15 April 2014

A history of the Papacy moving to France. To France??

In the book A History of God, Karen Armstrong showed how, in the history of the major monotheistic traditions, the idea of God evolved over time. Of course everything has a history.. but I had never thought of “God” having one.  Inevitably other apparently unchanging concepts must be equally open to historical analysis eg the eternal home of the Catholic Church is Rome.

Yet.. yet …the Avignon Papacy clearly did refer to a period in Church history from 1309-78 when 7 French popes and the seat of the Pope was moved out of Italy. Why did the papacy leave Rome? Perhaps because the great C14th prosperity of the church was accompanied by a serious compromise of the Pap­ac­y's spiritual integrity. Each pope seemed to acknowledge the ambitions of the French emperors.

Pope Boniface VIII (reigned 1294-1303) was a talented, Italian pope. But Boniface end­lessly meddled in foreign affairs, claiming temporal as well as spiritual supremacy. His worst quarrels were with: Emperor Albert I of Habsburg, the powerful Col­onnas fam­ily and King Philip the Fair of France, whom he excom­mun­icated in 1303. The pope was seized by agents of the Colonnas, and held cap­t­ive. The pope was released, but he soon died alone and afraid.

Papal Palace, Avignon

1] Raymond Bertrand de Got had been the archbishop of Bordeaux, and a con­fi­d­­ante of English and French kings. In 1305, he became Pope Cl­em­ent V (reigned 1305-14). Bec­ause Italy was on the verge of anarchy, he kept away from Rome. He knew Boniface VIII had died in captivity, so the French King greatly encouraged Pope Clement to move the papal court to France. Clement was cr­owned at Lyon in the pre­sence of his patron, King Philip IV the Fair of France.

The papacy had been located outside Rome before but now the papacy left Italy! And being French him­self, Clement naturally chose France. Even though the pap­acy was finally indep­en­dent, it WAS inf­l­uenced by King Philip's Fr­ench crown. Phil­ip asked the Pope to proclaim the Knights Templars heretics and hand them over to the secular au­thorit­y. The pope caved in immediat­e­ly; in 1307, all 2000 knight ­monks were delivered to Philip for burning.

Clement made Notre-Dame-des-Doms his cathedral in Avignon, complete with a magnificent tower. Pope Clement invited the great Sienese art­ists, Giotto, Simone Martini and Matteo Gio­vann­etti to come from Italy, to create Int­ernat­ional Goth­ic master­pieces for this church.

Petit Palace was built in 1317 as a cardinal’s home for Clem­ent's Grand Pen­itentiary. Like the Papal Pal­ace itself, Petit Palace’s architecture had military elements, though they softened later. In this time of great wealth, po­p­es and card­inals vied to endow ever more gener­ous holy foundations.

Petit Palace, Avignon

Clement V created 9 new French cardinals!! In an age of pa­pal nepot­ism, Cle­m­ent out-nepotised them all. Dante put Clem­ent V in­to hell in his Divine Comedy! Even if Clement had intended to return to Rome, by this time he was too old to go on the journey. In any case, Rome was still under the hostile control of the Holy Ro­m­an Emper­or, Henry VII. Clement died in France and was buried there.

2] Jacques Duese was the next French bishop to become Pope John XXII (pope 1316-34). An elderly man (72), John XXII cut down court costs, and instit­ut­ed a new fis­cal system to bring money in. This was achieved by taking control of the appointments of bishops, and splitting up large dioceses. John tried to keep the office of Holy Roman Emperor with­­in his control, but his view of papal mon­archy was problematic.

See Pope John’s Grand Audien­ce Hall which is on the ground floor of the New Palace. Half the hall was used by the ecclesiastical judges of the Court of the Holy Roman Rota; half was used by litigants and their lawyers. The Fresco of the Pro­ph­ets was Giovanet­t­i’s work. On the op­­p­osite bank of the Rhone, the nearby town of Villeneuve-les-Avignon area develop­ed as an exclusive residential district for mem­bers of the papal court. He died in 1334 while the work on the papal palace cont­inued.

3] Benedict XII (pope 1334-42) Jacques Fournier was a learned French theologian and inquisitor. He had new constit­utions drawn up for the Cist­erc­ians, Bened­ictines and Franciscans, and insisted on reg­ul­ar visitations to the monas­ter­ies. Where Benedict XII failed was in foreign policy. He com­p­letely identified the French king's priorities as his own, caus­ing great bitterness in England, Germany and Italy. Benedict was prepared to return the papacy to It­aly, but feared Rome would be chaotic. In any case the French king and the French cardinals opp­os­ed any move, so Benedict made the pap­acy even more entren­ch­ed in Avig­non via his build­ing activities.

