Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sic parvis magna

This is the pistol Gavrilo Princip used to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on June 28, 1914, nearly 99 years ago.  The Archduke was not exactly a beloved figure.  He has been described as "a man of uninspired energy, dark in appearance and emotion, who radiated an aura of strangeness and cast a shadow of violence and recklessness."   Yet he was the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and so his murder began an odd but remorseless chain of causation that within weeks led to general war.   By August, 1914, "the lamps [were] going out all over Europe," and before long the conflagration known as the Great War would engulf the whole world.  When it was over, the Kaiser, the Tsar and the Habsburg Emperor had all lost their thrones (the Ottoman sultan would shortly lose his), while many new states had come into being, including a murderous communist regime in Russia.  More than 16 million lives had been lost.

The pistol, a Browning semi-automatic manufactured in Belgium, was discovered recently in a Jesuit archive.  Fr. Anton Puntigam, SJ, a family friend, had accompanied the Archduke and his pregnant wife to Sarajevo to observe military maneuvers.   Fr. Puntigam administered last rites to the royal couple after they'd received their mortal wounds, and was given the pistol, as well as the Archduke's bloody shirt, for safekeeping.   They were stored pending donation to a museum, and subsequently forgotten for more than 80 years.   (h/t Good Jesuit, Bad Jesuit)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Lest we forget

Fr. Joseph Lacy

On this 69th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, here is the story of Father Joseph Lacy, "a small fat old Irishman," who was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross "for extraordinary heroism" as a Ranger chaplain on bloody Omaha Beach. (h/t The American Catholic)

To help non-soldiers conceive of the violence on Omaha Beach that day, here is testimony from  Captain Richard Merrill, 2nd Ranger Battalion:

"I was the first one out (of the landing craft). The seventh man was the next one to get across the beach without being hit. All the ones in-between were hit. Two were killed; three were injured. That's how lucky you had to be."

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Is this church meant for humans?

Interior view of Foligno's new church
Exterior view of Foligno's church

Looks more like a clubhouse for these guys than a church

The town of Foligno in Italy suffered a devastating earthquake in 1997, which destroyed many buildings, including the town's church.  In rebuilding, the Italian bishops sought "a sign of innovation that ... becom[es] a symbol of rebirth for the city after the earthquake."  As you see above, the new church is a concrete cube with jagged polygon windows.  This is an odd choice of symbol, not only because the symbolic power of a concrete cube is roughly zilch, but also because rebirth is perhaps the last thing a concrete cube suggests. The architect, Massimiliano Fuksas, explains his vision thus: "The suspension of a volume within another. Seeing through heaven, from outside, to inside, to outside."  The Italian bishops, confronted with such twaddle yet fearing to be mocked as philistines, probably found it easier to allow Fuksas to proceed with his volumes within volumes and his "concrete heaven" than to interfere.   Alas, the result, whatever its architectural merit, is surely not a church.   Evidently the Vatican takes a similar view, and has suggested that the Italian bishops should have supervised the architect a bit more closely.   As Cardinal Ravasi of the Pontifical Council for Culture puts it: "The lack of integration between the architect and the faith community has at times been negative.  Sometimes it goes wrong."     I hope this is cardinal - speak for "keep this up and you're all fired."  Another critique comes from Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums, who has observed, (undoubtedly with Foligno's church in mind), that some new churches offer “spaces that do not suggest prayer or meditation."   They don't suggest anything, other than concrete.  At least not to earthlings.

Rome's newest churches "look like warehouses."