Friday, 15 December 2017

Noël à Montréal

At the end of November, one of our archivists visited Montreal for some professional development. It was a little too early for all the Christmas events and markets, which was unfortunate because Montreal is a festive place to be during the winter season.

Undeterred, our stalwart staff member was determined to gather some Catholic Christmas souvenirs for this blog post and here are the results:

A year ago, The Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace opened at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to mark the beginning of the city's 375th anniversary. Housed within is a major donation of Old Masters by the eponymous benefactors, which includes many paintings of the Madonna and Child, the Holy Family, and the Nativity.

ARCAT Staff Photo; Canada Post

Virgin and Child by the Master of the Castello Nativity, ca. 1460. Hornstein Collection, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

In this painting, the Infant Christ hold a goldfinch. As this bird eats thistles and thorns, it is a common allusion to Christ's crown of thorns and his Passion.
This painting was chosen by Canada Post for the 2016 Christmas stamp.
See another Christmas stamp from St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica in Toronto.

ARCAT Staff Photo

The Holy Family with the Adoration of the Child by Mariotto Albertinelli, ca. 1505. Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

This round format or tondo is typical of the High Renaissance. The meadow setting suggests that the Holy Family is taking a moment of respite on their Flight into Egypt. Note that the Christ Child is missing a toe on his right foot. 

Keeping with the theme of the Holy Family, the next stop was St. Joseph's Oratory, the largest shrine in the world dedicated to Canada's patron saint.

ARCAT Staff Photo

Views to and from St. Joseph's Oratory with a festive (and trecherous!) dusting of snow and ice. 

ARCAT Staff Photo

The Oratory Museum has two current exhibitions: St. Joseph Likes Montréal and A World in a Crèche

ARCAT Staff Photo

A World in a Crèche
exhibition features a collection of small nativity scenes from around the world, grouped geographically.

ARCAT Staff Photo

The crèche form the United States offers commentary on contemporary American priorities.


ARCAT Staff Photo

The Oratory's Outdoor Crèche by Joseph Guard, 1951; Costumes by François Barbeau, 1980

This life-size polychrome plaster nativity scene was commissioned by the Oratory in 1951 as an outdoor display to be exhibited during the Christmas season. After 30 years of exposure to the elements, a costume designer was hired to make clothes for the statues. They are now part of the Oratory Museum's permanent collection. 

ARCAT Staff Photo

Though Montreal's outdoor Christmas markets were not yet open for shopping, we got to see what the original Christmas gifts would have looked like.

Finally, right beside the Montreal Central train station, some Christmas lights had just gone up at Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde. When it was inaugurated in 1894, Montrealers could proudly boast that they had the only replica of St. Peter's Basilica in North America.

ARCAT Staff Photo

Mary Queen of the World Cathedral, Montreal, was modelled after St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City 
And on that Christmassy note, it was time to bid adieu to the City of a Hundred Steeples and catch the train for Toronto.

Friday, 8 December 2017

The Hand of God Has Been Laid Heavily Upon Us: 100 Years Since the Halifax Explosion

100 years ago this week, Halifax was devastated after a collision in the harbour sparked a fire aboard a munitions ship. The resulting blast was the most powerful explosion in history before the Second World War. Approximately 2,000 were killed, 9,000 were injured, and 1,249 buildings were destroyed. Windows were shattered up to 100 kilometres away.

In the following weeks, Archbishop McNeil (who was originally from Cape Breton) received letters describing the destruction. Archbishop Edward McCarthy of the Archdiocese of Halifax sent the following after receiving a $2000 donation from the Archdiocese of Toronto:

Letter from Halifax Archbishop Edward McCarthy to Archbishop McNeil describing the devastation of the blast.

