We have been away just seven days, but it seems much longer; so many people met, such wonderful things seen. The pretext was my assisting at St Mark's Florence, the Anglican Chaplaincy. It was busy. We arrived late on Wednesday, and from Thursday to Monday inclusive I preached five times, confirmed two candidates at the Vigil Mass of Easter, went to the Church of S Peter in Siena for their Mass (on Easter Monday) and flew home today.
There were so many beautiful things to see; amazing great Altars of Repose (we managed to see six after the evening Mass & footwashing) decked with more Azaleas than you can imagine; wonderful paintings – especially yesterday the Frescos in the Duomo in San Gimigniano – the recently installed St Mark above the door of the English Church, a very lively sculpture by Jason, an American artist who lives and works and teaches in Florence. The marble for his statue was from the same quarry which provided the stone for Michaelangelo's David. But of all the images, the most moving for me was in one of the Dominican Cells in San Marco.
Fra Angelico supplied all the brethren with an image, besides painting a lovely Annunciation at the head of the entrance stairs, and various other works throughout the monastery. The one that caught my attention above all others was a 'Noli me tangere', the meeting of Jesus and Mary in the garden. He holds out a hand to her, telling her not to touch him. To show why she thought he was the gardener, he has over his shoulder a mattock, a heavy digging tool.
Now why would the Lord have such an implement? There are other images which gave me the clue. They show the day before the appearance to Mary, where Jesus is leading out the prisoners from the underworld. He takes Adam by the hand, and the figures from the ancient world follow him. But he is standing on a fallen door; and crushed beneath the door the writhing figure of a demon.
'My Father works until now, and I work' said Jesus. His work at Easter was not complete until he had harrowed hell; the mattock, I think, must be the tool he took to accomplish the task, break down the doors and dig into hell itself. So at least it seemed to me, and this thought dominated the celebration this year. I hope I may find a copy of that image to post for you; meanwhile you will have to make do with some of the other pictures I took throughout our visit.
There was a marvellous range of people in church over the Triduum; many from the States, who had decided to find this rather than the Episcopal chapel elsewhere in the town. They were wise. St Mark's is a most lovely church, full of pieces by Bodley and other great Gothic Revival artists, all on the lower floors of a Palazzo in Via Maggio, the road which leads to the Trinity Bridge and so into the heart of Florence from the Left Bank. The priest there is hugely energetic and effective (especially in raising money for the Church) and Fr Lawrence and his wife Jacqui are wonderful hosts. They truly gave us an Easter to remember.
You can find a representation of the Mary Magdalen image here.
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