St. Catherine de Ricci

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2004.01.25 15:24 yesterday's dusk
On the way to TLA Video Chestnut Hill to rent Visconti's Ludwig and back.
Left St. Ambrose Parish towards St. Helena Parish, then towards Temple University's Tyler School of Art, which is part of the motherlode of Horace Trumbauer architecture, Lynnewood Hall just up the street, and right next to Elstowe, the quondam William L. Elkins Estate, now a House of the Dominica Sisters. [Otto is thrilled to hear that both St. Catherine de Ricci and Louis I. Kahn will attend the Horace Trumbauer Architecture Fan Club Convention to deliver their jointly-authored paper.] Then on to a bit of Rt. 73 to Grey Towers, the castle of Arcadia University--Arcadia is a quite recent name for this older institution that changed its name because of
Now on towards Chestnut Hill through Whitemarsh and the scant remains of Stotesbury Mansion, and glad to report at last finding that sculptural fountain terrace as centerpiece in the 1950s residential community.
A jammed parking lot and a long line in the store.
Up Mermaid Lane past Cynthia's house (my 1993 portrait of her hangs over the fireplace in the family room), then all the way down Stenton Avenue, ending through St. Anthanasius, St. Helena, and finally home in St. Ambrose.
[Elapsed Time: 1 hour 25 minutes]

2004.02.13 12:44
Re: of castles, fortifications, etc.
Great stuff. I never read any books on symbolism before; I will now, however.
Lots of things zipped through my mind while reading:
Castles, Ludwig II, reenactment, Otto in a Schloss (i.e., the German for either castle or lock), schizophrenia in a lock-box.
New Jerusalem, Bryn Athyn Cathedral (or Church of the New Jerusalem), Academy of the New Church, Glencairn, Cairnwood--all local (to me) architecture built with Pitcairn (the local 'Rockefellers') money--I can't readily go to Bavaria anytime I want, but that's not case with Bryn Athyn, for a few years now I call it "a little land of reenactment."
Bryn Athyn Cathedral is indeed a true Gothic construction in that all the stones are held together with mortar and gravity alone, perhaps the only true Gothic Cathedral built entirely in the 20th century. Although still large, it is nonetheless somewhat diminutive in that its scale is something like 2/3rds or 3/5ths the average Gothic Cathedral. The overriding symbolism of this Church goes un-noticed by most--nothing in the design is straight, level or exact; column spacing is always slightly off, all walls slightly bow, there is a slight curve to everything, especially to whatever looks straight. Only God is perfect.
The administration building of the Academy of the New Church is a very early Mitchell/Giurgola building, whose design somewhat reenacts the design of Kahn's unexecuted Goldenberg House, which was to be build on a site just a couple miles down from Bryn Athyn.]
Louis Kahn's unexecuted Domincan Motherhouse of St. Catherine de Ricci is chock full of symbolism--today, 13 February, is the feast of St. Catherine de Ricci. I guess I'll visit Elstowe (for the first time) today, and then maybe go take pictures of the castle at the quondam Beaver College.
The Egyptian walls of hieroglyphics and the Berlin Wall of graffiti.
The metabolic urbanism of contemporary Israel.
The secret symbols of Piranesi's Ichnographia Campi Martii.
It is a real joy to still see cedar trees growing in a place long ago called Cedar Grove.

2004.02.14 14:07
Re: of castles, fortifications, etc.
Mecca and WTC, what a comparison. You seem to be asking (and answering) "how does one design a site of pilgrimage well?" I agree that this is an apt question for design these days. Lucky for me, I suppose, my 'pilgrimage' to the post 9-11 WTC occurred the first weekend Lower Manhattan was reopened after the attack. A true once in a lifetime event. I haven't visited the Pentagon or Shanksville yet, however.
Architect Aldo Rossi also held the lighthouse typology in high regard. If you are not familiar with his many architectural sketches (many of which are published in a fair number of books), you might find lots of inspiration related to your own work. His collecting of favorite typologies is much akin to your own collecting of the 'architecture of electricity'.
Last evening Philadelphia was witness to a great 100' to 150' column of fire. Ten minutes before 5 o'clock a small crew of water workers at the intersection of Olney and Ogontz Avenues (about 2.5 miles directly west from where I live) accidentally broke open a 20" gas main, and within a half minute there erupted an enormous explosion resulting in a tremendously powerful vertical jet of flame. Miraculously, no one was injured, and after four hours the pressure within the gas main was shut off, and the column of fire was gone.

