Object of the Week: The Birth of Our Saviour

Hercule Louis Catenacci
The Birth of Our Saviour
In The Life of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and of the Blessed Virgin Mary
1879, published by the Benzinger Brothers
Courtesy of Archives and Special Collections



“We desire to be able to welcome Jesus at Christmas-time, not in a cold manger of our heart, but in a heart full of love and humility, in a heart so pure, so immaculate, so warm with love for one another.” – St. Teresa of Calcutta

This engraved image depicting the birth of Jesus is from one of many bibles in the university’s Rare Book Library, which is cared for by the Department of Archives and Special Collections.  This volume, entitled The Life of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and of his Virgin Mother Mary, was published in 1879 by Benzinger Brothers Publishing.[1]  The illustration shown here was engraved by Hercule Louis Catenacci, a French painter and illustrator.

Catenacci was born in Ferrara, a province in present-day Italy, in 1816.  He later moved to France, illustrating numerous books and journals on a variety of subjects.  Cantenacci’s versatility was demonstrated thematically as well in his ability to adopt numerous illustrative styles depending upon the commission.  His illustrations included Moorish architecture in Spain, sarcophagus designs from a French exposition, the art and architecture of India, liturgical objects, garden landscapes, Italian piazzas, Cambodian ruins and images of protestors.[2]

Benzinger Brothers Publishing was founded in Switzerland in 1792 with the express purpose of functioning as a Catholic publishing house.  In the late 19th century, the publisher expanded its operations to the United States, opening offices in Chicago and Cincinnati.[3]  It has been through many iterations since then, being bought, sold and consolidated several times.  Still in existence today, Benzinger Brothers has been operating under the name RCL Benzinger since 2016, when it became a subsidiary of Kendall Hunt Publishing of Dubuque, Iowa.[4]  RCL Benzinger still has offices in Cincinnati and primarily serves religious education programs for Catholic dioceses, parishes, schools, families, and individuals, including bilingual students and students with disabilities.[5]


The images and materials shown here are but a small part of the vast patrimony available to students, faculty and researchers.  For access to this or other objects in our collections, complete a research request form to set up an appointment or contact us at 973-761-9476.



[1] The Life Of Our Lord And Saviour Jesus Christ And Of His Virgin 1 Mother Mary. New York: Benzinger Brothers, 1879. p.298.

[2] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Hercule_Catenacci, accessed 12/14/2020.

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RCL_Benziger, accessed 12/14/2020.


[5] https://rclbenziger.com/our-history, accessed 12/14/2020.

Object of the Week: “Madonna of the Rosary” by Lucas Vorsterman the Elder

Lucas Vorsterman the Elder
Madonna of the Rosary (after Caravaggio)
22” H x 16.5” W
early 17th century
Image courtesy of the Walsh Gallery



This engraving by Lucas Vorsterman the Elder is after an original painting by Caravaggio.  Though we do not know the patron of this work, art historians believe Caravaggio’s painting was part of an altarpiece created for a Dominican church – inferred by the presence of Saint Dominic – shown on the right holding rosaries in his outstretched hands.  It is thought the figure peering from beneath Saint Dominic’s robes is the patron who commissioned this work given his eye contact with the viewer and proximity to the saint and the Virgin Mary.[1]

The month of October is dedicated to the Holy Rosary. According to an account by fifteenth-century Dominican, Alan de la Roche, Mary appeared to Saint Dominic in 1206 after praying.  She gave Saint Dominic the Rosary, explained its uses and significance, and told him to preach it to others.[2]  The Rosary consists of prayer and meditations on the life of Christ using rosary beads as an aid.  Catholics pray the rosary to ask God for a special favor, such as helping a loved one recover from an illness, or to thank God for blessings received.[3]

The rosary has 59 beads, a crucifix, and a medal, with certain prayers for each of the pieces. The prayers of the rosary can be divided into three categories: Introductory Prayers, The Decades and Closing Prayers.[4]  The prayers that compose the rosary are arranged in sets of ten “Hail Mary” prayers. Each set of ten, or decade, is preceded by one “Lord’s Prayer” (“Our Father”) and traditionally followed by one “Glory Be.”  During the recitation of each set, thought is given to one of the Mysteries of the Rosary, which recall events in the lives of Jesus and of Mary. Five decades are recited per rosary.[5]

The term rosary is derived from the Latin word rosarium or rose garden and the rose is the symbol of the Virgin Mary.The earliest documented use of the term rosary dates back to 1597[6], though the story of Saint Dominic tells us the word likely appeared much earlier in time.  Rosary beads are made from a variety of materials.  These include ordinary ones such as plastic, rope or wood, or more expensive materials such as gemstones or precious metals.  The tradition of using beads to pray spans across many faiths and cultures.  Hindus, Greeks, Buddhists and numerous other peoples use beads to pray.  Interestingly enough, the word bead in English is derived from an Old English word that means prayer.[7]

Rosary with made of red plastic beads and a metal chain and crucifix, Collection on Pope John Paul II (MSS 0004)
Rosary, Collection on Pope John Paul II (MSS 0004)



The Walsh Gallery has a considerable collection of fine art, artifacts and archeological specimens. For access to this or objects in our collections, complete this research request form to set up an appointment. 


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madonna_of_the_Rosary_(Caravaggio)  accessed 10/7/2020

[2] https://www.livingbreadradio.com/2015/09/october-the-month-of-the-holy-rosary/ accessed 10/7/2020

[3] https://m.theholyrosary.org/  accessed 10/7/2020

[4] https://dynamiccatholic.com/rosary/how-to-pray-the-rosary accessed 10/7/2020

[5] https://m.theholyrosary.org/  accessed 10/7/2020

[6] https://dynamiccatholic.com/rosary/history-of-the-rosary accessed 10/7/2020

[7] https://dynamiccatholic.com/rosary/history-of-the-rosary accessed 10/7/2020