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  • “St. Francis Preaching to the Birds,” painting by Giotto, circa 1300.
    in Notes

    The Last Christian

    “In the person of Francis the premodern world, so to speak, gathered itself together before coming to an end. For one last time, before the forces of progress thundered off on their triumphant path, one man looked into the motivating thrust behind the whole thing and decisively rejected it: Francis of Assisi, the last Christian.”

  • “Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer,” painting by Caspar David Friedrich (1818).
    in Notes

    A Philosophy of Walking

    Walking is a mode of living that embraces freedom, but this freedom is of a vastly different sort than that offered by the plethora of choices and dependencies that entangle us in the web of our consumerist lives.

  • “Italy about 1494,” illustration by William R. Shepherd.
    in Essays

    Il Campanilismo

    It existed once before the nineteenth century, briefly, as part of the vast imperial structure of the Roman Empire. Before that it had been a vague idea from myth—the notion of Italia.

  • Pieter Bruegel’s illustration of the Festival of Fools, circa 1570.

    In Rabelais and His World, the Russian critic Mikhail Bakhtin argues that Rabelais is the culminating literary expression of the carnival or grotesque idiom of folk humor, an idiom which had developed for over a thousand years (starting with the Roman Saturnalia) as an “unofficial” or subversive culture in the West, complete with its own rites, rules, and symbols.

  • Composer Arvo Pärt holding a bell.
    in Essays

    Sounding Silence

    In the introduction to Arvo Pärt: Out of Silence, theologian and musician Peter Bouteneff notes that the tendency to describe first encounters with Pärt grows out of his music’s singular, transformative quality—an evocative spirituality that has captivated believer and non-believer alike.