Sunday, November 05, 2006

Clasped Hands and Golden Rings

I dearly love my amazingly good friend, Julia, who has a definitive ability to reach out at the perfect time and remind me to breath; that "all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well".

That is why I keep a permanent link to her site in the form of a classic Icon of her Patron Saint, Julian of Norwich. I don't ascribe to the idea of sainthood myself - it seems rather presumptuous that the pope, or anyone else, could decide that status, especially after skimming thorugh "Lives of the Saints" on a particularly dull November day, years ago.

In some cases, though, it's merely an acknowledgement of the obvious, once you strip away all the religious preservation and ritual pesterment that goes with sainthood. Julian can legitimately be ranked with the very great spiritual writers of the church, and if she does not surpass Augustine in the minds of men - that's because they are too much man and not Godfriend enough.

I was reminded to breathe today by a letter from her to her "Godfriends" list, which I seem still to be on despite my deplorably earthy ways and curiosity about things of the flesh.

Looking at these splendid Etruscan treasures and their Phoenician runes reminded me of that other culture, Canaanite, Mary's and Jesus', around the Sea of Galilee, that was peaceable, agricultural, about bread and wine and families and blessings, though dominated by the nomadic cattle-herding Israelite one, and the Roman military one. It is the peaceable culture that gave us the alphabet, that traded for cloth and amber across all Europe, its runes even on Iceland. And this Eastertide this Cemetery will bloom with purple irises (the Florentine lily) and golden daffodils beneath its great Etruscan cypresses with the help of so many.

I've bought tickets for coming to America, February 20, first to Washington, DC, lecturing at Georgetown on Julian of Norwich, then at Little Rock on Brunetto Latino and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, last at Wellesley on women writing, flying there from my grandson's wedding in New Mexico. And in this way getting to see my beloved sons and grandchildren. Will travel mostly by bus, which I found last year to be so much nicer than traveling by plane. The people are kinder, far more interesting, sort of the Canaanite and Etruscan agricultural layer, not the Roman Spartan military, slave-owning one. It takes so much energy from life to be military, it gives so much energy to life to be agricultural.

Careful, Julia; one could get excommunicated for such robust common sense. And I hope we have the opportunity to meet.

In any case, the cemetery she refers to is the amazing and historic 'English Cemetary' in Florence, Italy. There is much beauty and lyrical writing to be found there - too much, I find, to choose between while my dog pesters me about more immediate needs, so I shall go directly to the pitch about the photos above.

We are not allowed legally to sell objects, not being commercial, but may receive donations. In exchange we have created a CD, called 'Florence in Sepia' which gives an entire nineteenth-century collection of photographs of Florence in sepia, that we exhibited in the Palazzo Strozzi last June and which are now available for viewing in the original in our Gatehouse, as well as the catalogue of the tombs, Victorian guidebooks of Florence and much else. FIRENZE/ FLORENCE IN SEPIA We have re-created, thanks to Amalia Ciardi Dupré Harriet Hosmer's 'Clasped Hands' of Elizabeth and Robert Browning. We have also edited and printed, in William Morris type, and hand-bound in our own marbled paper, a limited and numbered edition of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets and Ballad. Either separately or together these would make excellent wedding gifts. Suggested donations for the 'Clasped Hands': in terra cotta, 250; in plaster, 100; in Della Robbia glazed terra cotta, 250 for the books, 50; for the CDs, 10; in dollars, euros, pounds. Please include an amount to cover postage.

Make cheques written out to 'Aureo Anello' and post to

Biblioteca e Bottega Fioretta Mazzei
'English' Cemetery
Piazzale Donatello, 38
Or, for PayPal, go to

These will be most gratefully received and will save a world heritage sight of much historical value.

If I may point out, 50 pounds, euros or dollars is a terribly low price for the book. I know less about objects such as the hands, but the provenance is unique and the cause is wonderful. Nor, I think would Julia object to telling and recording what such a donation went toward; that in turn could lead toward a beautiful framed picture as part of such a gift when your donation blooms. So when you donate, please consider adding between 50 and 100 "units" to your gift.

Julia and her loose flock are spread throughout the world and have many wonderful things to share. I should point out that Real Christians support real Christian works, if it needs saying. Indeed, even some of us "heathens" consider it worth our attention.

