Thursday, November 30, 2006

Reliquary Tabernacle of the Head of St Andrew

Italian sculptor (active 1447–1464 in Rome)
Reliquary Tabernacle of the Head of St Andrew c. 1463
Grotte Vaticane, Rome

Pius II commissioned Paolo Romano and Isaia da Pisa to make a tabernacle for St Andrew's head. The reliquary tabernacle was destroyed when the new St Peter's was built, leaving only remnants of its original sculpture. This relief is from the upper faces of the tabernacle.

St Andrew`s Day

For a happy St Andrew`s Day, see Fratres in Unum in Whispers in the Loggia .

Ghirlandaio : Birth of Mary

GHIRLANDAIO, Domenico (b. 1449, Firenze, d. 1494, Firenze)
Birth of Mary 1486-90 Fresco
Cappella Tornabuoni, Santa Maria Novella, Florence

This is the fresco mentioned in the third episode of the BBC Radio 4 programme mentioned below.

Anachronistic depiction of the birth of Mary. The birth as seen as taking place in fifteenth century Florence. Picture the same scene depicted in Twenty first century Britain or America.

On 1 September 1484, Domenico Girlandaio and his brother Davide signed a contract with Giovanni Tornabuoni, a man whose wealth, power and noble descent ensured his position at the side of the Medici. In just four years, between 1486 and 1490, Ghirlandaio and his workshop completed a monumental work that was entirely to Tornabuoni's satisfaction.

Using classical pilasters and entablatures, Ghirlandaio divided the two enormous walls under the wall rib in this Gothic chapel into six horizontally rectangular picture fields. They are placed above each other in three layers and are crowned by a pointed tympanum. The chapel's front wall, in contrast, has three high-pointed arch windows that provide room on either side for three smaller, vertically rectangular pictures, as well as the large tympanum above them. Here Ghirlandaio designed not just the colourful stained glass windows, still at their original location, he also created the altarpiece and its back.

The overall conception of the chapel has been thought through carefully, right down to the direction of the light. Ghirlandaio rigorously integrated into his scenes the way in which the interior was lit through the three windows: the scenes on the left wall are lit from the right, and those on the right wall from the left - as though from the real windows.

It was only possible for Ghirlandaio to produce such an extensive work in four years by using assistants from his large workshop.

The frescoes were recently restored (1996).

Amongst the Medici

AMONGST THE MEDICI, a three part series from BBC Radio 4 first broadcast earlier in the year.

Bettany Hughes in a three part re-evaluation of one of the most creative and complicated partnerships in the western world

Her theme: The Renaissance was not a unified, predetermined event that washed the values of the ancient world into the mainstream of the new. It was a far more fragile, random entity than that. The one great constant? The presence of a Medici at every turn of the story.

The Medici were the gatekeepers to the ancient world. Their nurturing of University understanding, the collection of Roman and Greek manuscripts for their library and their sponsorship of humanist artist made them the lynchpin of the Renaissance as the medieval world began to re-examine the relationship between man, God and the world.

Set between the founding of the Medici Bank in 1397 and the aftermath of the Bonfire of the Vanities in 1494

Episode 1: Bankers to the Renaissance

The Medici are synonymous with the Renaissance, but why did these bankers act as patrons to artists like Michelangelo and Donatello - was it a love of art or something more sinister?

Episode 2: Renaissance, what renaissance?

Classicist Bettany Hughes in her journey through the beauty and the blood-letting of Renaissance Florence. Could it be that the Renaissance as we know it wasn't a renaissance at all? Could Donatello's David really be a political statement for the Medici?

Episode 3: Smart women, gay men and false gods

Historian Bettany Hughes concludes her journey through the beauty and the blood of renaissance Florence. The death of Lorenzo and the rise of Savanarola.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Display and Devotion

Display and Devotion is part of a Website maintained by students and past students of the Open University in the United Kingdom.

The website is intended to provide a home on the web for all those interested in the Open University art history courses.

It includes a Gallery, Study tours, News headlines, Bibliographies, Notes and documents and Links to museums, libraries and sources.

Anyone can also contribute if they wish.

It also includes an annotated version of the major parts of Vasari`s Lives of the Artists.

Worth a look Click here

The Via Francigena

The Via Francigena: Rome to Canterbury

Via Francigena: St Bernard Pass to Rome

Not quite the M1 of Medieval times.

But the "rediscovery" of this pilgrim route from Canterbury to Rome has meant the identification of routes which were forgotten or had simply fallen into disuse.

It also shows how travel in Medieval Times may have been undertaken and why certain towns and cities and towns grew up and maintained prosperity through catering to the medieval traveller, and forming markets in the process of trade and its expansion.

The Via Francigena or Via Romea was first documented in 990 by Sigeric, Archbishop of Canterbury, in his Diary regarding the places he passed through as he returned to Canterbury after receiving from the Pope, the "pallium", a circular band of white wool with pendants, worn by archbishops over the chasuble.

The roads that Sigeric followed became known as the Via Francigena (the road to France) or "Via Romea" (the road to Rome) and were for centuries used by merchants, prelate, soldiers and pilgrims traveling back and forth from the north of Europe to Rome and Jerusalem carrying ideas as well as money and produce. These people travelled on foot, or on mules and horses, rarely by cart as the conditions of the road varied continually.

Often the route followed the old Roman roads which still existed and were maintained by local landowners and towns.

The route from Abbadia S Salvatore to Siena which Pius narrates in the Commentaries follows the route of the Cassian Way, one of the old Roman roads, and part of the Via Francigena.

The route from Rome to Siena taken by Pius in his Commentaries also seems to follow the old Via Francigena if one looks at the towns which he passed through.

The Times

The Times November 29, 2006

The fish with the most powerful jaws in history
Mark Henderson, Science Editor

A prehistoric Jaws that terrorised the oceans 400 million years ago had the most powerful bite of any creature yet known, scientists have discovered.

The ancient sea monster, known as Dunkleosteus terrelli, could bring its fangs together with a force of almost 5,000kg (11,000lb), making it almost four times more powerful than Tyrannosaurus rex.

Its jaws were arranged so that the bite force would have been focused into a small area around the tip of its front fangs, producing a remarkable pressure of 5,600 kg per sq cm (80,000lb per sq in).

The pressure generated by a 10st (63kg) woman standing on her husband’s toe while wearing a stiletto heel of 0.5cm area would be about 127 kg/sq cm, or 1,800 lb/sq in.

The fearsome fish, which grew up to 10m (33ft) long and weighed up to four tonnes, would have been able to tear a shark in two with just a single bite.

Full story:,,3-2477133,00.html

Fat dog's owners on cruelty charge
Alan Hamilton

11½ stone labrador was unable to walk

Owners allegedly ignored vet's advice

Obesity has become such an issue of political incorrectness that two brothers appeared in court yesterday charged with allowing a dog to get too fat.

Rusty, a nine-year-old labrador, may only have been doing what labradors do, which is to eat everything in sight. But he ballooned to more than 11½ stone (161lb, 73kg), the ideal weight for a large-boned 6ft (1.82m) woman, but not a retriever, which should be chasing sticks and newly shot game.

