Our Lady of Sorrows: The Seven Sorrows of Mary

Anonymous Brazilian sculptor, Our Lady of Sorrows, 18th century, polychromed wood, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Today, September 15, is the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows

Artists depict the sorrowing Virgin in different ways; often showing Our Lady with seven swords piercing her heart.  The statue above is one example of that theme; I saw it in the Museum of Sacred Art in Sao Paulo, Brazil (in a glass case, which accounts for the quality of the photo). 

The sword piercing is imagery derived from Simeon’s prophecy at the time when Mary and Joseph presented the Infant Jesus at the temple 40 days after his birth. Simeon told Mary:

Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted;

And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.   - Luke 2:34-35

Devotion to the Seven Sorrows of Mary arose In the middle ages.  Popular tradition defined seven sorrowful events in Mary’s life, which are represented in art by seven swords.  Four of these Sorrows are related to Christ’s Passion and Death, and the other three are from his infancy and childhood:

  1. The prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:25-35)
  2. The flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15)
  3. Loss of the Child Jesus for three days (Luke 2:41-50)
  4. Mary meets Jesus on his way to Calvary (Luke 23:27-31; John 19:17)
  5. Crucifixion and Death of Jesus (John 19:25-30)
  6. The body of Jesus being taken from the Cross (Psalm 130; Luke 23:50-54; John 19:31-37)
  7. The burial of Jesus (Isaiah 53:8; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42; Mark 15:40-47)

St. Bonaventure said:

The wounds which were scattered over the Body of the Lord were all united in the single heart of Mary.

Read more about the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows here:

Our Lady of Sorrows at CatholicCulture.org 

Virgo Doloroso on the blog Idle Speculations 

Various Art Quick Takes



Last week in my Quick Takes from my Brazil trip, I neglected to include the above picture.  It was taken in the Chafariz Restaurant in the town of Ouro Preto, in the old - and current, actually - mining area of the state of Minas Gerais.  There were many reasons to love this restaurant.  Its chief draw is its food, as is always best for a restaurant.  It is open only at lunchtime, and meals are fixed price and served buffet-style, featuring the regional cuisine, which is known for its flavorful preparation of meat and chicken and the wonderful thin ribbons of collard greens.  Along with my sincere appreciation of the food, I also loved the walls of the restaurant, which were covered with art, mostly religious.  I have resolved to have a similar gallery wall in my home some day, preferably sooner rather than later.


In Brazil we visited several museums; one of our favorites was the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, a museum of fine arts.  One painting that I’d like to share today is the 1895 painting of Giotto’s Childhood by Brazilian painter Oscar Pereira da Silva (1865–1939).  In the 1880s he studied at the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts in Brazil, and was awarded a trip to Europe to study painting.  Presumably it was there that he discovered the work of Giotto.  In the painting above da Silva shows the artist Giotto as a child, drawing a lamb from nature with a piece of chalk on a nearby rock.  This painting amazed me.  This sweet little scene was so very different artistically from the work produced by the subject of the painting, Giotto, one of the giants of the history of Western art.

Giotto’s style is spare, with monumental figures and emotional intensity.  In many ways, Giotto was the first Western painter, at the beginning of the move of Italian painting away from Byzantine models.  In doing so, he ushered in the Early Renaissance. 


Some of Giotto’s best works are the 700-year-old frescoes that line the walls of the Scrovegni Chapel (also known as the Arena Chapel) in Padua.  Two examples of Giotto’s frescoes from the chapel: The Lamentation, above, and his Presentation in the Temple, below.

Unfortunately, as this article from the Telegraph reports, the frescoes in the Arena Chapel are being threatened by a modern tower that is planned to be built on a site directly across the river from the chapel.  According to experts interviewed, the development is likely to endanger the priceless frescoes by disturbing the water table; the resulting increase in humidity would cause the frescoes to flake off of the wall.  On the other side of the issue, the developer and the government claim that the frescoes will be unharmed by the building process. 


The blog of the English Dominican Studentate had a lovely post about an exhibit of contemporary religious art in the Blackfriars Priory Church, Oxford, England earlier this month. There were apparently seven painters featured in the exhibit; the blog spotlighted several paintings of Mysteries of the Rosary by one of the artists, Louise Sturgis. Click on the link above to see several of her paintings. Wonderful!


