Posts tagged Pierre Jean De Smet
Posts tagged Pierre Jean De Smet
St. Stanislaus Centennial Monstrance
Wilhelm Rausher, Fulda, Germany.
John W. Winterich Company, Cleveland, Ohio.
Gold, silver, platinum. Precious gems.
24” x 12” x 7”
May 1923 marked the centennial of the crossing of the first Jesuits from Maryland, arrival at Saint Louis on the Mississippi River, and establishment of Saint Stanislaus Seminary in neighboring Florissant. A century later, from those humble beginnings, immigrant European Jesuits, assisted by countless women of numerous religious orders, had established missions among indigenous peoples throughout the northwest and southwest; and parishes, grade schools, and “colleges” (now high schools and universities) in burgeoning urban crossroads of transportation and commerce — including Saint Louis University, Loyola University Chicago, Marquette University, and Creighton University. Both the Suppression and Restoration of the Society of Jesus were distant memories. It was a time for celebrating triumphs. Memory had passed into history and happy remembering necessitated some forgetting.
In 1923, the country, too, was in a euphoric mood — these were the Roaring Twenties. Although America had reluctantly entered World War I — "The war to end all wars" — it emerged not only victorious but a significant power on the world stage. Although the sudden death of President Warren G. Harding later that summer would stun the nation, Calvin Coolidge seemed destined to take the “Coolidge Prosperity” into limitless horizons. The 20th Century Limited hurled ahead with previously unimaginable speed.
This is the context in which the Jesuits dedicated their newly-built chapel at Saint Stanislaus on the 100th anniversary of its founding. However, since the majestic and spacious new room now dwarfed old liturgical vessels and made them look worn, new ones were commissioned. One of those was this monstrance made by the Rauscher papal palace jewelers, court and cathedral goldsmiths of Fulda, Germany, founded by Wilhelm Rauscher (1864-1925). The project was supervised from locally by Winterich’s (est. 1913) in Cleveland. The design took a stock Rauscher pattern and incorporated elements of the new chapel’s main altar, ivory pillars, and triangular tympanum.
The precious metals and semi-precious stones were obtained by a word-of-mouth campaign among the families of Jesuits. The greatest single source of gold came from a collection of academic medals that had been won by Jesuit scholastics. The largest contributor was student Claude Heithaus, SJ, who would become well-known twenty years later for his sermon condemning racial segregation at St. Louis University. The most active collector of jewels for the monstrance was Mrs. Margaret Morrison, mother of Fr. John Morrison, SJ, who would later serve in the Patna (India) mission. Family contributions included a pair of diamond earrings, a diamond ring, and a large smoky topaz. The finer stones are set in platinum, a precious metal that came from a donated old-style watch chain. The novice’s father who donated it owned mines in the Colorado Rockies.
The completed monstrance arrived at Saint Stanislaus in the spring of 1928. The Winternich’s shows the final cost to have been $10,500.00 in 1928 currency —- $202,065.00 in today’s dollars.
Later that summer, on August 11, 1928, Herbert Hoover accepted the Republican nomination for president: “We in America today,” he declared, “are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land. The poor-house is vanishing from among us. We have not yet reached the goal, but given a change to go forward with the policies of the last eight years, and we shall soon with he help of God be in sight of the day when poverty will be banished from this nation.”
On November 6, 1928 Hoover defeated Al Smith. Five days later, President Coolidge commemorated the tenth anniversary of the Armistice ending the Great War. On March 4, 1929, President Hoover was inaugurated, a new president to continue the boom times.
Eight months later, on October 29, 1929, "Black Tuesday" inaugurated the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Crucifix of Pierre Jean De Smet, SJ
Unknown Flemish Master
Ebonized wood and ivory
22” x 4 1/2" x 4 1/2”
On May 31, 1823, Pierre Jean De Smet, SJ, crossed the Mississippi River and arrived in the newly-established city of Saint Louis.
