Friday, 17 November 2017

Leonardo and the Viaticum Cabinet

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Salvator Mundi, painted circa 1500. Oil on walnut panel.
Christie's, New York

 This painting by Leonardo da Vinci was auctioned on 15 November 2017 at Christie’s in New York.  Twenty minutes into the sale, a winning bid of $400 million USD was entered by an anonymous buyer. After associated fees, the sale price of over $450,000,000 is the highest ever paid for a work of art at auction.  

The big news in the art world this week was the sale of Salvator Mundi, the recently rediscovered painting by Leonardo da Vinci, for a record-setting $450 million USD. It is one of sixteen extant works attributed to the Renaissance master, as well as the last known Leonardo painting that was held in private hands. It remains to be seen whether the anonymous new owner will allow it to be displayed for public consumption.

Salvator Mundi, "Saviour of the World", depicts a frontal portrait of Jesus Christ dressed in contemporary garb with his right hand raised in blessing and his left holding a transparent orb. The same mysterious quality that has made Leonardo's Mona Lisa the most recognizable painting in the world is here captured in the otherworldly gaze of Christ's amber eyes.

Painted around 1500, the work once belonged to King Charles I of England. As the painting changed hands and deteriorated it was repeatedly touched up - a common practice at the time. Eventually, the overpainted original was believed to be one of the many copies produced by other artists. In 1958, it sold for only £45.

The story of Salvator Mundi's rediscovery, which began in 2005, is a fascinating read.

So fascinating, in fact, that it made us wonder if there was a hidden Leonardo painting lurking in the bowels of the Archives. Had any of our bishops snapped up an Old Master of questionable provenance en route to their ad limina visit?

The results of our search were, sadly if inevitably, much more humble. We turned up a single reproduction of the second most famous painting in the world: Leonardo's The Last Supper. Hardly surprising, given that it is believed to be the most mass-reproduced work of all time.

Top: Leonardo da Vinci, The Last Supper, 1495-1498, oil/tempera on plaster
Below: Reproduction of The Last Supper, viaticum cabinet detail, ARCAT Artifacts Special Collection, AF.285

The Last Supper was painted on the refectory wall of Santa Maria delle Grazie convent in Milan. Leonardo used experimental techniques and paint, and the huge mural started to deteriorate almost as soon as it was finished. It has suffered under the hands of many would-be restorers over the centuries. Further deterioration occurred when the refectory was used as a stable by Napoleon's troops and when its roof was torn away by Allied bombing during WWII, which left the paint exposed to the elements for several years.

Suffice it to say, both the original painting and our reproduction have suffered from environmental exposure.

It was a rediscovery for us nonetheless. This Last Supper reproduction had originally been described in our catalogue as part of an ambry - a recessed cupboard in a church used for storing holy oils. However, when we pulled the artifact out of storage, it was clear that it was not an ambry. Further research led us to conclude it was, in fact, a viaticum cabinet, also known and a "sick call box," or a "last rites cabinet."

Viaticum refers to the Eucharist given to a sick or dying person as part of the last rites. The Latin meaning is "provision for a journey"; this final Eucharist is the spiritual nourishment that will fortify a dying person on their passage from this world to the next. Before Vatican II, it was common for Catholic households to have a viaticum cabinet with all the provisions for a visiting priest to administer last rites stored inside.

Artfacts Special Collection, AF.285
Viaticum cabinet

Why settle for one Old Master when you can have two?
The upper portion of the cabinet holds a statuette of the Pietà, its composition appropriated from Michelangelo's masterpiece, which resides in St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City. 

Artfacts Special Collection, AF.285

The Last Supper adorns a door that opens to reveal a storage compartment.
Before Vatican II, it was common for Catholic households to have a viaticum cabinet with all the provisions for a visiting priest to administer last rites stored inside.

This particular cabinet was donated to ARCAT by a family in 2004. It seems to be a popular model mass-produced in the 1930s and 1940s and sold through ecclesiastical supply catalogs. You can see similar examples here.*

Out of the box, this viaticum cabinet would have been stocked with supplies, including a glass bottle for holy water, a paten, a box of absorbant cotton and an instruction booklet. However, over time, families would use the storage compartment for keeping accumulated religious items, such as medals, rosaries, candles and holy cards.

