"Images of the Sacred" Art Exhibition at Holy Cross
"What the word transmits through the ear, that painting silently shows through the image...by these two means, mutually accompanying one another...we receive knowledge of one and the same thing." St Basil the Great.
Holy Cross held a well-attended public art exhibit for five days in Christmastide to celebrate the Incarnation. The celebration of Christmas, or God taking flesh in Jesus Christ, is directly related to the Church’s decision in the 8th century to affirm the use of sacred images in Christian devotion. The exhibit explored the relation between earthly images and the divine archetypes in art, church architecture and the human soul.
Icons and other exhibited objects from the Catholic, Orthodox and Coptic communities were on loan from local churches and private collections. Three Italian regions were represented (Sicily, Campania and Veneto), as well as art from other countries of the world, including Spain, Greece, Russia, Armenia, Ethiopia, and Brazil. Some objects were expressions of popular culture (religious prints, votive paintings on glass and on wood), others were copies of masterpieces, and some the work of modern artists. Many of the objects were from the private collection of Marcella Croce, who curated the exhibit along with Fr David Phillips. Ms. Croce introduced the exhibit with a talk on the opening night.
There were panel descriptions of the works, including quotations from Leonide Ouspensky and Archbishop Rowan Williams, who have written on an Orthodox understanding of icons and their use in public and private devotion.
Panels with inscriptions and diagrams were erected in the sanctuary to help people understand and reflect on the images of heaven and the soul communicated by the architecture, mosaics and stonework of Holy Cross church.
The final panel, was in the Marsala chapel - it had a mirror in the centre, with text in English and Italian on either side with quotations from Scripture and Dante's Purgatorio (Canto XXX,115-145). It explained how the visitor is an image of God, mirroring that glory to others, if he or she looks upon Christ.
For a copy (in Word) of the booklet with the text from the panels in English, click here (print pages 2,4,6,8 on the back of pages 1,3,5,7) or for Italian, click here.
The aim of the exhibit was to help us to reflect on how earthly images in art, in architecture and in the people we meet can lead us to know something of the Divine life.
The exhibit was sponsored by Holy Cross Church, L'Associazione Italia Nostra - Sezione di Palermo and il Centro Studi la Cultura del Viaggio di Palermo.
On opening night Marcella Croce introduced the exhibit...
Fr Giovanni Festa and a member of his congregation (below) from the Orthodox Parish of Saint Mark of Ephesus, which lent us some of their icons.
Icons and Crosses from Ethiopia from Marcella Croce's private collection...
There was a table of precepe and other figures from Latin America...
On the first night, Lucito gold and silversmiths from the Albanesi Community in the mountains outside Palermo showed their beautiful skill in sacred images...
Individuals loaned icons used in their private devotions...
(Sanctuary of Chioggia (VE)) and
(copy of an original from the 16th century) (on loan from Marcella Croce).
(Barcellona - copy of an original
gothic Catalan work of the 14th century)
Embroidery of the Madonna of Pompei (Napoli, early 19th c), Votive glass painting (Sicilian) and prints of St Francis of Assisi and St Nicolas of Bari.
One of the panels describing how the church is a figure of the soul...
The final panel - "You are the image of God"!
An 19th century Russian icon of the Nativity on loan from Savatore and Eleanora Ragusa.
St Mary - Eleousa (“Loving Kindness” or “Showing Mercy”) - a
20th century icon based upon 11th century Byzantine icon (Orthodox Tradition ties it
to St Luke’s painting during the Mother of God’s lifetime).
It was one of the five hand painted icons on loan from Parrocchia Ortodossa di San Marco d’Efeso, Palermo.
Christ Pantokrator (Almighty)
- a 20th cent. icon based upon the earliest known icon of Christ. The original 6th or 7th cent. icon is in St Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt and survived the iconclasm crisis in the 7th and 8th centuries.
(On loan from Parrocchia Ortodossa di San Marco d’Efeso, Palermo.)
We declare that we defend…the production of representational art; this is quite in harmony with the history of the spread of the gospel, as it provides confirmation that the becoming man of the Word of God was real and not just imaginary, and as it brings us a similar benefit. For, things that mutually illustrate one another undoubtedly possess one another's message... We decree with full precision and care that… the revered and holy images, whether painted or made of mosaic or of other suitable material, are to be exposed in the holy churches of God, on sacred instruments and vestments, on walls and panels, in houses and by public ways... The more frequently they are seen in representational art, the more are those who see them drawn to remember and long for those who serve as models, and to pay these images the tribute of salutation and respectful veneration. Certainly this is not the full adoration in accordance with our faith, which is properly paid only to the divine nature, but it resembles that given to the figure of the honoured and life-giving cross, and also to the holy books of the gospels and to other sacred cult objects.
Second Nicaean Council 787