Your thoughts about the place of fiction in the reality of modern life is poignant. Late last night I watched the movie (based on the book) Remains of the Day, and it's story seems to relate to what you say.
From "The novel's narrator, Stevens, is a perfect English butler who tries to give his narrow existence form and meaning through the self-effacing, almost mystical practice of his profession. In a career that spans the second World War, Stevens is oblivious of the real life that goes on around him--oblivious, for instance, of the fact that his aristocrat employer is a Nazi sympathizer. Still, there are even larger matters at stake in this heartbreaking, pitch-perfect novel--namely, Stevens' own ability to allow some bit of life-affirming love into his tightly repressed existence."
What I saw in the film is that the aristocrat employer was just as oblivious as his butler, an oblivion, moreover, manifest by grandly organized pretense. In the movie, Christopher Reeves plays a U.S. Congressman from Pennsylvania. Before he visits the manor for a circa 1936 foreign affairs conference, the aristocrat and some of his compatriots wonder as to the source of the Congressman's family's wealth--"Perhaps they made their money from trolley cars." This is an obscure reference to the Philadelphia Wideners, for whom Lynnewood Hall by Horace Trumbauer was built.

Horace Trumbauer, Lynnewood Hall (Elkins Park, PA: 1898-1900).
I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon (just across the street from the now derelict Lynnewood Hall, which was once just as grand as the Manor House in the movie) at Our Lady of Prouille, the quondam Elstowe, estate of the Elkins Family, now a retreat house run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine de Ricci. I had the good fortune of speaking with Sister Caroline who is now in charge of the place. We even discussed Louis Kahn's unexecuted design for a Motherhouse which the Sisterhood had commissioned. Before going home, I went to the art library at Temple University's Tyler School of Art (which is right next to where I spoke with Sister Caroline, whose office is within what used to be the estate squash courts). Because I was looking up books about the art treasures that used to be within Lynnewood Hall (now the Widener Collection within the National Gallery, Washington DC), the librarian also brought out of the rare book room a most unexpected item--the 1946 auction catalogue of the estate of Eva Stotesbury.
Gosh, I love the reality of fabricating a novel/fiction.

2004.02.16 11:02
Re: of castles, fortifications, etc.
My Architect was not discussed, so I don't know if Sister Caroline saw the movie. What she did was explain why the Motherhouse was commissioned, and how, after repeated redesigns to fit the budget, the project was ultimately abandoned. Sister Caroline was actually more curious about "the paper" Saint Catherine de Ricci and Louis Kahn are to present in "the novel I'm working on." I plan to return to have an extended conversation with Sister Caroline, and perhaps some other Sisters as well. The Dominican Retreat House, just north of Philadelphia, now more or less acts as the Motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters.
I told her I constructed a computer model of the project on the site, and I asked about the big hillside behind where the Motherhouse was to be. She said that was "daffodil hill" because it was covered entirely with daffodils. The Dominican Sisters sold the site (at Media, southwest of Philadelphia, just north of Delaware) in 1990; it is now developed with suburban housing.
The Dominican Retreat House (the quondam Elkins Estate) comprises two Trumbauer Houses, Elstowe and Chelten House--one for the father, one for the son. Elstowe (c. 1900) is in the Italian Renaissance style, with a large powerhouse far down the valley, now a home for aged sisters. Chelten House (c. 1898) is in the Elizabethan style, with a separate stable compound and a squash court. The grounds are quite the sight/site; I look forward to going there again in the Spring. Both mansions are used to house religious retreats every weekend.

