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Monday, January 08, 2007

Monument to Pope Pius XII by Francesco Messina



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". . . I pray those whose affair it is not to bother to erect any monuments to my memory: sufficient it is that my poor mortal remains should be laid simply in a sacred place . . . "
(Pope Pius XII, 1876-1958, Last Will and Testament)


Notwithstanding the terms of Pope Pius` Will, the Cardinals appointed by Pius XII ordered a monument to him. It was made by the artist Francesco Messina in 1964. It stands in St Peter`s Basilica in the Vatican.

The Pope is shown blessing the faithful and clad in papal robes.

His gesture also seems to express his desire to put an end to the scourge of the Second World War, while his expression seems to reiterate his famous sentence uttered immediately after his election in 1939: "Nothing is lost in peace, all can be lost with war".

In bronze, the statue presents an austere, detached and strongly rigorous figure. The face is luminous, earnest, ascetic and anxious.

Outside Italy, the artist is perhaps not as well known as he should be. Francesco Messina (Linguaglossa, Catania 1900 – Milano 1995) was born in Linguaglossa, in the province of Catania, in 1900. He spent most of his youth in Genova.

As a young artist, he was an excellent draftsman, and found an early affinity for the human form. He soon began to sculpt in clay (terra cotta) and other media.

In the 1930s, his sculpture was exhibited throughout Europe in group shows of Italian artists.

In 1932, he moved to Milan, and was soon appointed a tenured professor at that city's Brera Art Academy.

His Fascism (he was a longtime party member) was sufficient to bring about a brief post-war suspension of his tenure as director of the Brera Academy. The artist's association with the Fascist Party may have been a simple question of opportunism, since it facilitated his receiving public appointments and public commissions.

In 1963, he executed the statue of Pius XII in Saint Peter's Basilica.

Among his admirers were Jean Cocteau and Salvatore Quasimodo. In an age of abstract movements, Messina's works found favour among many who felt alienated by the new wave of expressionist sculpture. His work is neo-classical. His work may not have the imagination and flamboyance of Manzu but within the classical discipline, he is much more than competent.

His other notable works include:

1935 Monument dedicated to Christopher Columbus for the town of Chiavari

1938 “Minerva armata” monument dedicated to the University town of Pavia.

1950 to 1960 Statues and monumental groups for the Milan Monumental Cemetery and for the Basilica of Sant’Eugenio in Rome. Sant`Eugenio was consecrated to the namesake of Pius XII and is closely connected to Pius XII, and is now the principal Church of Opus Dei.

1961-62, Large marble monument dedicated to St. Catherine of Siena, patron saint of Italy which was placed on the battlements of Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome.

1963 Monument of Pius XII for St. Peter`s Basilica in Rome and a bust of Pietro Mascagni for the Scala Opera House.

1966 The “Cavallo morente” (Dying horse) statue for the Palazzo RAI (Italian Broadcasting Company) in Rome.

1961 Monument dedicated to Pius XI for Milan Cathedral.

1968 to 1971 Monumental “Via Crucis” (Way of the Cross), sculptured a huge “Madonna with child” in Carrara marble for the town of San Giovanni Rotondo sul Gargano in Puglia.

1974 Portrait of Ranieri III, Prince of Monaco.

1980 Statue of the “Resurrection of Christ”, six metres high as a conclusion for the Way of the Cross of San Giovanni Rotondo.

Further comment on the statue of Pius XII, see St Peter`s Basilica website.

The cardinals created by Pius XII in his two consistories of February 18, 1946 and January 12, 1953 are set out in The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. In passing, one of the noteworthy acts of Pius XII was the creation of a non-Italian majority in the College of Cardinals for the first time in centuries. The beginnings of the "internationalisation" of the Curia could be said to have started in this pontificate.