Rusty had trouble standing up, and after no more than five paces he had to sit down again, breathless. He looked, magistrates at Ely, Cambridgeshire, were told yesterday, more like a seal than a dog.,,2-2476938,00.html


Piety, palaces, prewar prescience
Ruth Scurr

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL history book of the year is Marking the Hours: English People and their Prayers, 1240-1570 (Yale, £19.99/offer £17.99). Eamon Duffy examines surviving copies of the Book of Hours, the most intimate book of the late Middle Ages, tracing the marks left by readers — everything from laundry lists scribbled in the margins to personalised versions of prayers. This richly illustrated book takes us back into the hearts and souls of the English long ago.

Web page:,,4809-2456464,00.html


The publisher of Fenton’s book is the Royal Academy, whose own imprint was originally set up to produce exhibition catalogues. These are usually excellent. Take, for example, one of its most recent, Rodin (£24.95), a strikingly designed compendium of intelligent texts and arresting pictures.

Today’s master of catalogue production, however, has to be Yale University Press. It is responsible for the catalogues of our own National Gallery (for example, the excellent Velazquez, £35) and for those of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, among them Bellini, Giorgione, Titian and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting (£40), the beauty of whose illustrations makes it one of my books of the year. The Met itself is responsible for Cézanne to Picasso (£40), an enlightening study of the way the careers of the artists concerned were shaped and steered by the most influential French dealer of his day, Ambroise Vollard.
Web page:,,2102-2465771,00.html

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Cardinal Bessarion

Cardinal Bessarion with the Bessarion Reliquary; Full title: Cardinal Bessarion and Two Members of the Scuola della Carità in prayer with the Bessarion Reliquary Egg tempera with gold and silver on panel 102.3 x 37.2 cm. National Gallery, London: National Gallery website

Gentile Bellini's (d. 1507) unusual group portrait was commissioned around 1472 when the Venetian confraternity of the Carità (Charity) received a Byzantine reliquary containing fragments of the True Cross from the Greek Cardinal Bessarion (1403 - 1472).

Bellini's picture (about 1472-3) was the door of the tabernacle in which the reliquary was stored. The keyholes at the right of the painting still bear witness to this function See below

Next portrait painted by Berruguette to a design by Justus of Ghent. The work formed part of a series of famous men that Justus executed for Federico da Montefeltro's studiolo in his new palace in Gubbio

The next image shows Guillaume Fichet of Paris offering a copy of his book to Bessarion. Bessarion was instrumental in the establishment of printing in Rome.

The two images below: Bessarion`s mansion in the South of Rome

Bessarion`s tomb:

His funeral was held at Rome in the church of the Santi Apostoli, where he had erected for himself a marble tomb with a Greek inscription (not seen in the above) which Maiorano translated as follows:

I, Bessarion, raised this tomb to hide my bones; my soul will seek the stars whence once it came.

The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume II Johannes Bessarion (Or BASILIUS). ;

Johannes Bessarion From Wikipedia;

Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities edited William Smith (1870)pages 589-591.,

In 1438 Bessarion (1403 - 1472) was sent by the Emperor John VIII Palaeologos to the Council of Ferrara/Florence to plead for western support in Constantinople's final struggle against the Ottoman Turks.

Despite the failure of the council to dispatch aid to Byzantine Empire, Pope Eugenius IV recognised Bessarion's constructive role in the deliberations by making him a cardinal.

Bessarion remained in Italy.

He was the owner of the largest and most important library of Greek books collected in Italy in the fifteenth Century, amounting to some five hundred volumes by the end of his life. These books and manuscripts were bequeathed by him to Venice and they formed the foundation of the Marcian Library there.

In Italy, he had three purposes: the union of the Oriental Church with the Latin; the rescue of Greek lands from the Turkish Empire, and the triumph of classic literature and philosophy, especially the Greek.

He achieved much, by his patronage of learned men, by his collection of books and manuscripts, and by his own writings, to spread abroad the new learning. His palazzo in Rome was a virtual Academy for the studies of new humanistic learning, a center for learned Greeks and Greek refugees, whom he supported by commissioning transcripts of Greek manuscripts and translations into Latin that made Greek scholarship available to Europeans. He supported Regiomontanus in this fashion and defended Nicholas of Cusa.

He was in the company of Trapezuntius, Gaza, Argyropoulus, Plethon, Filelfo, Biondo, Leonardo, Poggio, Valla, Sipontino, Campano, Platina, and Domizio.

He was twice nearly made Pope in two conclaves. He exercised influence in the conclaves he attended.

Pius II made use of him in trying to start the crusade against the Turks. He was often appointed by Popes in missions of importance.

For Diana Wright. Thanks you for the kind comments. As requested I attach a copy of the Greek epitaph on the Cardinal`s tomb:

Biographies of Bessarion can be accessed in the following, see: 
The election of Pope Calixtus III (1455) ;
The election of Pope Sixtus IV (1472) ;
Bessarion, Orationes et epistolae ad Christianos principes contra Turcos (Orations and letters to Christian princes against the Turks) ;
Patron of Johann Müller Regiomontanus (astronomer) ;
Patron of Johann Müller Regiomontanus (astronomer)2 ;
Academy of Bessarion in Rome ;
Marcian library in Venice ;
The Effects of Greek Learning on the Italian Renaissance by Rose Rankin ;
Venice against Moscow for the legacy of Byzantium ;
AN ITALIAN PORTRAIT GALLERY Being BRIEF BIOGRAPHIES OF SCHOLARS Illustrious within the memory of our grand-fathers for the published monument of their genius by PAOLO GIOVIO on BESSARION ;
Byzantines in Renaissance Italy by Jonathan Harris (Hellenic Institute, Royal Holloway, University of London;
Remarkable theory connecting Regiomontanus, his Astrolaube, Bessarion and the Painting of "The Flagellation" by Piero della Francesca

Catholic London

Catholic London in Roman Miscellany

Interesting post in Roman Miscellany regarding some aspects of Catholic London which still survive.

The Times

One very very sad story: the other quirky from The Times today.

The Times November 28, 2006

Abortions should be made easier on demand, says charity
Lewis Smith

Approval from two doctors 'not necessary'

Nurses should be free to issue abortion pill

Laws that require two doctors to approve an abortion should be dropped to allow women complete control over their family planning, a leading pregnancy advice charity said yesterday.

The British Pregnancy and Advisory Service, which handles 50,000 terminations a year, is demanding legal reforms to allow abortion on demand as a “responsible back-up” to contraception. The abortion debate has concentrated on the upper limit at which foetuses can be aborted, but the new demands focus on the early stages of pregnancy.

Full story:,,2-2475095,00.html


Not safe in taxis, how forgetful Londoners leave the world behind
Sean O'Neill

For most taxi drivers, it would seem, the big talking point is not who they had in the back of their cab, but what was left behind.

London’s black cab drivers have revealed details of the remarkable collection of lost property that they find on their back seats.

One man abandoned his drunken girlfriend asleep and told the cabbie that he was leaving her as a tip. Another driver was lumbered with a man wearing only underpants. Other taxi drivers in the capital have reported finding a machinegun, an antique telescope and a bag of diamonds worth £100,000 on the rear seats of their cabs.

Full Story,,2-2475282,00.html

Is this for Real ?

Absolutely No Spin has an interesting post on Liturgical Dance.