"Our Lady of the Space Station"

An icon of Our Lady of Kazan can be seen in the background of a photo of the crew on the International Space Station, as I learned from this post on the blog The Deeps of Time (a fascinating blog about science and the Catholic faith).  Apparently the Patriarch of Moscow sent a copy of the icon to the space station with Russian cosmonauts. 

Here’s a 16th century version of the icon of Our Lady of Kazan:

According to this 2010 article from the Catholic News Agency, there have been several icons, along with crosses, and relics - even a relic of the True Cross - on board the International Space Station.


Did you know that you can do a “reverse image look-up” on Google Images?  You click the light blue camera button in the right side of the search box and you can upload one of your own photos (if you need to identify something you photographed) or link to an online image. 

I have found this feature to be quite useful in the course of organizing some of my old travel photos; I was able to identify the names of particular churches that we passed on the street, for example.  I also used the search feature to identify a Renaissance painting that had been posted on a blog without attribution.


                                                           photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The National Gallery of Art in London has a room that is only open for 3.5 hours per week, 2pm-5.30pm every Wednesday.  The so-called Room A is very large and approximately 800 paintings hang on its walls.  The works are from the museum’s collection, and sometimes rotate in and out of other galleries in the museum.  To see a plan of Room A’s current contents, click here. Read more about this hidden treasure here, here, and here.

For more Quick Takes, visit Jen of Conversion Diary and check out the links you find there, posted by bloggers far and wide.

Tuesday Tour: Metropolitan Cathedral of São Paulo, Brazil

This week’s Tuesday Tour is another church from my recent visit to Brazil.  The Cathedral in São Paulo, Brazil, is commonly known as Catedral da Sé de São Paulo,  that is, the cathedral of the seat of the Bishop of São Paulo.  The current cathedral is the third to occupy the site, with each previous church being demolished to accommodate a new and bigger cathedral.  Construction on this cathedral was begun in 1913, and continued for approximately 40 years.  The Cathedral was finally dedicated in 1954 to commemorate the 400 year anniversary of the founding of São Paulo, although it would take an additional 12 years to finish the towers.  The majority of the cathedral is Neo-Gothic in style, but there is a large Renaissance-style dome over the transept.

The column capitals are decorated with native Brazilian flora and fauna.

Large mosaics of each of St. Paul and St. Anne are on opposite sides of the nave.  St. Paul is shown with a sword and a book of the Word (below).

St. Anne is shown with the child, Mary (below)

This life-sized bronze angel, (below) is one of a pair that is in front of the mosaic of St, Anne.

There is a similar pair in front of the mosaic of St. Paul, also.

Quick Takes, Brazil edition

I’ve just returned from a two week visit to Brazil.  In addition to the tropical beauty of the landscape and the warmth of the people, I was struck by the sheer size of the country (the fifth largest in the world after Russia, China, Canada, and the US).  Even though we took several long bus rides and one plane trip, we never even left what is considered the southeast of the country, where both Rio and Sao Paulo are located.

Here are some quick takes of some of my impressions of some Catholic aspects of the small slice of Brazil I saw:


Church of Santa Rita, on the water in Parati.

Brazil was colonized by the Portuguese, beginning in the early 16th century, and the language and architecture reflects that history.  The the early churches were designed by Portuguese architects, and were Baroque, as was the current European style of the time, but then Brazilian builders developed their own flamboyant version of the Baroque style.  I’ve never been a huge fan of Baroque churches, but in Brazil I absolutely loved them.  They seemed to fit so well with the tropical exuberance of their surroundings.

The first weekend we were in Parati (old spelling is Paraty), a colonial port town about midway between Sao Paulo and Rio.  In the historic old part of the town there are four churches, although all were closed up tight (except for when I attended Mass at one, see below).

