Not one stone upon another

The Archbishop of Vienna, His Eminence Christoph Card. Schoenborn, O.P., celebrated Holy Mass in the Vatican Basilica with a musical setting of the Ordinary provided by W.A. Mozart and the Vienna Philharmonic. The Mass was K. 317 in C Major, "Coronation".

It was a great event to be sure. I compare it favorably to the other time I heard the "Coronation" in St. Peter’s, on a Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul many years ago when the Berlin Philharmonic did the honors.

This time we were honoring the 5th centenary of the laying of the cornerstone of the Basilica itself, the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the service of the Swiss Guards, the 250th anniversary of the birth of Mozart, and close of the 5th International Festival Pro Musica e Arte Sacra.

Quoting our Lord, Card. Schoenborn cited Mark 13:1ff: "And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!"

And Jesus said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down."

I found the use of this quote supremely ironic, and I am not sure that His Eminence did not intend it to be.

Think about it. Holy Church had (has) a magnificent treasury of sacred music, a vast imposing edifice of gorgeous components which have lasted through the centuries until our time. Now, considering the state of sacred music in so many places, can we say that one stone has been left upon another?

In truth, Card. Schoenborn was making the point in his sermon that all the glorious things of this earth, man’s great achievements, as as nothing compared to the glory of God. As a good Dominican he quoted the well-known phrase of St. Thomas Aquinas upon his vision toward the end of his life. Aquinas saw something that made all his accomplishments seem as so much straw.

Nevertheless, sacred music is capable of expressing things in a way that no other human means of communication can approach.

On 22 November, the feast of St. Cecilia, His Holiness slated to visit the Accademia Santa Cecilia. Some think he will say something very interesting about music and liturgy. I have little doubt that he will use the occasion to deepen his already amazing body of thought on the subject.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Jon says:


    Here’s hoping your not so subtle prediction ranks up there with your last.

    I just returned from morning Mass (Novus Ordo). My 66 year-old pastor’s selection? “We Remember” by that Mozart of our time, Marty Haugen.

    St. Cecilia, pray for us.

  2. Fr. Bartoloma says:

    Father Z,
    Was the Mass setting done in its entirety? Did they use the Sanctus also; I know that there is always controversy over whether or not a choir alone can sing the Sanctus or if it HAS to be sung by the congregation.

  3. Geoffrey says:

    I happened to stumble across a CD recording about a year ago of the Vienna Philharmonic performing Mozart’s Coronation Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul (1986). The CD is titled: “Pope John Paul
    II Celebrates Solemn High Mass in St. Peter’s for the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul with the ‘Coronation’ Mass by W.A. Mozart.” It is a wonderful CD, as it includes all the parts of the Mass chanted by the late Holy Father, as well other chants performed by the Capella Musicale Pontificia Sistina, under the direction of Msgr. Bartolucci! I highly recommend it!

  4. Garrett says:


    I don’t know if you’ve checked, but over at the New Liturgical Movement blog, an excellent analysis of the choral Sanctus was posted a few days ago. I’d check that out.

  5. fr.franklyn mcafee says:

    Long live Bartolucci! I was told by a highly placed musical source that the room in which the Sistine choir practices is not as used as when Batolluci reigned,and it is as when he left it when he was fired under JPII-the last pictur of a pope is that of Blessed JohnXXIII whom Batolucco revered as oppsed to Paul VI whom he called tone deaf and JPII who oversaw his termination.Long live Benedict! By the way where is the synodal exhortation?

  6. dad29 says:

    Let’s not canonize Mgr Bartolucci. His interview with Magister showed him to be an intolerant and highly opinionated individual–and his opinions are sometimes ludicrous (see his silliness about Bruckner, e.g.)

    Further, it is Mgr Bartolucci who trained the Vatican choir to sing in two modes: 1) “Bellow”; and 2) “Bellow Louder”!!

    On the other hand, at least the Vat Choir sang Chant, after a fashion.

    As to the Coronation Mass–after the 1986 Mass, Rembert Weakland, OSB, then-Archbishop of Milwaukee, commented that such music should simply…sniff…NOT…be used for Mass.

    Evidently B-16 didn’t hear of Rembert’s thought.

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