Sunday, May 31
Prague:: Mass at Strahov/tour Strahov Abbey Library and lunch/travel to Berlin (4:30 drive)/hotel in Berlin
Over the course of the trip I’ve discovered we have 6 lefties. It came to mind because we’ve eaten together so often. This group is very considerate and the lefties always want the ends as to not elbow their neighbors.
Lunch was great today—again; duck and 2 types of dumplings, onion soup and dessert crepes. But this time we had St. Norbert Amber beer offered to us. The restaurant associated with the Abbey has many types of St. Norbert beer on their menu.
Earlier we went to Mass at Strohov. Not to minimize it the church by any means, but it was another Baroque Abbey. Mass was in Czech today. I didn’t understand a word. Some First Communicants were there in their adorable little suits. And lots of incense wafted into the rafters. This church also has many frescoes on the ceiling that are muted colors surrounded by gold, white and pink stucco embellishments. The incense filled the air and the space a sense of atmospheric perspective–where scenery is less vibrant and more grey as it recedes to the horizon. Something beautiful happens to light when the air is hazy. Outdoors, some refer to it as “God light.” Seems appropriate here.
The organ played and children sang. Their little voices were such a stark difference from the booming organ music we’ve heard and I wasn’t altogether prepared for it. John and I are out of words for beautiful. The children’s singing was beautiful and bounced through the space gracefully. Light streamed in from above and rested in spots all over the church. I found it quite beautiful.
This Abbey, from 1143 originally, and special to us because relics of St. Norbert rest there. They’ve added a display space that has key scenes of the life of Norbert in large oils—the guide was quick to point out The Spider Incident and seemed to enjoy telling the story. The new space has a large gold and glass reliquary ready to receive remains.
St. Norbert’s remains were in Magdeburg for quite sometime, until the church became Protestant. Some negotiation ensued and his remains traveled to Doksany, where the nuns “re-casketed” them as our guide told us (and planted a tree), and finally to Strahov.
Strahov has a storied past as well. Communists assumed the property as their own and threw out its residents, imprisoning the Abbot. That was as recent as 1950. Ironically, because of the historical significance of the church and library the Communists also restored it.
The library was beautiful. Having seen the posters hanging in Fr. Andrew’s sitting area for a year, I was glad to finally see it and take my own photos. President Kunkel asked how old the oldest volume was, it is from the year 800. 700 years before Gutenberg. And, if that’s not cool enough, they have somewhere around 1400 incunabula (books printed within the first 100 years of the press.) With a couple of librarians on the trip, I believe the excitement level was a little higher than normal. Gaping jaws, awed and inspired, I talked Sally into guest blogging. I’m impressed that no one touched anything. Sally said she had to clasp her hands behind her back, after all Strahov’s library is pretty fantastic!
5 hours on the bus today! We will be in Berlin for the final leg of the trip. We pass through more countryside and Dresdin as I’m typing.
It has been enlightening to see the relationships, from place to place, among the Norbertines and those who have visited before. It is touching and evidence that family is not just by blood.