On May 23, 1873, exactly fifty years later, De Smet died in his room at St. Louis University at 9th and Washington.
As one generation passed to the next, De Smet’s death marked a turning-point in the story of Restoration Jesuits in America. As a newly-arrived immigrant, he was among the first band of twelve Belgian Jesuits and six African-American slaves to leave Maryland, cross the country, and build a dwelling in Missouri.
A half-century later, in the same year of his death, De Smet lived to see the Jesuits’ establishment of “St. Elizabeth Church for Colored.” He did not, however, live another two years to see Italian immigrant Jesuits arrive in Trinidad on the old Santa Fe Trail, assuming responsibility for the burgeoning mission to the Southwest.
Westward expansion brought great tragedy along with growth, and De Smet experienced disappointment and disillusionment in his later years. As he watched the post-Civil War forced migration and “resettlement” of indigenous peoples intensify, he realized his Romantic dream of an independent American Indian “Reduction” had been shattered.
Regardless of the final historical outcomes, De Smet would become known as a peacemaker. His interior vision, shaped by many years of meditating with the Spiritual Exercises, interpreted his own hardships and betrayals as Christ’s own suffering in contemporary history.
This Flemish crucifix, brought to America from De Smet’s native land — an image upon which he must have gazed for countless hours — was found in his room at the time of his death.
O my Father, in order to satisfy your justice irritated against the sinner, you have not desired a host nor oblation. Rather, you have given me a body and I have said: Father here I am in order to do your will. I accept the humiliations of the manger and the exhaustion of exile, the betrayal and insults, and the thorns and the gall and the lance, everything! Up to the very ignominy of the cross … Oh Father, that my sacrifice might be acceptable to you and that it might assure the return of your infinite compassion to sorrowful sinners.
Chalice of Thomas Ewing Sherman, SJ
Sterling Silver (ca. 1889)
7” x 6” x 10”
Thomas Ewing Sherman, SJ (1856-1933) was the fourth child and second son of Union Army General William Tecumseh Sherman and his wife Ellen Ewing Sherman. Ellen (born Eleanor Boyle Ewing) was the daughter of prominent politician Thomas Ewing, first United States Secretary of the Interior. From his earliest moments, Sherman’s life was shaped by this “Civil War Dynasty.”
Like her mother, Maria Boyle Ewing, Ellen was a staunch Catholic and raised her children in that faith. Beginning in 1851, Pierre Jean De Smet was a family friend of the Shermans and frequented their home. Ellen was a supporter of and advocate for De Smet, securing him passports and maps, and bringing his issues to the general’s attention. When Louisiana seceded in 1861, William Sherman moved his family — including five-year-old “Tom” — to St. Louis where he accepted a job as president of a railroad company. “Tom” was acquainted with De Smet from his earliest years.
In October 1863, at the mid-point of the Civil War, Tom’s brother Willie —- his father’s favorite son —- died at age 9. The general was inconsolable and filled with morbid melancholy. His anger and despair were intensified fifteen years later when Tom suddenly gave up law to join the Jesuits in 1878. After ten years of formation, Tom was ordained in 1889 —- the year following the death of his mother. (This sterling silver chalice, designed and manufactured by the world-renowned Saint Louis jewelers Mermod and Jaccard, was an ordination gift.) When his father died two years later, Sherman presided over the general’s funeral and burial at Calvary Cemetery in Saint Louis.
Although he spent time teaching at Saint Louis University, Sherman’s interests became increasingly public after his father’s death. He became popular as a speaker and enthralled mass audiences with his lectures, both on account of his rhetorical skills and as the son of the famous military general. Beginning in 1899 (after a year’s chaplaincy in the Spanish-American War), he used St. Ignatius College in Chicago as his base of operations for speaking and writing.