We spent the following weekend in Ouro Preto, an old Portuguese colonial mining town in the interior of the state of Minas Gerais.  The city is a Unesco World Heritage Site, mainly because of its profusion of 18th century Baroque churches.  Really, a town filled with churches - pretty much my idea of heaven!  Because of limited time, and unpredictable opening hours, I saw the inside of about 5 or 6 churches, and several more from the exterior.  Unfortunately, none of them permitted interior photography.

In Ouro Preto: one church at my back; three more in view.

I had a bit of a hard time finding Mass times - there didn’t seem to be much information on Brazilian Mass times on the internet and the churches themselves didn’t tend to have the times posted. In Parati I asked at the hotel, and got an estimated time for the church around the corner, around 7pm.  As the hotel clerk told me, “here in Brazil, we like to go to Mass in the evening.”

After a day on the beach at a neighboring town of Trindade, we returned to Parati early on Sunday evening (it was dark because it’s late autumn in the Southern Hemisphere) to find that the large square in front of the church had been transformed into a bingo venue: the square was jam-packed with people (far more than the picture, above, indicates), and everybody had a paper bingo page and pencil.  I’m not sure if this was church-sponsored or not, but when I returned to the square a short while later, the game had ended, Mass was starting, and the church, while not empty by any means, had far fewer people than had been at bingo.

Yes, I actually pulled out my camera and took a photo during Mass.  In Brazil it seemed more natural to see the people - and the priest on the altar - wave their arms as they sang.

Church of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, Parati, where I attended Mass.

Both weeks at Mass, there were newsprint fliers with the weekly readings, along with all of the Mass prayers and responses. It seems like a perfect solution: the paper is inexpensive and everything is right there in one folded sheet.  The paper made it very easy to follow the Mass (even though I brought my handy booklet with Mass prayers in several languages, this was better)

I found it interesting to hear (and read) that the Eucharistic prayer has a fair amount of congregation participation.  After the consecration, responses sprinkled throughout the remainder of the prayer.  Also, we knelt only until the consecration, then stood.

Church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário in Ouro Preto, next to our hotel, where I attended 4pm Mass on the second Sunday

The music at both Masses was guitar/contemporary, and it seemed to me that the guitar music works pretty well in a Latin country, in those old churches.


There is a Monastery of St. Benedict in Sao Paulo and one in Rio as well.  Both have 10am Masses with Gregorian Chant, and apparently they are very well attended.  Unfortunately we were not in the big cities on the weekend and missed out on these liturgies.

Here is the exterior of the Monastery of Sao Bento (Benedict) in Sao Paulo:

This church made me admit that my older-is-always-better church architecture snobbery is just plain wrong at times - I was bowled over by this 1910 church.  It was built in the Beuron Art School style which includes influences of Egyptian, Byzantine, Romanesque and Celtic art. No photos were allowed inside the church, which was ultimately a good thing, as I never would have left. 


Here is the Cathedral in Rio, which is nicknamed “the beehive”, made drearier by the gray, drizzly day:

The church is dedicated to St. Sebastian.  It holds 20,000 people!  We didn’t get to see the inside, although the guidebooks say that the stained glass windows are beautiful on a sunny day.

interior of Rio cathedral, above, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


In many of the churches we saw a life-sized recumbent figure of Christ in the tomb (as you can see in this post), usually with real hair and quite explicit wounds.  Often, there were reverent worshipers kneeling before them, kissing the case and crossing themselves.


No post about Brazil would be complete without Christ the Redeemer, who stands tall, on a mountain in the middle of Rio:

We, of course, saw much, much more on our trip to Brazil.  I’ve posted one Brazilian church as a Tuesday Tour; look for more on future Tuesdays!

And for more Quick Takes, visit Jen of Conversion Diary and all of the links you can find there.

Tuesday Tour: Santo Antônio church (São Paulo)

The church of Saint Anthony is located in the old Centro of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and is the oldest church in the city that is still standing.  The building dates from 1592, but its current appearance reflects many updates and alterations made in the intervening years.  The exterior is staid and rather plain, giving little hint of the splendor to be found in the church’s interior.

The high altar dates from 1780, above

Side altar with the pieta, above.

Ceiling painting representing the Lamb and the Book with Seals from the Book of Revelation, above.

Side altar with effigy of the dead Christ, above.

Front door detail, with carved rosary, above.