Vladimir Ashkenazy and the de Saventhem Medal

Vladimir Ashkenazy, an image made publicly available by his publicist, holds a copy of Edward Elgar's Catholic masterpiece, his setting of John Henry Newman's Dream of Gerontius - by pure coincidence. Photo by Keith Saunders.

The Federation would like to record its award of the de Saventhem Medal to Vladimir Ashkenazy, the sole survivor of the signatories of the petition organised by Alfred Marnau of the Latin Mass Society (England and Wales), to mark the 50th anniversary of the petition and Pope Paul VI's response to it. This response took the form of the "English Indult", which permitted the continued public celebration of the Vetus Ordo in England and Wales with the permission of the local Ordinary.

The De Saventhem Medal in its presentation box

In accepting the Medal, Mr Ashkenazy wrote as follows.


Dear Dr. Shaw,

Re: 1970 Petition of Alfred Marnau

In response to your letter, dated July 29th 2021, regarding your very kind offer to present me with the De Saventhem Medal, in order to mark the 50th Anniversary of the 1971 petition, I would be extremely grateful and pleased to accept the honour. 

My personal view of the matter is, that it is of great spiritual value and importance that the more ancient Latin Catholic Liturgy, with its associated cultural and musical traditions, be preserved for all those who are concerned with strengthening, or at least maintaining, our connection with the Divine; the ancient liturgies, be they Catholic or Orthodox (I am baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church) are, by default, bound to represent a much purer spiritual relationship with Christ in particular, and with the world in general, than do, to quote Dr. Erich Vermehren De Saventhem: " the flat, prosaic, philistine or delirious liturgies which will soon overgrow and finally smother even the recently revised rites..."

Being a musician, I am fully in agreement with the idea that the ancient/traditional Roman Catholic Mass will have inspired a plethora of invaluable artistic achievements over the ages: mystical works, poetry, philosophical treatises, musical works of genius, magnificent edifices, wonderful paintings, incredible sculptures, and even the construction of marvellous musical instruments like the organ and the piano!

Regarding the piano, the great composers who were inspired by the Christian faith include Bach, Beethoven, Liszt, Mozart, and Rachmaninoff, who were also wonderful pianists; the point being that our Faith has inspired countless true believers to achieve great artistic and spiritual heights, and the preservation of the Ancient, and more Authentic, Liturgies, which are immeasurably closer to the original spiritual source than the more banal ones of today, could go a long way towards continuing to inspire us all, both culturally and spiritually.

'Dr Erich de Saventhem: Pro merito magno'

Needless to say, you may quote all or part of this letter in any of the FIUV's public statements.

I hope that the FIUV will be successful in its aims, and that our world will be better for it.

With kindest regards,



Vladimir Ashkenazy


In making the award, the President and Officers of the Federation wrote as follows.

10th September 2021

Dear Mr Ashkenazy,

Re. 1970 Petition of Alfred Marnau

Further to your letter of the 5th September, it is with the greatest pleasure that, with the unanimous agreement of the Council of the Federation, I hereby award you the De Saventhem Medal, enclosed with this letter.

The petition organised by the late Alfred Marnau in 1971 was one of the great early successes of our movement. It demonstrated the importance of the ancient Catholic Latin liturgy as something which goes beyond the confines of the Catholic Church, or a particular cultural region: it is, rather, a monument of world culture, which belongs, like great works of architecture, art, and music, to all mankind.

Marnau,  poet and writer, was himself born in what is now Slovakia, and fled to England in 1939. While many of the signatories of the petition were based in England, it was intended to be both international and ecumenical. It seems appropriate that your good self should remain as the signatories’ representative fifty years later, to remind us of the perspective of someone from a distinct, though related, venerable liturgical tradition, who has lived in many countries, and contributed so much to our common cultural patrimony.

The reverse side of the medal.

I should like to say how touched we have been by your kind notice of our humble award, and by your beautiful letter of acceptance.

We will be arranging the celebration of a Sung Mass, in the ancient form, for your good estate, with your whole family.

We have the honour to remain yours,


Felipe Alanis, President

Joseph Shaw, Secretary

Monika Rheinshmitt, Treasurer

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