2004.02.20 13:35
getting one's symbolic bearings
I just checked at and the largest angle of the triangle formed by the Dominican Retreat House of St. Catherine de Ricci (point one), the intersection of Ogontz and Olney Avenues (point two--location of the column of fire that occurred at dusk on the quondam* feast of St. Catherine de Ricci), and where I live on Arbor Street (point three--the quelle is approximately 96.8 degrees.
In Un-Schloss Schizophrenia: Afterlife Address of Choice, the column of jet flame represents St. Catherine's arrival in Philadelphia bearing the news (for Otto) that both Theodosius and his wife Aelia Flaccilla ["She is venerated in the Greek Church as a saint, and her feast is kept on 14 September."--14 September is also (feast of) the Exaltation of the Cross (i.e., the day Helena found the True Cross). I myself recently learned that Helena and Aelia Flaccilla shared an almost identical physical appearance.] will be coming to Philadelphia at dusk 25 February, and staying for (another 40 days of) Lent.
*Subsequent to the Second Vatican Council, the feast of St. Catherine de Ricci was moved from 13 February to 3 February--Catherine died 2 February 1590, but I'm pretty sure Sister Caroline said 3 February. Anyway, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine de Ricci still celebrate the feat of St. Catherine on 13 February because that is when "most of the Sisters in the Order took their vows."

2004.02.26 12:36
"God's Bricklayer"
I read the following for the first time last night.
"Cardinal Dennis Dougherty took off for a three-month European vacation in early May 1934. Several weeks later, a declaration of war on the movie industry in the form of a pastoral letter from the Cardinal was read in all the churches of the Philadelphia Archdiocese. Hollywood's obsession with sex and crime," said Dougherty, was a "vicious and insidious attack . . . on the very foundation of our Christian civilization, namely the sacrament of marriage, the purity of womanhood, the sanctity of the home, and obedience to lawful authority." Dougherty's archdiocese covered most of southeastern Pennsylvania, so the letter was heard by some 825,000 Catholics, almost all of whom would have been in church that Sunday, as they were every Sunday. Their marching orders were straightforward: Philadelphia Catholics were forbidden, on pain of serious sin, to go to any movies, of any kind, anywhere."
"Samuel Goldwyn made a quiet visit to the Cardinal's home and reportedly offered to do whatever was necessary to lift the ban. Dougherty was polite but said, "I am adamant. I will not lift it. That will be left to the moral judgment of your products."
---Charles R. Morris, American Catholic: The Saints and Sinners Who Built America's Most Powerful Church (New York: Random House, 1997).
"God's Bricklayer" entitles the chapter on Cardinal Dougherty, apparently a name the Cardinal occasionally applied to himself.
What a difference seventy years makes?]
I like how John Kelly, the father of Princess Grace, called Cardinal Dougherty a "son-of-a-bitch." I like too how John Kelly's construction company built Cardinal Dougherty High School, once the largest Catholic High School in the world, and my Alma Mater.
Since most of Otto's friends are presently staying at St. Catherine (de Ricci) Hall, the quondam powerhouse of Elstowe (literally next door to Tyler School of Art), no doubt they will someday soon visit Cardinal Dougherty High School which is close by in St. Helena Parish. Ludwig, Jim, and Arcadius (elder son of Theodosius, brother-in-law and first cousin one generation removed of Maria), however, are staying at the castle of Arcadia University, the quondam Beaver College. Trumbauer and 'God's Bricklayer' are helping Otto organize all the various site-seeing tours for Otto's Lenten guests. This all works out perfectly as a preliminary run of the official tours to be part of the forthcoming Horace Trumbauer Architecture Fan Club Convention. Sam Goldwyn has agreed to surprise Dennis at one of the Thursday night dinner parties, followed by a movie (Death In Venice? High Art? Barbarella? The Player?--I mean how many times can everyone watch Titus?), of course.

