Saturday, November 01, 2014

These Like Stars Appearing

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Hebrews 12:1 (KJV)

When I've entered an Orthodox cathedral or church I have been struck by that phrase "so great a cloud of witnesses".   So often not just the iconostasis  but the walls, ceilings and sometimes even the floors are aglow with icons, enamels, mosaics portraying the many witnesses or saints of the faith.  Whither it be by candle or sunlight the effect can be almost overwhelming.   To commemorate the second day of this Allhallowstide I went through photos from our trip to the Baltic and thought I'd share one or two places that made that passage from Hebrews come to life for me.

Uspenski Cathedral in Helsinki is the largest Orthodox church in Western Europe and is dedicated to the Dormition of the Blessed Mother.  It was built between 1862-68 with bricks that came from the Bomarsund fortress in Aland, which had been destroyed during the Crimean War in 1854.

The present Saint Issac's Cathedral is the fourth church to be built on the site in St Petersburg.  Construction took over forty years to complete at the astronomical cost of one million gold roubles. 

The Cathedral of the Resurrection in St Petersberg is better known as the Church of Our Savoir on Spilled Blood.  It was built to the memory of Czar Alexander II on the spot where he was assassinated on March 13, 1881.  Unlike most of the churches in St Petersberg Spilled Blood echoes  the Medieval Russian style rather than the Baroque or Neoclassical.  

In searching for something appropriate for the Feast of All Saints I was surprised that, given it is a major feast in the church calendar, no major classical composer appears to have written a mass specifically for the day.  And even more surprised that the 1959 Anglican hymnal lists only four specific hymns for the second commemoration of Allhallowstide.  Of these one was the standard For all the saints - a hymn which I love; however also one that I have posted before on this day.

Who are these like stars appearing was translated by Frances E. Cox in 1841 from a 1719 German text by Theobald Heinrich Schenk.  The music setting is Old All Saints from the Geistreiches Gesangsbuch (Spiritual Songbook) of Johann Anastasisu Freylinghausen; this was a collection of some 1500 hymns and spiritual songs published in 1704.  It was expanded and republished every two or three years from 1714 until the mid-1730s.  Frances Elizabeth Cox was well-known as a translator of German hymns and published two collections during her lifetime.

November 1 -1512: The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo, is exhibited to the public for the first time.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the pictures from Uspenski Cathedral. CP

Ur-spo said...

I love a 'proper' church like this one.