Home is where the heart is

St Catherine of Alexandria

On the feast day of St Catherine of Alexandria, a picture of the quite homely looking sacristy of the Parish Church of St Catherine of Alexandria, in Gmina Jaśliska, in south-east Poland.  The sanctuary is through the open door.  It’s got the look and feel of a contemporary French farmhouse kitchen to me.

St Catherine of Alexandria, pray for us

Divine Justice and the Room of Tears

“For we shall all stand before the judgement seat of God . . . So each of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14: 10,12)

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The Last Judgement, a fresco by Michelangelo, on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City.  It illustrates the Second Coming of Christ and Divine Justice – the Last Judgement of Christ the King – a judgement no one shall escape from.  I had forgotten how beautiful and imposing it is.  I definitely wasn’t thinking “another day, another fresco.”

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www.aaog.blogspot.co.uk (2013)

Just off the Sistine Chapel, behind Michelangelo’s Last Judgement, is a small robing room known as the Room of Tears.  Moments after a new pope is elected he goes into this sacristy to change into the white papal vestments, and that is when he feels the weight of the papacy and may shed a tear.  Daunting is an understatement.

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www.communio.stblogs.org (2013)

Well, I haven’t made it into the Sistine Chapel sacristy.  No tears.  But it is nice to see a couple of pictures taken by people who have seen it.

Groups of Angel Musicians

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© The Norton Simon Foundation

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© The Norton Simon Foundation

Study After Francesco Solimena: Groups of Angel Musicians, 1760-61, black chalk on paper, by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806), from the sacristy of the Basilica San Paolo Maggiore, Naples, Italy.

Today is the feast day of St Cecilia, the patroness of musicians.

St Cecilia, pray for us

Sacristy of the Canons

While the sacristy of St Peter’s is very impressive, I just knew there would be another door – closed and locked – that I would want to open, have to open, just to see what treasures were inside.

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So it was at St Peter’s when I spotted a closed door to the left of the main entrance.  I knew what it was too.  The Sacristy of the Canons.  I wandered over to it and tried the handle.  Yep.  Locked.  Another time perhaps.

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A few minutes later I glanced over towards the closed door I saw that it was now open.  Hurrah, I couldn’t believe my luck.  A photo from the doorway with St Peter and St Paul looking back at at me.

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I stepped inside.  Another photo.  Another door beckoning . . .

I wonder what it’s like to be an altar server in the Vatican

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Some action in the sacristy of St Peter’s Basilica with St John Vianney, the patron saint of priests, keeping an eye on things.

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Now, which chalice . . . decisions, decisions . . .

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What do you think guys?

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Okay, I’m ready.  Where’s the priest?

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Not me.  Not me.  Not me.  Not me.

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Okay, but who’s claiming this?

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I mean this.


I have got other things to do.

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I know what you mean . . .

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I’ve got commitments too.

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I suppose I could admire the beautiful floor.  Again.

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Hey, I’m out of here.  And I’m in a hurry.

The most famous church in Christendom

Today is an Optional Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul.  What better way to celebrate than to post some pictures of one of my more successful sacristy adventures.  It’s the sacristy of St Peter’s Basilica, the most famous church in Christendom.  And if you didn’t know it already, it’s at Piazza San Pietro, 00120 Città del Vaticano, Vatican City.

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This is the view from just inside the sacristy door.  Under the clock opposite, “silentium”.  And it was.

The octagonal sacristy is in a building attached to the basilica although it doesn’t seem like it’s separate.  Pope Pius VI commissioned Carlo Marchionni to build it in 1776.  The sacristy has eight Ionic order columns (two are pictured) from Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli.  The Ionic order forms one of the three orders of classical architecture, the other two canonic orders being the Doric and the Corinthian.

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The beautiful floor, with the middle part cordoned off.  And not forgetting the sacristy press in the background.  One of them anyway.

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Huffing and puffing!

And then I was asked to leave

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One of my least successful sacristy forays, Sant’Andrea della Valle Basilica in Rome.  I think I was on my way to Chiesa del Gesù.  Again.  I couldn’t resist popping into the 17th century baroque church as I was passing.  Mass was just finishing.  As the priest disappeared into the sacristy I gave it a few minutes and then wandered over to the sacristy door.

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There it was, glistening in the sunlight, beckoning to me to go in.  So I did.

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It wasn’t actually the door to the sacristy itself.  Instead, a long and quiet corridor.  I found myself saying ‘hello’ very quietly (how ridiculous).  No answer came.  l walked slowly down the corridor, fully expecting someone to come out of one of the doors that lined it.  No one appeared.

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I passed a painting of Pope Francis on the right.  Nice.

At last, an open door on the right.  It must be the sacristy.

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Wow, it looked great.  I took a quick picture from the door.

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And then another.

I was just about to go in and see if there was someone I could ask if it was okay to take some pictures when I heard a noise.  And then I was asked to leave.  Oh dear.  I left.

Great sacristy.  Would have loved a longer look.  And have a few drawers and cupboards opened up.  The two closed doors at the back look very enticing too.  And maybe take a few pictures of the ceiling.  I didn’t even have time to look up so I don’t know what I missed.  Another time perhaps . . .

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Source: www.santandreaavellino.it

But look what I found.  A picture of the sacristy in 2009 before a Mass celebrating Father Bartholomew Mas’ 60 years of ordination.  The sacristy at its best.

