16 July 2007

First, the outside.

I usually approach St. Clare's from the west and on foot. It always gives me a lift to see the church come into view.

And, as you can see, it is unmistakeably a church.

Here are a few more views as I walk in.

In the last two pictures you see our grotto of Mary. Marian devotion is almost unique to the Church, so when you see a church like structure with a statue of her around, you know you've come home. As Dale Price over at Dyspeptic Mutterings noted, we keep statues of Mary around sort of the way we often carry photos of our mother in our wallet. Here are some close ups of the statue:

I now give you a view of the church as seen from slightly to the east:

From the above pictures you begin to see a bit of the problem that began the current restoration project. You will notice that the front of the church is lighter in colour than the back. That's because some years ago it was decided to clean the front of the church by sand blasting. It was very common and quite popular at the time. What was not known at the time was how badly sandblasting would weaken concrete and mortar, leading over time to the damage like that seen in the picture below:

Most of the crumbling was done intentionally by a contractor on a scaffold, who went up after a piece of cement fell off the facade and nearly hit a school child. He knocked off all the loose stuff before it could fall off and really hit anyone else.
Incidentally, the above photo is the only reference I plan on making to the repairs needed for the church. My intention is to show it for the lovely place it is and will be again, and not some aging wreck.

Before we go inside, there is one other thing to see on the outside, the statue of the patron of our church. You can just see her in the above photos. Here's a better look:

I will begin here to explain a point to which I shall return in this series of posts: medieval symbolism. You know this is St. Clare not because of what she looks like, because no one knows what exactly she looked like, but because of the symbols she bears. Her habit identifies her as a nun, her book identifies her as a writer- in her case, the book she holds is the rule she wrote for her order. But what really nails her down as St. Clare is the ciborium she holds in her right hand. This became her symbol on account of the miracle attributed to her. Catholic encyclopedia puts it thus:

When, in 1234, the army of Frederick II was devastating the valley of Spoleto, the
soldiers, preparatory to an assault upon Assisi, scaled the walls of San Damiano by night, spreading terror among the community. Clare, calmly rising from her sick bed, and taking the ciborium from the little chapel adjoining her cell, proceeded to face the invaders at an open window against which they had already placed a ladder. It is related that, as she raised the Blessed Sacrament on high, the soldiers who were about to enter the monastery fell backward as if dazzled, and the others who were ready to follow them took flight. It is with reference to this incident that St. Clare is generally represented in art bearing a ciborium.

Other sources identify the soldiers as Saracen mercenaries under the employ of Frederick II. More on that later. Now, it is time to head inside.

Well, tomorrow will be the time I start going inside.

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