News in brief.
First alcohol-free Trappist beer. Trappist monks at the Koningshoeven abbey in Berkel-Enschot in the Netherlands have produced the first alcohol-free Trappist beer. A dark beer with strong malt and caramel flavours, the beer has been named Nillis 0.0%. The name refers not only to the zero alcohol content, but also to the Nile River, which has its source in Uganda where the Trappists run several education and healthcare projects. Profits from the sale of the beer will be used to help run the projects in Uganda. The beer can currently only be purchased at the abbey shop.
Belgian church and abbey restoration projects announced. Three significant projects to restore churches and abbeys were announced this week in Flemish-speaking Belgium. A restoration project on Sint-Michielskerk in Leuven has been granted additional funding to restore the church’s towers. Sint-Michielskerk is one of Europe’s finest examples of baroque churches. In Bruges, a consultation process is underway to decide on future use of the St Godelieve abbey, and the city has just finalised the purchase of the nearby Capuchin abbey.
Methodist minister sings for India. In the north of England, Methodist minister Revd Phil Gough, has sung the entire Methodist hymn book of 748 hymns to raise money for Covid care in India. He has so far raised £1,500.
Spotlight on Seville.
Seville Cathedral (Catedral de Sevilla or Catedral de Santa María de la Sede) (Av. de la Constitución). Formerly a mosque, the cathedral was built between 1401 and 1506. Legend has it that the church council had said: “Let us build a church so beautiful and so magnificent that those who see it finished will think we are mad”. Undoubtedly impressive, the gothic cathedral was likely designed by the same master architect responsible for Rouen Cathedral. Everything in the Seville cathedral is on an extraordinary scale. The cathedral contains 80 chapels, and the imposing main altarpiece by Flemish sculptor Pieter Dancart is comprised of a thousand carved biblical figures. Remnants of the site’s earlier identity as a mosque are still in evidence: mainly in the orange-tree-lined entrance court (Patio de los Naranjos); and the Giralda, originally a minaret, converted into a bell tower. The cathedral is home to the tomb of Christopher Columbus. Columbus’s body was moved to the cathedral in the nineteenth century and the tomb, with its four life-sized bearers representing the kingdoms of Castile, Leon, Aragon and Navarra, is from the 1890s.
Church of the Divine Savior(Iglesia Colegial del Salvador) (Pl. del Salvador, 3). Also a former mosque, this extravagant baroque church built in the seventeenth century by Leonardo de Figueroa, is packed with flamboyant decoration. The church contains several striking life-sized statues that are used in the street processions for which Seville is renowned.
Convent of Saint Agnes (Convent de Santa Inés) ( C. Doña María Coronel) founded in the fourteenth century by Maria Coronel, a wealthy Seville noblewoman, it is still home to a cloistered community of Poor Clares. At one of the convent’s two external doors is a small “turn window” where nuns sell baked goods. Local tradition is that you approach the turn window, say “Ave Maria Purisima” (“Hail the most pure virgin Mary)” and you will hear a voice from inside reply “Sin pecado concebida” (“Born without sin)”. You can then ask to buy some of the pastries listed at the door and they are handed to you through the turn window.
Basilica de Jesús del Gran Poder (Pl. de S. Lorenzo). This church was built to honour one of the great icons of Seville, the image of Jesús del Gran Poder, a work by sculptor Juan de Mesa dating from 1620. Whilst the statue dates from the seventeenth century, the church that now houses it only began construction in 1960, and it is architecturally eclectic with a façade combining Renaissance and baroque styles.
Saint of the week: Saint Monica.
On 27 August, the Lutheran, Anglican and Catholic Churches celebrate St Monica, mother of St Augustine of Hippo. Monica was born in present-day Algeria in 331 AD and married a pagan Roman official. Whilst she was a devout Christian, her son Augustine began following a pagan cult. When he journeyed to Rome, she followed him and then on to Milan, where she and Augustine came to know the influential theologian Ambrose. It was during this time that Augustine converted to Christianity. Augustine later wrote of how Monica’s faith and persistence in praying for him to return to Christianity provided a model for his faith. She died on their journey back to North Africa and was buried in Ostia. As Augustine’s subsequent fame as a bishop and theologian grew, so did interest in the life of Monica. Miracles were attributed to her from the fifteenth century onwards. When a church was built in Rome to honour Augustine, her remains were moved there and deposited in a chapel near the altar. In the 1930s, an order of nuns in the Netherlands took her as inspiration — the Augustine Sisters of Saint Monica — setting up schools and carrying out social work and running women’s shelters.
Tomorrow, 28 August, Protestant and Roman Catholic churches in Germany as well as the churches affiliated to the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Christlicher Kirchen (Working Group of Christian Churches) will jointly remember the victims of the recent floods at a commemoration service at Aachen Cathedral.
Christian Climate Action Belgium holds a short reflective online prayer session on the 1st of each month, to pray for climate justice and this year’s all-important COP26. The next is on 1 September at 20:00 CET.
On Friday 3 September between 19:00-20:00 CET there is a concert at the American Cathedral in Paris, featuring Mitchell Miller, the cathedral’s incoming Organ Scholar.
Picture credits. The chapel interior of the Augustine Sisters of St Monica, Utrecht, Fotodienst GAU; Photo of Seville by Henrique Ferreira; graphic design by European Churches Chronicle.
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