Joseph and Jesus had a carpenter's shop in Nazareth. Peter and his companions ran a fishing business on the Sea of Galilee. Paul was a tentmaker. Mary, in the Infancy Gospels, did sewing and embroidery while in Egypt, Jesus delivering the goods to her customers there- and so did Dorcas do fine sewing in Luke's Acts. Those of us in Christ's ministry need to earn our keep. The early disciples, both men and women, also wrote epistles, Psalters, Gospels, Bibles. They balanced work and study and prayer. And they did not use credit cards or cheques, instead directly exchanged their work. Churches in East Anglia owe their great beauty to their participants' generosity and identification with them, as Eamon Duffy shows before the The Stripping of the Altars at the Reformation. We encourage the same here in a mutual giving, to the One Body of Christ, everyone.

There are many beautiful things made in this humble “carpenter’s shop,” and they are perhaps a not unworthy reminder to those who’s faith has been shaken by the actions of shepherds who led them astray. Julia does not ask for donations, save when she has something of value to freely give in return. Consider this very idea the most appropriate Christmas gift imaginable – the very example of Christ.

That which I most particularly suggest for the very many US Christians now facing a devastating crisis of faith is this:

The Julian Library Portfolio (specify whether to be bound in vellum or Florentine printed papers or our own Biblioteca e Bottega Fioretta Mazzei marbled papers or purchased individually):

Biblioteca e Bottega Fioretta Mazzei Marbled Papers [are] made by a Rom mother who was begging in Florence's streets and whom we taught this Florentine skill so she can support her children, her family in Romania. She is the one who writes out the Lord's Prayer so beautifully in Italian and whom we tried to teach also to read as well as to write. She sings 'Alleluia§' to her baby as a lullaby.

Contents/ Essays in Booklets within the Portfolio:

*Augustine, Boethius, Dionysius: Julian's Mystical Philosophers.

*The Most Ancient Life of St Gregory the Great. Written by a Monk or Nun at Whitby, A.D. 713. Reproduction of St Gall Manuscript. Text in Latin and in English Translation.

*Hilda and Caedmon: The Dream of the Rood: The Earliest Poem in English. Reproduction of Runes, Ruthwell Cross. Text in Old English, Modern English Translation.

*The Carmina Gadelica : Gaelic Prayers in the Ortha Nan Gaidheal. Text in Translation from the Gaelic. The Prayer used for the Enclosing of Anchorites in Medieval England was adapted from St Patrick's Lorica. Celtic Intertwine Embroidery Design in Gold on Green for a Chasuble.

*Godfriends: The Continental Medieval Mystics.

*Henry Suso: Horologium Sapientiae. Reproductions of Medieval Manuscript Illuminations. Parallel Text in Middle English Translation from the Amherst Julian Manuscript and in Modern English Translation.

*Jan van Ruusbroec: The Sparkling Stone. Diplomatic Transcription of Amherst Middle English Translation of the Text.

*The Mystics' Internet: Birgitta of Sweden, Catherine of Siena, Julian of Norwich, Margery of Lynn, Chiara of Pisa, and Francesca of Rome.

*Julian of Norwich, The Showing of Love. The Westminster Cathedral/Abbey Manuscript. Excerpts.

*A Julian-Related Manuscript in Norwich Castle. Partial Manuscript Transcription.

*The Soul a City. Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich. Diplomatic Manuscript Transcriptions.

*Margaret Gascoigne/Bridget More. Contemplating on Julian. Manuscript Reproduction from St Mary's Abbey, Colwich. Portraits of Julian of Norwich's Benedictine nun/scribes.

*Dame Barbara Constable, O.S.B. and the Upholland Julian Fragment. Manuscript Reproduction from the Stanbrook Abbey Facsimile, Portrait.

*Mother Agnes Mason, Foundress, Community of the Holy Family. Manuscript Reproduction, Portrait.

*Sacred Conversation: Contemplative Art.

*The Lord's Prayer: 'Our Father'. Julian of Norwich, Evelyn Underhill, Simone Weil. Greek Texts Given.

*Fioretta Mazzei. Blue/Green Thoughts: Pensieri blu o verde raccolti da un assessore per una piu` vasta sicurezza sociale. Parallel Italian Text, English Translation.

The Julian Portfolio of the Julian Library Project began as a series of lectures on contemplatives given to the Hastings Quaker Meeting and held in the Anglican Holmhurst Theological Library, St Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex, six years ago, concurrently with the work of editing the extant Julian of Norwich Manuscripts, and these booklets accompanied the lectures. They present primary documentation concerning women's theology through time. Their form replicates the fascicles written and hand-sewn by the Benedictine English contemplative nuns who studied and preserved Julian of Norwich's text in exile from England in the seventeenth century. Our Bottega marbles the paper and binds the portfolios.

Suggested Price/Booklets: $50.00 including surface postage. Individual booklets $5.00 including surface postage.

To order send e-mail or write to
Julia Bolton Holloway§, Director
Biblioteca e Bottega Fioretta Mazzei
Piazzale Donatello 38

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