Artfacts Special Collection, AF.289

This viaticum cabinet came equipped with a glass bottle with the instructions:

Artfacts Special Collection, AF.286 to AF.292

Families often used the storage compartment for keeping accumulated religious items, such as these medals and rosaries that were found inside our viaticum cabinet. 

Though it's not a priceless work of ark, this viaticum cabinet is a piece of Catholic material and domestic culture and an interesting rediscovery at ARCAT.

* Sally M. Promey, "Viaticum, Last Rites Cabinet, Sick Call Set," Constellation, in Conversations: An Online Journal of the Center for the Study of Material and Visual Cultures of Religion (2014), doi:10.22332/con.cons.2014.1

Friday, 10 November 2017

We Remember

At 5:00 a.m. the morning of November 11,1918, an armistice agreement was signed between the Germans and Allied forces, who had been at war since 1914. The agreement, signed in a railroad car outside Compiégne, France, was to put an end to "the war to end all wars" until a peace treaty could be ratified.

Here in the archives we have a letter written on this historic day.

First World War Fonds, FW CS01.63

Letter to Archbishop McNeil from Reverend Edward Hawks
 November 11, 1918

The letter is written to Archbishop McNeil from Reverend Edward Hawks. Reverend Hawks was a British-born Canadian serving in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He returned to Canada during the war to become a chaplain in the Canadian army.

He writes he is with the 5th Battalion, R.T, but does not say where he is currently stationed. He tells Archbishop McNeil that he has been to the front and was part of the great advance, but does not say which advance this is.

He worries peace might never come.

And yet, Reverend Hawks writes that there is a rumour spreading through his battalion of an immediate armistice.

We know now that it was no rumour at all. On the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the armistice agreement signed earlier that day went into effect. All battles on the Western Front were to cease. The Great War had ended.

Now, every year on November 11th we observe Remembrance Day. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we hold a moment of silence to pause and reflect on the sacrifices made -- in this war and the wars that followed.

This weekend our thoughts are with all the men and women who have served our country during times of war, conflict and peace.

Lest we forget.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Roman Holiday

Need to escape the cold November rain? Rome's weekend forecast calls for sunshine and highs of 21° celsius. Plan your itinerary with some suggestions from Monsignor James M. Clair, who visited the Eternal City with Cardinal McGuigan in the late 1930s.

Admire Roman engineering at the Sant'Angelo Bridge, which has spanned the River Tiber since 135 AD.

Sant'Angelo Bridge on the River Tiber

Monsignor Clair Collection

Crossing the bridge, you will find the Castel Sant'Angelo, which was completed in 139 AD as the Emperor Hadrian's mausoleum. Since then, it has been connected to St. Peter's by a protected passage, and has been a place of refuge for popes. It is topped by a statue of St. Michael, which recalls the vision that Pope Gregory the Great had in 590 AD of the archangel that signified the end of the plague. The Castel is now a museum.

Sant'Angelo Bridge, Castel Sant'Angelo, St. Peter's Basilica entrance, and the group outside the Vatican

Monsignor Clair Collection

Walk in the path of ancient Romans on the Appian Way, which is a road that was begun in 312 AD to connect Rome to regions south. 

Next take a stroll past Porta San Paolo (St. Paul's Gate). It now houses a museum, but was built in 275 AD as an entrance to the city through the Aurelian Walls. Beside it you will find the Pyramid of Cestius, which is a 12 BC burial chamber.  

The Appian Way, St. Paul's Gate, the Pyramid of Cestius, and the Papal Basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls

Monsignor Clair Collection

A short distance south, you will find the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, which is a church built over the grave of St. Paul and consecrated in 324 AD. It has been extensively added to over the centuries.

Perhaps one of the most famous sites in Rome is the Colosseum, an amphitheatre which opened to Romans in 80 AD and could accommodate 50,000 spectators. Close by you will spot the Arch of Constantine, which is a 315 AD monument to the eponymous emperor. 

