There’s nothing like procrastination to prompt a blog post.
Yet this post obeys the adage, carpe diem. For yesterday I discovered a chalice we had feared lost. It belonged to our Fr Terence who died last October after years battling cancer. He came as close to peace as he ever did in his last year, and he died well-prepared for his encounter face to face with Christ. As a young monk he was at the vanguard of the reformers in the 1960s, and until the end he gave short shrift to liturgical or theological recidivism. He was a Vatican II priest of a particular stamp, and his hopes had been pinned on the Council unreservedly. His faith was not feigned and his commitment was utterly sincere.
When it came to preparing for his funeral I sought for his ordination chalice, a striking piece of 1960s contemporary liturgical art which we had not used for some time at the monastery due to its impracticality. It eluded discovery, even beyond his funeral. Indeed only yesterday did I find it. Something moved me to check the storage space above the vestment press. As I shoved the two funeral/profession palls to allow my hands some access I heard an unexpected sound. Heaving the palls to the side I found a chalice box. Low and behold, Fr Terence’s chalice. It seems it was pushed out of sight by the palls.
Fr Terence was ordained to the priesthood on 11 May 1961. His ordination chalice is worthy of some attention even if it is not to the taste of all. It was made for his ordination by Meinrad Burch-Korrodi in Zurich. It cost his family £300, which equates to £6239.20 in today’s money. This was no off-the-shelf number from St Paul’s Bookshop. Meinrad Burch-Korrodi (1897-1978) was a Swiss goldsmith of international renown. After an apprenticeship in Lucerne he moved to London to perfect his skills at The London Central School of Arts and Crafts, working for the some of the exclusive shops on Bond Street. In 1924 he moved to New York for further experience and in 1925 he returned to Europe – first to Paris, then back home to Lucerne and finally to Zurich where his workshop became renowned.
The chalice was the favoured piece in his workshop. Some stunning examples can be found by a simple Google search. But this chalice you will not find; well, not until now.
Fr Terence’s chalice is enamelled gilt sterling. It has a large bowl, 12.5cm in diameter, and 7.5cm at its deepest (5 inches by 3 inches). This sounds the ideal size for allowing the administration of the chalice to the congregation, but there is no knop, and the base is very short. Given that most people take the chalice into their own hands when receiving the Blood in the UK, this chalice is extremely awkward to hand over and receive back, and I recall a persistent fear of disaster. This is its Achilles’ heel.
But as a work of art it is most striking, as the photos below will show, even if poor quality ones taken on my phone in a crude faux studio on top of my desk. The enamel has such a dazzling shine that it is difficult to get a shot without glare.
Also included in the photos below are Mr Burch-Korrodi’s instructions for the care of the chalice, as well as an interesting little note found in the chalice box that details the “rubrics” to be followed at the parish church at Petersfield in Hampshire (Fr Terence was posted in the second half of the 60s to our preparatory school, Ditcham Park, in Petersfield. The fathers there assisted the local PP, who was suffering from leukaemia). Clearly it was a time of liturgical flux and this little set of liturgical notes gives an insight into what a parish church at the time would have been enduring.
The last picture is of another of Burch-Korrodi’s chalices, similar in basic style and included for comparison purposes. Sadly, we do not have this second chalice!
It would be interesting to have Fr Terence’s chalice valued. I suspect that while its liturgical worth, in practical terms, is not very high, its material and artistic worth is considerable. It will not be left lying around again.
If you click on a picture you will be able to see it larger, and also find a link to see it in full size.