By Maria Hayes, ’12
Holy Name Province
Visitors to The Cloisters of the Metropolitan Museum of Art were transported back in time through an event that combined art, music and theology — one that was historic for the art museum.
Under the guidance of one of Holy Name Province’s friars, the museum hosted a reenactment of a Palm Sunday procession held in medieval France. It was the first time in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 143-year history that an event reenacted the liturgical and theological context of the museum’s artwork.
The unprecedented performance was organized by Fr. Xavier Seubert, O.F.M., distinguished professor emeritus of art and theology at St. Bonaventure University and director of the adult education center at St. Francis Church in New York City, and Dr. Nancy Wu, museum educator at The Cloisters in northern Manhattan. It is one of two locations of the world-renown museum; the main site is on Fifth Avenue.
“Most commentators speak about the aesthetic qualities of the art, but not its theological or liturgical use,” said Xavier, who has been giving talks at the museum for 10 years and who has lived on West 31st Street since 2013. “This performance allowed us to bring those theological and liturgical elements alive in a way that we couldn’t have done otherwise. This was a historic event. The Met has never done anything like this before.”
The program, “Palm Sunday, 1190, Chartres: A Performance,” was based on a reconstruction of a Palm Sunday procession held in Chartres, France, 60 miles southwest of Paris. The performance featured chants sung by Lionheart, an ensemble known for researching and singing medieval and Renaissance music, and The Young People’s Chorus, as well as a liturgy proclaimed in Latin by Fr. John Baldovin, S.J., of Boston College, who taught several friars while he was an instructor at the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif.
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