Monsignor Clair poses outside the Colosseum and at the Arch of Constantine

Monsignor Clair Collection

No visit to Rome would be complete without a stop by the Vatican and the famous St. Peter's Basilica. It was consecrated in 1626, and is the largest church in the world. 

A postcard depicting St. Peter's Basilica

For a little R&R, check out Castel Gandolfo, a former Papal retreat on Lake Albano which is now open to the public.

The gardens of Castel Gandolfo

Monsignor Clair Collection

 Don't forget to get a group shot with your friends!

Fr. E. O'Hanley, Fr. J. Crossland, Cardinal McGuigan, Fr. T. Cahmpoux, and Monsignor Clair

Monsignor Clair Collection

 Buon viaggio!

Friday, 27 October 2017

An Amicable Discussion on the Church of England and on The Reformation in General

A watershed moment in Christian History will be commemorated on October 31st. On that day 500 years ago Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany. The document, which was intended as an academic discussion of the sale of indulgences (a reduction of time in purgatory), sparked a schism known as the Reformation which has lasted to the present.

Today, members of Protestant and Catholic Churches work together for many common goals. However, this was not always the case, as we previously explained in this post on the evolution of ecumenism. The divide wasn't just spiritual; it poured over into the political and social as well. Here in the archives, we have lots of examples of arguments written to convince people to switch teams.

This booklet regarding transubstantiation (which was a big sticking point between Catholics and Protestants) helped influence John Elmsley, who was a very influential donor in the early days of the diocese, to convert to Catholicism. Perhaps it was this paragraph that changed his mind:
"For your part at least, Sir, reflect; I conjure you, on the danger to which you are exposed by the prejudices of your education. Have the courage to emancipate yourself from them; it certainly must cost you less to quit an opinion which is not of your own choice. Imagine yourself for a moment in the midst of the synagogue where the important affair was discussed, and that you witness all that passes. You distinguish our divine Saviour surrounded by his apostles and disciples: you attentively listen with them to the words that come from his mouth, and at the at part of his discourse where he comes to the mystery, you hear the confused murmurs, and afterwards the declared opposition of the multitude. In vain does our Saviour exert himself to persuade them, by repeatedly affirming what he had just announced; the multitude remain deaf: and soon you remark the repugnance even of many of his disciples, you notice their words of contradiction, and then their entire desertion from him. on the other side you admire the firmness, the liveliness of the faith of the apostles, and what is more striking through the whole of this scene, the calm countenance and unalterable sweetness of the Man-God. All this passes before your eyes; I suppose you to be present at it. Now what are you yourself going to do? You must declare yourself. On what side will you range yourself? Will you adhere with them to your divine master? Or will you turn your back upon him with the crowd of the murmurers? You are indignant at my question: is there any room for hesitation? You say to me. Well then! Sir, take now the part that you would then decidedly have taken with the apostles. The dispute unfortunately still continues. It has been renewed for nearly three centuries with more violence than at its birth, and with still more deplorable consequences. It is no longer between the Jews and in the synagogue, but in the Church, and among Christians: Jesus Christ is still in the midst of them; he continues to speak the same language to them. You have just heard him: surrender yourself therefore to him." 

Extract From a Celebrated Work Entitled An Amicable Discussion on the Church of England and on The Reformation in General


M AB14.01
Bishop Macdonell Fonds

The preface of the next booklet gives an account of the attitudes of Torontonians when Elmsley converted:
"In a free country where every man has the right to profess the creed which he finds most congenial to his conscience, we see no reason why a Catholic should be hunted down, for availing himself of the privilege which every sectarian in the land enjoys.  
"The desertion of the Hon. John Elmsley from the Church of England, and his embracing the doctrine of the Catholic Church, has raised such an alarm among protestants of all denominations in this city, that it appears to be a tocsin (sic) for those, of the most jarring and discordant dogmas to rally round their divided fabric, and bring their united artillery to bear upon Mr. Elmsely; not satisfied with the "triumphant and gentlemanlike" answer of the Venerable Archdeacon of Toronto, they must pour upon him, the most scurrilous and billingsgate abuse from the kennel of the Courier..."
Husenbeth's Defence of the Catholic Church: A Complete Refutation of the Calumnies Contained in a Work Entitled The Poor Man's Preservative Against Popery