However, Sherman’s mental health entered into a period of steady decline as he suffered recurrent bouts of severe depression. In 1911, he collapsed and entered what would be the first of many mental health sanitariums. Between 1914 and 1933 he lived outside the Society of Jesus. He died shortly after renewing his religious is buried in the Jesuit cemetery at Grand Coteau, Louisiana.
The body of Thomas Ewing Sherman, SJ, rests in the earth next to that of John Salter, SJ — grandnephew of Alexander Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederacy.
Lender: Midwest Jesuit Archives, Saint Louis, Missouri
From The Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project: “Another Book with a Civil War History.”
Four Calumets of Pierre Jean De Smet
A calumet is a ceremonial smoking pipe traditionally used to seal a covenant or treaty, or to offer prayers in a religious ceremony. As is true in many cultures, including Catholicism, smoke is an integral part of religious ritual. Pierre De Smet was no stranger to the smoking of tobacco in everyday settings; and given his many years as an “ambassador” —- organizing peace gatherings and peace treaties —- he would have had many occasions to smoke calumets.
In 1851, De Smet helped organized and attended the Council of Fort Laramie. In 1868, he helped convince the Sioux to attend the peace council at Fort Rice. If the calumets in this exhibition are Sioux in origin, it is possible that they were gifted to De Smet in 1868 after the signing of the Fort Laramie Treaty. They might also derive from the following year, 1869 —- four years before his death —- the last time De Smet was physically capable of traveling such a distance.
Like numerous other sacred objects in this exhibition, the calumet both signifies communion and is an instrument of peace. The people who smoked these calumets two centuries ago did so filled with hope: they aimed at halting hostilities and sealing peace. Whenever De Smet was given these calumets, their message was simple: he was a peacemaker.
De Smet and the delegation to Washington, DC.
This bronze relief of a calumet, sculpted by Edward Kemeys, adorns entry door kick plates at The Marquette Building (1895) (located south of the Loyola University Museum of Art and just blocks away from Millennium Park). It symbolizes the calumet given by tribal members of the Illinois Confederation (Illini) to Père Jacques Marquette, SJ, and Louis Jolliet.
Glass mosaic in the rotunda of The Marquette Building (1895) —- again commemorating the gift of the calumet to Marquette and Jolliet by the Illinois.
"They replied that they were Illinois; and, as a token of peace, they offered us their pipes to smoke." — Marquette’s Journal, 1673. (Bronze relief, Marquette Building, by Herman A. MacNeil.)
"In vain I showed the calumet, and made them signs that we were not coming to war against them." — Marquette’s Journal, 1673. (Bronze relief, Marquette Building, by Herman A. MacNeil.)
Burse — from Vestment Set of Pierre Jean De Smet
Needlework with woven fabric (wool?), linen lining
9” x 9”
This burse was reputedly made by indigenous Americans and gifted to Pierre Jean De Smet —- an antique tag sewn on the chasuble attributes its provenance to “an Indian princess.” De Smet is then reputed to have given it in turn —- in 1868, five years prior to his death —- to Sister Lucina Simms of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.
More than either the chasuble or the chalice veil, the burse in this vestment set suggests the use of indigenous —- perhaps Salish —- design elements. In particular, the circles, crescents and trigons of Coast Salish design are evoked in the burse’s geometrical figures.
In addition, both the Coast and Interior Salish have been well-known for their weaving techniques since the 1700s. Captain James Cook (1728-1779) collected Salish weaving and a few rare remaining weavings are cared for today in European Museums.
Because of the labor involved in raising or hunting the scarce animal sources of fabric materials, as well as the intense labor involved in producing the textile products, weaving was intimately related to gift-giving. For example, the gift of a mountain goat wool blanket would bestow prestige upon the donor and much honor upon the receiver.
Although the tag sewn into this vestment set attributing its provenance to an “Indian princess” is cryptic and of unknown origin, the intention seems clear. The gift of these vestments not only signaled honor for Pierre De Smet; it also indicated a high degree of prestige and status for the indigenous donor.
