates.  Those not in communions still look East, to the Lord, and the point is to be ushered back in to the fold when they have purified their souls.  This is where the concept of Purgatory comes from, and not a separate reality or concept.  The western portico is the earthly purgatory: only those who are baptized, and are in a state of grace may pass through to the next space, which is the nave.

Between the Western Portico or Narthex and the Nave, it is worthy to mention the figure of the Ostiarius, which is the verger, sexton, Swiss, or Usher depending on the region where one lives: this is the door keeper, for ostiarius means just this.  As in the royal palaces, this is the person in charge of letting through those in the grace, and ban passage with his verge or rod of office to those who are not yet, or have fallen from, that grace.  We may live, in democratic or communist or otherwise egalitarian societies, and find it strange, but Church is a place of hierarchy and contrasts.  East and West, Good and Evil, Worthy is the Lamb, but wretched is the devil and his subjects.  The nave is the place for the lambs and the earthly paradise where they may safely grace.  It is here that the faithful attend to the teachings of the shepherds of God: the bishops with their crooked pastoral staves, and the presbyters delegated by them to teach and administer the sacraments where and when they can't be present.  The person exorcised is made to look West (even at Baptism) and when blessed, made to look East.  Those who live in darkness are encouraged to walk towards the light found in the east. The Priest walks from the east, to bless and address them, to meet them, us, who walk from the west into the light.

At the Eastern-most limit of the nave, there is to be an arch or rood-screen, we call it a triumphal arch.  This is where the faithful come to receive communion, and also from where the readings and the lessons are sometimes performed for their instruction and benefit. That is why in German it is called the Lettner. It is only crossed in those moment when the Christian fulfills his or her covenant and sanctifies their life with the purpose and meaning set forth by the Church in the rites of passage we call the Sacraments.  It is indeed a triumphal entry and a privilege to pass through this gate onto the choir to be baptized or confirmed, to receive the nuptial benediction, sacred orders, and indeed for the exequies when we die in grace. The liminal space demarcated by that triumphal arch is symbolic of the importance of crossing it, and the fact that it requires preparation, and mindfulness.  It highlights the importance of the rites when we are to approach it and cross it, for when we do, it is in fulfillment of our destiny: when we are most holy, and closest to God.  What is beyond this arch is the ritual space par excellence: the choir.

The choir is called so because those who attend here are placed facing "each other" instead of east.  This may seem antithetical to the axial progression, but there is wisdom to be sought in the things we do not understand at once.  The choir is the place where the faithful comes to stand, alone or in the case of the nuptial blessing with their spouse, and receive the benefit of song and blessing from the east, where the celebrant pronounces his benediction, and from behind them, where their families and community of friends and neighbors rejoice in their blessing, but from the north and the south choirs too. It is not in vain that the choir is commonly called "the crossing" and in cruciform churches this becomes most evident: the choir is at the heart of the cross, and is the point of interception between the sacred and the profane: the place where God is invoked to bless us at those pivotal times in the life and death of a Christian.  It is a square space, as the earth was represented, and has four corners, as we understand that the world is divided into north, east, south, and west.  The choir is like the New Jerusalem, but here on Earth, now. That's where we hallow God's name and fulfill the precepts and the will of God for us to be saved. "On earth, as it is in heaven" is part of our Daily prayer, and this is the place where those who devote their lives to the service of the Church seat:  Some in the north, and some in the south.  It is the natural space of the ordained.  It is where the canonical hours are kept and the holy offices read.  It is the space where all fall to their knees and sing Sanctus!Sanctus! Sanctus! as we know the angels incessantly do in heaven when at the mass The Presence is invoked, and kneel also when the Gospel is read, and when the Holy spirit descends during a benediction.  This is the space for those who have devoted  their lives to God, whether cleric  or  lay, to live on earth as witnesses of the promise of heaven.  This is the place where they pray, and make sure the Word and message of God resonates to the four corners, and not just in the west-to-east axis of the Christian life.  It reminds us that God is the God of ALL and to ALL four corners of the earth, and not just those in our community.  The sacrifice of his Son was for the redemption of ALL.  The heart of the crucifixion is not just to save ourselves, but the whole world.

