Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Of the Sacred, the Crude and the Ridiculous

Chiesa: "Christian Pop Art Takes the Stage in the Alps," by Sandro Magister - with a commentary by Timothy Verdon

The Sacred Mountain of Varallo is a triumph of "total art" at the service of the faith. Architects, sculptors, painters, scenographers, have reproduced the life of Jesus in 45 chapels on the mountain. After a period of neglect, the Church wants to restore their splendor.

An exceptional triduum concluded yesterday on the Sacred Mountain of Varallo, made up of conferences, exhibits, concerts, masses, pilgrimages, entitled: "Imago Veritatis. L'arte come via spirituale [Image of truth: art as spiritual path]."

While Pope Benedict XVI was visiting Brindisi and Santa Maria di Leuca, on the southern tip of Italy, facing the east – where, the story goes, the apostle Peter landed on his voyage to Rome – cardinal secretary of state Tarcisio Bertone went to Varallo, in the Alps in the northern part of the country. It is an unequivocal sign of the importance attributed to the event by the Vatican authorities.

In Varallo stands the first of the Sacred Mountains that dot northern Italy. It was created between the end of the fifteenth century and the beginning of the sixteenth. It was conceived by a Franciscan, Bernardino Caimi, who had been the guardian of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. After the fall of Constantinople to Muslim domination, the pilgrimage to the Holy Land had become too dangerous. It was practically impossible. The response was to reproduce, in Italy, the routes and stations of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. For a pilgrimage that could be made without leaving the country. Many little Jerusalems were reproduced in scenographic form, for the devotion and edification of the faithful.

Varallo is the first of the Sacred Mountains, and the largest. From (...) >>>

"Christian art between liturgical rite and nature," by Timothy Verdon

The chapels in the middle of the woods of the Sacred Mountain of Varallo invite to reflection not only on the subjects that are represented – for the most part episodes from the Old and New Testament – but, in a broader way, on the role that architecture and art have in the history of Christian spirituality.

The paths up the mountain, the difficulty of the ascent, the arrival at chapels connected by galleries and arranged around piazzas: everything echoes biblical themes like the journey, the ascent, the city of God, while the Assumption of Mary and the basilica where the pilgrimage is completed evokes the universal aspiration for an otherworldly destination. (...) >>>

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