Category Archives: Arts

A Cathedral: Serious Business

I’ve been enjoying a DVD series of lectures titled The Cathedral, which I borrowed from the library.  I wish I had seen it years ago before my visits to  Paris, Germany and Prague.   Professor William R. Cook, from the State University of New York at Geneseo, who lectures, is enthusiastic and very knowledgeable about theology as well as medieval history and cathedrals.  The format, thirty minute lectures on a focused topic, is easy to follow, and augmented by many photographs. Today I watched the episode on the stained glass windows at Notre Dame de Chartes.  Here is a picture of part of the window (made in the 12th century) depicting the Passion of Christ.

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Professor Cook:

  “Why are these windows beautiful?  The main reason is because they’ll attract people to learn from the stories.  And their souls are at stake.  This is very serious business.  We’re in a cathedral.  We’re not in a museum.  We’re not in an art gallery.  And we always need to remember these stories are what these windows are all about.”

Around the year 2000 a German friend took me to see several Romanesque and Baroque churches in and near Munich and Augsburg.  I remember how disappointed I was that the focus was solely on the antiquity and style of the buildings.

Before Advent: The Annunciation


                                                                         John William Waterhouse  The Annunciation 1914
Salvation to all that will is nigh;
That All, which always is all everywhere,
Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,
Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die,
Lo, faithful virgin, yields Himself to lie
In prison, in thy womb; and though He there
Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet He will wear,
Taken from thence, flesh, which death’s force may try.
Ere by the spheres time was created, thou
Wast in His mind, who is thy Son and Brother;
Whom thou conceivst, conceived; yea thou art now
Thy Maker’s maker, and thy Father’s mother;
Thou hast light in dark, and shutst in little room,
Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb.                       John Donne (1572-1631)

Frederick Law Olmsted in Boston


Intrigued by a friend’s recent post about Olmsted, I borrowed an inter-library loan  book about his public parks.

In the late 1960’s I was in Nursing School in Boston and walking was my usual form of transportation.  The first year I did a lot of exploring on weekends because, unlike me, many of my friends lived close enough to go home, and I was often left alone. I remember one day I walked from Parker Hill (site of New England Baptist Hospital, and the School of Nursing) into Boston Common with a box of crackers and a jar of juice, and then spent much of the afternoon bench sitting, watching people and animals, and listening to the sounds of the city.

Over the years I’ve been in several of Olmsted’s Boston parks and planned areas including Commonwealth Avenue, Jamaica Park, Arnold Arboretum, the Arborway, and Back Bay Fens (pictured above), which was close to my school.  From the book, here is a little bit about the history of the Fens.

In the plan for a park system adopted by Boston in 1876, most of the area that became the Back Bay Fens was to be filled and a narrow park created with a sinuous waterway extending from near the Charles River to a small park overlooking it on Parker Hill.  A parkway was then to run from there to Jamaica Pond.  When the park commission turned to Olmsted to design this feature, he objected to creating a carefully tended park of turf and gardens on that site, calling instead for creation of scenery inspired by the tidal marshes of coastal Massachusetts.

The original Park Department Plan:


From another source, Planning The City Upon A Hill: Boston Since 1630, by  Lawrence W. Kennedy I found a little more:

Olmsted urged the commission to scrap plans for a park on top of Parker Hill and instead develop the area which he called the Back Bay Fens.  Under his guidance the region was transformed from an undesirable and nondescript border area into a lovely landscape which pleased the eye and provided a safe conduit for flood waters.

Looking through Olmsted’s detailed plans I appreciated that he thought carefully not only about landscape beauty, but also about safety, proper drainage, quality of life, and bringing nature into the everyday life of city dwellers.







Exquisite Maline Lace

Vintage clothing appeals to me, especially if it has finely detailed construction, and is made of beautiful fabrics and trims.  Probably my favorite clothing is from  between the Victorian and WWII eras.  Over the years I’ve enjoyed putting together numerous heirloom dresses for my granddaughters (they are too “grown up” now to enjoy them anymore), and a few items for myself, made from 1920-1945 patterns.  I love fine laces and was pleased to find an article about Maline lace (ah, I never knew that was the name of it) from my favorite on-line sewing supply store.

From the article:

Maline lace is a French lace but it originated in Mechlin, Belgium. It is sometimes referred to as “Mechlin lace”. It is categorized as a pillow lace because historically it was hand-made on a pillow using bobbins. Each thread used to weave the lace would be attached to a wooden bobbin and the lace would be woven by crossing the bobbins in a pattern and pinning the threads on the pillow. The thread to make the background part of the lace (known as the “groundwork”) would be done in a finer thread than that which was used to weave the design on the lace. You can see how this would be an incredibly time-consuming process! One of the distinguishing features of Maline lace is that the designs are woven at the same time as the groundwork. Other laces such as Alencon lace would be made by first weaving the groundwork and then separately creating lace motifs which are later sewn onto the background piece.

…Maline lace has been recognized for its dainty beauty for hundreds of years. The story has it that in the late 1600s, Queen Anne of Great Britain enforced an embargo of lace made in France, but made an exception for Maline lace! It was worth it to this sovereign queen to break her ban on French laces just so she and her subjects could get their hands on some stunning Maline lace! Maline lace is also fairly well known. Just the other day I was reading a book by British author Agatha Christie and it briefly described a character’s blouse as being “trimmed with Mechlin lace”.

The example given comparing a good French lace (the one at the top)  to Mechlin lace:


I have amassed a few Mechlin laces to construct a blouse for myself:


All this reminded me of a song…