Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Feast of St. Nicholas Owen of Oxford - Architecture's First Principle

Architecture is based upon three principles: Shelter, Efficiency and Human Expression. According Matt Taylor in his Philosophy and Practice of Architecture write "Architecture shelters human life ; produces an efficient arrangement of space and utilities; and expresses the best of human life (the values that make life possible and worth." My domicile on Rockwell Street in Chicago is a raised ranch; has bedrooms, baths, kitchens, a living room no one in my house uses and storage; and reflects my social and economic status as an American helot. It works for me, the kids and the cat.

Today, we praise St. Nicholas Owen of Oxford, England 1550? - 2 March 1606 in the tower of London) St. Nicholas Owen was a Jesuit lay brother and is one of Great Britain's Forty Martyrs of the Penal Times 1559 -1829.

Owen was a little guy - here on the south side, he'd be called a "Halfie." Hey, Nicky Boy, step up out of that hole, Son! The Rims is shaking and quaking up at the park in expectation of of your arrival!

However, like all of us little men, Owen rose to life's challenges with skills and gifts God gave him. Nicholas Owen became a skilled carpenter and crafted hiding spaces in the homes of Catholic gentry during the persecution of Catholics by the Tudors. So inventive and imaginative were the designs of Nicholas Owen in helping Catholics escape the clutches of Lusty Hank and Bloody Bess ( she was not played by Helen Mirren) that Sir Robert Cecil, a skunk of the first order, remarked upon the capture of Nicholas Owen,"It is incredible, how great was the joy caused by his arrest... knowing the great skill of Owen in constructing hiding places, and the innumerable quantity of dark holes which he had schemed for hiding priests all through England."

Owen took the First Principle of Architecture to its height - sheltering human existence. Nicholas Owen took the protective womb of motherhood and fashioned his own design to preserve life.

Owen was horribly tortured to death in the tower of London.

. . . the Keeper of the Tower, appreciated the importance of the disclosures which Owen might be forced to make. After being committed to the Marshalsea and thence removed to the Tower, he was submitted to most terrible "examinations" on the Topcliffe rack, with both arms held fast in iron rings and body hanging, and later on with heavy weights attached to his feet, and at last died under torture.

This little guy did alright.

Saint Nicholas Owen was canonized as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales by Pope Paul VI on 25 October 1970. His feast day, along with that of the other thirty-nine martyrs, is on 25 October. Catholic stage magicians who practice Gospel Magic consider St. Nicholas Owen the Patron of Illusionists and Escapologists due to his facility at using "trompe l'oeil" when creating his hideouts and the fact that he escaped from the Tower of London.

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