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Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

mock fireplace

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It’s National Pumpkin Pie Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Merry Christmas to all.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 25, 2017 at 2:30 pm

seasonal tiding

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It’s National Date Nut Bread Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Holiday greetings and salutations to all of you lords and ladies who ascribe to the particular sort of iconography pictured above.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 22, 2017 at 12:00 pm

thousand faced

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And here we are, Christmas.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I like a good religious tableau, which is odd, as I believe in nothing. Literally, “nothing.” As in the void, emptiness, and entropy. Call me a nihilist if you will, or a strict materialist – but if I can’t burn it, break it, or prove it empirically – it ain’t. Others cling to their own beliefs, and luckily many are inspired to create art to express these ideations and fantasies. Pictured above, a carved wooden nativity display observed at a church on Manhattan’s Houston Street shortly following a tense discussion with my landlord last year.

I may not believe in anything beyond dissolution (and Superman, of course), but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate someone else’s set of ideas made manifest.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saint Irene’s in Astoria displays the Orthodox splendors for which the Greek church is renowned. As the perennial outsider, I’ve always observed that a primary difference in the graphic stylings of Orthodox and Catholic Churches is in the depiction of the god head itself. The Latins prefer to focus on the final stages of the passion, depicting the Christ during or after the scourging offered by the Romans. Catholic Jesus is moments away from death, covered in wounds, and suffering. The Greeks seem to focus in on Christ in the mold of a “hero” in the classical sense – well muscled, tough and triumphant, a spiritual Spartan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Manhattan, which is one of the most glorious interior spaces to be found anywhere on that accursed island. This shot is actually from their Irish language St. Patrick’s Day mass, which I’m mentioning simply because anyone who grew up Catholic will be able to spot the costuming on their prelates as being seasonably inappropriate. I get in trouble with the religious types all the time when I refer to the pulpit as the stage, the robes as costumes, and ask about what the script calls for.

This betrays me, as it becomes fairly obvious to all that I regard visiting a church in the same manner as I do a theater. Saying that, just because I don’t believe in what you do doesn’t make me right and you wrong, it just means we differ. I’d like to believe that everybody else out there would afford others the same courtesy, but the front pages of newspapers and the interiors of history books indicate that such a belief is a foolish but inherently American sort of idea.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

St. Andrew’s at Printers Square in Lower Manhattan, just behind the courthouse, has a spectacular pieta on display in its dimly lit chapel. This is an example of what I was saying about the “suffering Christ” iconography which seems to be preferred by the Catholic side of the great schism.

I really enjoy photographing churches and ritual spaces, incidentally, and should anyone reading this be in a position to invite me in to one for a couple of hours – I’d love to come by with the tripod and my other gear and record the scene if you can “get me in.”

As always, however, like a Vampire I need to be invited in to do my work.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, what do Jews, Mohammadans, Buddhists, Daoists, Agnostics, Atheists, Nihilists, and the Hindus do on Christmas Eve? Short answer involves Chinese food, and bars. There’ll be someplace open to go tilt back a few and play some pool, discuss the issues of the day, and avoid the seasonal holidays.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Merry Christmas, from this, your Newtown Pentacle.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 24, 2015 at 11:00 am

smartly curled

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A visit to Manhattan, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For reasons that I’d rather not go into, one had several hours to kill recently while immersed in an elevated and overtly emotional state of mind. Wandering around First Avenue and its side streets, between 14th and 23rd street, happenstance carried me to 415 14th street where one may notice that the Church of the Immaculate Conception stands. The address once belonged to a Presbyrterian outfit that called itself “Grace Chapel” but after the construction of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village annihilated the Roman Catholic original “Immaculate Conception” across the street, the Catholics purchased the building and moved in. They’ve been here since 1946, I’m told.

from immaculateconception-nyc.org

In 1914, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company embarked on one of the most successful urban renewal projects in the history of New York City. It created Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town to address a projected housing shortage among returning World War II veterans. The Met, as it was known in those days, bought up block after block of the area between 14th and 23rd Streets, from First Avenue to Avenue C. Included in the purchases were Immaculate Conception Church, its rectory, convent and school buildings.