Pasta and pizza and San Francesco a Ripa

When in Rome (I may have mentioned I was there recently) we found ourselves in the Trastevere quarter of the city and I realised that San Francesco a Ripa  (completed 1681-1701), a church I had visited about seven years earlier, was somewhere around where we were having one of those lovely “ordinary” Italian lunches.  You know the kind, sitting outside in the October sun eating the most gorgeous pasta and pizza for less than 10 euros (or a few squillion lire if that’s helpful to you).  After lunch, and now on a mission, we set off to find the church.

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Happiness.  I trundled off towards the sacristy, which is just past a chapel containing one of Bernini’s masterpieces, the sculpture Beata Ludovica Albertoni (1671-1675).  I did stop to admire it, I promise.  I spotted the sacristan coming out of the sacristy and asked if I could have a quick look.  He wasn’t unhappy that I wanted to take some photos, just a bit bemused I think.  After a while he warmed up a bit and told me that he had been doing the job 21 years.  That’s more than a few shifts.

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The entrance to the sacristy.  Imagine Bernini’s sculpture to the left.  I’m not being facetious.  No photos allowed.

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In we go!

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Dark wood.

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More dark wood.

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Um, dark wood.

I love it.

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A ‘trough-like’ sacrarium.

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Another gold star.

As well as the sacristy, oh, and the Bernini sculpture, the church is historically important because it’s where St Francis of Assisi stayed when he visited Rome.  His cell, through the sacristy and then up some stairs, is currently being restored so we couldn’t go in.  A good reason to go back again.

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This is the door that leads – eventually – to St Francis’ cell.

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And this is the view from the back of the sacristy towards the entrance . . . with the helpful sacristan to the left.

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The last picture I took?  I looked up and saw this lone painting in the centre of the ceiling.

St Francis of Assisi, pray for us

St Martin’s Charterhouse

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Source: New Liturgical Movement, 2013 – www.newliturgicalmovement.org

On the feast day of St Martin of Tours, a picture of the sacristy of St Martin’s Charterhouse (Certosa di San Martino), in Naples, southern Italy.  A former Carthusian monastery it is now, sadly, a state museum.   The monastery was built in 1368 under the rule of Queen Joan I and dedicated to St Martin of Tours.  In the early 19th century, under French rule, the monastery was closed and abandoned by the Carthusians.

St Martin of Tours, pray for us

Sacristy memorial for those who fought and fell in the Great War

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We’ve got a memorial in our sacristy in memory of the people of our parish who fought and fell in the Great War.  Consequently, not many people get to see it.  And those who are in and out of the sacristy on a regular basis tend not to notice it . . .

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. . . unless it’s November and they see the red poppy I’ve put in the stone work.

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It can get a bit lost in the background.  Even today.

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The sacristy this morning before the Requiem Mass for the Fallen.

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Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

The English College in Rome on a Sunday morning

The sacristy in the English College in Rome on a Sunday morning before Mass.

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Vestments carefully laid out.

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Drawers not quite closed . . . or not quite open.

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Wardrobes “in action.”

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Things to do.  Or “What day is it?”

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A well-used sacrarium.

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Nearly there.

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On my way out after coffee after Mass.  A lovely sacristy, a lovely Mass, a lovely morning.

Mass for the Dead

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We have Mass in the Extraordinary Form on the first Wednesday of every month.  This November evening, the month of the Holy Souls in Purgatory, we had a Mass for the Dead.

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Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Sint Carolus Borromeus

The Sacristy, Saint-Charles Borromeo's Church, Antwerp (photo)

On the feast day of St Charles Borromeo, a picture of the sacristy in St Charles Borromeo’s Church, in Antwerp, Belgium.

The church, known locally by its Latin name of Sint Carolus Borromeus, was built between 1614 and 1621 on the instructions of the Jesuits.  Some parts of the church are only open on certain days, including the sacristy which is open on Wednesdays.  But hey, at least it is officially accessible.

Charles Borromeo

St Charles Borromeo (1538-1584) – above – was the cardinal archbishop of Milan from 1564 to 1584, and was a member of the Arciconfraternita di Santa Maria dell’Orazione e Morte, the purgatorial society in Rome I posted about yesterday.

St Charles Borromeo, pray for us

Hodie mihi, cras tibi

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I spotted this laureled skull on a church door last week as we were on our way to Chiesa Gesù, a church we never arrived at.  Two days running we tried to get there, but there were too many good distractions along the way.  Like this, Chiesa di Santa Maria dell’Orazione e Morte, a confraternity church situated between the Tiber and the Palazzo Farnese.  The church is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary under a special title of Our Lady of Prayer and Death.

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Santa Maria dell’Orazione e Morte was built and consecrated in 1576 by a confraternity that aimed to bury the poor dead, found abandoned in the countryside or drowned in the Tiber. Its charity was, and still is, supported by the Arciconfraternita di Santa Maria dell’Orazione e Morte, a purgatorial society dating back to the 1560s.  Burials were performed in their cemetery on the banks of the Tiber adjacent to the church and accessed via the sacristy.  Between 1552 and 1896 some 8000 bodies were buried there.

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Outside the church is an alms box set into the wall for the perpetual lamp of the cemetery and a plaque that commemorates the dead: Hodie mihi, cras tibi (Today for me, tomorrow for you).

Sadly, the church wasn’t open the day we passed, it opens only on Sundays from 4pm to 7pm with Mass at 6pm.  Inside, the church is “decorated” with human bones; a large number of skulls, candelabras constructed of bones, and a large cross adorned with skulls.  Maybe it was a good thing it was closed then.

Our Lady of Prayer and Death, pray for us