Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Chalices often have strange lives.  Alienated from their work by any number of means (which we will see today and tomorrow) and having some artistic value they may travel around a bit taking a sort of vacation until ending back up working for the Church again (hopefully.)

Today’s story concerns a very ornate pontifical chalice a little over a foot in height, Egyptian revival with tulip cup and sporting the instruments of Jesus’ passion.  It is currently housed in a local monastery and came to reside there after being purchased at a yard sale.  As best as can be figured out at the moment, this is how that came to be:

It is thought that this chalice began its life at a Dominican monastery.  In 1810 one of their own, Richard Luke Concanen OP was made bishop of New York.  His fellow Dominicans were so thrilled that one of their own was thus named they gave him this chalice.  Unfortunately Bishop Concanen died without the chalice ever making it to New York.

Adding further misfortune to the story, it was at this time that Napoleon was nationalizing the Church.  After Bishop Concanen died, soldiers raided his home and made off with the chalice and so for a spell it left the hands of the Church.

One of Cleveland’s Bishops, Bishop Horstmann, was known to travel to Europe going to sales and buying up whatever ecclesiastical treasures he could find.  Perhaps he picked up this chalice.  When soldiers raided Concanen’s things, perhaps this chalice fell into their hands and was later sold on the market.  In any event, the Dominicans were apparently upset that when things were returned to the Church that this chalice was not among the items returned.

Then dies Bishop Hortsmann.  His estate is divided up and perhaps his family sold the chalice causing it to go on another holiday until it ends up at a yard sale on Cleveland’s west side.  A man buys it there and wishing it to return to the Church gives it to another religious order.

A monk noting the Biumi family coat of arms (a family loyal to Napoleon) on the bottom and the initials RLC on the bottom did some research and put this story together.  It does not mean that it is an accurate story and readers are invited to speculate, but as my history professor used to say, “If it isn’t true, it should be.”

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