Monday, May 14, 2012

Rome: Secrets of the Vatican Revealed

Gertrud and I are currently in Rome, having last been here in May 2009 when I wrote a post entitled “La Dolce Vita.” This time around my post will focus exclusively on "Lux in Arcana," a first-ever public exhibit of 100 original documents from the Vatican's Secret Archives which we viewed in Rome's Capitoline Museums.  Here is the official website for the exhibition:

I was especially impressed with the following documents which are presented in no particular order of importance:

Petition from Nicolaus Copernicus to Pope Paul III regarding his studies of the universe. Date: June 1, 1542

Proceedings of the Trial of Galileo Galilei which found him guilty of heresy for defending the Copernican system: Various dates between 1616 and 1633: 

Pope Alexander VI’s “Inter cetera bull” in which he "granted" the new lands discovered by Columbus to the rulers of Spain: March 4, 1493.

Pope Leo X’s excommunication of Martin Luther: January 3, 1521

Emperor Charles V’s edict at Worms establishing an imperial ban against Martin Luther: May 8, 1521

Letter from members of the English Parliament (with all wax seals attached) to Pope Clement VII emphasizing the importance of granting the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to  Catherine of Aragon so that he could marry Anne Boleyn, and hopefully sire the longed-for heir to the throne: July 13, 1530

Letter from Russian Tsar Aleksei I Romanov to Pope Clement X, requesting support against common threats posed by the Ottoman Turks: October 21, 1672

Concordant between King Henry V and Pope Calixtus II which ended the struggle over investitures.  It provided that ecclesiastical investiture of bishops be reserved for the Church and that feudal investiture (including that of the bishops) be reserved for the emperor. September 23, 1122.

Pope Bonface VIII’s “Unam sanctam” stating that there is only one Church founded by Christ, and that outside it there can be no salvation. It also states that to maintain the universal order desired by God, popes can depose emperors and kings.  It further declares that “submitting to the Roman pontiff, is necessary for the salvation of every human creature:” November 18, 1302

Pope Innocent X’s brief declaring the Westphalia Peace Treaties, which ended the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), null and void. Although this letter was never published, it reflected the Pope’s concern that the treaties negotiated between Catholic and Protestant diplomats would do irreparable damage to the Catholic Church: November 26, 1648

The 1801 Napoleonic Concordat between France and the Papacy which recognized the Catholic Church’s pre-eminence in the life of France but guaranteed the freedom of worship to other religions as well.  It also deemed that Catholicism would no longer be the “state religion.”

Declaration by the College of Cardinals that the newly installed Pope, Urban VI, was an apostate and an anti-Christ, and that he was being deposed as Pope.  This was signed shortly after the Church returned to Rome following the 70 years period of “Babylonian Captivity” when seven French Popes resided in Avignon, France: August 9, 1378.

A desperate, handwritten note from Marie Antoinette from prison after she had been deposed as Queen: December 1792 or January 1793

Proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception signed by Pius IX which declared the Blessed Virgin Mary free from the stain of original sin: December 8, 1854

Letter from Lucrezia Borgia to her father, Pope Alexander VI. June 10, 1494

Abdication letter of Queen Christine of Sweden when she converted to Catholicism: June 1, 1654

Mary Stuart’s last letter, written to Pope Sixtus V, in which she professed her Catholic faith.  This was shortly before she was beheaded on the order of Queen Elizabeth I: November 23, 1586. 

Agreement temporarily unifying the Greek and Latin Churches: July 6, 1439

The Lunario Novo which eliminated 10 days from the 1582 Calendar and established the Gregorian calendar: 1582

Letter from the French philosopher and deist, Voltaire to Pope Benedict XIV: October 10, 1745

Report to the Vatican by the Apostolic Nuncio to Italy on the existence of the Ferramonti Concentration Camp: May 27, 1941.

Letter written on silk, from Helena, the last Ming Empress to Pope Innocent X: November 4, 1650 (11th day of the 10th moon of the 4th year in the reign of emperor Youngli).

Letters written in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis to Pope Pius IX during the US Civil War.

I'm sure you will agree that this is an impressive list of documents which have had a great impact on Western civilization and on the history of the World. We feel very fortunate to have seen the originals.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Vienna, the Habsburg City

Opinions abound as to which of Europe's capital cities is the most interesting or most beautiful.  After a week in Vienna, Gertrud and I rank it high in both categories but also believe it may be Europe's most livable capital.  As much as we like visiting Paris, Rome, London, Madrid or Prague, we can't see ourselves living in any of them.  But we could see ourselves in Vienna if we were younger.  Obviously the fact that we speak German is a primary consideration, but Vienna's manageable size of less than two million, its music and arts, temperate, four-season climate, Austria's beautiful mountains, and close proximity to Italy and the Adriatic Coast are also very appealing.

From a tourist point-of -view, the primary attraction of Vienna is the legacy of beautiful palaces, buildings and the arts bestowed on it by the Habsburg Dynasty.  Click on the following links for more information.

A more recent Viennese personality and one of my favorites, is the late Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser, a colorful twentieth century architect and artist, little known outside of Vienna and European artistic circles.  He was born as Frederick Stowasser to a Jewish mother who kept him under the Nazi radar by having him baptized Catholic and enrolling him in the Hitler Youth. Vienna's Hundertwasser Haus and Museum are memorials to his talent. Late in life he emigrated to New Zealand.   The only other architect/artist who I can think of who might be compared to Hundertwasser would be the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi who designed several unusual buildings in Barcelona. 

Here are several links on Hundertwasser and his art:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Swiss cheese!

Gertrud and I have just finishing a ten-day stay in Switzerland while I worked in both Bern and Geneva. I wrote a post on Geneva during a May 2009 visit so won't say much about the UN city in this one.

What we will probably remember most about this visit is how much Swiss food we ate.  I just recounted my meals and I had fondue 5 times, raclette twice, rösti twice and birchermüsili for breakfast 4 times, probably resulting in a gain of at least 5 pounds.  If you are wondering what the Swiss eat, here is a link on their cuisine:

Gertrud eating fondue in Switzerland
Although we have been in Bern previously we have had more time to explore the city on this visit.  Bern is a UNESCO World Heritage City famous for the beautiful pedestrian arcades in its old town, for its location on a high plateau overlooking the Aare River, for its status as the Swiss capital, and for its city mascots, the Bern bears, which regularly entertain locals and tourists.  On our last visit, the bears were living in a large pit near the city center.  However they now live in a beautiful park along the Aare River which is a more natural habitat for them and where the public can more easily observe their activities. The following link provides just one example of how the bears entertain the public.

With easy access to beautiful mountains and lakes and to surrounding countries, Bern often appears on lists of "the most desirable places to live."  But like almost every other city, Bern is now affected by urban crime, with warning signs about pick pockets posted around the central train station. The following links contain information and pictures of Bern.

Geneva with its close proximity to France is also well located for travel. This past Sunday we decided to take a public bus to the nearby French city of Annecy which we were told was a "must see." We greatly enjoyed the city and were charmed by its medieval streets and walls and by its incredible alpine views.  Annecy is in the Haut Savoie region of France.  For further information, here is a wiki link on annecy.