Young pilgrims to sing Latin as they walk

From The Times

Religion may well be in decline among European youth but it is by no means dead. This weekend about 6,000 young Catholics will set off on a 75-mile walk from Paris to Chartres Cathedral — and as they walk they will all be praying and singing in Latin.

Pope Benedict XVI’s decision last year in his apostolic letter, Summorum pontificum, to revive the Tridentine Latin Mass, was seen as a turning back of the clock by some liberal Catholics but greeted with jubilation by some conservative Catholics.

Out of all of the reforms triggered by the Second Vatican Council, the introduction of a new Mass in 1969, replacing the Roman Missal of 1962, was the most controversial.

Instead of facing east with his back to the congregation, the priest now faced them and recited the words in the local language rather than Latin. While not technically banned, the Tridentine Mass soon fell out of use, but some groups of Catholics refused to give up their attachment to it.

This weekend’s annual three-day pilgrimage through northern France, which is in its 26th year, illustrates the appeal that the Tridentine Mass has for some young Catholics disenchanted with what they say is the lack of mystery, beauty and sacredness in the revised Mass.

Gregory Flash, 28, an investment banker from London, explains why he is taking part in the pilgrimage for the second year running: “The pilgrimage is a time of prayer, penance and fellowship. It’s great to be surrounded by thousands of Catholics around the same age who, despite their different nationalities, can sing and pray in the same language and in the same way.”

The pilgrims come from several countries, including Poland, Germany, Italy and the US, and include seminarians. Some bishops and even cardinals have joined them in previous years.

They begin their pilgrimage at 6am on Saturday at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, where a priest will bless them. Carrying banners and flags, they then snake their way through the south-western suburbs of the city and out into the countryside.

“At mid-morning we attend the first Mass of the pilgrimage. A priest sets up an altar in a forest and will celebrate a full sung Mass with a choir singing Gregorian chant,” Mr Flash says.

The pilgrims follow part of one of the ancient routes to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. They walk in small groups. Some sing the rosary in Latin; others make their confession to one of the traditionalist priests who accompany them. On Saturday and Sunday nights they camp in fields.

“When we arrive at Chartres Cathedral, the local bishop usually greets us. We then have a solemn Mass. Those who can’t fit inside watch it on TV screens outside. Priests hear confessions in the side chapels or on plastic chairs in the cathedral square.”

Grace Readings, 23, who works as a PA to an MP, will be making her 13th pilgrimage. She first went as a pupil at St Michael’s School in Berkshire, which is run by the Society of St Pius X, a breakaway traditionalist group which the Pope is trying to lure back to Rome.

Abount 90 per cent of those making the pilgrimage are between 19 and 25, Ms Readings says. “You don’t meet many young practising Catholics nowadays, so it’s a great opportunity to encourage each other. When I come back, I feel, yes, it is possible to live out your faith in the modern world.

“I find the Tridentine rite more beautiful and reverent. A lot of the new Masses are happy-clappy. The Tridentine Mass is geared towards God more than the congregation,” she said.

She dismisses those who argue that the Latin language is a barrier to understanding the Mass. “Latin isn’t a problem. You follow the Mass in a missal that has the words in Latin and English. Latin is a universal language and it is very ancient. I like that.”

This youthful enthusiasm for the tradition is not restricted to the Chartres marchers. For example, members of Juventutem International Federation, a network of young traditionalist Catholics founded in 2006, will attend the International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec in June and World Youth Day in Sydney in July. The group has the support of Cardinal Dario Castrillo Hoyos, president of the Vatican’s commission set up by Pope John Paul II to reunite traditionalist groups, such as the Society of St Pius X.

John Medlin, of the Latin Mass Society, reckons that about 20 per cent of those attending traditional-rite Masses are young or have young families. “When young people who have had no prior experience of the traditional rite come along to one of our Masses only a handful go away thinking well, I found that pretty off-putting. Some think, fair enough, but not a lot happened for me. But a surprisingly large number go away thinking, I’ve just come into contact with Catholic worship for the first time. I really felt something objective was going on.”