The Archdiocese of New York then purchased an Episcopal mission settlement, Grace Chapel, on the south side of 14th Street, East of First Avenue. It was renamed “Immaculate Conception.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Lower East Side, along with Harlem, barely resembles the neighborhood I remember from the 1980’s. This particular corner used to be a good place to die, or at least catch a scorching case of death, and there was a bit of a fortress mentality to the area back “in the day.” Junkies, addicts, and the whole crew of loathsome indigents who called the L line Subway station on 14th “HQ” used to pollute the sidewalks hereabouts. It was odd to see the gates to the church open, and a sign promised that there was a cloister back here, so I scuttled onto the property to take a look.

from wikipedia

A cloister (from Latin claustrum, “enclosure”) is an open space surrounded by covered walks or open galleries, with open arcades on the inner side, running along the walls of buildings and forming a quadrangle or garth. The attachment of a cloister to a cathedral or church, commonly against a warm southern flank, usually indicates that it is (or once was) part of a monastic foundation, “forming a continuous and solid architectural barrier… that effectively separates the world of the monks from that of the serfs and workmen, whose lives and works went on outside and around the cloister.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, the so called cloister seems to have converted over to a parking lot, so there wasn’t too much to see. There’s also a parochial school back here, and for some reason – unaccompanied middle aged men with cameras seem to set off alarm bells when the subject of school children comes up so I headed back out to 14th street. I did stop into the chapel, but there were bunches of adherents praying in there and I didn’t want to disturb their reverie or violate their privacy by taking photos.

It’s quite lovely in there, however.

from wikipedia

Stranger danger is the danger to children presented by strangers. The phrase stranger danger is intended to sum up the danger associated with adults whom children do not know. The phrase has found widespread usage and many children will hear it (or similar advice) during their childhood lives. Many books, films and public service announcements have been devoted to helping children remember this advice. The concept has been criticized for ignoring the fact that most child abductions and harm result not from strangers, but rather from someone the child knows.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the front of the church, there’s a public fountain. There aren’t many of these 19th century artifacts left in Manhattan – I can think of one in the west village and a couple down near the City Hall/Canal Street area that was once known as the Five Points, but it’s a rare thing to spot them anymore. I’m far more surprised that it survived the urban renewal period of the 40’s and 50’s than our current era of gentrification, actually. It’s more than likely that there used to be a common cup chained to the fountain, not unlike the one displayed in a period photo at ephemeralnewyork in the link below.

from ephemeralnewyork

This 1913 photo shows a boy at a public water fountain in Madison Square Park; he’s drinking from a common cup attached to a chain. Of course, no one today would ever drink from the same cup thousands of strangers also put their lips on. But back then, in pre-germ-awareness times, not everyone realized how unsanitary it was.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m no metallurgist, but to me the fountain seems to be bronze. There’s a basin and two ornamental fishes, the latter were where the water was dispensed into the former. If you think its difficult finding a place to sit down or use a toilet in 21st century Manhattan, you couldn’t imagine how rough it would have been back in the late 19th century.

Back then, this part of the Shining City was a thriving immigrant neighborhood of tenements and small factories that extended to the East River. The other side of the street, where Stuyvesant Town currently squats, was once a slum called “The Gaslight district.” Amenities like this drinking fountain were acts of charity offered to the affected masses by the well off. On the masonry above it is the legend “Ho, everyone that thirsteth.”

from wikipedia

In 1842, one gas storage tank at East 23rd Street and the river was erected, quickly followed by the construction of other gas tanks, and by the late 19th century, the site of the complex had become known as the Gashouse District because of the many tanks that dominated the streetscapes. The tanks, which sometimes leaked, made the area undesirable, as did the Gas House Gang and other predators who operated in the area. With the construction of the FDR Drive, the area began to improve. By the 1930s, all but four tanks were gone and, while shabby, the area was no more blighted than many parts of the city after the years of the Great Depression; crime in the district had been endemic, however. When Alexander S. Williams was promoted to police captain and assigned to the area, he met the gangs’ violence with equal force of his own, putting together a brute squad that beat up gangsters with clubs. He commented: “There is more law at the end of a policeman’s nightstick than in a decision of the Supreme Court.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the base of the bronze fountain is a legend offering the birth and death dates for a person named “Fanny Garretson Russell.” I looked around the web for information on this inscription, which you’d think would be well documented due to its presence in Manhattan, but found nothing.