Beyond the choir there is another arch, or a chancel, a templon or what in the east developed as the iconostasis and in Rome reduced to a ciborium or baldachin.  It is the area of the altar.  It is the space where the table upon which the Sacrifice of the Mass is commemorated and in our faith, the bread and wine are consecrated into the flesh and blood of Jesus.  This easternmost spot is the culmen of the Christian's path.  It is heaven on earth and the holy of holies.  This is why, like in the temple of the old testament commanded by God, it is veiled with curtains.  In the Oriental Churches they made them into holy and royal doors, and in the Occident, erased them from the canons of sacred architecture as theology has ... evolved?  But the curtains are drawn open, for the whole of the mass even on the feriae, and from the vigil of a memory, feast or solemnity until the day's sunset.  Heaven is not absent for those who come to celebrate the mysteries, but like all things sacred, we believe it must be veiled when not in use, to create contrast and context of the blessing to see it available in the celebration, but not through Lent and the feriae except for the mass proper.

In the Gothispanic Liturgy and Mozarabic Rite, as it was in the ancient Roman and still is in most Orthodox Churches, the chair of the presiding priest is to be placed against the eastern wall whether it is a rounded apse or a square space.  This emphasizes the role of the priest as magistrate in the context of the Roman empire which was the milieu not only of early Christianity, but of Christ himself who was judged by Pontius Pilate, a Roman magistrate.  There are many who argue that the altar should be against the wall and the mass be said "ad orientem" which it should, privately, or following the precepts of the Roman Rite after the schism of the early part of the second millennium when its doctrine was imbued with airs of infallibility in terms of cult and culture, but for public worship, as indeed the venerable ancient roman basilicas still stand as monument: face the people, in the name of God, and teach them the way. Theological exegesis that forgets context fails the Logos, well intentioned and devout as it may be.  Private masses, votive masses, are well said in private oratories and small chapels ad orientem, but public masses were designed for the salvation of the world, so that those in the westernmost corner could hear the Word and be saved and see the promise of heaven and yearn for a closeness with God. We can't forget that everything was tied together, and all was imbued with reason at the beginning.  When we forget why something is, it depreciates in time and becomes banal, vestigial, unimportant, and eventually left in oblivion and forgotten.  We can't forget.  There is beauty enough in the beginnings, for God was at the beginning of ALL.  And what is designed in the perfection of God, needs not evolve. Ius sacra naturalis perfectaque constituta est. And it is to the priests to uphold it and teach it so it may be upheld, and understood, not to reorder and innovate. That's the domain of canon law, politics, worldly preferences and liberties when there are imperfect things to be mended;  things to be fixed. The liturgy is mutable, but the magisterium of the Gospels mustn’t. Nor venerable traditions allowed to be corrupted by those outside of its logic.

The washing of the hands of the priest, in Our rite, is performed at the chair in the apse.  It is the first act there after the Sacrificium (Offertory) has begun and the priest readies himself to ascend to the altar in front of him.  That disposition of having the ara or mensa in front of the celebrant's seat recalls that of the table where the law codes and codicils of the Roman Magistrates sat when they occupied their place at the basilicae to render their duties.  It too was covered in linen and had antependiae - it was not a long stretch to becoming the table of the Last Supper, but also where we place the Gospels on the feasts and solemnities, and also the other liturgical books aside from the chalice and paten. Early representations of the judgement in front of Pontius Pilate can help us see the link between the origin and the appropriation of the forms into the context of our liturgical patrimony.  Speaking ex cathedra and indeed from the area of the altar in general, in the age before microphones, meant that the celebrant's voice would resonate and be heard even by those farthest west in that symbolic spatial axis described above: the ones that require listening the most, perhaps, were surely in mind.  When we turn our backs to them, yes, we are teaching by example, it is true... but that is understood in the context of monks or devout members of a private chapel or oratory - what of the rest?  Remember the rest.  They need it most.  Speak to them, and make sure that in that easternmost spot you occupy, they see God, they hear God, they can be attracted to Him.  Never forget to use the two fingers for benediction, and the singular index to teach the way, to point to the right way. That is your job, and that of the Church. But of gestures, another day!  Perhaps.  Now, let us wash hands and proceed to the dinner in the room outside, shall we?