In July, at Merton College, Oxford, the Latin Mass Society is holding its second residential training course for priests wishing to learn how to celebrate the Tridentine Mass. It includes talks on the Latin language, the rubrics of the Mass and singing, along with opportunities for priests to have a dummy run at saying the traditional Mass. Last year nearly 50 priests turned up.

Father Stephen Langridge, parish priest of the Church of the Holy Ghost, Balham, South London, and vocations director for the archdiocese of Southwark, believes that those young Catholics who are drawn to the Tridentine Mass should be seen in the context of a search for a more meaningful spirituality.

“Some young Catholics might turn to the Tridentine Mass as a way of deepening their relationship with God,” Father Langridge says.

“They find it offers them a deeper spiritual experience than perhaps they have found at their parish Mass. In my experience others find something similar attending Youth 2000 retreats or becoming involved with some of the new movements.”

James Curle – chatty article on this Scots archaeologist

From The Scotsman

Unearthing a legend

Published Date: 10 May 2008

By Doug Jackson

HOW a solicitor from Melrose became Scotland's most celebrated archaeologist – thanks to a Roman treasure trove on his doorstep.

AS he sat in his cramped solicitors' office tucked into a corner of Melrose Square, James Curle must often have stared from the window and wondered when he could escape once more to the sun-kissed ruins and marble treasures of Italy. The 20th century
was barely five years old and the siren-call of the past had already drawn him to the windswept islands of the Baltic coast, to Rome, France and Germany in search of the antiquities which were his passion.

But Scotland's very own Indiana Jones could never have imagined the fame that awaited him beneath a Border farmer's field or that he would discover the Holy Grail of Romano-Britain on his very doorstep.

For 1800 years and more it had lain hidden but for a few vital clues: a plough that jarred on stone when it should have cut earth; a few barely visible shadows in the summer grass; the triple-peaked hill that had given it its name. Trimontium.

It was the soldier-scholar General William Roy who in 1761 linked the three summits of the Eildon Hills to an obscure, barely legible detail on the map of Britain produced by the geographer Ptolemy in the 1st century AD. He recorded it on his own map and moved on. When the industrial revolution brought the first railway to the Borders close to 100 years later, an Irish navvy digging near the village of Newstead was surprised to uncover a strange pot and more surprised yet when a local antiquarian gave him a few pennies for it. Still, no-one knew precisely where this mysterious remote outpost of the Roman Empire was located.

The breakthrough came in the spring of 1904 when a local landowner decided to lay a drain in one of his fields. Curle and his younger brother Alexander, a fellow enthusiast, agreed to walk the mile from the family home at Priorwood, in Melrose, on the off-chance there might be something of archaeological interest.

“Arrayed in putties and armed with a single spade, we made a trial dig,” Alexander later recalled. The result was interesting, but far from spectacular; sooty soil and a mass of stones close beneath the surface. A chat with the farmer brought more interesting news. The next field was notorious for being impossible to get fence posts into the ground. The evidence was enough to convince the Society of Antiquaries to make a trial excavation on the site. It was to be a minor dig, just another attempt to fill in an insignificant piece of Scotland's historical jigsaw. So it seemed natural to give the job of overseeing it to a minor figure in the Society, the handily placed local amateur, James Curle.

In many ways James was an ideal candidate for the job, and not just because he lived less than a Roman mile away. The 43-year-old solicitor, who had married just three years earlier, had been steeped in antiquarian lore from childhood by his father, Alexander. At every opportunity the brothers would be dragged off to Edinburgh to spend endless hours in the National Museum of Antiquities. At first they were reluctant spectators, but soon their father's love of the past worked its way into boyish souls. In his journal, younger brother Alexander remembered: “We grew up with an elementary knowledge of the bases of modern archaeology which . . . we were never required to learn. We had absorbed it among the museum cases in these early days of our lives.” James's training as a solicitor also gave him a fondness for minutiae, and minutiae and the recording of it are the very foundation of good archaeological investigation. And while he may have been an amateur, he was a gifted amateur: his papers on the early Iron Age brooches of Gotland (1895) earned him many admirers among the learned gentlemen of the Society.

