Day 7 – Florence: pici, paintings, and anti-popes

Brief notes.

Mass this morning.



Visits to the Medici chapel and San Lorenzo.

The Duomo and Baptistry.




I have a Novus Ordo comment concerning the Duomo. Later.

[… It’s later now.  Here is the the above mentioned “Novus Ordo thought”.  On the one side of the painted dome is Christ triumphant.  At the opposite side of the dome is the Enemy, Satan.  Christ is at the exact right place in the painting in cupola – Brunelleschi’s Dome – so that when in the older, traditional form of Holy Mass for centuries the priest/bishop said Mass at the main altar, when He raised his eyes heavenward, he would look straight through the Host and at Christ, triumphant.  But if you turn the altar around….  I’m just making an observation, of course.]




I live this sign.

Tomb of John XXIII… really.


This is the tomb of John XXIII the anti-pope, of course.  He was the last “John” before 1958.  Of course some wags today say that, were they to be elected Pope, they would choose the name John XXIII.  That is polemical, however.



I had fiocchetti di pera con taleggio ed asparagi.


This is guinea-fowl in wine and pomegranate.


Great restaurant. Some if the bill went to a children’s hospital.

I am about to visit Santa Croce.


Alas there is a lot of scaffolds up around the sanctuary. Still…

Just for fun here is a sweet image, a fragment from a fresco by Giovanni di Tano Fei from 1405-10 of mary, sewing with a little helper. Just can just see the Child holding threads.


In the evening we went to a place for Florentine steak.

Before and after,

Brief notes.

… and after after.

I got out my own pocket knife to clean up the bone a bit more.  And then I cleaned up a couple other bones as well.  What a gift.

Items are included for scale.

This one served 4 of us. Magnificent.

I also had a chance to speak with the director of a new Catholic sacred art school in Florence, soon to be opening a new branch in New York City. This is a cool project and I will write about it in a separate post. In the meantime, check out:

Sacred Art School – Florence.

Imagine studying art from a Catholic perspective, based on the theology of the body and works such as Joseph Ratzinger’s Spirit of the Liturgy.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. FrankWalshingham says:

    That is the tomb of anti-pope John XXIII, or Baldasarre Cossa, who was one of 3 men to lay claim to the papacy during the Western Schism. Cossa was said to be an all around bad guy who consorted with robbers, murderers and thieves. He obviously did something to put himself in great favor with the Medici’s, who built Cossa that elaborate tomb you saw in the Baptistry.

  2. pledbet424 says:

    The real John XXIII is entombed at St. Peters, Rome.

  3. Del says:

    The plea for love of Down’s Children is beautiful!

    Why is it in English?

  4. RidersOnTheStorm says:

    There has hardly been a man as dangerous and as ruthless as Baldassare who, starting out life as a pirate near Naples, was only made an ordained priest on 24th May 1410, to be consecrated as (anti-)Pope John XXIII on the following day.

    It has been said that he reduced the papacy to a level of depravity unknown since the days of the ‘pornocracy’ of the tenth century. A contemporary chronicler out of Bologna recorded that during Baldassare’s first year as Pope he had violated no fewer than 200 matrons, widows and virgins, not to mention a prodigious number of nuns!

    Powerful, cunning men often attract the interest and friendships of other powerful and cunning men and the father of the Medici fortune had become a friend of Baldassare during the young man’s time in Bologna.

    Giovanni di Bici di Medici had an eye for making money and Baldassare had a perpetual love and need of it! Bici must have seen the path that Baldassare was forging for himself, often with brute force, and a friendship evolved. As a supporter of Baldassare, Bici had loaned his money in an astute way at an important point in the career of the future Pope John XXIII and his reward from his friend in 1413 was for the Medici Bank to get the Curia – a near monopoly of the bank account of the Papal Estates! It was a piece of business genius that laid the foundation for the wealth and power of the Medici in Florence that lasted almost 300 years.

    The only tomb in the magnificent Baptistery in Florence is that of Baldassare. The cost of this tomb was reputed to be 800 Florins – at a time when a rich man could build an entire palazzo in Florence for 1,000 Florins. The tomb was paid for, and you guessed it, by the Medici’s to say “thank you”; engaging no less than the great Donatello who sculptured the figure of Baldassare whilst Michelozzo created the surrounding drapery and tabernacle.

    High above his tomb the remarkable ceiling mosaic has an image of the devil handing out punishments at the time of the last judgment. I’m sure Baldassare himself would appreciate the irony of this, with a gleam in his eye!

  5. Priam1184 says:

    @RdiersOntheStorm Geesh, and people want to complain about Pope Francis…

    @Father Since you were the one who brought this up originally: we’re still waiting for the conclusion you came to as you were gazing upon the fresco of the Annunciation.

  6. lucy says:

    Your Novus Ordo comment brought much delight on this dark day!

  7. NBW says:

    Thank you for the photos and interesting commentary. Much food for thought. (No pun intended).

    Although the lunch photos look very good!