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Monday, June 5, 2017

The dragon slaying days are never over

It began a couple of months ago with The Word... well, at least it was then that we heard word of the need of a new chasuble for the upcoming ordination of the Rev Michael Sahdev as priest.  There were a couple of discussions, emails back and forth, and then we readied our vision for his approval.


From there,  we discussed the the measurements and convened on a choice of fabric.


The design was nearly ready, except perhaps, refining the details of the chalice motif for the centre of the chasuble.  The chalice and paten/host are the symbol of the Eucharistic ministry of a new priest and the service he performs in command and commemoration of Our Lord in that rite we know as The Mass. Michael had seen patches with embroidered chalices before... but we imagined something unlike what is done elsewhere these days.  The image was in the mind... then out into a quick sketch, and a request for a little faith, as always, for the cartoon of the design can't compare to what we know it can become.

So off to the works: engineering three-dimensional forms in a computer so they become fabric and thread - easier said than done.


The head is too small to get a good likeness.... so what if we take a bead of ivory and carve it?  Done.
Saint Michael's head of nobler material could not be.  And the priest-to-be worried, "what if it falls off?"  But nothing many rows of thread - and yes, a bit of jeweler's glue too - could not secure.  It shall be attached still a hundred and two, and three hundred years from now, when we are all gone and it is used by another priest, or enshrined in a cathedral museum somewhere.  These vestments are to serve not just at the altar, but as testament of our sacred arts, our devotion and represent the customs and the culture of our times.  Should someone forget how and in what regard religion was held in our days, they should see this and trust in our resolve, our witness of the faith was deliberate, and steady, and respectful.  This is our witness.


So along came the halo and the wings, and the dragon at his feet (with a little forked tongue hanging to the side, for the devil is slain, defeated, pierced by the archangel's spear and no longer cause for fear as the story goes).


And there were pearls, as the clouds upon which the fight of good and evil once ensued.  And then a shrine to protect its memory and encapsulate it, for this chapter described in the tiny scene, dynamic and symbolic, is but part of a larger mystery: that of the chalice and host which represent the blood and body of Christ.


The little shrine takes the place of the knob which is ubiquitous in the chalices used in the Christian liturgies.  In the medieval and Renaissance periods there are instances of this, so Gothic gables and forms were used to harmonize the whole.



Issuing from the chalice and host are rays of light of gold, for they represent the covenant of our salvation by following the precepts of Christ: foremost of which is to drink the wine and eat the bread in memory of Him.


Here we see Father Michael during the celebration of his first mass and perhaps the symbolism is clearer than ever.  While he consecrates the bread and wine at the altar, the design on his chasuble is a visible symbol of the salvific mystery being carried out in the said consecration.


As chalices go, it is apt that he was given a token one by the Bishop during the ordination, and a real one by the members of the Vestry of the church where he was baptised, confirmed, and worshiped until this Saturday when he was ordained at the Cathedral and returned to the church for his first mass.


We hope he wears this chasuble on every anniversary of his ordination and be reminded not just then, but every time he  has to vest it, of the weighty office and tasks, but also the great honour of serving as the agent of salvation for the faithful and even those who perhaps do not yet belief - but attracted by the shine of the chalice, the beauty of our religion which is designed to echo the Holy! Holy!Holy! chanted in heaven, be instructed into its deeper meaning, and the reason of its being.


May your patron in the little shrine, Saint Michael the Archangel, guard and protect you, Father, and may he help you defeat the evils of the world so that the mystery of salvation contained in the chalice be accessible to all. Thank you for allowing Klave Centesca the opportunity to add to the treasures of Our shared Christian faith for now and posterity, and may the Peace of the Lord remain always with you.

The Legend on the design reads: IHS : MICHAEL + PRIEST + JUN 3 + A.D. 2017 + as testament of the day it was first used.    So as we say back home: Ad multos annos!

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Real Saint Ronald

Quick sketch of Saint Ronald made for a friend a couple of days ago.

Although it is a fairly common name, there aren't many images of the old Norwegian saint. We could only find one, from Orkney.  


To remedy the scarcity, a new representation had to be drawn up, informed by a bit of research and interesting facts into the life and death of the martyred jarl.

