Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

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Drama in the Chancel!

August 11th, 2010, Promulgated by Bernie

"Calvary and Our Lady of Sorrows" photo by Stephen, O. Cist.

I came upon this picture by Stephen, a Cistercian monk, on his blog, SUB TUUM. It’s a photo of a side chapel in the Church of Notre-Dame-des-Anges (Our Lady of the Angels) in Collioure, France, just north of the border with Spain. Notice the curtain to the right of the sculptural scene of the crucifixion, above the altar. It looks to be a real, functioning curtain meant to be pulled shut and opened. This three-dimensional crucifixion scene appears as a motionless  drama -presented on a stage -a “tableau vivant.” The feeling is heightened by the fact that Mary wears actual clothing.

The chapel reminded me of another, more famous, side chapel that presents a theater-like environment, The Cornaro Chapel, in the left transept of the Church of S. Maria della Vittoria in Rome.

"Cornaro Chapel" and detail by Bernini, Church of S. Maria della Vittoria, Rome

The scene over the altar there is of the Ecstasy of Saint Theresa di Avila by Baroque artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680). The ecstatic moment of Theresa is viewed from flanking theater balconies by Bernini’s sculpted cardinals and doges of the Cornaro family. Natural light descends upon the angel and St. Theresa from a real window hidden behind the crowning entablature/pediment.

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