Cant wait to see it over here....

Monday, November 27, 2006

Perugia and the Rocca Paolina

Perugia and the Rocca Paolina

The Mother of All Book Lists

Ever had the feeling that despite long visits to bookshops, nothing really grabs you ?

Just wondered what you should be reading ? What everyone else has been reading ? Read the Book Review section of a newspaper, thought I must get that book, then forgot about it ?

A web site set up by a retired librarian called THE BOOKLIST CENTER

It has nearly 400 booklists in about 82 categories.

It contains booklists, book awards and recommended books.

It Includes lists prepared by authorities in dozens of fields as well as comprehensive listings of award winning books complete from the first year of the award to the present

Here`s a selection of the lists:

Simon Schama's Favourite History Books, 2002
Somerset Maugham's Ten Best Novels of the World
Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Professional Military Reading List
Crime Writers' Association's Macallan Gold Dagger for Fiction, 1955-2003
Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, 1962-2004
C.S. Lewis Summer Institute's Bibliography for Time and Eternity
Burgess' 99 Best English-Language Novels
James Tate Black Memorial Prize for Biography, 1919-2002
James Tate Black Memorial Prize for Fiction, 1919-2002
Whitbread Book Award for Biography Autobiography, 1971-2003
Whitbread Book Award for First Novel, 1981-2003
Whitbread Book Award for Poetry, 1971-2003
Whitbread Book Award for the Novel, 1971-2003
Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History, 1981-2004
Pulitzer Prize for United States History, 1917-2004
Carnegie Medal for an Outstanding Book for Children, 1936-2001
The Children's Laureate, 1999-2003
Children's Literature Association's Eleven Best American Children's Books of
the Past 200 Years
Coretta Scott King Award for a Children's Book by an African American Author,
Coretta Scott King Award for a Children's Book by an African American Illustrator,
Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, 1953-2003
James Tiptree Jr. Award for Gender-Bending Science Fiction or Fantasy, 1992-2002
John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, 1973-2002
Giles Lyon's Top 10 Cricket Books
Sports Illustrated's Top 100 Sports Books of All Time
United States Golf Association's International Book Award, 1987-2002

The Mother of All Book Lists

Books for the Christmas Vacation

It`s coming up to Christmas. Vacation time can mean bad weather. Television will be terrible as usual.If you`re looking for a book to read maybe you should start buying now for those times.

In 2003, the BBC published a list of what viewers and listeners rated the best 200 best books. The list is below.

But don`t ask me why Enid Blyton is so far up the list....

Web site: here

The Top 200 were:

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie
101. Three Men In A Boat, Jerome K. Jerome
102. Small Gods, Terry Pratchett
103. The Beach, Alex Garland
104. Dracula, Bram Stoker
105. Point Blanc, Anthony Horowitz
106. The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens
107. Stormbreaker, Anthony Horowitz
108. The Wasp Factory, Iain Banks
109. The Day Of The Jackal, Frederick Forsyth
110. The Illustrated Mum, Jacqueline Wilson
111. Jude The Obscure, Thomas Hardy
112. The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾, Sue Townsend
113. The Cruel Sea, Nicholas Monsarrat
114. Les Misérables, Victor Hugo
115. The Mayor Of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy
116. The Dare Game, Jacqueline Wilson
117. Bad Girls, Jacqueline Wilson
118. The Picture Of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
119. Shogun, James Clavell
120. The Day Of The Triffids, John Wyndham
121. Lola Rose, Jacqueline Wilson
122. Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray
123. The Forsyte Saga, John Galsworthy
124. House Of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski
125. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
126. Reaper Man, Terry Pratchett
127. Angus, Thongs And Full-Frontal Snogging, Louise Rennison
128. The Hound Of The Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle
129. Possession, A. S. Byatt
130. The Master And Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
131. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
132. Danny The Champion Of The World, Roald Dahl
133. East Of Eden, John Steinbeck
134. George's Marvellous Medicine, Roald Dahl
135. Wyrd Sisters, Terry Pratchett
136. The Color Purple, Alice Walker
137. Hogfather, Terry Pratchett
138. The Thirty-Nine Steps, John Buchan
139. Girls In Tears, Jacqueline Wilson
140. Sleepovers, Jacqueline Wilson
141. All Quiet On The Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque
142. Behind The Scenes At The Museum, Kate Atkinson
143. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby
144. It, Stephen King
145. James And The Giant Peach, Roald Dahl
146. The Green Mile, Stephen King
147. Papillon, Henri Charriere
148. Men At Arms, Terry Pratchett
149. Master And Commander, Patrick O'Brian
150. Skeleton Key, Anthony Horowitz
151. Soul Music, Terry Pratchett
152. Thief Of Time, Terry Pratchett
153. The Fifth Elephant, Terry Pratchett
154. Atonement, Ian McEwan
155. Secrets, Jacqueline Wilson
156. The Silver Sword, Ian Serraillier
157. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey
158. Heart Of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
159. Kim, Rudyard Kipling
160. Cross Stitch, Diana Gabaldon
161. Moby Dick, Herman Melville
162. River God, Wilbur Smith
163. Sunset Song, Lewis Grassic Gibbon
164. The Shipping News, Annie Proulx
165. The World According To Garp, John Irving
166. Lorna Doone, R. D. Blackmore
167. Girls Out Late, Jacqueline Wilson
168. The Far Pavilions, M. M. Kaye
169. The Witches, Roald Dahl
170. Charlotte's Web, E. B. White
171. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
172. They Used To Play On Grass, Terry Venables and Gordon Williams
173. The Old Man And The Sea, Ernest Hemingway
174. The Name Of The Rose, Umberto Eco
175. Sophie's World, Jostein Gaarder
176. Dustbin Baby, Jacqueline Wilson
177. Fantastic Mr Fox, Roald Dahl
178. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
179. Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, Richard Bach
180. The Little Prince, Antoine De Saint-Exupery
181. The Suitcase Kid, Jacqueline Wilson
182. Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens
183. The Power Of One, Bryce Courtenay
184. Silas Marner, George Eliot
185. American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis
186. The Diary Of A Nobody, George and Weedon Grossmith
187. Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh
188. Goosebumps, R. L. Stine
189. Heidi, Johanna Spyri
190. Sons And Lovers, D. H. LawrenceLife of Lawrence
191. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
192. Man And Boy, Tony Parsons
193. The Truth, Terry Pratchett
194. The War Of The Worlds, H. G. Wells
195. The Horse Whisperer, Nicholas Evans
196. A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry
197. Witches Abroad, Terry Pratchett
198. The Once And Future King, T. H. White
199. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle
200. Flowers In The Attic, Virginia Andrews

An opportunity to give: help the Gospel be heard

Bonfire of the Vanities has a post called An opportunity to give: help the Gospel be heard

Hopefully somebody will come up with the cash

Click here

The Times 27th November 2006

Two Different stories from The Times:

Popemobile gives way to armoured car on visit to 'minefield'

Richard Owen, Rome

The Vatican is so anxious about the Pope’s safety during his trip to Turkey this week that it has vetoed use of the traditional “Popemobile”.
Instead, Pope Benedict XVI will travel in an armour-plated car, with several similar vehicles used as decoys, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the former papal spokesman, said.