2004.03.21 11:35
Re: a gathering of planets
Dennis and Eva
Catherine de Ricci and Louis I. Kahn
and Mrs. Dodge
and Maria
and Melania the Younger
and Agatha Christie (he was calling her "Clueless" behind her back)
Rubens and Bette Davis
and Philippe le Beau (apparently he has an eye for the great grandmothers of his most recent descendants)
Napoleon and James A. Williams
and Napoleon II (they all sang 'Happy Birthday' for him, and every time Napoleon's son introduced himself as the King of Rome, Eutropia simply said, "You don't know a thing.")
Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette (when Ludwig saw Agatha mingling with Louis and Marie, he said, "Look! It's 'Clueless' with 'The DeCaps.'")
Theodosius and Aelia Flaccilla
and Aelia Eudoxia
and Thermantia
Galla Placidia
and Athaulf
and Serena
Princess Grace
and Samuel Goldwyn
John Kelly
and a bitch (apparently a seeing eye dog)
Rrose Sélavy and Pope Celestine V
and Lili Marlene
and Maria Popinska, a quondam Russian scientist (Otto took one look at this couple and immediately said, "Oh, Now I get it. Maria Popinska and 'Let's go fly a kite.' Ben, you're still the funniest sense of humor I know.")
Helena and Eusebius (it was obvious they were up to something)
Ambrose surprised everyone by bringing Constantina and R. David Schmitt. (Ambrose enjoyed telling everyone how he and Dave each died on a Good Friday, and Constantina--actually everyone calls her Santa Costanza these days--enjoyed telling everyone about the architectural analysis of her mausoleum that Dave conducted back when he was a student at Temple University.)

2004.04.04 13:45
search: biloction
I know that Catherine de Ricci had (reportedly) bilocated, and, like Padre Pio, that she was a sometimes stigmatic, but I don't think I ever knew before that Ambrose bilocated.

2004.04.23 13:39
inspecting the summer rental
Ever since he heard about Catherine de Ricci and Louis I. Kahn's paper for the Horace Trumbauer Architecture Fan Club Convention, Le Corbusier has been anxious to also deliver a paper. Otto, of course, was thrilled to oblige, especially since Le Corbusier's topic is "The Promenade Architecturale Formula".
Le Corbusier finished swimming across the Atlantic Ocean yesterday, and Otto met him at Cape May Point. They had lunch together in the picnic area across the parking lot from the lighthouse, fed the cardinal (they nick-named Dougherty) posing in the bushes, and then inspected the World War II bunker, where Le Corbusier will be spending some vacation time this summer. "I love big concrete boxes raised on pilotis, you know. And, is that really a Nunnery on the beach over there?"

papers of the HTAFCC
Catherine de Ricci and Louis I. Kahn--this paper is about the Dominican Motherhouse design (a la “seeking precedents...”) and somehow shifts into “finding the New Testament buried in snow” which introduces chronosomatic man. Catherine’s contribution centers on reenactment.

2004.05.14 16:23
Papers of the HTAFCC
Papers of the
Horace Trumbauer Architecture Fan Club Convention
Reenactionary Bilocating Architecturism
Saint Catherine de Ricci and Louis I. Kahn
Nudist Camp at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Marcel Duchamp and C. Paul Jennewein
a moldy paper on mildew
Gordon Matta-Clark
De Spectaculis II
Quintus Septimus Florens Tertullianus and John the Baptist Piranesi
The Promenade Architecturale Formula
Le Corbusier
The Marriage of Twisted and Columns
Eutropia and Pieter Pauwel Rubens
The Architecture of Constantine the Great
Saint Helena, Eutropia, Eusebius Pamphili, and Saint Ambrose
Here a Versailles, There a Versailles, Everywhere a Versailles Sigh
Marie Antoinette, Ludwig II, and Lucretia "Eva" Bishop Roberts Cromwell Stotesbury Dougherty

