April 10, 2013 by Leave a Comment
In an adventure befitting a best-selling spy thriller, Dominican Fr. Marius Zerafa led a quest to recover a stolen Caravaggio painting. Such is the remarkable life of this Maltese-born priest and art historian, who lectures at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum). Fr. Zerafa sits down with Witness host Fr. Thomas Rosica to discuss his love of sacred art.
November 12, 2011 by Leave a Comment
The content of Caravaggio's art was often explicitly Catholic, but what about his beliefs, or his lifestyle? The controversial artist was recently featured in a rare exhibition in Canada, so S+L's Jenna Murphy took a trip to Ottawa to see his works in person. Jenna reveals what she learned in a recent episode of Catholic Focus. If you missed it when it originally aired in September, the program is streaming above. Republished below the jump is Jenna's reflection on the controversial artist. From Darkness to Light: The life and work of Caravaggio He took the art scene by storm and it’s never quite been the same since. Michaelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio's art, like his character, resists comparison. Last month, I had the opportunity to witness twelve pieces Caravaggio left behind. From June 17th to September 11th, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa is hosting 58 works by more than 30 artists. Twelve of said pieces are Caravaggio’s original works. The exhibit was five years in the making as it marks the first time any of Caravaggio’s works have been on Canadian soil. When he started painting, no one else was using light and dark in such forceful juxtaposition (he began with black canvas and worked his way to the peaks of light), nor were other painters of the day using live models (without regard of their questionable moral bearings) nor were others painting the everyday (and somewhat objectionable) scenes that would meet the common 17th century street-wanderer. What is perhaps the most remarkable about Caravaggio is the seeming schizophrenia in the life and work of the renowned artist. Many, upon contemplating his paintings would probably come away convinced of Caravaggio’s saintly disposition or of his profound devotion to the mysteries of the Christian faith. Then they’d learn about his life. Then disbelief would set in along with the overwhelming inclination to make excuses for this brilliant yet, apparently troubled man. Caravaggio’s family hails from the small town of Caravaggio (in Lombardy, Italy) though Caravaggio himself was born in Milan. His career began at 13 when he was accepted as an apprentice for Simone Peterzano (a Milanese painter). There, Caravaggio learned about materials and techniques, studied art and performed menial tasks in the workshop. Then, like all other fledgling young artists of his day, Caravaggio hit the road for Rome. Here, it was an unspoken rule that artists must converge to make a life for themselves. After all, if they were to sustain themselves on the world of art alone, then there was nothing like Church commissions to keep food on the table! After a few tough years, Caravaggio was noticed by Cardinal Del Monte. The Cardinal was taken with the young artist’s unique techniques. So much so, that the Cardinal had Caravaggio move into his palace and he began to actively promote the young artist’s works. This marked Caravaggio’s entrance into high society. Scandal It seemed there was no end to the artist’s creative genius. Caravaggio, much to his patron’s delight, would pump out one masterpiece after another. It seemed the more out of control his personal life became (cheating, brawling and murder were standard fare), the more his art would become more refined, more potent. For some, though, his art was too real. Bare shoulders, plunging necklines, severed heads; this raw humanity didn’t always fly in 17th century Rome. As a result, many of his pieces were rejected as altar pieces and as church hangings. One such piece, the Madonna of Loretto (now hanging in a church in Rome) was widely criticized upon its unveiling. The people of the day were shocked to behold the Mother of God leaning nonchalantly against a wall in her bare feet while holding baby Jesus in her arms. Inherently Catholic It is ironic that the very art that today we consider “classical” and “iconic” to our faith was considered questionable and perhaps void of modesty and virtue. Yet, the fact remains that no individual artist has made such a lasting impression on the world of modern art. Truly, many have called Caravaggio the “first modern artist”. It is no surprise, then, that his style has sparked both widespread admiration and imitation throughout the centuries. Before John Paul II refined the beautiful theology of the body, Caravaggio's paintings suggested a reverence for the inherent beauty of human form. Troubled though he may have been, his art speaks eloquently of the dignity of the mundane. Though the original medium may be weathered and cracked, the message of beauty still echoes down the centuries. And this same beauty still fuels, escapes and reduces artists to relentless seekers as surely and as forcefully as it did in Caravaggio's life. - Photos courtesy of the National Gallery of Canada
October 13, 2011 by Leave a Comment
Did you know that aside from being a world famous icon of an exotic and fascinating city, the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer that watches over Rio de Janiero actually belongs to the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro and is officially a Catholic sanctuary? Although construction began on the statue in 1922, the idea to build a monument on the top of Rio's Corcovado mountain came in the 1850s from Catholic priest Fr. Pedro Maria Boss. The first time he pitched the idea to Princess Isabel, the idea was rejected. Only in 1921, when the Catholic Circle of Rio proposed the idea and began fundraising, did it stick. The parishes of the archdiocese donated whatever they could to go towards the construction of this monument. The reinforced concrete and soapstone structure was completed in 1931 and inaugurated October 12, 1931. Since then, tourists have flocked the Corcovado to visit the statue, riding the special railway that was build along with the statue. In 2006, the Christ the Redeemer statue turned 75 years old. To mark the occasion, the Archdiocese built a chapel in the base of the statue (the pedestal Christ stands on) dedicated to Our Lady of Aparecida -- the patroness of Brazil. The small chapel is taken care of by the Shalom community. Sunday Mass is celebrated in the chapel at 10am. Weddings and baptisms are celebrated there and Eucharistic Adoration is also held regularly. To mark the anniversary, the youth of Rio held a vigil at the base of the statue, followed the next day by mass, concerts, and performances by two of the city's famous Samba schools.