Postcard from Bologna, Italy: Basilica of San Francesco

A visit by Saint Francis of Assisi to Bologna in 1222 sparked interest in building a major church for the Franciscans serving the city. The Gothic Basilica of San Francesco was completed in 1263.

Enhancements added later include a Venetian marble altar sculpted by Jacobello and Pier Pabla dalle Masegne.

Pope Alexander V (1339-1410), one of the “antipopes” reigning during the time of the schism resulting in competing popes ruling from Avignon, is entombed here. He died unexpectedly one night in Bologna while in the sole company of one of his cardinals. The cardinal was elevated to become Pope John XXIII (1370-1419), leaving a cloud of suspicion lingering in the minds of some.

Aside from a few takeovers for usage as military barracks or weapons storage, including the French in 1796 and an Italian war in 1842, the church has remained under the auspices of the Franciscans since then.

Postcard from Guanajuato, Mexico: Templo de San Cayetano, the patron saint of jobseekers

The amazingly rich vein of silver discovered in the mine of La Valenciana provided Antonio de Obregon y Alcocer with more than enough wealth to commission a major church in honor of his patron saint, San Cayetano.

The Churrigueresque church perched above the city of Guanajuato was constructed of cantera rosa, pink volcanic stone, between 1765 and 1788. The second tower either collapsed or was never built, perhaps because the original architect died before the church was completed. Three enormous gilded altars reflect the profits mined nearby.

San Cayetano (1480-1547) was not a fan of wealth, however. In fact he turned his back on greedy clergymen he encountered in Rome and worked in Vicenzia, Italy, for reform of the church. Becoming a priest at age 33, he distributed his riches to the poor. He dedicated himself to helping the lower classes and those in need of work. To combat usurious lenders preying on the poor, he founded a charitable organization accepting pawned objects in exchange for loans.

As San Cayetano is regarded as a patron saint of laborers, he probably comforted the miners. He is considered the saint to answer prayers for pan y trabajo.

Struggling to land a job? Maybe it’s time for a pilgrimage to La Valenciana to light a candle to San Cayetano.

Postcard from Guanajuato, Mexico: Templo de la Compania de Jesus

The florid details of the Churrigueresque façade of the church of La Compania de Jesus in Guanajuato are striking. The church was constructed between the years of 1747 and 1765.

But, as always, the details inside the church are equally as interesting. A rectangle of red velvet hung on the wall next to an image of Saint Lucy to encourage petitioners appealing for better eyesight to pin their silver milagros of eyes there. But, regarding proximity as more potent, several fortified their prayers by taping their charms directly on her image.

One day El Nino Medico almost was submerged completely in a sea of boys’ toys, but he was liberated from them the next week. Only a few photos, milagros and a lone baby shoe remained by his feet. A new crop of toys probably has arrived in his case by now.

Holding El Nino securely in one arm, the Virgin Mary somehow uses her other to hoist up some lad. She rescues him from the fierce-looking jaws of a black, toadlike version of the devil, surely by some artist from another time period than whoever sculpted the original statues in the ornate Baroque niche.

A few-peso fee grants admittance to the sacristy containing a small collection of paintings. But the appeal for me was not just the art. The docent pulled aside a heavy floor-to-ceiling drape to reveal the true treasures – first-class reliquaries containing major bones of several saints.

 

Ah, and the bloody feet pictured on the poster for a pilgrimage taking place tomorrow. Those feet represent those of Jose Sanchez del Rio, who will be canonized a saint in Rome tomorrow. Born in Sahuayo, Michoacán, in 1913, the teen left home to serve as the flag bearer for the Cristeros, who were rebelling against the enforcement of rigid anticlerical laws in 1926 by President Plutarco Elias Calles. Foreign Catholic priests were expelled from Mexico, and monasteries, convents and Catholic schools were closed.

Violence escalated, and the armed Cristeros, primarily rural peasants with no military training, even managed to inflict several defeats on federal forces. When Blessed Jose was captured, he refused to recant his faith. He was imprisoned in the seized parish church, and his jailers attempted to extract a ransom from his family for his release.

In addition to captured Cristeros, a government official was using the church to house his prized fighting cocks. According to the website of Ive Minor Seminary:

When Jose arrived he saw the roosters running around the church and was indignant, and said, “This is not a barnyard!” He took them all by the neck and killed them, hanging them from a banister. According to some, Picasso (the name of the government official) had imported some of those very fine birds all the way from Canada, and this was the last straw; he was so indignant that he commanded that they execute the boy by firing squad.

The soldiers carried out their own gruesome ritual prior to the execution. As he was marched to the firing squad:

…they began to strike him with the machetes they carried. Even worse, they chopped off the soles of Jose’s feet, and they forced him to walk along the rocky unpaved road to the cemetery. Instead of complaining, he shouted, “Long live Christ the King!” Witnesses said that the stones where Jose had trodden were all soaked in his blood, and although he moaned from the pain, he never weakened in his resolve.

Blessed Jose obtained his martyrdom on February 10, 1928.

The roster of Mexican saints now numbers about three dozen. No doubt, a few of the faithful will make the pilgrimage tomorrow barefoot in honor of the canonization of the new saint.