Category Archives: Roseau Cathedral

ARCHITECTURE AND SYMBOLISM : THE MANDORLA IN THE ROSEAU CATHEDRAL

ARCHITECTURE AND SYMBOLISM : THE MANDORLA   IN THE ROSEAU CATHEDRAL  

By Bernard Lauwyck

THE PRESENT FLOOR PLAN OF ROSEAU CATHEDRAL ?

 

The Roseau Cathedral building is full of surprises and  hidden secrets.

You will appreciate that a whole lot of research is going in these articles on the Roseau Cathedral.    This present article is very special to me as I made a real discovery.

Years ago I purchased some books on the beautiful Gothic Cathedral of Chartres, which I wanted to visit in 2006. One of them titled “Chartres:  Sacred Geometry, Sacred Space” written by Gordon Strachan, who taught in the department of Architecture and also Religious Studies at the University of Edinburgh.

The MANDORLA, as an architectural shape to set out a Catholic Cathedral floor plan, was revealed to me in this book. This is very old Christian symbolism, which I am about to reveal to you in our Roseau Cathedral. imagesCAREATWF

“Symbols of the Christian Faith” describe the mandorla as an almond-shaped aureole or halo that symbolizes the glory surrounding the figures of the Virgin Mary, the Trinity, and Christ in Majesty. The mandorla was especially used in icons and depictions of the Transfiguration of the Lord and the Assumption of Mary.

The 1531 Tilma of  Juan Diego, showing to this day Our Lady of Guadalupe, is surrounded by the rays of the sun in the shape of a mandorla. guadalupe2

The MANDORLA is an unique Christian symbol, being the intersection between two circles whose circumferences passed through each other’s centres. 

mandorla4

 

 

 

 

 

It became known as the VESICA PISCIS, the womb of the fish, Christianity’s main symbol during the early church period.  The cross or crucifix was only adopted after 313AD ,with Roman emperor Constantine’s acceptance and legalisation of Christianity.  

The fish , ICHTHUS or ΙΧΘΥΣ in Greek, being Jesus Christ, God, Son, Saviour

I esous  =Jesus                    DD Ichthys-Jesus-Fish

C hristos = Christ

T heou = God

U ios    = son

S oter   = Saviour

The Oneness of God could only be architecturally expressed as a CUBE. “the perfection of Oneness because it has the ration of 1:1:1.”

The diagonal of a cube with the side length as1 is the square root of   three : √3. This proportion 1 over  √3 , as derived of the cube (God is One)  and the Vesica Piscis  provide us with the width and length of the mandorla shape as used in Christian imagery and also in sacred geometry on the floor plan of Chartres Cathedral in France.

My curiosity was awakened. Would the  same 1 over  √3 sacred geometry called “ad triangulum”  have been used in our Roseau Cathedral ?   This Roseau church building that has been started, stopped, changed, built, stopped, completed, expanded  and finally  completed to what it is now, over so many years as we will see in a subsequent article.

And INDEED  SO  IT  WAS! 

As we have at our disposal a recent electronic surveyed Roseau Cathedral floor plan “AS IS” on AutoCAD, which was used to design the new roof, we have now accurate measurements and distances between walls and columns. The results of my research have been verified by architect Mr. Bergis STOUTE and can be verified by any architect, as is presented below.

CC VESICA PISCIS

In medieval art Jesus was often depicted above the Cathedral entrance doors, seated in Majesty in the Vesica Pisces, mediating between the two circles symbolising God and man.

In our Cathedral, dedicated to THE VIRGIN MARY (the womb of the FISH)  and with Her Assumption as Parish feast, the architecture  has all the more meaning.

But the image below will make the meaning more visual and meaningful.  An image is a portal to a deep spiritual meaning !     See the Mandorla of  “MARY and CHRIST sitting  IN MAJESTY” transposed on the sacred geometry of the Roseau Cathedral.

OLFHaven perfect

Since the beginning of time, mankind has used a beautiful language to reveal the deeper mysteries and higher aspirations of life. This language is called the language of the sign and symbol.

