11 November 2023

Daily prayers in the Kingdom Season
with USPG: (7) 11 November 2023

The Duomo, facing the Piazza Vescovado) is the spiritual and social centre of Ravello (Photograph: www.ravello.com)

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, and tomorrow is the Third Sunday before Advent (12 November 2023) and Remembrance Sunday.

The Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship today (11 November) remembers Saint Martin (ca 397), Bishop of Tours.

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

In recent prayer diaries on this blog, my reflections have already looked at a number of Italian cathedrals, including the cathedrals in Amalfi, Florence, Lucca, Noto, Pisa, Ravenna, Saint Peter’s Basilica and Saint John Lateran, Rome, Siena, Sorrento, Syracuse, Taormina, Torcello and Venice.

So, this week, my reflections look at some more Italian cathedrals, basilicas and churches in Bologna, San Marino, Pistoia, San Gimignano, Mestre, Sorrento and Ravello.

Throughout this week, my reflections each morning have followed this pattern:

1, A reflection on an Italian cathedral or basilica;

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

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Entering the duomo in Ravello through the museum on a side street on the north side of the cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Duomo, Ravello:

Ravello on the Amalfi coast is a small town (population 2,500), but it was once an independent city state and today it is a Unesco World Heritage site. It is known for its beautiful views of the coast below, for the Ravello Festival and for the Villa Rufolo, built in 1270, and its gardens.

Boccaccio mentions the villa in his Decameron, it inspired Richard Wagner’s stage design for his opera Parsifal (1880), and it was there DH Lawrence wrote part of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

But visitors often miss out on Ravello’s much older duomo or cathedral on the other side of the square, built in 1080 in a combination of Baroque and Romanesque styles with the support of the Rufolo family. The duomo, dedicated to the Assumption and Saint Pantaleone, h has undergone extensive modifications and restorations over the past 900 years. The shining white fa├žade dates back to the last major restoration in 1931.

The entrance to the cathedral has two bronze doors depicting 54 scenes of the life and Passion of Christ. The doors, which were temporarily removed for restoration in 2010, were built in 1179 by Barisano da Trani. These bronze doors are one of only two dozen pairs of bronze doors in Italy, three of them by Trani.

Although the cathedral was being prepared for a wedding on the afternoon I was visiting, I was welcomed inside, entering through the museum on a side street on the north side of the cathedral.

Inside, the cathedral’s richly ornamented interior is a riot of sculpted white marble, which holds a third century sarcophagus, marble slabs decorated with mosaics, and the skull of Saint Barbara. Behind the altar, there is a vial that is said to hold the blood of Saint Pantaleone, the town’s patron saint, and a fragment of the hand Saint Thomas placed in the side of the Risen Christ.

But the gems in the cathedral are the two 13th century, decorated, marble pulpits in the central nave, adorned with glittering mosaics: the Gospel Pulpit on the right of the central nave, and the Epistle Pulpit on the left.

The Gospel Pulpit, dating from 1272, displays dragons and birds on spiral columns, supported by six carved lions, and the heraldic arms of the Rufolo family who built the Villa Rufolo, with profiles of family members above the doors of the pulpit. The Epistle Pulpit depicts the story of Jonah and the Whale.

The Chapel of Saint Pantaleone the Healer commemorates a third century physician who was beheaded on orders of the Emperor Diocletian after he converted to Christianity. The chapel has a small phial of the saint’s blood, which is said to liquify every year on 27 July, the anniversary of his martyrdom. The chapel also has a silver bust of the town’s venerated saint.

Ten saints depicted on two panels of a 16th century predella in Ravello by Giovanni D’Angelo D’Amato (Photographs: Patrick Comerford)

The cathedral reached through a side entrance on the Via Richard Wagner. The collection is relatively small but includes several significant sculptures and works of art. A famous marble bust is said by many to be Sigilgaida Rufolo, the wife of Nicola Rufolo, the 13th-century merchant who commissioned the cathedral’s pulpit. Other sources say the bust represents the Madonna or, alternatively, Joanna, the Queen of Naples.

Two 16th century paintings by Giovanni D’Angelo D’Amato are part of a polyptych he painted in oil on wood for the Trinity Benedictine Monastery in Ravello, depicting the Transfiguration, Our Lady of the Rosary, and the Mysteries of the Rosary.

The abbey was suppressed in 1812, and the Benedictine nuns were moved to the Monastery of Salerno. However, the convent and its possessions became the property of the Church of Saint Michael the Archangel in Torello. Later, the paintings were later moved from Torello to the cathedral museum in Ravello.

The paintings form a predella that depicts an array of saints and martyrs. The first painting depicts (from left):

1, Saint Benedict, the founder of western monasticism.
2, Saint Hieronymus or Jerome, who translated the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate).
3, Saint Augustine of Hippo, one of the first systematic theologians; he once said in a sermon: ‘God was made man, that man might be made God.’
4, Saint Aniello, an Italian Franciscan saint.
5, Saint Pantaleon, a fourth century martyr who was the patron of medicine.

The second painting depicts (from left):

6, Saint Francis of Assisi.
7, Saint Leonard, a sixth century abbot and the patron of prisoners.
8, Saint Mary Magdalene.
9, Saint Scholastica, twin sister of Saint Benedict.
10, Saint Ursula, who was martyred on a pilgrimage to Rome; she was from south-west Britain, and is shown here with the flag of England, the cross of Saint George.

The Duomo’s bell tower, which dates back to the 13th century, shows Moorish and Byzantine influence.

The Gospel Pulpit displays dragons and birds on spiral columns and is supported by six carved lions (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 25: 34-40 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 34 ‘Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37 Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40 And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me”.’

The Epistle Pulpit depicts the story of Jonah and the Whale (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayers (Saturday 11 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), has been ‘Community Health Programmes’. This theme was introduced on Sunday.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (11 November 2023, Saint Martin of Tours) invites us to pray in these words:

Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Martin of Tours, we give thanks for his bravery in refusing to fight and instead following his faith.

The Chapel of Saint Pantaleone the Healer in the duomo in Ravello (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Collect:

God all powerful,
who called Martin from the armies of this world
to be a faithful soldier of Christ:
give us grace to follow him
in his love and compassion for the needy,
and enable your Church to claim for all people
their inheritance as children of God;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
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 Martin 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

Preparing the cathedral in Ravello for a wedding (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

Ravello is known for its beautiful views of the coast below (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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