Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Holy Patrons of Europe

Jan van Eyck 1395-1441
Le stigmate di San Francesco. The stigmata of St Francis, 1432
Oil on board 28 x 33 cm
Galleria Sabauda, Torino

Michelangelo Merisi called Caravaggio ca.1571-1610
San Giovanni Battista/ St. John the Baptist in the desert , 1606
Oil on canvas, 94 x 135 cm
Galleria Corsini, Roma

Chiesa news . reports on a new exhibition in Rome entitled Power and grace. The holy patrons of Europe.

Two of the paintings from the exhibition are above.

As regards the painting of Jan van Eyck this is a larger copy of a panel [Oil on vellum on panel 5 x 5 3/4 inches (12.7 x 14.6 cm)] executed by van Eyck in Spain in 1428-29 and which is in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia

Van Eyck's representation of this event follows the original Franciscan text quite literally

As regards the painting by Caravaggio, there is a version now in Kansas City. In that version the figure is set before a dense curtain of plants; in that in Rome, there is only the trunk of a cypress tree, on the left. Caravaggio knew how to make apparently uninteresting religious themes into arresting paintings.

"The architect of the present exhibition is a young priest from a tiny village of Illegio, in the Alps in Carnia. His name is Alessio Geretti.

The exhibition on the Holy Patrons of Europe is his latest creation, and follows other exhibitions that he designed on themes like Revelation, Genesis, the Apocrypha, stunning in the quality of the works of art displayed and in the richness of the message transmitted.

In this case, revisiting the holy patrons of the nations of Europe as depicted by its greatest artists does not mean only offering a "vision" of what Europe has been over two thousand years of history profoundly marked by the Christian faith.

It is also a message issued to a contemporary Europe that has forgotten its roots and is indifferent to religion. Fr. Alessio Geretti says:

"In the Europe of pluralism and democracy, holiness is the most convincing form that a religion can take. The lives of the saints persuade without constraining. I truly believe that in this age – which, as Paul VI said, does not so much need teachers as witnesses – the saints are still the face of a Church that has the ability to speak to the heart of the people and to bring the dominant culture into crisis, unmasking all of its inhumanity."

But the message of the exhibition is also addressed to the Church. "A Church" – Fr. Geretti further writes in the exquisite catalog published by Skira – "whose postconciliar renewal has been characterized by a poorly concealed iconoclasm, which has emptied churches, catechesis, preaching, and a few calendar dates of those references to the saints and of those sacred images which for centuries had nourished the Christian people's experience of faith." "