The allegorical image then speaks about the saint in question, who in the 12c was a jarl ("earl" in English) for the Orkney Isles.  As the story goes, he vowed to God to build a church there in honour of the recently canonized Saint Magnus; it was made of yellow and red limestone, and that has become the attribute held by him.  The anachronistic earl's coronet is used to denote his rank in life, in a manner familiar to our contemporary understanding.  He wears a red mantle which drapes onto the slab in which he was killed symbolizing his own martyrdom and the fact that the miracles which according to legend led to his canonization, are based on the legend that his blood remained fresh on the said stone many years after his death.  The stone was taken to be housed and venerated to the church of his own foundation, the now Cathedral of Saint Magnus in Kirkwall.  The slab is dressed itself with a representation of the flag of the Orkneys as becoming of the state honours that would have been rendered to him as the sitting earl upon death.  The Saint wears a tunic which represents the (again, anachronistic) flag of Norway simply to recall his lineage and the fact that he was a Norwegian agent in those lands.  The Nordic crosses of the two flags are also a link to the Christianity of the Orkneys and its martyred earl - Saint Ronald having made a celebrated trip to the Holy Land in his own lifetime - not so much as a crusader, but as a pilgrim. The leggings recall the silvery crosses of Saint Andrew on a blue field which identify Scotland, nation to which the Orkneys presently belong along with this bit of cultural patrimony. So there it is, a new image of Saint Ronald, aka Rognvald, Earl of Orkney.  



Interestingly, he was quite a poet, and some of his writings still survive in the old Norse language, along with history of his life and trip to the Holy Land and back, in the Orkneyinga Saga. 

The martyred saint is remembered on the 20th of August.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Sarum Blue is at once most blue and also....violet


Sarum Blue has been a controversial subject.  We have been commissioned a couple of times to make something in that Liturgical Colour... and as always, we at Klave Centesca try to do a certain degree of  research before embarking on any project.  It is always good to learn new things!

Turns out we see this meme all the time out there:

 

And yes, it has been posted in reference to our blue vestments:


So let's go down the rabbit hole:


 
  Yes, these are three chasubles depicted in manuscripts ranging between the 10th and 15c., and yes they are quite blue.  Are they Sarum?  No, but the important thing is that they ARE blue.. ultramarine blue in the first two images, to be exact, which is the pigment often used in those days to achieve this colour from the painstaking process of grinding the mineral lapis lazuli.  

 

The other choice of blue pigment was made out of cobalt... both rather bright, definitive, shades of blue.  


But... it is true... the ordines and rubrics of the Church don't generally consider blue as a liturgical colour... yet it appears not just in chasubles... but also in the form of copes:


And then, also in the form of choir dress: are certain of these cardinals wearing blue cappa magnas?


Are these French Prelates all in blue choir dress too?


Well, it's not some conspiracy.  Turns out, the French Prelates are all Bishops - they are actually wearing violet mozettas (aka camails, in French) lined in amaranth red as prescribed for their hierarchy to this day... just that in painting, back before acrylics and oils came in tubes, blue was still made out of ground lapis and smelt and other proprietary recipes...and was used to "depict" the prescribed "violaceus" hues of the church.  

 

Yes, that is how in this beautiful images of a papal chapels, processions and consistories, there are red Cardinals and a few "blue" prelates too:

 
  

And just as art imitates life... eventually, life imitates art.  This is an extant Halberstadt blue chasuble from the 13c. Keeping in mind that textile colours do fade with time.

  

But if textiles fade, certainly the stained glass windows and illuminated manuscripts that are part of our collective patrimony, culture and memory, do not.  So to those who question the existence of Sarum blue... and then it's bright incarnations as royal, azure, lapis and cobalt... well... look at the rubrics and when is it used: Advent... when violet is called for... and look at the evidence above where these bright blues are used to depict whatever the church prescribes as violet in art: from the choir dress of bishops, to the court dress of domestic prelates of the pope, and vestments in places outside the use of Sarum where "blue" is not an option but violet always is.  Sarum blue is not an anomaly.  And these bright hues, end up closely resembling the historical ultramarine obtained from the lapis.

 
 Hence. voila!
Sarum blue is at once most blue, and also... violet. Technically.
:)



Here are links to two of our featured blue sets, if you'd like to revisit them: