your issue of February 27 you show Sassetta's panel from the Borgo San Sepolcro altarpiece, with the omission of a very important item in the original the Seraph in the sky. St. Francis, on one knee. is looking up at it and the light of the heavenly Vision not only lightens the figure of the Saint, the front of the little chapel, the tops oF the rocks and trees but also the empty cross in the niche near Brother Leo. The title is still on the cross, the crown of thorns is hung on it and even the nails are still there. The sacred figure is, however, hovering above with many wings. That detail is the key to the picture.
About Sassetta himself, surely it can be justly claimed that he was very little, if at all, affected by the humanist movement. He lived and worked a little before it. Siena, his native town, we are told, even on the verge of the early Renaissance, held fast by its medieval tradition. Berens son writes that "Sassetta lived and painted as if Florence were not 40 but 40 millions of miles away."
As to the inevitable comparison with the work of Giotto, it is claimed by John Pope-Hennessy, that the difference is not so much between artistic personalities as a difference between two legends:' between the earlier story systematised by St. Bonaventure and the full flowering of that same Franciscan story as shown by the best writers of the 13th and 14th centuries. "Sassetta's scenes, continues Pope-Hennessy. are not confined to any one Franciscan source. They are the work of a mind impregnated with Fran c i sc a n thought. capable of selecting, regrouping, elaborating, eliminating episodes to create a living whole." Put in another way, Giotto recorded events in the life of St. Francis, Sassetta, the ideal abstract of Franciscan doctrine. Indeed, we know from the agreement drawn up between Sassetta and the Father Guardian, before the work was commenced at Borg() San Sepolcro, that the selection of the episodes to be represented in the altarpiece, was made by the Friars.
We are grateful to Miss Conlay for drawing the attention of your readers to the Sassetta panels in the National Gallery. We have seven of the eight still in existence. The missing one-the altogether charming Mystic Marriage of St. Francis and Lady Poverty, is in the Muse Conde at Chantilly. What we have are extremely interesting. On one occasion, a few years back, we had to explain to one of the regular lecturers of the National Gallery the story of the panel where St. Francis renounces his heritage before the Bishop of Assisi, and gives evens his clothes back to his father. The seated Bishop wraps his cope round the naked Saint standing beside him. The latest and very learned National Gallery catalogue on the earlier Italian schools writes of the same scene, "Bishop Guido of Assisi covers St. Francis with his pallium."
(Fr.) Paul Ryan, O.F.M.
The reproduction had to be cut for reasons of space, but we are grateful for Fr. Ryan's explanatory letter.Editor, C.1011E/MC HERALD.
Importance of the Liturgy
SIR.-How sadly necessary is Jean
Gilbert Scott's question about the number of "good" Catholics (i.e., those given to pious practices) who do not seem to have aclue to what is meant by the Christian spirit, and thereby scandalise their Protestant friends.
Since reading Of Sacraments and
Sacrifice by Fr. Clifford Howell, S.J. -which has been published in the U.S.A. and is, I believe, in due course to be published here, I feel that a sharper light will be thrown for many of us, on the root causes behind some of these alarming situations. In fact there is no important Catholic problem of today whether the leakage, apathy. boredom in church and ineffectiveness out of it-which is not related to Fr. Howell's clear but also uplifting picture.
He says nothing which most of us,
in some context, have not heard before, but this blessedly direct, simple and courageous look at the present and past relationship of the Liturgy to the people's minds, has the impact of something new, rousing and essentially hopeful.
This book, the fruit of much scholarship is vet suitable for the unlearned thoughtful Catholic. It will kindle fire among all those un blinded by prejudice or acute laziness. One point made in an early chapter is the reason for the un-adult attitude of many Catholics to their religion (development in their knowledge of which is so often halted long before the rest of their education) Church attendance does nothing to advance it.
In quoting Blessed Pius X: "The primary and indispensable source of the true Christian spirit is active participation in the solemn and public worship of the Church . ." Fr. Howell is doing a very simple thing. But how he shows forth the meaning of the words!
465 Russell Court, W.C.I.
SIR, With regard to the letters about training circus animals, I would like to quote, without comment, a paragraph from this month's Riding "In a recent broadcast, Albert Schumann, of circus fame, made a remark which is worthy of the attention of all horsemen, Asked how he attained such results in training .iis horses under saddle, or in liberty work, he said, 'By Patience. Love and Sugar.' There is no doubt that nearly all the evasions put up by horses are the direct result of the trainer or rider losing patience, causing the simple mind of the horse to become confused. And by love I have no doubt he meant sympathy and understanding, Without these, fullest cooperation cannot he obtained, arid as to sugar, I think it is generally admitted by most trainers of animals that rewards are justified when earned, and that you cannot get very far without them . . "
This was written by Mr. R. S. Summerhays. an expert on everything to do with horses.
(Mrs.) Mary Berry,
11a Rothsay Gardens, Bedford.