Officials have also drawn up contingency plans for him to wear a bulletproof vest beneath his papal vestments as Turkish authorities mount a huge security operation including rooftop snipers, special forces, helicopters and navy speedboats.

Click here


How to earn more than £60,000 a year and still get help

Anthony Browne

The welfare system has become so generous that households can receive benefits even if they have incomes three times the national average of £20,000 a year.
Working parents earning up to £58,175 a year can claim tax credits. Even if they earn £66,350 — putting them in the richest fifth of households — they can claim if they have a child less than a year old. Many MPs, whose basic salaries are nearly £60,000 a year, are entitled to claim, and some do.

Click here

Archbishop of Canterbury Leaves Rome

Whispers in the Loggia has a concluding piece on the Archbishop of Canterbury`s visit to Rome

See here

Pope`s Visit to Turkey

The Cafeteria is Closed has very disturbing posts about the Pope`s forthcoming visit to Turkey

See here

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Interesting on-line journal called Peregrinations.

Peregrinations, ISSN 1554-8678 (online), is published 3-4 times annually by the International Society for the Study of Pilgrimage Art.

Topics of research include: art and architectural history, medieval history and religion.

Website address:

Mary Magdalene

DONATELLO (b. ca. 1386, Firenze, d. 1466, Firenze)
St Mary Magdalene c. 1457
Wood, height: 188 cm
Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Pope`s Trip to Turkey

Just a selection of the many posts on this topic:

Past popes haunt Benedict in Turkey

Amico dei Turchi

A Muslim and Catholic on the Pope in Turkey

Benedict in the lion's den

Anticipating Pope Benedict's Papal Visit to Turkey

The Passion of the Pope,9171,1561120,00.html

What the Pope Gets Right ...,9171,1561148,00.html

Into the minefield

Religion of Peace (TM)

Nationalist Turks protest ahead of pope’s visit

Novel 'warns' pontiff of the danger in his trip to Turkey,,251-2470199,00.html

Spotlight: Pope Benedict XVI – Turkey trip will test faiths

Camera degli Sposi, Palazzo Ducale, Mantua

Details of The Meeting 1471-74
Camera degli Sposi, Palazzo Ducale, Mantua
Mantegna, Andrea (1431-1506),

The meeting between father and son is show in the image below. It is the rightmost panel.

For more details of The Camera degli Sposi, see:

Pius II and the College of Cardinals

From Passing The Keys

By Francis A. Burkle-Young

During the first year of Pius II's reign no cardinals died, so the pontiff did not think it necessary to hold a cardinalitial consistory, yet Pius also thought that the Apostolic Senate was not giving him and his policies its full support. (1)

The deaths of two cardinals in the late summer of 1459-Jaime of Portugal on August 27 and Antonio de La Cerda on September 12-gave Pius the excuse to add to the College, which was now reduced by four from the number it had been when Calixtus III died. (2)

There was strong opposition from the cardinals to the addition of any more to their number, but this was overcome by March, 1460, when Pius created six new cardinals, only five of whom were, however, published at that time. (3) The five new cardinals whose names were published were all Italians-Angelo Capranica, brother of Domenico; Berardo Eruli; Alessandro Oliva, general of the Augustinians; Niccolo Forteguerri; and Francesco di Nanni Todeschini de' Piccolomini-and all received the red hat for largely non-political reasons; although two of them were relatives of the pontiff, Niccolo Forteguerri, a maternal cousin, and Francesco di Nanni Todeschini de' Piccolomini, son of one of the pope's sisters, Laudomia, and the future Pius III. (4)

The cardinal in pectore was Burchard von Weisbriach, bishop of Salzburg, whose name was kept secret so as not to offend those monarchs and princes whose importunities for the creation of crown cardinals had been ignored. Pius showed considerable steadfastness in turning down a vast number of such requests with which he had been deluged from the outset of his reign. He spurned the pressures of Italians and non-Italians alike. In the month preceding the first creation, the Republic of Florence, for example, wrote three times, at the behest of Cosimo de' Medici Pater Patri', to advance the cause of Filippo de' Medici, bishop of Arezzo, all to no avail. (5)

While Pius was not insensitive to the fact that failure to accede to some of the nominations of the princes would only exacerbate difficulties with both transalpine and cisalpine rulers, the College voiced strong opposition to the addition of any more to their number, even though membership was further reduced by the death of yet another creation of Calixtus III in 1460-Giovanni Castiglione on April 14. (6)

The leader of the intransigent cardinals was Giorgio Fieschi, now cardinal-bishop of Ostia and acting dean of the College. Fieschi's death on October 8, 1461, weakened the opposition sufficiently that the pope could begin to plan seriously to augment the College. (7)

On December 13, Pius secured the approval of the cardinals in Rome for a new creation. Five days later, December 18, 1461, Pius elevated Jean Jouffroy, bishop of Arras, a nominee of Louis XI of France; Louis d'Albret, also a nominee of Louis XI; Jaime Cardona, bishop of Urgel, a nominee of Juan II of Aragon; Giacomo Ammanati-Piccolomini, a childhood friend of Pius' who was adopted into the Piccolomini family; Bartolommeo Roverella, archbishop of Ravenna and legate to Naples; and Francesco Gonzaga.

Significantly, two of the six were nominations of Louis XI of France who was thus doubly gratified. This creation also saw the elevation of the first scion of a north Italian princely house. Francesco Gonzaga, son of Luigi III Gonzaga, marchese of Mantua, obtained the cardinalate with the diplomatic assistance of Friedrich II, elector of Brandenburg, and his brother, Albrecht-Achilles.

Their sister, Barbara, was the mother of the Mantuan prelate. The creation of Francesco was documented for posterity by the Gonzaga family in a most unusual way. The Marchese Luigi III (1444-1478), father of the cardinal, commissioned Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506) to decorate the walls of one of the rooms in the family apartments, now called the Camera degli Sposi, in the Castello di San Giorgio (Castello di Corte), adjacent to the ducal palace in Mantua, with a series of frescoes, completed in 1474 and running completely around the room, showing the family on this auspicious occasion. Among the most notable of these paintings is that in which the marchese receives his son upon the latter's return to Mantua, following his creation, and that in which the marchese and his wife receive news by courier of the nomination of their son to the College.

The creation of four new crown cardinals in 1461 made it possible to publish the name of Burchard von Weisbriach without embarrassment, which was done in the following spring. (8) During the last seventeen months of Pius's reign, which ended at Ancona on August 14, 1464, four more cardinals died-Prospero Colonna, the archdeacon and a forty-year veteran of the College, on March 24, 1463; Isidore of Salonika on April 27, 1463; Alessandro Oliva on August 20, 1463; and Nicolaus Krebs von Cues, who died August 12, 1464, just two days before Pius himself. (9)


"Essai de Liste General des Cardinaux," Annuaire Pontifical Catholique. Annually serialized 1925-1939. Paris: Maison du Bonne Press. 1898-1939, 1946-48.

Eubel, Conradus, Gauchat, Patritium, et alii, Hierarchia Catholica medii et recentioris ævi, 8 vols. Padua: Il Messaggero di S. Antonio, 1960.

Pastor, Ludwig von, The History of the Popes from the close of the Middle Ages. Translated by Frederick Ignatius Antrobus and Ralph Kerr. 40 vols. Saint Louis: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1949.