In the beginning, he was not an entirely enthusiastic volunteer. His first reaction to the Society's suggestion was an explosive: “If you are going to excavate Newstead you will have to find someone else to look after it. I'm not going to trudge up there every day.” But in the end he gave way and began preparations for the work that would make him an intimate of kaisers and kings.

When the first spade broke ground on 13 February 1905, Curle expected the dig to last a few months. It was to consume five years of his life. The treasure house of Roman artefacts he uncovered at Trimontium and the way he interpreted them would change the face of Scottish archaeology.

Trimontium began life as a marching camp during the invasion of what is now Scotland by Julius Agricola around 80AD, but its strategic location above a vital crossing of the River Tweed meant it quickly became a permanent base. It was abandoned 25 years later when the Romans withdrew behind Hadrian's Wall, then rebuilt in the mid-2nd century to protect communications between the Antonine Wall and the Roman military headquarters in York, before finally being torn down around the year 180AD.

The impact on the local population can only be imagined. Middle Eildon and Eildon Hill north were places of enormous ritual significance for the local Celtic tribe, who may have been the Selgovae or the Votadini. Now an alien culture with a voracious appetite for conquest, superior technical skills and a fearsome military presence had planted itself among them. People who lived in wood and wattle round houses must have been staggered by the sudden appearance of red sandstone buildings housing more than a thousand legionaries behind massive walls which may have been up to 30 feet high. In his book Before Scotland, Borders author Alistair Moffat points out: “The reality is that the Romans came to what is now Scotland, they saw, they burned, killed, stole and occasionally conquered, and then they left a tremendous mess behind them. Like most imperialists they arrived to make money, to gain political prestige and to exploit (local] resources. And remarkably, in Britain, in Scotland, we continue to admire them for it.”

The garrison for at least part of the occupation consisted of two cohorts (close to 1,000 men) of the 20th Legion. The Roman soldiers would have stripped the surrounding land bare to supplement their rations. Curle found the butchered remains of deer and elk, as well as those of cattle and sheep.

The finds from the fort were astonishing both in extent and quality, and are faithfully recorded in James Curle's neat, copperplate hand. Swords, spears and arrowheads in abundance; tools and jewellery, pottery and glassware, writing equipment – and the skeletons of both horses and humans, evidence, perhaps, that relations with the natives were not always cordial.

But the best was yet to come.

In March 1906 workmen cleared one of the pits to the south of the late Flavian and Antonine forts. After removing 18 feet of earth they uncovered a two-foot layer peppered with outstanding finds. The most spectacular discovery was a timeless work of art that 50 years of hard use and almost two millennia in the ground could not disguise. It was damaged beyond repair when it was discarded as the fort was being evacuated in 105 AD, but it still retains a haunting, enigmatic beauty. Nothing like it had ever been found in Britain and even Curle, the amateur who always maintained a professional detachment, must have felt elation when his clerk of works, Alexander Mackie, first placed it in his hands.

“It” was a masked Roman cavalry parade helmet made of iron. “The mask represents the idealised portrait of a young, clean-shaven man with open eyes and slightly parted lips. The forehead and the sides of the face are framed by curling locks of hair,” wrote Professor Bill Manning of Cardiff University, who made a recent study of the helmet. “The right-hand side is much damaged, but the left profile has a sculptural quality which is completely classical. It is, by any standards, a masterpiece of the blacksmith's art.”

Prof Manning believes the helmet, which was found with two others made of brass, had at least four owners and was in use for half a century after it was made around 50AD. The find is now one of the centre-pieces of the Roman collection at the National Museum of Scotland, although it recently spent a year on display at the Trimontium exhibition in Melrose.

Roman expert Dr Fraser Hunter of the NMS explains its significance: “This is one of the finest parade helmets from the whole of the Roman Empire. It was worn by a cavalry trooper during displays. Helmets like this were only for show, they restricted the rider's vision too much for use in battle.” The men who donned the Trimontium helmet on the parade ground or in the amphitheatre overlooking the River Tweed were Rome's bravest and best, and when they wore it they embodied all the power and the glory that was the Roman Empire. It was a badge of honour that set them apart.

