Κυριακή, 29 Δεκεμβρίου 2013

The Cadaver Synod (897)

Jean-Paul Laurens, 1870, the Cadaver Synod

The Cadaver Synod (also called the Synodus Horrenda) is the name commonly given to the posthumous ecclesiastical trial of Catholic Pope Formosus, held in the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome during January of 897. The trial was conducted by Formosus’s successor, Pope Stephen (VI) VII. Stephen accused Formosus of perjury and of having acceded to the papacy illegally. At the end of the trial, Formosus was pronounced guilty and his papacy retroactively declared null.

Probably around January 897, Stephen (VI) VII ordered that the corpse of his predecessor Formosus be removed from its tomb and brought to the papal court for judgement. With the corpse propped up on a throne, a deacon was appointed to answer for the deceased pontiff.

Formosus was accused of transmigrating sees in violation of canon law, of perjury, and of serving as a bishop while actually a layman. Eventually, the corpse was found guilty. Stephen had the corpse stripped of its papal vestments, cut off the three fingers of his right hand used for blessings, and declared all of his acts and ordinations invalid. The body was finally interred in a graveyard for foreigners, only to be dug up once again, tied to weights, and cast into the Tiber River.

The macabre spectacle turned public opinion in Rome against Stephen. Rumors circulated that Formosus’ body, after washing up on the banks of the Tiber, had begun to perform miracles. A public uprising led to Stephen being deposed and imprisoned. While in prison, in July or August 897, he was strangled.

In December 897, Pope Theodore II (897) convened a synod that annulled the Cadaver Synod, rehabilitated Formosus, and ordered that his body, which had been recovered from the Tiber, be reburied in Saint Peter’s Basilica in pontifical vestments. In 898, John IX (898—900) also nullified the Cadaver Synod, convening two synods (one in Rome, one in Ravenna) which confirmed the findings of Theodore II’s synod, ordered the acta of the Cadaver Synod destroyed, and prohibited any future trial of a dead person.

However, Pope Sergius III (904–911), who as bishop had taken part in the Cadaver Synod as a co-judge, overturned the rulings of Theodore II and John IX, reaffirming Formosus’ conviction, and had a laudatory epitaph inscribed on the tomb of Stephen (VI) VII.The Cadaver Synod is remembered as one of the most bizarre episodes in the history of the medieval papacy.

Κυριακή, 22 Δεκεμβρίου 2013

David Olère, the illustrator of the Auschwitz horror

inside the gas chambers
David Olère (1902 – 1985) was a Polish-born French painter and sculptor best known for his explicit drawings and paintings based on his experiences as Jewish Sonderkommando inmate at Auschwitz concentration campduring World War II.

On February 20, 1943, Olère was arrested by French police during a round up of Jews in Seine-et-Oise and placed in Drancy internment camp. On March 2, 1943, he was one of approximately 1,000 Jews deported from Drancy to Auschwitz. From this transport, Olere was one of 119 people selected for work; the rest were gassed shortly after arrival. He was registered as prisoner 106144 and assigned to the Sonderkommando at Birkenau, the unit of prisoners forced to empty gas chambers and burn the bodies, firstly working in Bunker 2 and later in Crematorium III. In addition to these duties, he was also forced to work as an illustrator, writing and decorating letters for the SS.

throwing alive babies in furnaces
Olère remained at Auschwitz until January 19, 1945, when he was taken on the evacuation death march, eventually reaching Mauthausen concentration camp, then the Melk and Ebensee subcamps, from which he made five unsuccessful escape attempts. Following his liberation on May 6, 1945, he learned that his entire family had been exterminated in Warsaw. He subsequently moved back to Paris.


Olère began to draw at Auschwitz during the last days of the camp, when the SS became less attentive. His work has exceptional documentary value: there are no photos of what happened in the gas chambers and crematoria, and Olère was the only artist to have worked as a member of the Sonderkommando and survived. He was also the first witness to draw plans and cross-sections to explain how the crematoria worked.


Olère felt compelled to capture Auschwitz artistically to illustrate the fate of all those that did not survive. He sometimes depicts himself in his paintings as a ghostly witnessing face in the background. He exhibited his work at the State Museum of Les Invalidesand the Grand Palais in Paris, at the Jewish Museum in New York City, at the Berkeley Museum, and in Chicago. He retired from being an artist in 1962, and died in 1985. His widow and son have continued to inform the world about Auschwitz via his artwork.





Κυριακή, 15 Δεκεμβρίου 2013

Theodor von Holst

Fantasy based on Goethe's Faust, 1834
Theodor Richard Edward von Holst(1810 – 1844) was a nineteenth-century British literary painter. Von Holst's drawing talents were noticed by the artist Henry Fuseli and Sir Thomas Lawrence. Lawrence even bought drawings from the ten-year-old Von Holst. Fuseli trained the young man in early years, after which he was admitted to the Royal Academy Schools in 1824. According to Max Browne's biographical article in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Von Holst's "early instruction by Fuseli exerted such a powerful influence on his artistic development that some of his work is almost indistinguishable from that of his master". Like Fuseli, Von Holst painted mostly famous literary subjects of European culture, but not current trends. He drew from the works of Virgil, Dante, William Shakespeare, Mary Shelley, and Victor Hugo. Von Holst was the first artist to illustrate Shelley's novel Frankenstein in 1831. However, the German Romantics, particularly the works of Goethe, E. T. A. Hoffmann, and Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué, were the basis of almost half his works. Von Holst became "the most prolific English illustrator of German Romance". As Browne explains, "while [von Holst's] exceptional imagination and draughtsmanship were widely praised, his choice of subjects were out of step with the age and public taste. His penchant for the demonic, supernatural, and erotic led to a degree of neglect that was otherwise undeserved." However, Von Holst exhibited 49 paintings at major exhibitions in London and sold portraits to collectors. Also, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, greatly admired Von Holst's work and according to Browne "considered him a significant link between the older generation of English Romantic painters, such as Fuseli and William Blake, and the Pre-Raphaelite circle". On 17 August 1841, Von Holst married Amelia Thomasina Symmes Villard in Marylebone. Von Holst died from a disease of the liver at his home in London and was buried on 21 February 1844. After his death, his works were sold on 26 June 1844.

Frontispiece to Mary Shelley, Frankenstein published by Colburn and Bentley, London 1831, Steel engraving

Bertalda, Assailed by Spirits (c. 1830), a subject taken from the novella Undine (1811) by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué

Bertalda Frightened by Apparitions c.1830-1835

Σάββατο, 7 Δεκεμβρίου 2013

Paolo Girardi


Paolo Girardi is a contemporary artist of morbid apocalyptic scenery. His works are used for death and black metal artwork album covers