He supervised building the Old Pap­al Pal­ace, seen as an impregnable fortress. The Hall of the Consistory became the supreme council of all Christen­dom. With great pomp the card­inals filed in when sum­mon­ed by the pope; here the pope received kings and ambass­adors, canon­ised saints and con­d­em­n­ed heret­ics. The return to Italy became unlikely, this time by def­ault. Ben­edict appointed only French cardinals to the curia, thus en­sur­ing that the future of the papacy was even MORE likely to rem­ain in France. His tomb is in Notre Dame Cathedral.

Ch­ar­t­­er­house of Val-de-Benediction

4] Clement VI (pope from 1342-52) Frenchman Pierre Roger had a doc­torate in theology, became a dip­l­omat and then chan­c­el­l­or of France. He was arch­bish­op of Sens and Rouen, then had been cardinal at Avig­n­on. This very cultiv­ated cardinal, who was King Philip VI's favour­ite, lived like a secular prince. His palace in Avignon looked like any mil­it­ary fortress with narrow op­enings, impen­etrable de­fences and moats. But INSIDE it was full of decorat­ion, fre­s­coes and tap­est­r­ies, art and the court­ly life.

 In 1348, the Avignon territ­ory was BOUGHT from the papacy. But this was a stor­my period when Clement VI tried to pre­v­ent the invasion of France by Edward III ag­ainst Ph­ilip VI of Val­ois. He was very involved in sup­port­ing the claims of Charles IV of Luxembourg to the Holy Roman Emperor’s imperial throne against Louis of Bav­aria.

5] Innocent VI (pope 1352-62) In the conclave after Clement V's death, the cardinals tried desperately to limit the incoming pope's ability to cre­ate heaps of new cardinals. The non French cardinals were most anx­ious to prevent the papacy from continuing under the control of the French king. Etienne Aubert was a French lawyer and judge, before taking holy ord­ers. He had been a bishop, cardinal and adm­inist­rator of the Avignon see, then became Pope Innocent VI.

He founded the Ch­ar­t­­er­house of Val-de-Benediction near his re­s­idence in Villeneuve-les-Av­ig­non in 1356, the excl­usive residen­t­ial district for members of the papal court. The Avignon papacy was booming.

Papal throne
in the sanctuary of the Avignon Cathedral

6] Urban V (pope 1362-70) Guillaume de Grimoard came from a nob­le French family. This aus­t­ere, deeply religious Bened­ictine pope sh­unned a luxurious cor­onat­ion and foc­used on reforming the worst of the church­'s corruption. Ur­b­an continued the re­forms st­ar­ted but not completed by his predecessor, Innoc­ent. As a schol­ar, he was most inter­est­ed in reform­ing old univ­ers­­ities and found­ing new ones.

By 1363 Urban tried to transfer his court back to Rome. Ev­en­t­ually in 1367, under the protection of Holy Roman Em­p­eror Ch­ar­les IV, Ur­ban and a very reluctant Curia made the move to Rome, but the Lat­eran was in ruins. So he lived for 3 years in the Vat­i­can itself while St John Lateran was re­built. Meanwhile the French cardinals cons­tant­ly pres­sured Urban to return to Av­ig­non, and he did so because he needed to negotiate with both the Fren­ch & English before any crus­ade to Turkey could go ahead. And Urban created 7 new cardinals in Rome, 6 of them Fren­ch.

7] Gregory XI (pope 1370-8) Pierre Roger de Beau­fort was from a noble Lim­oges family. He made a card­inal by un­c­le Pope Cl­ement VI, when he was still a teen­ and made pope at 42. Greg­­or­y was ruth­less­ in repress­­ing heresy in France, Germany and Spain via the Inquis­it­ion. Every aspect of Ch­ris­tian life and church org­an­isation needed definit­ion: marr­iage, sacra­m­ents, ordinat­ion, canonisation, electoral proc­edures etc. Recourse to the papal courts grew at a phenomenal speed. By the C13th, universities in Bologna, Paris, Ox­ford, Cambridge etc made theology, philosophy and especially law im­portant.