The helmet caused a sensation and Curle was called on to deliver the prestigious Rhind lectures on the subject of the Newstead dig in 1907 and 1908, the start of a process that was to make him Scotland's most famed archaeologist. But he was essentially a modest man who never lost the natural reserve that is a characteristic of his birthplace. On March 6 1908, he wrote to a friend: “I give my fourth lecture this afternoon so I shall soon have the job over, which I will be glad of. Coming into Edinburgh three times a week with a top hat is a nuisance.”

In 1911, Curle published A Roman Frontier Post and Its People, his account of the excavations and the finds, which is now regarded as a masterpiece of its kind. His interpretation of the different phases of occupation put him years ahead of his time and his international travels and contacts allowed him to set the finds within a broad context which another archaeologist would have struggled to emulate. It gained him – and Trimontium – international recognition. On a trip to Germany that year he was invited to meet Kaiser Wilhelm, who had a great interest in Roman archaeology. In the same year, the Newstead finds were shown in Holyrood Palace to King George V and Queen Mary “who displayed great interest and asked many questions”.

While Curle was feted in Britain and abroad, the kudos didn't extend to his Borders homeland, where the only sign of recognition for his enormous contribution to Scottish archaeology – along with that of his brother, Alexander, and the other great Scottish antiquarian, George MacDonald – was erected by the Trimontium Trust in September 2006. “The Curles were big noises in Melrose and by all accounts James was a very engaging man,” explains Trust secretary Donald Gordon. “But it's possible there was an element of jealousy of a local man getting ahead, which accounts for his lack of recognition here during his lifetime.”

Curle was a devoted family man, but he was not the most conventional turn-of-the-century father. His daughter, Mrs Barbara Lenihan, remembered him as “more of a grandfather figure to his children” and as a man who had been disappointed he was never allowed to go to university, as his brother was able to. She recalled: “His advice to his children was: never mistreat a book, never be late and never shop in Galashiels.”

James Curle died in 1944, at the age of 82, having given a lifetime of service to the community. He spent almost 40 years as a member of Roxburgh County Council and was chairman of the local unionist association. He was a member of the Royal Company of Archers and involved in many of his country's leading historical bodies. But how does history remember him?

“He and his brother are two of the great names of 20th century archaeology,” says Dr Hunter. “James was a remarkable man, who created one of the basic classifications of Roman pottery based on his work at Newstead. His book, A Roman Frontier Post . . . , made Newstead a site of international importance.”

The work to understand Curle's legacy continues to this day as archaeologists strive to interpret the complex history of the site and local enthusiasts are drawn to this long-buried outpost of a long-dead Empire, and the people who inhabited it. “We find objects, but the truth is we're looking for human beings,” says Borders historian Walter Elliot, who has field-walked the Trimontium site for a remarkable 52 years.

“When I pick up a piece of pottery I know that the last person who touched it was probably a Roman citizen. I've found Roman bricks with the marks of animal prints in them, made while they were drying out. One brick had a grain of barley in it. You could see the marks where a field mouse had tried to scrape it out. In a way it connects you to an event that happened in this same field almost 2,000 years ago, when Trimontium was a thriving place and a power over the land.” sm

Doug Jackson's debut novel, Caligula: The Tyranny of Rome, is published by Bantam Press on 14 July and is available for pre-order on

Class-con – sandals for modern gladiatrices

The National Post comments on a new range of very expensive sandals that claim to be suitable for gladiatrices.

Dolce & Gabbana didn't make gear for ancient gladiatrices; they make them for warrior women of today. This season, the designing duo seem to have been inspired by Achillia and Amazon: They're selling a range of strappy gladiator sandals. And they're not alone: Fashionable footwear brands, from Alaïa to Zanotti, are offering similar styles for spring and summer. In the ancient world, gladiatrices battled to the death; their sandals, it seems, are still to die for.

The article goes on to quote a writer on gladiators, which come teachers may find interesting.

“It is historical fact that there were female gladiators” writes Stephen Wisdom, author of Gladiators: 100 BC to AD 200. The proof lies in literature: Suetonius and Martial, among other authors, made mention of gladiatrices. A marble relief in the British Museum depicts combatants named Achillia and Amazon in the midst of a match in a region of the Roman Empire called Halicarnassus.