14 December 1917

MN TA01.20
Archbishop McNeil Fonds


"Halifax, Dec. 14th 1917

"His Grace - The archbishop of Toronto

"My dear Lord Archbishop,

"How shall we ever thank you sufficiently for your kind words of sympathy, and still kinder deed in sending us $2000 for the relief of the sufferers in St. Joseph's parish? They were both sorely needed. No one can have any idea of the extent of the calamity or of the gruesomeness of the sights but those who were eyewitness of the scene. I shall never forget it as long as I live. It simply baffles description. St. Joseph's parish is almost wiped out. Church, presbytery, Convent, two parish halls and schools, all destroyed beyond repair. St. Patrick's Church, with its beautiful Munich windows, is badly damaged. The whole roof will have to come down. In the Cathedral there is not a pane of glass left, and the worst of it all is, we can claim no insurance. Every Catholic Institution - the orphanage, seminary, Home of the Good Shepherd, Infants' Home, St. Teresa's Home for servant-girls out of employment, Sacred Heart Convent, Infirmary, all have been badly riddled though not beyond repair. Certainly for some strange purpose, which we cannot understand, the hand of God has been laid heavily upon us. About 6000 houses, they think, have been either leveled to the ground, or impossible of repair. This, of course, means that 20,000 people are left homeless, and that we will have to clothe, house and feed them for the winter. The number of dead is estimated at 2000, and the wounded are nearly 3000. We beg your Grace to be good enough to convey to the good people of your Archdiocese our hearty thanks for the very substantial and generous help they have sent. May God reward you and them a thousand fold for it all.

I am, Your Grace, Most gratefully yours in Xto.
+Edward McCarthy"


Archbishop McNeil's uncle wrote to him from Halifax on January 6, 1918:

"My Dear Nephew,

"My first word is to wish your people and diocese, your clergy and yourself a very happy New Year in the best sense of the term. We are in a mess yet in this city. I drove through the ruined district today and am convinced I understated the situation in my letters to you and Mary. How any escaped from the destroyed and wrecked houses it is difficult to explain from any human point of view. It is known that in some instances parties living in flat roofed two storey houses made their way to safety through breaks in the upper floor and the roof which was down so near the ground that they were able to step from the roof on to the adjoining street. All school houses suffered severely, and several have been condemned - others are so much damaged that the restoration will cost almost as much as rebuilding. Several churches are beyond repair too...

"The chair I sat in when the explosion occurred was cut by glass an inch long and nearly a quarter deep and that across the grain too, right back of where my head was. Mrs. M is well otherwise than in her eyesight which has grown so dim she cannot come down stairs without help and guidance. About the end of the month she will be surgically healed and we are all hopeful of best results - though at her age success does not always follow.

"Annie's sister ... is recovering the last few days nicely but will feel the loss of her eye and the cuts on her nose and brow keenly. Her son Dick has no doubt a sightless eye - besides a loss of over $3000 in property. His elder brother is laid up from a blow received in the explosion which he did not feel at first and Dick's 9 year old boy had an eye removed. The incidents make us more thankful for the protection God accorded us." (MN AA03.37A Archbishop McNeil Fonds)

It is difficult to imagine what Haligonians went through that day and in the months that followed, but many institutions have produced resources to help us remember them. For more information, check out the website of the Archives of the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth dedicated to remembering the explosion. The Nova Scotia Archives has many online resources available, and CBC has an interactive website telling the story of the accident.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Can anyone identify this object?

You might say that our post this week is a little bit out of the ordinary.

This week, instead of featuring something from our own Archives, we are excited to feature an item from the Archives of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

And the object itself is an unusual one.


Part of the CCCB Archives, Provenance and date unknown.

It is made of wood, possibly maple, and is 36.5 cm high. At its widest point, it is about 25 cm wide.

The metal lettering reads “Veillez et priez” (it is missing the “t” in et). These are the instructions given to the apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane in Matthew 26:41:“Stay awake and pray.”
 

Close up of the painting . The bottom of the metal frame around the image has broken off.
The text beneath the image reads “Mon Ch. Letaille et Fils. Edit Pontifx sucr Paris, Pl 827".

Part of the CCCB Archives, Provenance and date unknown.

The painting shows Jesus and a sleeping apostle in the Garden of Gethsemane. The caption reads “Celui qui doit me trahir approche. Et tu dors.” Literally, “He who is to betray me is approaching, and you are asleep.”



A demonstration of how individual balls are manually dropped into the instrument, facilitating wakefulness and mindfulness in prayer.

Part of the CCCB Archives, Provenance and date unknown.
 
It includes 8 balls, approximately 2 cm in diameter. They have numbers and letters and in fact appear to be bingo tokens. One drops the ball in at the top and it comes out at the bottom. The thought that they may have replaced a lost set of 10 black balls and 1 white one, suggests that it may be an instrument for praying the rosary, one that forces the praying person to keep awake by the physical movement of taking a ball from the bottom and putting it in the hole at the top.


Special thanks to CCCB Archivist Bruce Henry, who piqued our interest and allowed us to post his photographs and description.