Page 4, 28th March 1941

28th March 1941
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Organisations: Eastern Church
Locations: Warsaw, Rome

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Column

L7 HUMPHREY JOHNSON

Warsaw

is it pre-eminently

.

Catholic?

AN Italian Queen of Poland, who

eventually returned to her native country, is said to have taken this step because she found her adopted one so gloomy.

1 got my first glimpse of Poland a few days after leaving Rome in the heat of July and such a feeling is intelligible to me. Looking out in the morning from the window of the train I saw a grey sky, a featureless landscape, and untidy villages with ducks waddling in the muddy streets. But seated in a droschke rattling over a cobbled street in Cracow, I seemed to he back in the spacious days of the old Austro-Hungarian empire. Few cities in eastern Europe are so full of history as Cracow, The Wawel hill overlooking the Vistula is the heart of Poland. On it stand the former royal palace and the Cathedral which is the mausoleum of Poland's kings and of her great men. The old fortifications have been demolished save for the Florian Gate and the Rondell and their site has been laid out with shady gardens where Jew and gentile may be seen taking their recreation on a fine afternoon.

If you prowl through the streets of Cracow seeking relics of the past you will find things to remind you now of Flanders, now of Germany, now of Italy. now of the East. In the centre of the city stands the Cloth Hall with an arcade lined with shops like the bazaar of an oriental city.

p0 LAND'S modem capital, Warsaw,

lacks the quiet old-world dignity of its predecessor; yet it, too, is full of history, and just outside lies the field of Wola where the Polish kings were

elected. Unlike the small towns of former Russian Poland, which, judged by western standards, appear squalid, Warsaw, while conserving traces of older days, has developed into a fine modern city. The embellishments wrought by the Saxon kings, Augustus II and Augustus HI, and by Stanislaus Poniatowski, the last King of Poland, are largely responsible for this. But the Stare Miasto or old city with its narrow crooked streets and its market square, whose painted houses have been restored to their original state, deserves a visit. In the environs of Warsaw is the beautiful little palace of Willanow built by an Italian architect for the great Sobieski. A little north of the city in a wood on a bill overlooking the river stands Bielany, an interesting baroque monastery. Here Pius Xi made his retreat before receiving episcopal consecration. The cell which he occupied has been converted into a chapel.

pi religion Warsaw presents a striking contrast. in no other continental capital does so large a proportion of the population hear mass on a weekday and in no other is there to large a non-Christian element.

The Anglo-Jewish writer, Mr. Cecil Roth, says that the distinction between Catholic Poles and Jewish Poles is an artificial one and of recent origin. But whether the division between the two be considered to affect religion only or to be racial as well, the vast Jewish quarter of Warsaw is an impressive sight to a visitor from the west of Europe. Passing hurriedly through I carried away the impression of a whole city populated by venerable bearded figures in broadbrimmed hats and black coats.

Are the Poles the most Catholic people on the Continent of Europe as is commonly said? If the only facts on which I had to base an answer to this question were the great crowds who surrounded me when I said mass at a side-altar during the week I would answer unhesitatingly yes. But I fancy that Catholicism has a stronger hold on the masses than on the upper class and is more in evidence in private than in public life. A Jesuit in Warsaw told me that among the upper classes conversions to the Orthodox Eastern Church were becoming common on the part of persona desirous of obtaining a divorce and the tomb of Poland's unknown soldier under the colonnade at the entrance to the Saxon Garden bears no religious emblem.

risk to the pictures of the exhibitors, but k is to be hoped that artists will share the organisers' optimism and give us a good show. Perhaps this year wifl offer a special chance to the amateur, since there is bound to be a dropping-off of the number of pictures submitted. And perhaps amateurs will not mind the risk to their works. Private exhibitions still continue, and I dropped in this week to the show at the Leger Galleries. The rather ramshackle collection did not seem to me very interesting, but I thought that Stanley Spencer's " Choosing a Dress " was well worth a permanent place in one of our galleries. There is a richly coloured still-life by Matthew Smith and a pot of flowers by John painted with a rare economy of effort.

The Glagolite Rite

HERE is something which may even " puzzle the learned. Have you ever heard of the Glagolitic Rite? It is in the news because it is used in the Catholic churches of Dalmatia and Southern Croatia, i.e., in modern Yugoslavia. In use from the earliest times, this rite was definitely approved by the Constitution of Pope Urban VIII, dated April 29, 1631. and is provided for in the Concordat negotiations between Yugoslavia and the Holy See.

The rite derives its name from an ancient Slavic alphabet, called in Russian bukvitsa. Of runic origin, the word given to the alphabet means " signs that speak." One theory is that St. Cyril invented the Glagolitic, and that the Cyrillic form of letters, used in liturgical books of the Greek churches— both Catholic and schismatic—dates from his disciple, St. Clement, who transformed Glagolitic into Cyrillic by imitating the Greek uncial letters of that day. The other theory, or tradition, is that St. Jerome, a Dalmatian himself, was the inventor.

JOTTER.




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