No one can say for certain how Achillia and Amazon became gladiatrices. Emperor Nero is said to have sent the wives of senators into gladiatorial combat. The sight of pampered patrician women fighting for their lives no doubt amused him. In his Satire VI, Juvenal mocked ladies of leisure who chose to become gladiatrices for a thrill. For some wealthy women, being a gladiatrix was fun and fashionable; for some wealthy women today, looking like a gladiatrix still is.

“Gladiators probably did not wear shoes,” Wisdom has written. Achillia and Amazon probably battled barefoot in sand. It's possible that they wrapped their feet in felt. Some gladiators sported the sort of leather sandals that Roman soldiers wore. These sandals consisted of sturdy straps. Azzedine Alaïa sells something similar: a flat sole with three black straps that buckle at the side of the foot and a strap that buckles at the ankle. The price of Alaïa's simple sandals is patrician: $1,000 and up.

Achillia and Amazon wore fasciae, thick leather pads that shielded their shins from sword slashes. Fasciae were fastened on with leather laces that crisscrossed up the calves. Dolce & Gabbana's knee-high sandals feature thin leather fasciae; in lieu of laces, gold buckles climb from ankle to knee.

Balenciaga's gladiator boots take a different tack: They lace up the front, and have supple leather strips on the sides of the legs. Balenciaga's boots also come with high heels, spikes in black or rose steel. The effect is sci-fi: boots made for a gladiatrix from a galaxy far, far away. In Rome, the spikes would have sunk in sand. The gladiatrix? A goner.

Achillia and Amazon were provocatrices, a kind of gladiatrix known to have worn armour. It's possible that their fasciae were made of bronze. Both Burberry's and Miu Miu's gladiator sandals come in metallic colours. Gold, silver, bronze – metallic leather has the look of armour, without the weight.

Italian label Modern Vintage sells sandals whose fasciae are festooned with rhinestones. They're garish – perfect for a fashion victim – or fascia victim. Who knows?

Perhaps gladiatrices had similarly flashy footwear. In 2000, historians in England unearthed a grave that many believe belonged to a gladiatrix. All that was left of her was ash, bits of bone and fragments of coloured glass that had decorated her body in death. The glass sparkled in the soil. Gladiators may be gone; their glitter lingers on.

Vatican Latin website

BBC News reports on a new section of the vast (and very professional) Vatican website.

The Roman Catholic Church, for centuries a bastion of Latin usage, has given the ancient tongue a 21st Century boost by launching a website in Latin.

The Vatican website now has a section – Sancta Sedes (Holy See) – with Latin papal texts and religious works.

Pope Benedict XVI is an advocate of Latin, allowing Mass in the language.

But when a papal decree was issued only in Latin by mistake last June, there was confusion until the Vatican press office put out an Italian version.

“It caused a bit of panic for my colleagues who had no schooling in Latin,” said the BBC's Rome correspondent David Willey, “until the official translation finally emerged.”

The Vatican website already has sections in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.

Ancient traditions

For centuries church documents were all written in Latin, the mass was said only in Latin.

Without a knowledge of the language you would not go far if you were an ambitious priest.

But Latin has fallen out of favour in recent years as the subject has been dropped from school curricula in many countries and normal Vatican business is conducted in Italian, or increasingly in English.

But Pope Benedict wants the Catholic Church to keep its ancient traditions.

After his election to the papacy three years ago, he addressed the Church's cardinals in Latin.

He has encouraged the use of the language in seminaries where new priests are trained.

Last year he lifted restrictions on celebrating the Latin Tridentine Mass,

The Latin Mass had been largely abandoned in the 1960s, as part of reforms to make Catholicism more relevant to its worldwide congregation.

But Father Reginald Foster, an American priest who is the Pope's official Latinist, praises the virtues and the clarity of the Latin language.

“You have to say something and move on,” he says.

“It's not like French and some of these philosophical languages where you can write a whole page and say nothing – in Latin you can't do that!''

Fr Foster has a weekly programme on Vatican Radio called The Latin Lover, in which he explains the historical and contemporary uses of the language.