(1) For a discussion of Pius' feelings in this regard, see Pastor, 3:293.

(2) Eubel, 2:10.

(3) Eubel, 2:13.

(4) "Essai" (1933):132-35.

(5) Eubel, 2:94.

(6) Eubel, 2:12.

(7) Pastor, 3:297n. 4; Eubel, 2:13-14. For details, see the letter of B. Bonatto, ambassador of Mantua in Rome, to Barbara von Brandenburg, marchesa of Mantua, referring to the creation of her son, Francesco, in Pastor, 3:298 n. 2.

(8) "Essai" (1932):135.

(9) Eubel, 2:1-19.

Christ of St John of the Cross

Salvador Dalí (1904 - 1989 )

Christ of St John of the Cross [1951]

Kelvingrove Gallery , Glasgow

Oil on Canvas 204.8 x 115.9 cm

Fearless in the face of tyranny

The Times
November 25, 2006

Fearless in the face of tyranny

Simon Caldwell

Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo, in London this week, is a resolute opponent of the Mugabe regime

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, the Most Rev Pius Ncube, is a slightly shy, softly spoken and humble man — characteristics that may seem to contrast with his leonine courage in the face of President Mugabe’s tyranny.

He also appears tired. As he sinks back into his chair at the London headquarters of Cafod, the overseas development agency of the Catholic Church of England and Wales, he seems to carry in his demeanour the desperation of his country’s poor. It looks as if his long struggle with Robert Mugabe may be taking its toll.

Engineering The Renaissance

Interesting post on Leonardo da Vinci at

Blogsite: BibliOdyssey

Friday, November 24, 2006

Refectory, Convent of San Marco, Florence

SOGLIANI, Giovanni Antonio (b. 1492, Firenze, d. 1544, Firenze)
St Dominic and his Friars Fed by Angels 1536
Convent of San Marco, Florence
Together with Interior view, refectory (designed by Michelozzo), towards fresco of Saint Dominic and his Bretheren Fed by Angels on end wall

In 1536, the monks of San Marco (Florence) commissioned Giovanni Antonio Sogliani to paint a full size fresco for the end wall of their large refectory.
Sogliani wished to paint a modern design on the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes. The monks rejected this.
They insisted on the Dominican themes pictured.
Angels are miraculously bringing bread to Saint Dominic and his fasting and penniless brethren at S. Sabina at Rome, who are sitting around a table and number twelve just as the apostles in the Last Supper.
Above the Supper theme is a crucifixion image: St Antoninus is kneeling on the left; St Catherine of Siena is kneeling on the right of the cross.
As regards the painting of the supper, the portraits of the friars are friars who were in residence at the time of the painting.
On the extreme left is a portrait of a young novice in white who is standing. His family (the Molietti) paid the bill for the fresco.
The painting is formal, austere and static. It is livened by touches of movement in the clothes, gestures and expressions.
When the friars sat down to dinner, they were not only reminded that Christ had dined before them. They saw a picture showing themselves re-enacting Christ's meal.
Of the portraits, the portrait of the white novice standing on the left is the most life like and alive. He is shown turning round and gazing out at the people entering the refectory.
After more than four hundred and fifty years, their bodies are now dust and most if not all are forgotten. However the painting has captured those brief instances in time and those brief moments come alive in the painting after all those centuries. As it was intended.

Turkey, Stuffing and Canterbury

Whispers in the Loggia again provides an excellent review on the the recent meeting between The Pope and The Archbishop of Canterbury at The Vatican, outshining much of the "quality press" coverage in Britain.


Thieving library staff take a love of rare books too far

The Times November 24, 2006

Thieving library staff take a love of rare books too far
Roger Boyes, Berlin

A mysterious gap in a dusty bookshelf gave the game away for a corrupt library worker who stole more than €800,000 (£541,000) of antique tomes from one of Germany’s most respected universities. Now the trial of Reinhold K (he cannot be named before the hearing) , who slipped 16th-century botanical works under his long black coat, is set to expose the increasingly lucrative world of library theft.

Across Europe, thieves have been targeting ancient and well-stocked libraries, and then feeding their booty to unscrupulous booksellers and auction houses.

Last month, a librarian was found guilty of stealing a 16th-century edition of Chaucer’s works and more than 40 other volumes from Manchester Central Library. The Royal Library in Stockholm has been hit, while the Jagellonian University library in Crakow lost a 15th-century copy of a work by the astronomer Ptolemy, as well as books by Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler.

The University of Erlangen in southern Germany first became suspicious when it tried to locate the beautifully illustrated Herbal Book by Leohart Fuchs, written in 1543. It was regarded as a European treasure — and it was missing.

A closer search showed that some of the world’s standard classical works on botany, one written in 1768, another in 1762, had disappeared. But it took two years to unravel the scope of the theft, which seems to have stretched over two decades, and to catch the thief: the loyal and friendly night porter, Reinhold K.

Full story:,,13509-2468609,00.html

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Bartolomeo Sacchi, called the Platina


Bartolomeo Sacchi is much more recognizable by his pseudonym, Platina. Platina is the Latin form of his birth place, Piedina. It is situated near Cremona in Northern Italy.

Platina was born into a poor family. He enlisted in the service of two condottieri: Francesco Sforza (1401–66), who in 1450 would obtain the dukedom of Milan, and Niccolò Piccinino (1386–1444).

Later, Platina sought and obtained the protection of the Gonzaga family, the princely house that ruled Mantua. This enabled him to study with the famed humanist and preceptor Omnibonus Leonicenus, called by his friends Ognibene da Lonigo. Later Platina became the tutor of the Gonzaga family.

From the Mantua of the Gonzagas, Platina made his way to the Florence of the Medicis.There he studied with Byzantine humanist John Argyropoulos (1415–87), who had arrived in Florence in 1456 after fleeing Constantinople (which fell to the Ottomans in 1453).

Highly cultured and restless, Platina left Florence for Rome in 1461, following his student Francesco Gonzaga, who had been made cardinal—at the tender age of eighteen—by the “humanist pope” Pius II, Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini. And in Rome he would remain, through good times and bad, until he died in 1481 from the plague and was buried in the glorious basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, with funeral rites attended by a congregation of Roman literati.

In Rome he was under the protection of cardinal Gonzaga. He also came under the patronage of Cardinal Bassarion.

In 1463, Pius II reorganized the College of Abbreviators (1463), and increased the number of members to seventy. These members were Breviators, a body of writers in the papal chancery, whose business was to sketch out and prepare in due form the pope's bulls, briefs and consistorial decrees before these are written out in extenso by the scriptores. Due to the influence of Cardinal Bessarion, Platina, in May 1464, was elected a member.

Pius II decreed that their office should be perpetual, that certain emoluments should be attached to it, and granted certain privileges to the possessors of the same. It was a very valuable post in the world of Roamn patronage.

The successor of Pius II, Pope Paul II, suppressed this college. The reaction to this was fierce. Foremost in the protests was Platina.

The dispossessed officials, on the plea that their appointment had been for life, besieged the Vatican 20 nights before getting a hearing. Then Platina, as their spokesman, threatened to appeal to the princes of Europe to have a general council called and see that justice was done. The pope’s curt answer was that he would rescind or ratify the acts of his predecessors as he pleased.