Chalice Veil — from Vestment Set of Pierre Jean De Smet
Silk with linen lining
211/2" x 211/2”
This chalice veil was reputedly made by indigenous Americans and gifted to Pierre Jean De Smet —- an antique tag sewn on the chasuble attributes its provenance to “an Indian princess.” De Smet is then reputed to have given it in turn —- in 1868, five years prior to his death —- to Sister Lucina Simms of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.
As noted in the post on the chasuble in this vestment set, the decision to use the color red is an intriguing choice. Unlike the cope made by Rose Philippine Duchesne displayed in this exhibition, a red vestment would not have had as much use as one in black (funerals), violet (penitential seasons), white (Christmas and Easter seasons), or green (the vast majority of the liturgical year). In fact, of all the liturgical colors, red is the least used.
Red —- associated with blood —- is primarily used for the celebration of feasts of martyrs and Christ’s passion. Perhaps this association was the appeal of red for the person who made this vestment. Among other feasts marking victory through suffering, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14) is celebrated with red vestments.
Several of Nicolas Point’s drawings show the way in which indigenous Americans associated following Christianity with success in hunting and victory in warfare. Christianity sacralized suffering and elevated martyrdom to sacred status. Perhaps this close identification of life and death is the reason for having chosen the color red for these vestments.
Chasuble - from Vestment Set of Pierre Jean De Smet
Chasuble: 42” x 26”
DETAIL: Front view
Chasuble - from Vestment Set of Pierre Jean De Smet
Chasuble: 42” x 26”
This chasuble in the "fiddleback" style combines silk with intricate needlepoint or weaving. It was reputedly made by indigenous Americans and gifted to Pierre Jean De Smet —- an antique tag sewn on the chasuble attributes its provenance to “an Indian princess.” De Smet is then reputed to have given it in turn —- in 1868, five years prior to his death —- to Sister Lucina Simms of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.
In the center of the body of the chasuble is a handwoven cross. At the center of the cross is the "IHS" monogram — the beginning of the name "Jesus" and used in the official seal of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) as far back as St. Ignatius Loyola. The bottom of the cross is puzzling: at first glance it seems to be steps on a ladder for climbing. The front of the chasuble is entirely composed of this “ladder” motif. Like the back, it too alternates white flowers with purple-rose flowers.
If these “steps” do in fact represent a ladder, it likely alludes to the "Catholic Ladder" Pictorial Catechism, and more specifically to De Smet’s popular Indian Symbolic Catechism (1843). (Compare the drawing by Nicolas Point, SJ: ““Un chef Pied noirs aprés avoir vu l’echelle catholique que lui explique Ambroise, chef Tête-plate” [A Blackfeet chief after having seen the Catholic Ladder which was explained to him by Ambroise, chief of the Flathead].
The decision to make a chasuble in red is an intriguing choice. Unlike the cope made by Rose Philippine Duchesne displayed in this exhibition, a red vestment would not have had as much use as one in black (funerals), violet (penitential seasons), white (Christmas and Easter seasons), or green (the vast majority of the liturgical year). In fact, of all the liturgical colors, red is the least used.
Red —- associated with blood —- is primarily used for the celebration of feasts of martyrs and Christ’s passion. Perhaps this association was the appeal of red for the person who made this vestment. If this indented pattern does in fact represent a ladder, the climb toward the summit —- the “IHS” or “Jesus” —- is alternatively marked by flowers in liturgical symbolic colors: purple (penance and suffering); rose (used to mark half-way points in penitential seasons); and white (resurrection and triumph). Among other feasts marking victory through suffering, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14) is celebrated with red vestments.
Several of Nicolas Point’s drawings show the way in which indigenous Americans associated following Christianity with victory in warfare. Christianity sacralized suffering and elevated martyrdom to sacred status. Perhaps this exaltation of suffering is the reason for these red vestments.
