Archive for January 16th, 2008

The Ring and the Book continues, as Robert Browning tells us the plan that the poem will follow, and gives us a peek at his characterization of the people involved.

Bk. 1B


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On Prayer continues, as Origen launches into a multi-chapter explanation of the “Our Father” which draws upon both Gospel versions. This week, he talks about the prayer’s connection to the verses which precede it, so as to understand the prayer in context.

Ch. 12: Preface to the Lord’s Prayer



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Letters from a Friendship concludes, as St. Ambrose discusses the pleasure of being alone with something written by a friend. He signs off with yet another variant on the usual ending of his letters to friends: “Farewell; and love me, for I love you.”

Letter XLIX


In his Dialogues, St. Gregory the Great wrote up a little miracle attributed to Sabinus, and of a letter he wrote to the river Po which beat King Canute by a mile. The moral of the story is “Obey your bishop”. 🙂

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Letters from a Friendship continues, as St. Ambrose discusses a writer’s dire need for editors and beta readers.

Letter 48


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Letters from a Friendship continues, as St. Ambrose sends a fairer copy of his latest book to St. Sabinus for review, and explains why the first copy was so illegible. (And yes, it seems that St. Ambrose liked his silent privacy both for reading and writing.)

(Letter 46 is also friendly, but very long. It’s a blow-by-blow account of “how I argued with that heretic guy whom you warned me was moving from your diocese to mine”. Possibly I will have more time to read the color commentary later, but not today.)

Letter 47


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This week on the 17th, we celebrate the feastday of St. Sabinus of Piacenza (Placentia in Roman times). He was a saintly bishop, as was his predecessor, St. Victor. He participated in church councils and fought Arianism. He served for 45 years, and legend credits him with dying at the age of 110! The medieval Basilica of San Savino bears his name, and features cool stuff like a mosaic contrasting chess and dice as symbols of order and chaos. But he is best known today as a friend, colleague, and correspondent of St. Ambrose.

I like these letters. I like them a lot. So I am reading excerpts from them this week in honor of the good saint’s feast, and calling them Letters from a Friendship.

LetterXLV: All about Paradise. Don’t miss the bit about Eden’s trees possessing reason!


Mosaic from San Savino’s presbytery showing Christ holding both the sun and moon in his hands. Page showing the whole of the surviving mosaic around it, including the chess scene.

Several enlargeable thumbnails of mosaics of the zodiac and of the nave floor as a sea. Separate pictures of the zodiac mosaics.

Pillar capitals in the crypt of San Savino; more pillar capitals in the nave.

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