M AB14.02
Bishop Macdonell Fonds

Father William Peter MacDonald, who was Vicar General of the Diocese of Kingston at the time, wrote his own book of arguments for the Catholic Church, with topics such as the sacraments, the Latin mass, the saints, the veneration of Mary, relics, fasting, purgatory, indulgences, and more. He explained,
"Protestant is the general appellation by which all those sects designate themselves, that have built their various and every-varying systems of belief upon the same bottom with the first Reformer, Luther; that is, on the right assumed by everyone of interpreting the Holy Scriptures for himself, and of forming his faith accordingly. This common title, which they have taken to themselves, is, in truth, the most appropriate one they could possibly have chosen; as all their doctrines purely such, and properly their own, are but so many flat denials, or open protests made against as many affirmative articles taught by the Catholic Church. They are all negatives, or nay; opposed to as many affirmatives, or yea. ...
"To protest against, is to oppose. But an opposer is an adversary. The Protestant then has assumed the very title, by which in Scripture the Devil is designated ... Another Scripture name of the Devil is ... destroyer. But the word Protestant, or denier, has the very same meaning; for, to deny is to pull down and destroy what previous affirmation has built up."

The Protestant, or Negative Faith Refuted, and The Catholic, or Affirmative Faith Demonstrated from Scripture


M AE22.02
Bishop Macdonell Fonds

Archbishop Lynch published a book of responses to common Protestant arguments against Catholicism. He wrote, 
"We designedly condensed the answers, that, the book might be small and cheap, in order to reach all classes.
"We have been informed that many Catholics bought several of these books to distribute, and to lend their Protestant neighbors, who became far less bigoted, in fact, more friendly in their intercourse, and were not afraid to enter a Catholic Church, and listen to the sermons which they had been erroneously informed were delivered in Latin.
"It was to give a ready answer to Catholics, as well as to inform Protestants, in search of true faith that this little book was composed. We exhort all Catholics to a greater zeal in propagating the truth whenever they can. Those who convert others from the error of their ways will have gained their neighbors' and their own salvation." 
Questions and Objections Concerning Catholic Doctrine and Practices


ARCAT Rare Book Collection

If arguments fail, perhaps peer pressure will work. This 1878 leaflet lists (in order of their social standing) citizens of England who have converted to Catholicism. In his introduction, Archbishop Lynch wrote, 
"There is a good object to be gained by the publication of these names. It will show to the weak-hearted and wavering that the most noble and learned personages, have, after prayer and self-sacrifice, entered a Church that is held up to the protesting world as corrupt and soul-destroying. That calumny is refuted at once. Those great personages would not, indeed, renounce many worldly advantages but for conscience sake, that they might securely treat the true path that leads to Heaven."
Recent Converts to the Catholic Church in England


ARCAT Rare Book Collection

And here's what the other side had to say. The preface states,
"Popery should be combated, not only with spiritual but political weapons - not only by the Church, but also by the state. 
"The author, however, does not advocate intolerance towards Roman Catholics. He would give them full liberty of worship and of discussion, and only deprive them, as a measure of self-defence, of the power of carrying out their persecuting system and canon law; and of such a position in the state as enables them to subserve politically the papal designs. He bears no ill will to Roman Catholics; on the contrary, his "heart's desire and prayer to God is, that they may be saved." It is always important to remember the distinction which exists between the person and the system - the sinner and the sin. 
"It is earnestly hoped that this condensation of evidence, on the antisocialism of Popery, may tend, under God, to open the eyes of many to the fearful evils of that system, and to the dangers to which we are exposed from its nefarious designs."
Popery in its Social Aspect: Being a Complete Exposure of the Immorality and Intolerance of Romanism


ARCAT Rare Book Collection
And just for fun, here's Fr. George Northgraves' book aimed at the mistakes of all non-Catholics in general:

Mistakes of Modern Infidels, or, Evidences of Christianity


ARCAT Rare Book Collection

Today we recognize that Catholics and Protestants have more in common than they don't, and we prefer peaceful dialogue to petty argument. For that we are thankful. 