The unfortunate abbreviator, who was more of a scholar than a politician, was thrown into prison and held there during the four months of Winter without fire and bound in chains.

Unhappily for him, he was imprisoned a second time, accused of conspiracy and heretical doctrine.

In these charges the Roman Academy was also involved, an institution which cultivated Greek thought and was charged with having engaged in a propaganda of Paganism. There was some ground for the charge, for its leader, Pomponius Laeto, who combined the care of his vineyard with ramblings through the old Roman ruins and the perusal of the ancient classics, had spoken against the clergy. This antiquary was also thrown into prison.

A rumour had reached Paul that these men were conspiring to assassinate him. He summoned Platina to his bedchamber and questioned him in a hysterical fashion.

“He being negligently dressed and looking pale, urged me still, and sometimes threatened me with torments and sometimes with death unless I would confess” (Lives, 2: 286-87).

Platina says he answered him “fearlessly” because he was innocent.

After this personal interrogation, Paul had Platina – as the prime suspect-- and some twenty other men tortured.

Platina’s report of this experience pulls out all the stops, complete with the horrid papal favourite, Vianesius, seated on a tapestry chair, mixing his interrogations with a banal conversation with one Sanga, about a jewel a girl had given him. Platina relates how he and a number of others were put to the torture, while Vienesius, his Holiness’ vice-chancellor, looked on for several days as the ordeal was proceeding, "sitting like another Minos upon a tapestried seat as if he had been at a wedding, a man in holy orders whom the canons of the Church forbade to put torture upon laymen, lest death should follow, as it sometimes does."

Banality, an irritant added to pain, is a common torturer’s tool.

The story is ennobled, beyond its horror and grotesqueness, by Platina’s naming of the young man who died under the torture, and of his kind cell-mates, a father and son, who helped him with food and “physic” when his hands and forearms were disabled by the rack (Lives, 2: 288-89).

“The Academy” had excited the jealousy and suspicions of Paul, and gave rise to one of the most horrid persecutions and scenes of torture, even to death, in which these academicians were involved. This closed with a decree of Paul’s, that for the future no one should pronounce, either seriously or in jest, the very name of academy, under the penalty of heresy.

“You would have imagined says Platina,” that the castle of St. Angelo was turned into the bull of Phalaris, so loud the hollow vault resounded with the cries of those miserable young men, who were an honour to their age for genius and learning. The torturers, not satisfied, though weary, having racked twenty men in those two days, of whom some died, at length sent for me to take my turn.

The instruments of torture were ready; I was stripped, and the executioners put themselves to their work. Vianesius sat like another Minos on a seat of tapestry-work, gay as at a wedding; and while I hung on the rack in torment, he played with a jewel which Sanga had, asking him who was the mistress which had given him this love-token? Turning to me, he asked ‘why Pomponio in a letter should call me Holy Father? Did the conspirators agree to make you Pope?’ ‘Pomponio,’ I replied, ‘can best tell why he gave me this title, for I know not.’

At length, having pleased, but not satisfied himself with my tortures, he ordered me to be let down, that I might undergo tortures much greater in the evening.

I was carried, half dead, into my chamber; but not long after, the inquisitor having dined, and being fresh in drink, I was fetched again, and the archbishop of Spalatro was there. They inquired of my conversations with Malatesta. I said, it only concerned ancient and modern learning, the military, arts, and the characters of illustrious men, the ordinary subjects of conversation. I was bitterly threatened by Vianesius, unless I confessed the truth on the following day, and was carried back to my chamber, where I was seized with such extreme pain, that I had rather have died than endured the agony of my battered and dislocated limbs.

But now those who were accused of heresy were charged with plotting treason. Pomponius being examined why he changed the names of his friends, he answered boldly, that this was no concern of his judges or the pope; it was perhaps out of respect for antiquity, to stimulate to a virtuous emulation.

After we had now lain ten months in prison, Paul comes himself to the castle, where he charged us, among other things, that we had disputed concerning the immortality of the soul, and that we held the opinion of Plato; by disputing you call the being of a God in question. This, I said, might be objected to all divines and philosophers, who, to make the truth appear, frequently question the existence of souls and of God, and of all separate intelligences. St. Austin says, the opinion of Plato is like the faith of Christians. I followed none of the numerous heretical factions. Paul then accused us of being too great admirers of pagan antiquities; yet none were more fond of them than himself, for he collected all the statues and sarcophagi of the ancients to place in his palace, and even affected to imitate, on more than one occasion, the pomp and charm of their public ceremonies. While they were arguing, mention happened to he made of ‘the Academy,’ when the Cardinal of San Marco cried out that we were not ‘Academics,’ but a scandal to the name; and Paul now declared that he would not have that term evermore mentioned under pain of heresy. He left us in a passion, and kept us two months longer in prison to complete the year, as it seems he had sworn.”

On his release he received a promise from Paul of reappointment to office, but waited in vain.

At the suggestion of the cardinal to be Sixtus IV he wrote his Vitæ Pontificum Platinæ historici liber de vita Christi ac omnium pontificum qui hactenus ducenti fuere et XX (Venice, 1479).

The portrait of Pius II is friendly and affectionate. The portrait of Paul II is far from flattering.

In Paul II’s life, he is, effectively, the protagonist. In the life of Pius II, he is there by implication in its affectionate details, such as his account of the pope’s daily regimen and a Boswellian list of his witty sayings (Lives, 2: 269-271, 273).

Pius’s wit finds its way, dangerously, into the life of Paul II:

". .. Peter Barbo was naturally fair-spoken, and could feign good nature, when occasion served. But he was sometimes so mean-spirited, that when he could not obtain what he aimed at by praying, entreating, and requesting, he would join tears to his petitions to make them the sooner believed. And therefore Pope Pius used sometimes to call him the godly Mary, by way of joke " (Lives, 2: 276).

We can picture Platina laughing at this sobriquet, and repeating it to others in gregarious gaiety, oblivious of its lethality to his position when, after Pius’s death at Ancona, Barbo was unexpectedly chosen as his successor on the first ballot.

On the accession of Sixtus IV., he was put in charge of the Vatican library.

At the instance of Sixtus IV, he made a collection of the chief privileges of the Roman Church. Besides this, he wrote several others of smaller importance, notably: Historia inclita urbis Mantuæ et serenissimæ familiæ Gonzagæ.

Platina and the Vatican Library

Melozzo da Forlì (Forlì, Italy, c. 1438-Forlì, November 8, 1494)
Pope Sixtus IV appoints Bartolomeo Platina prefect of the Vatican Library
c. 1477 (fresco) (Vatican Museums)
Fresco removed and transferred to canvas cm. 370 x 315

The best commentary is on the Vatican Museum website

"The fresco comes from one of the rooms of the old Vatican Library, founded in 1475 by Sixtus IV della Rovere (pontiff from 1471 to 1484).

Melozzo da Forlì, who had to Rome in 1475 and made his name in the Pontifical Court, illustrates the historical episode of the appointment of the humanist Bartolomeo Sacchi, called the Platina, as the first Prefect of the Library.