“OK” thought I, and utilizing some of my “find the hidden history of Queens” skills, I got to work-

Fanny was the grand daughter of Charles Handy Russell, of Providence Rhode Island. Russell’s father was a Major in the continental army during the American Revolution, and the family history goes all the way back to the Mayflower on one side and the founding of Woburn, Massachusetts in 1640 on the other.

Charles Handy Russell came to New York in the 1820’s, rising to a position of financial and political prominence. Russell was a railroad man, the President of the Bank of Commerce, dabbled in maritime insurance, was part of the original board of directors in charge of Central Park, and a husband to Caroline Howland. The couple had children: Charles Howland Russell – who was the Private Secretary of the United States Secretary of State during the administration of President Hayes, and Samuel Howland Russell were amongst them.

Samuel, a mining engineer who graduated from Columbia University, married Elizabeth Watts Garretson in June of 1884. Their first daughter was named Fanny, who died on the 23rd of August in 1894. This fountain’s dedication is to her.

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not inefficient

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Action figures found.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our Lady of the Pentacle has a weird affection for those 99 cent stores, which seldom have dollar items on sale, which you find peppered about in Astoria. Gewgaws and doodads are the stock in trade for this sort of establishment, and while following her around last week, I encountered what seemed to be the entire cast of RC Comics available as limited articulation action figures. They had the big guy, and all the supporting players on sale.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Idolatry notwithstanding, these were actually piss poor as far as the moldings and likenesses side of things go. DC and Marvel figurines often amaze with their clever construction and quality of verisimilitude to the licensed character, but these RC figures were frankly reminiscent of the sort of things kids were offered back in the 70’s.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Still, a complete set of Saints with the Big Guy clothed in all three identities is hard to turn down. It would be cool to have the entire Justice League displayed, but I’ve got to find a 99 cent store where the Injustice Society is available as well. I doubt they’ll only be $1.39 a piece, instead their cost will be probably be diabolical.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 22, 2013 at 7:30 am

dared not

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Overwhelmed and underwhelming, that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, we have once again hit that time of the year when the offerings here at your Newtown Pentacle are going to consist of an odd image and a pithy comment or two. The reason for this is the same as it has been every November – busy, busy, busy and exhausted. A short break from substance is required, to allow a humble narrator the opportunity to actually get out there and explore and shoot and research. Today’s shot is from the Procession of San Pio in Astoria, a religious ceremony conducted by St. Joseph’s RC Church.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 6, 2013 at 11:42 am

deserted midnight

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

A friend recently published an excellent book (Eat the City) and your humble narrator was invited to the reception party her publisher was sponsoring on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. On the way to the event, deep in Alphabet City, this church building at 345 East 4th street between Avenues B and C caught my eye.

Built in 1895 as a Russian church, it currently houses the congregation of “San Isidro y San Leandro of the Western Orthodox Catholic Church of the Hispanic Mozarabic Rite”.

from wikipedia

Western Rite Orthodoxy or Western Orthodoxy or Orthodox Western Rite are terms used to describe congregations and groups which are in communion with Eastern Orthodox Churches or Oriental Orthodox Churches using traditional Western liturgies rather than adopting Eastern liturgies such as the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. While there are some ancient examples of Western Rite churches in areas predominantly using the Byzantine Rite (the Monastery of Saint Mary of the Latins, often referred to as Amalfi, is a common example), the history of the movement is often considered to begin in the nineteenth century with the life and work of Julius Joseph Overbeck. Less commonly, Western Orthodoxy refers to the Western Church before the Great Schism.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The history of this structure is somewhat hazy, but it was purpose built as a church. Originally a catholic church serving the St. Elizabeth of Hungary parish, ownership was transferred to the “Russian-Greek Orthodox Chapel of the Holy Trinity” and then the “Russian Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas”. I’ve been unable to tie down exactly when the current congregants took possession of the structure.

from wikipedia

The Mozarabic Rite is the second-best attested liturgy in the Latin Church in terms of preserved documentation. The Mozarabic Rite was considered authoritative for the clarification of a Sacramentary received by Charlemagne from Pope Adrian I (d. 795). The first is, of course, the Roman Rite, which, to encourage unity of faith and worship, generally replaced the Mozarabic in Iberia from about 1080.

In the year 870, Charles the Bald, wishing to see what the ancient Gallican Rite had been like, had priests sent from Spain to celebrate the Mozarabic Rite before him.

