On seeing some tapestries

+JMJ+ I had already writing a post for tonight when I saw a video that led me to lay that other one aside and do this one instead. Back in February of this year (2020 for those reading this who-knows-when), the world celebrated the 500th Anniversary of Raphael’s death with a rare showing his tapestries.

Translation: “The Sistine Chapel receives once again the Raphael Tapestries an unprecedented event in the Vatican.”

Translation (Google Translate) of a Tweet by — @Ramiro_Escoto

There’s something about the way the people are handling the tapestries, so gently, reverently, that brought tears to my eyes. I know I’m not alone in this reaction because listen to the music chosen for the video. It’s heartwrenching. Somebody keyed into the emotion of the moment and selected and/or composed music that complemented it perfectly. 

Video: The story of Raphael’s tapestries for the Sistine Chapel: Art historian Elizabeth Lev tells the story behind the acclaimed tapestries created by Rafael for the Sistine Chapel, as the church honors the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death.

Which brings me to another part of my reflection. People are always yammering on about the wealth of the Vatican and why doesn’t the Church sell all that stuff instead of hoarding it? Shouldn’t she help the poor?

Jesus therefore, six days before the pasch, came to Bethania, where Lazarus had been dead, whom Jesus raised to life. And they made him a supper there: and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that were at table with him. Mary therefore took a pound of ointment of right spikenard, of great price, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, he that was about to betray him, said: Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and having the purse, carried the things that were put therein.

John 12: 1-6 Douay-Rheims Version. See also Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9.

The Church has been helping the poor for two thousand years. And she will continue to (even when her critics try to make it difficult for her to do so). But more than this. It’s the way the men were treating those tapestries. The reverence. You see, the Church sees all that art as something worth much more than money. She doesn’t see it as an investment, and I can’t imagine that she’s making any money off of it when it costs so much to keep it. Look at some of the articles or videos about conservation of all that art sometime, it’s astounding and comes with a hefty price tag, too. I watched a short documentary about it years ago on EWTN, I think. Fascinating. Ah, here it is.

Video: Patrons of the Art: Caretakers of the Vatican’s most prestigious works of art.

So it’s not about hoarding wealth or making money. What is it, then? It goes back to that reverence again. Reverence for the art, yes, but also for the human person who produced it and for the human persons whose patrimony it is. And that would be all of us. The Church considers herself to be the steward of the earth and of all that is in it, including these precious works of art. She considers the work of human hands to be worth something. And she considers that the work of those hands that made something beautiful for God to be worth keeping and protecting for us. And from us. 

And I don’t blame her. If the Church sold the precious items she has in the Vatican, what would happen to them? They could end up in some collector’s hands where no one would see it for who knows how long. Or it could be destroyed, melted down, shredded. Who knows what the Church’s enemies might do? Or just people who don’t see themselves as stewards of a patrimony but as owners of mere property, to do with it whatever they desire. I don’t want to find out what would happen. I want the Church to keep all those things safe. I’d like to go see them someday but with the internet now, I can see more than many explorers who have traveled all over the world. That’s what I’m telling myself, anyway. ;)

Vatican Musems 360° Virtual Tours

Thank you for visiting and reading. Until next time, whoever and wherever you are, enjoy some soul-inspiring art, while staying safe and well, virtuous and holy. May the Lord bless and keep you and yours, and may His peace be always, always, always with you. +JMJ+

Links in this post

Image: The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, “On a painting by Raphael, a tapestry by Pieter van Aelst made in Brussels.” Wikimedia, public domain.

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