The main figures whose somatic characteristics are so strong that these can be considered real portraits, are placed within an imposing architecture that confers a monumental dimension on the scene, emphasizing its solemnity.

Platina, kneeling in the centre, receives the investiture and points the index finger of his right hand to an inscription composed by him that exalts the enterprises of Sixtus IV in the city of Rome.

Sixtus IV is seated on his throne on the right, among his cardinal nephews and lay nephews.

The apostolic pronotary Raffaele Riario is on his right, the future pope Julius II (pontiff from 1503 to 1513) standing before him, and Girolamo Riario and Giovanni della Rovere are behind Platina. "


Pius II was an orator of the first rank. He had been poet laureate.

Unlike today, orators did not have speech writers. They wrote their own speeches. What they wrote, they owned. They took responsibility for it.

Oratory was an art. It required study. It required thought. The oratorical effects were secondary to the message. The best oratory moved both hearts and minds.

At the end of Book 2 of the Commentaries, Pius narrates his arrival in Mantua.

In the welcoming ceremonies for him, he was addressed by a thirteen year old girl who delivered an address in Latin which she composed herself. All were spell bound. The master orator himself noted that "her style was so elegant that all who heard her were lost in wonder and admiration."

The girl was Ippolita Maria Sforza, (1446-1488), daughter of Bianca Maria Visconti, and Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan. A beautiful woman who was also learned, a "Renaissance woman". She married married Alfonso, Duke of Calabria in 1465.


Police fake an exhibition of masterpieces at the V&A

The Times November 23, 2006

Police fake an exhibition of masterpieces at the V&A

Dalya Alberge, Arts Correspondent

Forgeries market worth up to £200m
Works traded for drugs and firearms

A painting in the style of John Anster Fitzgerald at the show

On one wall hangs a Picasso, on another a Lowry and, down the corridor, a Giacometti. Together, the masterpieces at the Victoria and Albert Museum would be worth millions . . . if they were genuine. But everything here is a fake. Each exhibit was created to dupe the experts. Forged art and antiques are so abundant on the international market that police seized enough to mount a V&A exhibition.

The Investigation of Fakes and Forgeries has been curated by the arts and antiques unit of the Metropolitan Police.

Full story:,,2-2466648,00.html


(b. 1445, Firenze, d. 1510, Firenze)
Mirror image of Cestello Annunciation (1489-90)
Tempera on panel
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

(b. 1445, Firenze, d. 1510, Firenze)
Cestello Annunciation 1489-90
Tempera on panel
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


BOTTICELLI, Sandro (b. 1445, Firenze, d. 1510, Firenze)
Adoration of the Magi (detail) 1470-75 Tempera on panel
National Gallery, London

BOTTICELLI, Sandro (b. 1445, Firenze, d. 1510, Firenze)
Cestello Annunciation (detail) 1489-90 Tempera on panel
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

It`s all in the detail....

LEONARDO da Vinci (b. 1452, Vinci, d. 1519, Cloux, near Amboise)
Annunciation (detail) 1472-75
Oil and tempera on wood
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

LEONARDO da Vinci (b. 1452, Vinci, d. 1519, Cloux, near Amboise)
Mona Lisa (detail)1503-5
Oil on panel
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Pius II and the "Secret Mission" to Scotland

The Secret Mission to Scotland

In the late autumn of 1435,Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini was sent by Cardinal Nicholas Albergati on an undercover mission to Scotland with orders to persuade James I to launch an attack on England and so help end the Hundred Years' war with France. A subsidiary aim of Piccolomini's covert mission was to restore the status of Scottish archdeacon William Croyser, who had been condemned for treason and deprived of his office in the papal courts at Florence.

Preparing to cross over to England, Piccolomini was arrested at Calais, France, but later released. He planned to go to London to see his close friend, Adam de Molin, protonotario [senior secretary to the papacy]. But, in spite of the efforts of his friend, Piccolomini was refused permission to travel overland to the Scottish border.

Frustrated once more, Piccolomini returned to the Continent, going first to Bruges, Belgium, and then Sluis, in the Netherlands. From Sluis, he and his servants set sail for Scotland but was driven towards Norway by two violent gales, one of which kept them in fear of death for most of a day.

Piccolomini and his sailing companions were disorientated and at the mercy of the elements. However, north winds drove the vessel back toward their destination and finally on the 12th day brought them in sight of Scotland. The ship, now taking on water, managed to limp into port, believed at Belhaven Sands, west of Dunbar, East Lothian.

Piccolomini, who had promised he would walk bare-foot to the nearest shrine of the Virgin Mary if he escaped with his life, trudged over the frozen earth to the holy well at Whitekirk – a journey of around five miles. After resting there for two hours, he found upon getting up that he could not walk a step, his feet so weak and numb with the cold. While being carried there by his servants, Piccolomini warmed his feet by continuously banging them on the ground. Against all expectation, he recovered and was able to walk again. However, as a result of this mortification, Piccolomini was to suffer from rheumatism the rest of his life.

James' response to Piccolomini's mission was to refuse to declare war on England, although he did promise not to provide any direct assistance to the English. Even though James did not reinstate archdeacon Croyser, the king observed the niceties of diplomacy by reimbursing his Italian visitor for travelling expenses and giving him money and two horses for his return journey through England.

Writing in April 1436 to his patron, Cardinal Albergati, Piccolomini excused himself for not having communicated with him during the seven long and painful months that he had endured the Scottish climate and culture. He indicated that Scotland was economically and culturally depressed, that he had no means of getting a private letter out of the country and added that in any case no developments took place during his stay which could remotely assist Albergati's political goals. Scotland, according to Piccolomini's official report, was of little importance.

By contrast, in his Commentaries, Piccolomini - the Renaissance humanist and diplomat - takes care to paint a bizarre, arresting picture of the idiosyncrasies of a cold and far-off nation which burned black stones as fuel and had geese growing from trees. He records that on his return to the Continent, he passed through Newcastle (in disguise) on his way south from Scotland - and rejoiced at having reached civilisation in Newcastle, 'founded by Caesar'. He records that the favourite topic of conversation in Scotland was 'abusing the English'.

Nine years later, in a letter to his father, Piccolomini reveals yet another motive for glossing over his true experiences north of the Border: He had fathered a son by a Scots woman, but the child died after a few years.

(1) Whitehaven

A post-reformation document in the Vatican Library states that a chapel and chantry was founded at Fairknowe in 1295 (see NT58SE 11) by Agnes, Countess of Dunbar, to commemorate her recovery at a nearby well.

The number of miracles performed at this well was so great that in 1309 John Aberndley procured a shrine to be erected and dedicated to the Holy Mother.

The original Church structure at Whitekirk was a 12th Century parish church, under the jurisdiction of Holyrood Abbey.

However, in 1413 around 16,000 pilgrims came to Whitekirk and King James I placed the Whitekirk under his personal protection and built hostels to shelter the growing numbers of pilgrims.

King James V gave the site to the Sinclair family who built a rare example in Scotland of a tithe barn with stone from the former pilgrims' hostel. This barn is now a private residence.

The present church, which certainly dates from pre-Reformation times, has a square tower; and in the churchyard is a large stone slab, removed from the chancel some years ago in the course of repairing, and bearing the life-size effigy of an ecclesiastic. The church was destroyed by fire in the early twentieth century. It was started by a suffragette as part of the campaign to obtain votes for women. It was subsequently restored.