In his apostolic exhortation “Sacramentum Caritatis”, Pope Benedict XVI pleads for catechesis or instructions concerned with the meaning of signs : “ This is particularly important in a highly technological age like our own, which risks losing the ability to appreciate signs and symbols” end quote.

It is in this act of  my sharing  the signs and symbols with you  (“ treasures and hidden secrets”)  of our Roseau Cathedral that  I hope  you will come to appreciate  the  spiritual meaning behind the objects and building .

TREASURES OF THE ROSEAU CATHEDRAL: THE CRYPT

 THE CRYPT under the ROSEAU CATHEDRAL     by Bernard Lauwyckfrench poem in crypt

As we enter the dark, gloomy, moist area that is the Cathedral crypt, we immediately ask ourselves why candles are not burning in this burial place of the Bishops of Roseau.

The general appearance is one of neglect. Only the red –yellow bricks in the vaulted ceiling  gives some colour to an otherwise desolate place. P1050299

The back wall has a painted white cross with black drapes painted above.

The painted black drapes, faded badly,  continue along the side walls. Otherwise there is no decoration.

 

P1050205

To the left and right of the white cross, on the back wall, is a barely readable French poem .  I have been able to decipher this beautiful text  with the help of a lot of learned friends, mainly  local ones,  some overseas and I thank each of them for this.

They are the 8th and 9th stanza of a POEM called  “STANCES CHRETIENNES SUR L’HOMME”   from  the pen of Monsignor  Olympe-Philippe GERBERT (1798 -1864), Bishop of  Perpignan in France.

It can be found  in its totally in his volume “LE CHANT DES CATACOMBES” on Google  “Annales de philosophie chrétienne, Volumes 70-71” by Augustin Bonnetty, R. P. Laberthonnière, Charles Denis

« N’éteignez pas la lampe solitaire

Qui veille et luit dans un sombre caveau ;

N’éteignez pas l’espoir qui seul éclaire

La nuit du cœur et la nuit du tombeau.

 

Dieu lui réserve une fin magnifique ;

Il s’éteindra dans une autre clarté ;

Pour expirer, sa lueur prophétique

Attend un jour qui soit l’éternité. »

TRANSLATION : 

P1050220“IN MEMORIAM R.P.    RENATI     LAVA”

Rev. René-Stanislas LAVA, Redemptorist, was born in 1859 in Poperinge, Belgium and died in 1903 in Roseau Dominica, where he was doing God’s work the last 16 months of his life.

For several years a missionary in Belgium and Canada, he had, by his powerful sermons, converted many a sinner.

On April 15th, 1903, he arrived at Roseau and was attached to the Cathedral staff.  A few months later he was in the grip of one of the most dreadful and dreaded of all tropical diseases, yellow fever, and died  after only a few days’ illness, on September 13th, 1903.

From the Diocesan records we know that Rev. Fr. Patrick O’Reilly is also buried in the crypt :

But the angel of death was already hovering over Father O’Reilly and struck his fatal blow on 1st June 1882, not however in Roseau, but in New York whither he had gone, under medical advice, for the restoration of his health, which had been very badly impaired.  Arrangements were made at once to have the earthly remains of the zealous  priest of God conveyed to Roseau, the scene of his 20 years’ labour for the salvation of souls.  Early in November the corpse arrived in Roseau, and after an imposing service at the cathedral, was conveyed to its last resting place in the vault beneath the St Joseph’s chapel”

From the “The Ecclesiastical bulletin of Roseau” we know that brother Xavier, C.Ss.R. died on December 26, 1911 at the Roseau presbytery and was buried in the crypt.

He was born in St. Genois in Belgium on December 18,1862 and became an architect by training and profession before making his religious profession on October 28, 1892 at the age of 30.  He arrived in 1902 in Dominica where his architectural skills were very useful during the important renovation project of the Roseau Cathedral between 1902 and 1910.  He also worked on the Bishop’s house, the presbyteries and chapels at Laudat and Bellevue Chopin.