Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A masterpiece at the Vatican

The top part of this huge painting by Podesti
When I visited Rome in May of 2012, I took close to 3,000 photos all around Rome, especially in churches, paintings and other sacred art I discovered around the Eternal City. But none surprised me more than a majestic painting inside the Vatican Museums, close to the Raphael’s famous “School of Athens” and the “Disputation on the Eucharist.” It was a room entirely dedicated to the Blessed Mother, and in particular to the Immaculate Conception, whose feast we celebrated yesterday. Dominating this room was a huge painting commemorating the event of the proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854. It is so huge that I could not photograph the whole painting, which is divided into two sections. The top part shows the Blessed Mother surrounded by Jesus and God the Father, as well as St. Peter and St. Paul and a group of other saints, all in heaven. The bottom part shows the Pope, flanked by several Cardinals, Bishops and other prelates and priests as he is officially declaring the dogma at the Vatican. The work was done by Francesco Podesti, who was present during the actual ceremony, and was later commissioned by the Vatican to reproduce this historic event. 
The massive painting "Immaculate Conception" by Franceso Podesti
During the eleven years it took to paint the room, he had a few clashes with the curia, who wanted to delete the depiction of one disgraced priest. Podesti however, was adamant, referring to the obligation of fidelity to historical reality. One monsignor said, "That picture there is now an indignity, for the Pope's sake, remove that face!" "No, I can not Monsignor, remember that while Judas betrayed Christ, in the representations of the Last Supper, no one has ever required that he not be represented!" The argument was compelling enough to silence the prelate. Enjoy this beautiful masterpiece, and if you are ever in Rome, please make sure to visit the Vatican Museums - you need one full day to really appreciate everything there is to see, including this masterpiece by Podesti, which was restored in 2007.

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