Raphael Rooms of Vatican Museum, Cross Triumphant over Paganism
Today is the feastday of the Triumph of the Cross, (a great day) and my husband shot this in the Raphael Rooms of the Vatican Museum, as our wonderful, brilliant guide, Elizabeth Lev gave us such an informative and fascinating background on various pieces of art, and their creators, that I came to really regret my woeful lack of education as regards the fine arts. My husband and I came away from Lev’s tour with an increased gladness that our kids have studied music.
I think most parents, when their children say they want to study an art, or art history, must–no matter how proud they are–interiorly roll the eyes a little and think, “and do what with that degree?” Spending a little time in the company of this passionate woman we said to ourselves, “look at what she knows! And what we don’t! And the perspective her knowledge has brought to everything else!”
I love what Lev says, in the link above:
My favorite work of art changes every couple of years. I’m afraid I’m something of a ‘donna mobile’, or fickle in my tastes in St. Peter’s. There are periods when I find that Bernini’s exploration of the Holy Spirit between the canopy and the Chair of St. Peter is utterly fascinating. At times I enjoy discussing Bernini’s monument to Alexander VII and the idea of the good death. There are moments when the anthropomorphic element of the dome and the apses captivate me. Right now I’m really taken with the architecture of the dome and how Michelangelo inserted a cushion of light between the dome and the church by opening up all those windows, so that the dome seems like it’s floating. In this particular period I’ve taken to referring to it as Michelangelo’s greatest gift to the church. Because it was a gift. He took no money for it, he donated it for the glory of God and the salvation of his soul. Sometimes I like to go through the papal monuments and talk about the different periods of the papacy. The way that Pius VII on his monument the crown seems so heavy, and the mantle seems so big, and it was a tough papacy for him. Then you look at a Medici pope with his jaunty crown, and then you see Alexander VII without his tiara kneeling in prayer, it recounts different moments in the history of the papacy. The Pieta will always mean the world to me. The Pieta is probably the work that first opened my eyes to how much the sacred and liturgical aspect affects a work art. That was the work that I really understood that I had to throw out 60 percent of what I had been taught in college, and that I had to do it all over again. You’re looking at things through a very different lenses.
There is an odd timing, here. We celebrate the Triumph of the Cross while Europe is trending post-Christian and an ersatz paganism is on the rise. But trends, in and of themselves, do not last–they only move narratives forward. My Tuesday Column today is about Pope Benedict’s fast-approaching trip to the United Kingdom, his meeting with Elizabeth II, who is the Defender of the Faith and head of the Church of England, and why the meeting is important for all of us.
In John Irving’s A Son of the Circus he plays with a particular line: Life is Serious, but Art is Fun! or, sometimes, Art is Serious, but Life is Fun! All I know is, art makes life better; life makes art grow and vice-versa.
Some say the church is dying, and that secularism and humanism are poised for triumph, but I don’t believe it. In Rome, it seemed to me that the church, to paraphrase William F. Buckley, is “standing athwart the world shouting ‘stop and think!‘” Sooner or later, the stopping will be mandated, and then the thinking will begin. And I think the beatification of the brilliant and courageous convert, John Henry Newman, which will take place during the pope’s trip, will have a lot to do with the “thinking” kicking in.
Meanwhile, thanks to the ever-useful New Advent, here are some pieces regarding the UK trip:
UK Mail Online: When an Ulster Protestant Becomes Catholic
Rocco: Not Angles but Angels and Across the Pond, Our Moment has Come
BBC: Pope Benedict’s UK trip excitement for Frome family
Catholic Vote: “Embarrassing” Guidance Notes for Papal Visit
Thompson: Secular Humanist on Church Abuse Scandals
WITL: “Ticket Slump”?
Catholic Culture.org: What to Expect
EWTN Interviews Priest Who Received Newman Into Church (that’s a great story in and of itself, btw)
More on Bl. Dominic, here.