By the 1370s, the Babylonian Captivity seemed unending. Many of Europe's troubles were felt to be due to the long res­i­d­ence of the popes at Av­ig­­non, wh­ere the Curia was now lar­g­ely Fren­ch. Pope Greg­ory wanted to send a crusade to the east that would reun­ite the eastern and west­ern church­ under the leadership of Rome. Also he believed Rome was the only true home for the papacy, and, due to the recent successes of the papal armies, he felt safer about going home. But there was still vigorous opposition of the French card­in­als.

The frescoes on the ceilings in the St-Jean chapel, as well as the walls of the Grand Audience Room, were painted by the Italian artist Matteo Giovannetti.

Cath­er­­ine of Siena arr­iv­ed in Avignon on June 1376 to bring the Pope back to Italy and was graciously rec­eived. But died in 1380 at 33, and was bur­ied in Rome’s Dominican Church of Santa Maria sopra Min­er­va. Anyhow Pope Greg­ory XI acted on Catherine’s pleas and in 1376, he risk­ed a trip to Rome. Gregory and 2000 merc­en­aries arr­ived in Rome in Jan 1377 to take up resid­ence in the Vat­ican. But Gr­eg­ory was mobbed by jeering Flor­entines and thous­ands died, so he fled to a safer city. Gregory eventually limped back into Rome, and the Bab­yl­on­ian Cap­tiv­ity was over. He died exhausted the next year and was buried in the Rom­an Forum. 

Street mobs dur­ing the fun­eral thr­eat­ened to burn any cardinal who voted for a non Italian pope. No French­man was ever el­ec­ted pope again! France would never steal the papacy away from Rome again!

12 April 2014

Museum of Oliver Cromwell: 17th century hero or villain?

Who in their wildest nightmares thought that there would ever be a civil war in England? Who believed that a British king would ever be executed on the lawful orders of 59 judges? Who envisaged that the British Parliament could ever pass endless restrictive laws to regul­ate citizens’ moral behaviour, to close down theatres and to enforce strict observance of Sunday? The years 1642–1659 were part of a very difficult, very stressful era.

 Oliver Cromwell, 1656
by ? Samuel Cooper

Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658) was one of those rare and controversial figures in history who still excite mixed emotions, hundreds of years later. Everyone has a different opinion about him, depending on whether our families were Catholic, High Church, Low Church, no church, Irish, republican, pro-monarchy or military. Yet despite the ambivalence, his face is one that every school student across the old British Empire would have known.

The Cromwell Museum in Huntingdon (near Cambridge) is in a building that was originally part of the C12th Hospital of St John the Baptist (c1170-90). The hospital was an alms house for the poor. It had been succeeding in its mission very well, but with the the suppression of Catholic institut­ions in 1547, the hospital building had to find a new purpose in life. It was modified and used as Huntingdon Grammar School.

After a temporary exhibition held in Huntingdon in 1958 to mark the 300th anniversary of Cromwell's death, the city council collected objects to celebrate the man’s life in old grammar school. Thus the town became a perfect location for the museum; Oliver Cromwell was born in Huntingdon in 1599 and lived there until he left home to go to univ­er­sity. And the museum is in a perfect building since it was the grammar school where Cromwell had been a pupil.

It was decided that the Museum would go into the hospital’s Norman Chapel, just a single-room, but big enough for the job at hand. Imagine the excitement when the builders started removing the detrit­us of centuries and found a perfect Romanesque doorway and five decorative arches on the west front. By the time the museum opened in 1962, Huntingdon had saved the oldest building in the town and were starting to bring in thousands of visitors.

Founded in 1962, the museum contains hundreds of objects, paintings and printed material describing the mid C17th. The objects have been passed down by the descendants of one of Oliver Cromwell’s sons, and include portraits of Cromwell and his family, including two by Robert Walker and Sir Peter Lely, and several Samuel Cooper miniat­ures. 

The museum also has coins which can be described thus: Until the death of the King in 1649, all coinage bore his head. After the establishment of the Protectorate, new coinage appeared which depicted Cromwell as a regal figure. The museum collections include examples from both eras.
Cromwell Museum, Huntingdon

But the real treasures are the personal items that visitors would never have seen before e.g the hat Cromwell wore at the dissolution of the Long Parliament in 1653; his personal gunpowder flask; his apothecaries cabinet; his family seal and jewellery. Perhaps surp­risingly for a family that valued austerity, there is a Florentine pietre-dure inlaid cabinet, containing its glass pots of soaps and cosmetics, given to Cromwell by the Grand Duke of Tuscany.