In the latter part of the eighth century, the Rite had fallen under some suspicion owing to quotations cited by Elipandus of Toledo in support of his Adoptianist theories, and the Council of Frankfurt 794 spoke somewhat disparagingly of possible Islamic influence on it. It was due to these suspicions that in 924, John X sent a Papal Legate named Zanello to investigate the Rite. Zanello spoke favourably of the Rite, and the Pope gave a new approbation to it, requiring only to change the words of consecration to that of the Roman one. Spanish clergy gradually started to use the Roman words of institution (though there is no evidence whether or not it was done consistently).

When King Alfonso VI of Castile conquered Toledo in 1085, it was being disputed as to which rite Iberian Christians should follow: the Roman rite or Mozarabic Rite. After other ordeals, it was submitted to the trial by fire: One book for each rite was thrown into a fire. The Toledan book was little damaged whilst the Roman one was consumed. Henry Jenner comments in the Catholic Encyclopedia: “No one who has seen a Mozarabic manuscript with its extraordinarily solid vellum, will adopt any hypothesis of Divine Interposition here.” The king allowed six parishes in the city to continue to use the Mozarabic rite.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Baroque, and literally gothic in its decoration and design elements, the church reminds one that the monolithic Roman Catholic Church of modernity was once rent asunder by schisms. The Church was once caught between two dying and one growing empires (Latin Rome, Greek Rome, and the Arab Rum) which caused isolated pockets of Christian adherents to stray from Vatican orthodoxy. Often, it was the endless sea of politics which created these schisms, but as often as not it was merely regional variation in belief.

from wikipedia

Saint Isidore of Seville (Spanish: San Isidro or San Isidoro de Sevilla, Latin: Isidorus Hispalensis) (c. 560 – 4 April 636) served as Archbishop of Seville for more than three decades and is considered, as the historian Montalembert put it in an oft-quoted phrase, “le dernier savant du monde ancien” (“the last scholar of the ancient world”). Indeed, all the later medieval history-writing of Hispania (modern Spain and Portugal) was based on his histories.

At a time of disintegration of classical culture, and aristocratic violence and illiteracy, he was involved in the conversion of the royal Visigothic Arians to Catholicism, both assisting his brother Leander of Seville, and continuing after his brother’s death. He was influential in the inner circle of Sisebut, Visigothic king of Hispania. Like Leander, he played a prominent role in the Councils of Toledo and Seville. The Visigothic legislation which resulted from these councils is regarded by modern historians as exercising an important influence on the beginnings of representative government.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The world of a thousand years ago, while bearing strange similarity to our own, saw one of the great wheels of history grinding to a halt. The process that began with Alexander the Great and continued through Rome’s unified empire, then the Western and Eastern Roman imperiums, and the fall of the West and subsequent reign of the barbarous men of the North- spawned several Catholic variants which few have ever heard of. The Copts, Mozarabs, and Syriacs come to mind, of course- as do the Arians, Monophysites, and Nestorians.

from wikipedia

Leander and Isidore and their siblings (all sainted) belonged to an elite family of Hispano-Roman stock of Carthago Nova. Their father Severianus is claimed to be according to their hagiographers a dux or governor of Cartagena, though this seems more of a fanciful interpretation since Isidore simply states that he was a citizen. The family moved to Seville around 554. The children’s subsequent public careers reflect their distinguished origin: Leander and Isidore both became bishops of Seville, and their sister Saint Florentina was an abbess who directed forty convents and one thousand nuns. Even the third brother, Fulgentius, appointed Bishop of Écija at the first triumph of Catholicism over Arianism, but of whom little is known, has been canonised as a saint. The family as a matter of course were staunch Catholics, as were the great majority of the Romanized population, from top to bottom; only the Visigothic nobles and the kings were Arians. It should be stated that there was less Visigothic persecution of Catholics than legend and hagiography have painted. From a modern standpoint, the dangers of Catholic Christianity were more political. The Catholic hierarchy were in collusion with the representatives of the Byzantine emperor, who had maintained a considerable territory in the far south of Hispania ever since his predecessor had been invited to the peninsula by the former Visigothic king several decades before. In the north, Liuvigild struggled to maintain his possessions on the far side of the Pyrenees, where his Merovingian cousins and in-laws cast envious eyes on them and had demonstrated that they would stop at nothing with the murder of Liuvigild’s sister.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An interesting series of clips, detailing the choral aspects of the Mozarabic rite, can be accessed here. Always fascinated by the prismatic flavors of faith, your humble narrator is glad to have stumbled across this enigmatic little church. Should any congregants of the institution have anything to add or correct, please use the comments link to share your knowledge.

