17 November 2023

Daily prayers in the Kingdom Season
with USPG: (13) 17 November 2023

The Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Vita seen from the Two Towers … it is one of the tallest churches in Bologna (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

In this time between All Saints’ Day and Advent Sunday, we are in the Kingdom Season in the Calendar of the Church of England. This week began with the Third Sunday before Advent and Remembrance Sunday (12 November 2023).

Today, the Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship (17 November) celebrates the life and work of Saint Hugh (1200), Bishop of Lincoln.

Before today begins, I am taking some time for prayer and reflection early this morning.

Throughout this week, I am continuing my theme of Italian cathedrals and churches. My reflections this morning are following this pattern:

1, A reflection on a church in Bologna;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Inside the Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Vita in Bologna (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Vita, Bologna:

The Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Vita is a late Baroque-style church on Via Clavature in the Quadrilatero, a few steps from the Piazza Maggiore in Bologna. The church is the most important example of Baroque art in Bologna. It was first built for the religious confraternity known as the Compagnia dei Battuti, active in Bologna as early as 1260, offering shelter to pilgrims and care for the sick.

The story of this church dates back to a former Franciscan friar, Ramiero Barcobini Fasani, who set out from Perugia in 1260 and who had gathered 20,000 followers along the way. On their journey, Ramiero and his followers flagellated themselves in imitation of Christ’s Passion, and called for peace between the different warring Christian factions.

When Ramiero arrived in Bologna, he founded the Confraternity of the White Flagellants and set up a hospital or hostel for pilgrims and the infirm. Their first church was dedicated to Saint Vitus but soon became known as the Chiesa della Vita (the Church of Life) because of the life-saving work of the doctors in the hospital.

In time, the hospital, church and oratory became known as Santa Maria della Vita.

The church was destroyed by an earthquake in 1686, but was soon rebuilt. Building a new church began in 1687-1690 with designs by Giovanni Battista Bergonzoni, who devised the elliptical plan. The dome rises to a height of 52 metres, making the church one of the tallest in Bologna.

The dome was designed by Galli Bibiena was completed in 1787. Beneath the dome four large high reliefs by the Forlì sculptor Luigi Acquisti depict the four Sibyls: Cumana, Frisia, Eritrea and Persica.

The façade was added in 1905.

The Ospedale della Vita was merged in 1801 with the neighbouring Ospedale della Morte (Hospital of Death) to form the Grande Ospedale della Vita e della Morte, the Great Hospital of Life and Death.

Inside the church, the Compianto sul Cristo Morto (‘Lamentation over the Dead Christ’) is by Niccolò dell’Arca and dates from 1465. It is the largest collection of terracotta sculptures of the Italian Renaissance and was called the ‘scream of stone’ by Gabriele D’Annunzio.

The Museum of Health and Assistance (Museo della Sanità e dell’Assistenza) is beside the church.

One of the four sibyls by Luigi Acquisti beneath the dome of Santa Maria della Vita (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 17: 26-37 (NRSVA):

26 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them. 28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29 but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed all of them 30 —it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day, anyone on the housetop who has belongings in the house must not come down to take them away; and likewise anyone in the field must not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it. 34 I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35 There will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken and the other left.’ 37 Then they asked him, ‘Where, Lord?’ He said to them, ‘Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.’

One of the four sibyls by Luigi Acquisti beneath the dome of Santa Maria della Vita (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayers (Friday 17 November 2023):

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), draws on ‘A Prayer for Remembrance Sunday and International Day of Tolerance’. This theme was introduced on Sunday.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (17 November 2023) invites us to pray as we reflect on these words:

We give thanks to religious studies and religious education teachers, who work to improve young people’s understanding of a diverse range of religions and cultures.

The Collect:

O God,
who endowed your servant Hugh
with a wise and cheerful boldness
and taught him to commend to earthly rulers
the discipline of a holy life:
give us grace like him to be bold in the service of the gospel,
putting our confidence in Christ alone,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

God, shepherd of your people,
whose servant Hugh revealed the loving service of Christ
in his ministry as a pastor of your people:
by this eucharist in which we share
awaken within us the love of Christ
and keep us faithful to our Christian calling;
through him who laid down his life for us,
but is alive and reigns with you, now and for ever.

Yesterday’s Reflection

Continued Tomorrow

Tables on Via Clavature in the Quadrilatero, close to Santa Maria della Vita (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Santa Maria della Vita, in the foreground, is just a few steps from the Piazza Maggiore and the Basilica of San Petronio, in the background (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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