Vestment Set of Pierre Jean De Smet
Chasuble: 42” x 26”
Veil: 211/2" x 211/2”
Burse: 9” x 9”
This vestment set of a chasuble, chalice veil, and burse combines silk with intricate needlepoint or weaving. It was reputedly made by indigenous Americans and gifted to Pierre Jean De Smet —- an antique tag sewn on the chasuble attributes its provenance to “an Indian princess.” De Smet is then reputed to have given it in turn —- in 1868, five years prior to his death —- to Sister Lucina Simms of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.
Forty years earlier, in 1830, Simms and two other Daughters of Charity had traveled by stage coach and canal boat from Emmitsburg, Maryland to Utica, New York. There they founded the St. John’s Orphan Asylum for girls.
In 1843, the Daughters of Charity were placed in charge of St. Vincent’s School in Saint Louis established by Archbishop Kenrick. It is not known when Sister Lucina Simms arrived at St. Vincent’s —- she might well have been one of its founders. Or she might have come to Saint Louis during or after the Civil War (1861-1865) in which the Daughters of Charity worked as nurses on the battlefields. Whenever Simms arrived in the city, she is known to have become St. Vincent’s superior in 1875, two years after the death of De Smet. Simms was probably already an important figure at the school during at least the late 1860s when she received this gift from De Smet.
In August 2013, following on a request made by Crossings and Dwellings six months earlier to borrow and display these vestments at this 2014 exhibition, the Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives made a generous gift of the vestments to the Jesuit Archives of the Central United States. After many crossings they have now made their dwelling once again in Saint Louis, the intersection at which Pierre De Smet and Lucina Simms first crossed paths. The vestments have become gifts for a third time.
Deerskin Coat of Pierre Jean De Smet
25” x 38”
This coat was given as a gift to Pierre De Smet, most likely by members of the Bitter Root Valley Salish (Flathead) tribe. The deer was and remains at the center of Salish culture, playing a key ritual role in the feeding of deceased ancestors. (This ritualistic role has become the subject of recent court proceedings.)
Similarly, the leaves and berries depicted on the coat are perhaps intended to represent Salal berries, not only a staple in the Salish diet, but an essential element in tribal medicine.
A writer relates that Salal berries “were a staple food that could be mashed, dried into cakes and then stored and eaten in the winter months.” Erna Gunther writes in Ethnobotany of Western Washington:
Wherever the berries of the salal are used, they are mashed and dried in cakes, often put on split cedar boards or on skunk cabbage leaves. These cakes are soaked to prepare them for eating and are dipped in whale or seal oil. The loaves of salal berries prepared by the Lower Chinook weigh as much as 10 to 15 pounds. The Quileute pick the whole twig with the berries still on, and, dipping it in whale oil, pull it through the mouth to eat the berries while they are still fresh. The Klallam chew the leaves and spit them on burns. The Quinault chew the leaves to relieve heartburn and colic.
One of the original appeals of Christianity for indigenous Americans was its claim — as a healing religion — to provide “medicine.” (Already in the 17th century, Jesuits were contesting indigenous medicinal practices — like lacrosse and gambling — with Christian beliefs.)
The deerskin coat decorated with Salal berries and leaves, made for and given to De Smet to wear over his “blackrobe,” is imbued with religious referents.
For more on this deerskin coat, watch the video presentation produced by Loyola Chicago social media grad students here.
In the background, a deer with great-sized antlers stands below a fiery Sacred Heart high in the sky. On both sides of the heart are angels with hunting spears. Directly below it is a Christian priest dressed in biretta, cassock, surplice, and a stole, his left hand holding high cross as he blesses the hunting arms held high by the hunters. An indigenous hunter kneels ambiguously beneath the Christian priest / Sacred Heart and before the deer — is he being blessed by the priest or the deer or both? The deer’s head seems to be crowned with a cross, ambiguously intertwined with the antlers. The hybridizing of Christian and indigenous religious symbols is typical of Point’s vision and work.