This month the museum curator put on display an amazing death mask of Crom­well. It is a copy from the bust used for the figure of the Lord Protector, the focus of his state funeral at Westminster Abbey in 1658.

The museum does hold a number pamphlets and copies of key texts of the period, such as The Humble Petition & Advice of 1657, which clarified the organisation of Parliament and the duties of the office of Lord Protector. But most Cromwell documents are located in the nearby Huntingdon Library and Archive building. Thus students will want to visit both sites.

The museum was proposed for closure in the next year or two, I had ass­umed because Oliver Cromwell was somewhat of a divisive chap and the County Council did not want any controversies to arise. I believed the Council had read the hot debates canvassed in the article called Reluctant Regicides: why do modern Britons still find it so hard to acknowledge their revolutionary past?

Now it is becoming clear that the Council only wants to save £20,000 a year, presumably preferring to improve the town’s traffic lights than improving the minds of students. I would rather they start charging visitors an entry fee… than close this fascinating museum.

08 April 2014

French Deco architecture in Shanghai between the wars

The first important modern European architect in Shanghai might have been László Hudec. After being a soldier in WW1, he moved to Shanghai in 1918 and opened his own practice in 1925. Hudec designed dozens of buildings in the inter-war era, including the beautiful Park Hotel which opened for business in 1934.

Paul Veysseyre (1896-1963) worked in Paris just before WW1. After his years as a soldier during the war, he was hired by Brossard-Mehdi institutions to work in China, and was soon appointed architect of the Shanghai Office. Veysseyre combined forces in 1922 with another French architect, Alexandre Léonard, focusing originally on small villa projects. One of their first big commissions was the Cercle Sportif French (today’s Okura Garden Hotel) in 1925. This was a sporting and social club, much loved by European ex-pats living in Shanghai. The third French partner, Arthur Kruze, joined them later.

Okura Garden Hotel, 1925-8
dining room

Why were French architects and others attracted to Shanghai? The French Concession had been established in the mid C19th when the mayor of Shanghai conceded territory for a French settlement to the French Consul. Although the borders of this Concession expanded and changed somewhat in the early C20th, the French Conces­s­ion became the premier residential area of Shanghai. In fact this part of the city became a heaven for European architects during the 1920s-30s.

The new style tentatively emerged in Shanghai before the 1925 Exposition des Arts Decoratifs in Paris but was soon warmly encouraged by the huge response to Deco around the world. From 1921-1937, Leonard, Veysseyre & Kruze received many remarkable commissions eg the chocolate-coloured Bearn Apartments, full of vertical and horizontal lines. And the Willow Court Apartments and Midget Apartments. These architectural treasures were perfectly designed for Old Shanghai.

Alfred Magy Apartments, 1937

Spencer Dodington believes the firm's best block of flats was the Gascogne. The building's design allows for lots of light and built-in storage, and the double-lounge floor plan was perfect for parties. In addition to the Gascogne, other impressive blocks were the Magy, the Boissezon, the Bearn and the Dauphine. But Dodington always comes back to the Okura Garden Hotel, especially its ballroom. While I didn’t realise who the architect was, I have seen the Magy, Midget and Okura Garden Apartments in the excellent blog called Art Deco Buildings

Sensing the difficulties that Europeans in China were going to meet, the architects left for Saigon in 1937. The good times for the French Concession ended in 1943, when the pro-German government of Vichy France gave up its concessions in Tianjin, Hankou, Guangzhou and finally Shanghai.

Willow Court Apartments, 1934

The book Shanghai Art Deco Master, by Spencer Dodington and Charles Lagrange, was published by Earnshaw Books in 2014. Dodington said the book was divided into 3 sections: a biography of the French architect Paul Veysseyre, chapters describing his buildings and style, and a section on the major events of the French Conces­sion. It will be launched at the Shanghai International Literary Festival, Saturday 19th of April 2014 at the Metropolo Dahua Hotel Café.

The book is based on family archives kept by two sons of Veysseyre in France, plus a complete advertisement in a 1934 local French news­paper, showcasing their best works and giving the profiles of the three name partners. Most of the Art Deco buildings that Paul Veysseyre and his architecture firm designed are still standing and can be visited; clearly arch­itecture and preservation in 1920s-1930s Shanghai are of great interest now. Even if you have to remortgage your house or put your small children in to the Labour Market to buy this book, it may still be worthwhile.