“Cloth of Gold” vestments, Medieval Museum Waterford

Over 550 years old, the survival of these vestments (which were concealed to save them from Oliver Cromwell, and were missing for over 120 years) is amazing in itself – what is even more impressive is the beauty and completeness of these products of mid 15th Century Florence and Bruges.


According to the Medieval Museum Waterford website:

The Waterford cloth-of-gold vestments are the only full set of medieval vestments to survive in northern Europe.

They are Ireland’s only link with the Renaissance that was beginning in northern Europe and the survival of such fragile material after being buried for 123 years is truly remarkable.

In what is a very impressive museum, the vestments are dramatically displayed in a darkened room and that heightens the sense of wonder they would probably evoke in any case.  I did find the attempt in the display and audio-visual to link them to W B Yeats’ “He Wishes For The Cloths of Heaven” a little forced and incongruous.


Here is a video from 2014 of the Museum Director discussing the vestments


Toccata Psalm 146, Jan Zwart performed by Harm Hoeve on the organ of Bovenkerk, Kampen


Performed on the renowned organ of the Bovenkirk in Kampen, Holland, here is a piece by Jan Zwart, on whom there is little on the Anglophone internet.:

  • Born: 20th August 1877

  • Died: 13th July 1937

  • Birthplace: Holland

Jan Zwart was a Dutch organist and a pupil of H. van Eyk. After having been an organist of the Dutch Reformed Church in Rotterdam and Capelle aan den IJssel, he was appointed in 1898 in the same position at the Reformed Evangelical Lutheran Church in Amsterdam.

There is quite a bit more on the Bovenkirk organ:

A masterpiece of the baroque period, the Hinsz organ of the Bovenkerk located in Kampen, Netherlands is perhaps one of the most sought-after Dutch organs by performing and recording artists from around the world.

Available in three volumes, the baroque instrument is ideal for contrapuntal works requiring a variety of tonal colors and is also well suited for romantic works which sound quite elegant.

For those who are a little rusty, Psalm 146 includes the well-known (and wise!) words “put not your trust in princes” and  here it is in the King James Version: 

  1. Praise ye the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul.

While I live will I praise the Lord: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.

His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lordhis God:

Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever:

Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The Lord looseth the prisoners:

The Lord openeth the eyes of the blind: the Lord raiseth them that are bowed down: the Lord loveth the righteous:

The Lord preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down.

10 The Lord shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the Lord.

An amusing correction in the TLS letters page from 12 years ago

While looking for something entirely different, I came across this letter to the TLS by Tim Nau from January 5th 2007:

Sir, -In a paragraph about saints of the Dark Ages enjoying pain, Druin Burch includes a quotation from St Theresa of Lisieux (December 8, 2006). Is he aware that she was born in 1873? Either Dr Burch has an unusual idea of the extent of the Dark Ages, or has confused this St Theresa with some other.


21 East York Avenue, Toronto.


Murphy Devitt stained glass, Chapel of St Martin de Porres, Dominican Friary, Limerick

Murphy Devitt stained glass, Chapel of St Martin de Porres, Dominican Friary, Limerick

I have blogged before about discovering the stained glass work of Murphy Devitt Studios. Here is a brief background from the MDS page:

In the early 1950s at Harry Clarke Studios, Dublin, John (Johnny) Murphy and John (Des) Devitt first met. By 1958 Johnny and Des along with Johnny’s wife Róisín Dowd Murphy decided to strike out alone and immediately started to create some of the most stunning stained glass ever seen in Ireland and beyond. It was a relationship that lasted almost fifty years, most notably in the form of Murphy/DevittStudios Limited.

Imagine my joy at happening on more Murphy Devitt work by chance in Limerick at the Dominican Friary. As is often the case one can reflect at how overlooked this magnificent and very widespread art form is in modern Ireland.

One window has a slightly unfortunate misprint of “designed”

Here is the statue of St Martin de Porres in the chapel:

There is also a later window in the Friary which Reitlin Muphy contributed to. This window featured what seemed to me representations of the social and economic life of Munster. My photo skills were even more sorely tested and this area was quite busy with post Mass worshippers which always inhibits me a little :

For Christmas Eve: Judy Collins, Christ Child Lullaby

Here is the great Judy Collins singing a wonderfully atmospheric a capella rendition of the Christ Child Lullaby:

Have as happy, safe, and reflective Christmas as possible. As the years go by, Christmas carries with it a freight of sadness and loss at those no longer with us. I am always wary of wishing happy Christmas indiscriminately. Nevertheless, happy Christmas

Ember Days and nature connection

Today, Friday and Saturday are Ember Days. I had never heard of these (though “embertide” rings a faint bell) until I came across this tweet

In a way Fr Schrenk explains it well in this thread so unroll it for the full explanation, or look here or here. Essentially, Ember Days are 3 days in an “Ember Week”, which occurs four times in a calendar year and mark the commencement of seasons. The December days are the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday after St Lucy’s Day (13th December)

They are marked by practices such as fasting and abstinence, though specifics seem a little different depending on the online source.  One site I came across suggested “minor” fasting, ie one full meal and two light meals (which sounds closer to a healthy intake than to a fast to me) as well as marking the day with appropriate prayer.

Traditionally, clergy were ordained during Ember Weeks.



“Ember” is not a reference to fire but a corruption of the Latin Quatuor Tempora meaning “four times.” In Irish, they are Laethanta na gCeithre Thráth  – “days of the four times” – which preserves the sense of the Latin.  Ember days seem to have got a little more attention in recent times as a form of collective repentance related to recent crises in the Church. 

Separate from any theological or ecclesiastic practice, I am struck by the wisdom of observances that are tied with the cycle of the seasons and thereby of growth, death and renewal that follow the year. And I am struck by the wisdom of periods of restraint in consumption (which is what fasting is, as opposed to self-punishment) and of contemplation that relate fundamentally to the changes of the seasons. It is a cliché to bemoan the overcommercialisation of Christmas but it is salutary to recall that Advent was supposed to be a time of reflection, self-denial and preparation.

It seems a pity that the Ember Days practice has fallen into disuse in general. And again separate from any specific religious belief or affiliation, one wonders if the practice of Ember Days did help to connect people with the progress of the seasons (and if their abandonment is yet another marker of disconnection with nature) and whether for this reason observance of Ember Days is due a revival.