In 1845, it was noted that "Our Lady's Well (closed). About 11 chains [i.e. about 200 metres] NE from the parish church. This well was formerly held in great repute for the cure of barreness has been dried up for upwards of twenty years. " The well can no longer be seen.

Recently pilgrimages have re-started as part of the Whitekirk and Haddington Pilgrimage. The Pilgrimage is held annually on the second Saturday in May. It has become an event of great ecumenical importance and now attracts pilgrims from all over the British Isles - and sometimes from further afield.

(2) James I and Scotland

James I (December 10, 1394 – February 21, 1437) reigned as King of Scots from April 4, 1406 until February 21, 1437.
However, from 1406 to 1424 he was king in name only.

Born on December 10, 1394, the son of Robert III and Annabella Drummond. He had an eventful childhood. In 1402 his elder brother, David, starved to death in prison at Falkland in Fife. Before the death of his father in 1406 the authorities sent James to France for safety.

On the journey to France, the English captured the young prince and handed him over to Henry IV of England, who imprisoned him and demanded a ransom. Robert III allegedly died from grief over the capture of James. James's uncle, Robert Stewart, 1st Duke of Albany, who became Regent on the death of Robert III, showed no haste in paying for his nephew's release. Albany secured the release of his own son Murdoch, captured at the Battle of Homildon Hill, but not so with James. So for the next 18 years James remained a prisoner/hostage in England. Henry IV had the young Scots King imprisoned and educated in Windsor Castle and in secure large country houses near London. After the death of James's uncle in 1420, the Scots finally paid the ransom of £40,000, and in 1424 James returned to Scotland to find a country in chaos. He took his bride with him – he had met and fallen in love with Joan Beaufort, a cousin of King Henry VI of England, while imprisoned. He married her in London in February 2, 1423. They would have eight children, including the future James II of Scotland, and Margaret of Scotland, wife of Louis XI of France. Scholars believe that during his captivity James wrote The Kingis Quair, an allegorical romance, one of the earliest major works of Scottish literature.

James was formally crowned King of Scotland at Scone Abbey, Perthshire, on May 2 or 21, 1424. He immediately took strong actions to regain authority and control. In one such action he had the Albany family, who had opposed his actions, executed. The execution of Murdoch, Duke of Albany, and two of Murdoch's sons took place on May 24, 1425 at Castle Hill, Stirling.

James proceeded to rule Scotland with a firm hand, and achieved numerous financial and legal reforms. For instance, for the purpose of trade with other nations, he made Scots coinage exchangeable for foreign currency only within Scottish borders. He also tried to remodel the Parliament of Scotland along English lines.

His actions throughout his reign, though effective, upset many people. During the later years of his reign, they helped to lead to his claim to the throne coming under question.

James I's grandfather, Robert II, had married twice and the awkward circumstances of the first marriage (the one with James's grandmother Elizabeth Mure) led some to dispute its validity. Conflict broke out between the descendants of the first marriage and the unquestionably legitimate descendants of the second marriage over who had the better right to the Scottish throne. Matters came to a head on February 21, 1437, when a group of Scots led by Sir Robert Graham assassinated James at the Friars Preachers Monastery in Perth. He attempted to escape his assailants through a sewer. However, three days previously, he had had the other end of the drain blocked up because of its connection to the tennis court outside, balls habitually got lost in it.
A wave of executions followed in March, 1437, of those who had participated in the plot. The authorities executed (among others) James's uncle, Walter Stewart, 1st Earl of Atholl, and Atholl's grandson, Robert Stewart, Master of Atholl — both of them descended from Robert II's second marriage).

James was the author of two poems, the Kingis Quair and Good Counsel (a short piece of three stanzas). The Song of Absence, Peblis to the Play and Christis Kirk on the Greene have been ascribed to him without evidence. The Kingis Quair (preserved in the Selden MS. B. 24 in the Bodleian) is an allegorical poem of the cours d'amour type, written in seven-lined Chaucerian stanzas and extending to 1379 lines. It was composed during James's captivity in England and celebrates his courtship of Lady Jane Beaufort.

(3) Abbeys and Cathedrals in 14 and 15th Century Scotland

To a sea born visitor in Scotland from the 13th century on it would have been evident that its Eastern seaboard was as well marked by great abbeys and cathedrals as its border with England.
The greatest of these, the cathedral priory at St. Andrews, Holyrood Abbey outside Edinburgh, Arbroath Abbey and Elgin Cathedral, would have impressed most Europeans, though they may have noticed that wooden roofs were generally preferred to stone vaults in Scotland except in the choir of St. Andrew's Cathedral and the sumptuous royal foundation at Holyrood. Otherwise all these were great churches of a kind to be found throughout Europe, in scale and in their proud 3-storey elevations towering over their surroundings. The Cathedral of St. Mungo in Glasgow was a match for them; perhaps the lost chancels of St. Ninian's at Whithorn and St. Machar's at Aberdeen may have been; these were the other great religious houses of Scotland.

Scotland's great churches are, for the most part, those of the monasteries founded in the 12th and brought to completion in the first years of the 13th century. Only its three major cathedrals can stand comparison: one is itself essentially among their number, the second deeply involved in the evolution of Jedburgh Abbey. Unlike the great cathedrals of England the Scottish abbeys shared a similar fate to England's own monastic houses, rarely saved by the neighbouring parish that saved substantial parts of the cathedrals in several cities, though fortunately they did so at Melrose, Coldingham and Jedburgh.
The excellent website on this subject is at:

(4) William Croyser

From: 'The Register: Kirkgunzeon (continued)', Register & Records of Holm Cultram (1929), pp. 88-90.

(Papal Letters, vii, 67).—William Croyser held the parish church of Kyrthgunen in commendam, 1418.

(Ibid. vii, 344).—1424, iv Kal. Oct. Mandate to the Official of Glasgow narrating the petition of William Croyser, canon of Dunkeld, which set forth that, owing to the Border wars, the union, if such ever existed, of the parish church of Kirkgonzan in the diocese of Glasgow with the Cistercian monastery of Holm Cultram was likely to be of small profit to Holm Cultram. The Pope granted the said church in commendam, until a lasting peace should be made, to the said William Croyser, who already held it in commendam under a grant of the late Peter de Luna, called Benedict XIII. It narrates also the petition of Patrick Leche, clerk and M.A. of the diocese of Glasgow, which stated that in hope of such a peace a seven years' truce had been made; that it was difficult for the proposed union to take place, if indeed it existed at all, because (1) the commendo had gone on for forty years, (2) the church had been so long void that there is no certain knowledge of the mode of voidance. Leche's petition also stated that William Croyser was already opulently beneficed to the extent of 160 marks a year, and that his other benefices with cure were incompatible with the exercise of the cure of Kirkgunzean. The mandate therefore ordered the Official to summon William Croyser to appear in the matter of the commendo and Holm Cultram to appear in the matter of the union; and if facts are found to be as stated, to suppress both the commendo and the union, and to collate Patrick to the church, worth 20 marks of old sterlings.]

From: 'The Register: Kirkgunzeon (continued)', Register & Records of Holm Cultram (1929), pp. 88-90.