Protestants and Catholics alike are invited to an ecumenical prayer service at Timothy Eaton Memorial Church on Reformation Sunday, October 29th.

Friday, 20 October 2017

On this Day: First Vatican Council Suspended

On October 20, 1870, one-hundred and forty-seven years ago, Pope Pius IX suspended Vatican Council I.

The First Vatican Council was the 20th ecumenical council called by the Catholic Church, convoked by Pope Pius IX on 29 June 1868.  Several hundred ecclesiastical dignitaries, including our own Bishop Lynch, convened between 8 December 1869 and 20 October 1870  to discuss contemporary problems confronting the Catholic Church and to define matters of Church doctrine and practice.

Engraving of First Vatican Council, c. 1870.
Source: Wikimedia Commons (original source unknown)

The Council had met only four times before political turmoil left the Holy Father with little choice but to prematurely suspend the Council. Italian Unification had been a looming problem for the Papal State since the 1860s, and the threat only deepened with outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War. The war prompted Napoleon III to recall his garrison from Rome before ultimately surrendering on September 2nd 1870. Without any protection from the French Empire, Rome was captured and annexed by the Kingdom of Italy on September 20, 1870.

Below is a papal statement made by Cardinal Paracciani Clarelli, Arch-Priest to St. Peter's Basilica, announcing the suspension of the Ecumenical Council on October 20, 1870. (ARCAT Papal Statement Collection, L PS53.01)

The seizure of Rome and the suspension of the Vatican Council were turning points in Roman Catholicism. The effects of these events certainly left their mark on the faithful in our Archdiocese; a newsclipping reveals that parishioners gathered at St Michael's Cathedral to form a public meeting and protest the injustices in Rome.

Toronto Roman Catholics respond to the annexation of Rome.
Protest No. 4 speaks against the disruption to the Holy Father and the Ecumenical Council


L AG06.04

Archbishop Lynch Fonds

Vatican Council I never reconvened after it was suspended, however it did have the significant accomplishment of defining the doctrine of papal infallibility. And, significant for us, it was also during Vatican I that Pope Pius IX raised Toronto to an Archdiocese, making Lynch Archbishop of Toronto.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Archives Roadshow

Gillian Hearns, Director of Archives at the Archdiocese of Toronto, shows off some of our treasured artifacts at the Eastern Regional Celebration to mark the archdiocesan 175th anniversary.
(ARCAT Staff Photo)

It is the nature of archives that researchers interested in accessing documents firsthand are required to visit the repository that houses and protects them. In other words, our records don't get out much.

Therefore, it was with excitement (and, admittedly, a little trepidation) that we decided to pack up some of our most treasured artifacts and put them on display to mark the Archdiocese of Toronto's 175th Anniversary.

The archdiocese is divided into four pastoral regions and each has held, or will hold, an Anniversary Celebration with mass and reception hosted by Cardinal Thomas Collins and the regional auxiliary bishop. At each event, we have set up a historical display in the narthex and reception hall of the host parish.

It has been a wonderful opportunity to engage with the Catholic community that wouldn't typically use the archives or even know much about the archdiocese beyond parish life. So far, we have taken our roadshow to Merciful Redeemer Parish, Mississauga (Western Region), St. Mary's Parish, Barrie (Northern Region) and St. Isaac Jogues Parish, Pickering (Eastern Region).

The final Regional Celebration will be held at Blessed Trinity Parish (3220 Bayview Ave.) next Thursday, October 19, 2017 at 7 p.m. If you are in the Toronto area, we invite you to come celebrate this milestone with us and see what ARCAT has to offer!

For more information visit:

Western Regional Celebration at Merciful Redeemer Parish, Mississauga, September 12, 2017
(ARCAT Staff Photo)

Western Regional Celebration at Merciful Redeemer Parish, Mississauga, September 12, 2017
(ARCAT Staff Photo)

Our display included 19th century vestments, mitres and a pallium. 