2004.05.14 14:39
bilocation, bilocation, bilocation
Louis I. Kahn, with Helena, Eutropia, and Catherine de Ricci, is visiting Israel today--a modern birthday visit. Melania the Elder and Melania the Younger saw to all the prior arrangements--"They gave up all their Roman wealth to die (there) in poverty, you know." Mamre (near Hebron), specifically the site of Abraham's altar, is their last stop, and they all know that Eutropia is going to get very emotional.
"I consider it necessary to detail the proceedings of Constantine in relation to what is called the oak of Mamre. This place is now called Terebinthus, and is about fifteen stadia distant from Hebron, which lies to the south, but is two hundred and fifty stadia distant from Jerusalem. It is recorded that here the Son of God appeared to Abraham, with two angels, who had been sent against Sodom, and foretold the birth of his son. Here the inhabitants of the country and of the regions round Palestine the Phoenicians, and the Arabians, assemble annually during the summer season to keep a brilliant feast; and many others, both buyers and sellers, resort thither on account of the fair. Indeed, this feast is diligently frequented by all nations: by the Jews, because they boast of their descent from the patriarch Abraham; by the Pagans, because angels there appeared to men; and by Christians, because He who for the salvation of mankind was born of a virgin, afterwards manifested Himself there to a godly man. This place was moreover honored fittingly with religious exercises. Here some prayed to the God of all; some called upon the angels, poured out wine, burnt incense, or offered an ox, or he-goat, a sheep, or a cock. Each one made some beautiful product of his labor, and after carefully husbanding it through the entire year, he offered it according to promise as provision for that feast, both for himself and his dependents. And either from honor to the place, or from fear of Divine wrath, they all abstained from coming near their wives, although during the feast these were more than ordinarily studious of their beauty and adornment. Nor, if they chanced to appear and to take part in the public processions, did they act at all licentiously. Nor did they behave imprudently in any other respect, although the tents were contiguous to each other, and they all lay promiscuously together. The place is open country, and arable, and without houses, with the exception of the buildings around Abraham's old oak and the well he prepared. No one during the time of the feast drew water from that well; for according to Pagan usage, some placed burning lamps near it; some poured out wine, or cast in cakes; and others, coins, myrrh, or incense. Hence, as I suppose, the water was rendered useless by commixture with the things cast into it. Once whilst these customs were being celebrated by the Pagans, after the aforesaid manner, and as was the established usage with hilarity, the mother-in-law of Constantine was present for prayer, and apprised the emperor of what was being done. On receiving this information, he rebuked the bishops of Palestine in no measured terms, because they had neglected their duty, and had permitted a holy place to be defiled by impure libations and sacrifices; and he expressed his godly censure in an epistle which he wrote on the subject to Macarius, bishop of Jerusalem, to Eusebius Pamphilus, and to the bishops of Palestine. He commanded these bishops to hold a conference on this subject with the Phoenician bishops, and issue directions for the demolition, from the foundations, of the altar formerly erected there, the destruction of the carved images by fire, and the erection of a church worthy of so ancient and so holy a place. The emperor finally enjoined, that no libations or sacrifices should be offered on the spot, but that it should be exclusively devoted to the worship of God according to the law of the Church; and that if any attempt should be made to restore the former rites, the bishops were to inform against the delinquent, in order that he might be subjected to the greatest punishment. The governors and priests of Christ strictly enforced the injunctions contained in the emperor's letter."
--Salminius Hermias Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History, Book II, chapter 1 (circa 443 AD).
Eutropia tells of how the only time she was at the festival at Mamre was when she was still married to her first husband (i.e., before her marriage to Maximian). She was there along with her husband and their daughter, Theodora. When she wrote to Constantine about the festivals at Mamre, it was via her youthful recollection. She finds it comically tragic how subsequent historians assumed that she wrote to Constantine of Mamre from Mamre itself, and how this misinterpretation engendered a whole series of historical inaccuracies.



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