From the Vatican to the City of Holy Faith

Igor Stravinsky conducting at the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe.

There are so many precious artifacts located inside the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. From La Conquistadora, this nation’s oldest Madonna, to the reliquary containing some of the most important relics in Catholicism. One item of religious and historic significance is a plaque dedicated to the great 20th century composer, Igor Stravinsky. As a matter of fact, today marks one of the most historic events that took place at the cathedral. On August 18, 1963 Igor Stravinsky accepted the Papal Knighthood of St. Sylvester.

Two Diverse Friendships Blossom

The plaque dedicated to Igor Stravinsky at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.

Stravinsky conducted his choral masterpiece “Canticum Sacrum” for 3,000 people at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice in 1956. In the audience that night was Cardinal Roncalli, who immediately became a Stravinsky devotee. Two years later in 1958 the Patriarch of Venice became Pope John XXIII. That same year the Russian maestro accepted John Crosby’s invitation to come to Santa Fe. His opera  “The Rake Progress,” became a part of the 1957 inaugural season.

The End of An Era

In 1963 Pope John XXIII invited Stravinsky to conduct his ethereal piece “Mass” at the Vatican in 1963.   The spiritual composition never came to fruition at St. Peter’s Basilica. The Pope died on June 3, 1963. Instead, Stravinsky performed “Mass” at St. Francis Cathedral on August 18, 1963. The maestro dedicated that performance to his friend, Pope John XXIII. Upon conclusion of the concert Stravinsky received the Papal Knighthood of Saint Sylvester. It had been conferred upon him by the Pope, shortly before his death. That was Stravinsky’s last performance in Santa Fe.

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