Northern Regional Celebration at St. Mary's Parish, Barrie, September 21, 2017
(ARCAT Staff Photo)

Northern Regional Celebration at St. Mary's Parish, Barrie, September 21, 2017
(ARCAT Staff Photo)

Our mannequins have a slight contrapposto stance, otherwise known as swagger.

Eastern Regional Celebration at St. Isaac Jogues Parish, Pickering, October 4, 2017
(ARCAT Staff Photo)

Members of the CWL at St. Isaac Jogues Parish take a break from hosting duties to pose with our timeline posters. 

Eastern Regional Celebration at St. Isaac Jogues Parish, Pickering, October 4, 2017
(ARCAT Staff Photo)

Eastern Regional Celebration at St. Isaac Jogues Parish, Pickering, October 4, 2017
(ARCAT Staff Photo)

Also on display were episcopal jewellery, medals, and souvenirs from the last two papal conclaves.

Friday, 6 October 2017

We Request the Pleasure of Your Company

Cardinal McGuigan raises a toast at a dinner held in honour of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation at Toronto's Empire Club.

1 June 1953

PH 09E/16P
ARCAT Photograph Collection

This weekend, people across Canada will celebrate Thanksgiving. Sharing a meal with family and friends has been a way to celebrate and mark occasions since time immemorial. Whether it's a formal event in a hotel ballroom or an intimate affair in a friend's home, a meal is an excuse to gather and enjoy good company. This week we are featuring a few of the many invitations to dinner and luncheon that we have here in the archives.

The Duke of Orleans presents his compliments to Mr. McDonald and will be very glad to see him at dinner on Sunday next at four o'clock, if he is not otherwise engaged.

13 August, 1813

M AE07.10
Bishop Macdonell Fonds

The professors and students of Trinity Medical School request the pleasure of the company of His Grace, Archbishop Lynch at their eleventh annual dinner, to be held at the Rossin house, on Thursday, Nov. 10th, 1887, at 8 p.m. R.S.V.P.

November 1887

L AH32.158
Archbishop Lynch Fonds

To meet His Excellency The Governor General and Marchioness of Lansdowne
The Lieutenant Governor of Ontario and Mrs. Beverley Robinson request the honor of His Grace the Archbishop's company at Dinner on Friday, the 19th of September at Eight o'clock. Government House, Toronto. An answer is requested to the A.D.C.

September 1887

L AE06.96
Archbishop Lynch Fonds

The President, Executive and Members of The Canadian Club of Toronto and the Empire Club of Canada request the pleasure of the company of Archbishop N. McNeil, at a Luncheon in honour of His Excellency The Rt. Hon. Earl of Bessborough, P.C. G.C.M.G., to be held in the Royal York Hotel, Tuesday, November 24th, 1931 at 12.45 o'clock. R.S.V.P. before 10 a.m., Monday, Nov. 23rd, to J.M. Philip, Secretary Canadian Club, 1003 Bank of Hamilton Bldg. Guests will assemble in Hall A, at 12.30 o'clock.

November 1931

MN AA23.140
Archbishop McNeil Fonds 

Mr. Ray N. Bryson, President of the Boy Scouts Association, District of Toronto, invites you to join him as his guest at a dinner given in honour of Major-General Dan C. Spry, C.B.E., D.S.O., Chief Executive Commissioner of Canada's Boy Scouts. 

This will be held at hte Granite Club, 63 St. Clair Avenue West, Tuesday, December 2nd. Guests will assemble in the Men's Lounge Room, main floor, at 6:30 p.m. Dinner served at 6:45 p.m. Dress: Scout uniform or business dress.

All 1947 Officers are invited to attend including Mr. R.C. Berkinshaw, the chairman, and Members of the Advisory Board, the Board of Honour and Members of the Executive Committee.

R.S.V.P. by November 27th to Mr. Herbert B. Greenaway, Suite 604, 57 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario.

November, 1947

MG SO22.19
Cardinal McGuigan Fonds

Have a great weekend of giving thanks for great dinner companions!