  8. pj_houston says:

    I liked the poster about Down syndrome, but if the Church really wants to be considered pro-life, where is the support for these children when they become adults and their parents are no longer able to take care of them? No, our bishops are too busy making sure that those who break into our country illegally are taken care of.

  9. Priam1184 says:

    That last fresco: why does the child Jesus have a receding hairline?

  10. mamajen says:

    But Father! But Father! Some priests say the Novus Ordo ad orientem! I’m fortunate to belong to such a parish. Good point, though.

    And pretty soon I’m going to have to head to confession for coveting my neighbor’s meals. That steak!

  11. Elizabeth D says:

    The Sinsinawa Dominicans used to (for decades) have a fine arts school in Florence! Villa Schifanoia. It was a study-abroad program associated with Rosary College, now Dominican University, in Chicago.

  12. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Pj_houston commented: “if the Church really wants to be considered pro-life, where is the support for these children when they become adults and their parents are no longer able to take care of them?”

    I don’t know what parish you go to, pj, but at my parish the Knights of Columbus are out there year in and year out, cheerfully raising money for to help intellectually disabled persons. Next time I talk to one of the Knights, I’ll ask whether some of that money goes to adults whose parents are no longer living.

    And from their website: “L’Arche USA gives witness to the vision that people of differing intellectual capacity, religion, and culture can come together in unity, faithfulness and reconciliation. While some of our communities were founded in the Roman Catholic Church tradition, today L’Arche USA communities are ecumenical and welcome people of all faiths.” Please see L’arche website for more information.

    Please be assured: by working hard to provide women with assistance for crisis pregnancies, and also by working to overturn laws that sanction the burning, poisoning, and slicing up the unborn child in the womb, the Church already is and has been as pro-social-justice, as well as pro-life, as it is possible to get.

    This is because the right not to be put to death without being convicted of any crime, is the most elemental and integral component of social justice that there can possibly be, and it also is the most radically essential part of any pro-life program there can be.

  13. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Some data, as given by Johann Peter Kirsch in his 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia article, “John XXIII”, are worth noting: “In the second session of the council, John was persuaded to read aloud a formal promise of voluntary abdication of the papacy (2 March, 1415), and to repeat this promise in a Bull of 8 March.” Then, ” Formally deposed in the twelfth session (29 May, 1415), John made his submission and commended himself to the mercy of the council.” Until “At the forty-second session of the council, 28 Dec., 1417, after Martin V had been elected, the release of Cossa was decreed.” After finally actually being released from imprisonment “the following year”, “He then set out for Florence, where Martin V was staying, and did homage to him as the Head of the Church. On 23 June, 1419, the new pope made him Cardinal-Bishop of Tusculum.”

  14. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Marion Ancilla Mariae,
    Well said!

  15. Suburbanbanshee says:

    A lot of times, Mary doing fabric stuff (weaving, sewing, whatever) relates to the Incarnation of Jesus (Mary is the loom and the Holy Spirit the weaver, etc.), whereas Jesus doing fabric stuff relates to Creation itself (the fabric is the universe or the world).

    So I think that’s why Toddler Jesus turns a knowing look towards the viewer in this painting. “I made the threads of you, and I wove you, and I sewed you.”

  16. pj_houston says:

    I am familiar with L’arche and I admire what they do, but these are very small communities and there are only 18 of them in the U.S. Also, most operate as group homes and this is not always a feasible situation for those with Downs. They question is, why isn’t the Church fully behind such an organization similar to this? I disagree with you that the Church is being as pro-life as it is possible to get. Do you not think this weighs heavily in the minds of 9 out of 10 parents today who decide to abort their Down syndrome child? Many are living well into their 60s now, who will take care of them? Its a disgrace that our bishops have no problem guilting Catholics into supporting illegal aliens when they can’t even take care of their own.

    There is a wonderful group of Catholic nuns in France who have taken the matter into their own hands… now that’s what I’m talking about. Where is this in the U.S.?

  17. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    “Do you not think this weighs heavily in the minds of 9 out of 10 parents today who decide to abort their Down syndrome child?

    Really? I suppose also, that when a parent discovers that his or her child has sustained an injury *at* birth, such as cerebral palsy, that it occurs to many to take a .45 and shoot the child right then and there. Get it over with, as it were.

    Thank Heavens that’s over, they can picture themselves saying, now we won’t have to worry who will take care of that little person when we’re gone.

    However, with the help of God’s grace, such parents are able to say to all such temptations, whether to do away with their disabled unborn or just-born children, “get thee behind me, Satan.”

    That is the only answer to the thought that “my little one will certainly be better off dead, because it would be folly to depend on God.”

  18. jaykay says:

    I read this excellent book some years ago, about how the dome of the Duomo was raised, a feat thought to have been almost impossible until Brunelleschi came along with the solution. Very readable and thoroughly recommended – not only because the author shares my surname :)

  19. Pingback: Our Lady, sewing, with Jesus, helping | In this moment of history

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