from wikipedia

The Mozarabs (Spanish: mozárabes [moˈθaɾaβes]; Portuguese: moçárabes [muˈsaɾɐβɨʃ]; Catalan: mossàrabs [muˈsaɾəps]; Arabic: مستعرب‎ trans. musta’rab, “Arabized”) were Iberian Christians who lived under Arab Islamic rule in Al-Andalus. Their descendants remained unconverted to Islam, but did however adopt elements of Arabic language and culture. They were mostly Roman Catholics of the Visigothic or Mozarabic Rite.
Most of the Mozarabs were descendants of Hispano–Gothic Christians and were primarily speakers of the Mozarabic language under Islamic rule. Many were also what the arabist Mikel de Epalza calls “Neo-Mozarabs”, that is Northern Europeans who had come to the Iberian Peninsula and picked up Arabic, thereby entering the Mozarabic community.

A few were Arab and Berber Christians coupled with Muslim converts to Christianity who, as Arabic speakers, naturally were at home among the original Mozarabs. A prominent example of Muslims who became Mozarabs by embracing Christianity is the Andalusian rebel and Anti-Umayyad military leader, Umar ibn Hafsun. The Mozarabs of Muslim origin were descendants of those Muslims who converted to Christianity, following the conquest of Toledo and perhaps also, following the expeditions of king Alfonso I of Aragon. These Mozarabs of Muslim origin, who converted en masse at the end of the 11th century, many of them Muladi (ethnic Iberians previously converted to Islam), are totally distinct from the Mudéjars and Moriscos who converted gradually to Christianity between the 12th and 17th centuries. Some Mozarabs were even Converso Sephardi Jews who likewise became part of the Mozarabic milieu.

Separate Mozarab enclaves were located in the large Muslim cities, especially Toledo, Córdoba, Zaragoza, and Seville.

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August 5th, 2012- Newtown Creek Alliance Walking Tour- The Insalubrious Valley- This Sunday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Creek Alliance historian Mitch Waxman will be leading a walk through the industrial heartlands of New York City, exploring the insalubrious valley of the Newtown Creek.

The currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens, and the place where the Industrial Revolution actually happened, provides a dramatic and picturesque setting for this exploration. We’ll be visiting two movable bridges, the still standing remains of an early 19th century highway, and a forgotten tributary of the larger waterway. As we walk along the Newtown Creek and explore the “wrong side of the tracks” – you’ll hear tales of the early chemical industry, “Dead Animal and Night Soil Wharfs”, colonial era heretics and witches and the coming of the railroad. The tour concludes at the famed Clinton Diner in Maspeth- where scenes from the Martin Scorcese movie “Goodfellas” were shot.

Lunch at Clinton Diner is included with the ticket.

Details/special instructions.

Meetup at the corner of Grand Street and Morgan Avenue in Brooklyn at 11 a.m. on August 5, 2012. The L train serves a station at Bushwick Avenue and Grand Street, and the Q54 and Q59 bus lines stop nearby as well. Check MTA.info as ongoing weekend construction often causes delays and interruptions. Drivers, it would be wise to leave your vehicle in the vicinity of the Clinton Diner in Maspeth, Queens or near the start of the walk at Grand St. and Morgan Avenue (you can pick up the bus to Brooklyn nearby the Clinton Diner).

Be prepared: We’ll be encountering broken pavement, sometimes heavy truck traffic as we move through a virtual urban desert. Dress and pack appropriately for hiking, closed-toe shoes are highly recommended.

Clinton Diner Menu:

  • Cheese burger deluxe
  • Grilled chicken over garden salad
  • Turkey BLT triple decker sandwich with fries
  • Spaghetti with tomato sauce or butter
  • Greek salad medium
  • Greek Salad wrap with French fries
  • Can of soda or 16oz bottle of Poland Spring

for August 5th tickets, click here for the Newtown Creek Alliance ticketing page

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 1, 2012 at 12:15 am

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