God’s Own Art

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World-renowned artists are crafting sacred art for Christ Cathedral

A TAPESTRY OF CHRIST SEATED IN GLORY AS LORD OF CREATION (PANTOCRATOR), DESIGNED BY BROTHER MARTIN ERSPAMER, WILL BE SUSPENDED FROM THE ARCHITECTURAL SPACE FRAME TO GIVE THE ARTWORK BOTH VISUAL AND ARTISTIC PROMINENCE. COURTESY OF THE ORANGE CATHOLIC FOUNDATION

BY: CATHI DOUGLAS (ORANGE COUNTY CATHOLIC) March 14, 2019

“Sacred art is true and beautiful when its form corresponds to its particular vocation: evoking and glorifying, in faith and adoration, the transcendent mystery of God—the surpassing invisible beauty of truth and love visible in Christ, who “reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature,” in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” This spiritual beauty of God is reflected in the most holy Virgin Mother of God, the angels, and saints. Genuine sacred art draws man to adoration, to prayer, and to the love of God, Creator and Savior, the Holy One and Sanctifier.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church

Sacred art in Christ Cathedral features new work by prominent artists inspired by the life of Jesus Christ, who want to depict Him using modern iconography.

The sacred art, by six internationally recognized artists, is designed to welcome worshipers into the presence of the Lord, introduce the communion of saints and the glory of Our Lady, the Blessed Mother, as well as to accompany us on our journey of faith inspired by the Holy Spirit.

“The art in Christ Cathedral will pass judgment as good art and also be both evocative and provocative, evoking commentary – and that’s when art is successful,” says Brother William Woeger, a member of the Christ Cathedral Sacred Art Commission. Bro. Woeger is consulting on the art commissions and is one of the artists, responsible for creating the Crux Gemmata (crucifix over the altar), altar candles, Paschal candle, sanctuary lamps, reliquary (container for relics at the altar), and dedication candles.

“One of the attributes of God is beauty,” he notes. “Anything I can do that promotes beauty and brings it into the world I’m contributing to the manifestation of God. Education means to draw forth, and that is what you’re doing in assisting clients to make savvy artistic choices.”

Pablo Eduardo, a Bolivian-born sculptor known for marrying his Spanish-American heritage with his training and intimate knowledge of his craft, is designing four Manifestations of the Divinity of Christ, 14 Stations of the Cross, and the Festal Doors.

“Our inspiration is Christ-centered,” Eduardo says. “I am a Catholic. The more art I make for the Church, the more devout I become. For me, the figure of Christ represents the iconographic steps we take in our lives – He falls three times, gets up, and accepts His fate. All these things I’ve tried to depict differently, with a bit more modern iconography.”

Eduardo’s sculptures, rendered in bronze, are recognized for capturing a snapshot of artistic metamorphosis while celebrating rhythm, emotion, texture and tension. He is known for developing close relationships with his clients. “I met with Bishop Vann and Father Christopher Smith (episcopal vicar to Christ Cathedral) and I think of them the whole time; I’m trying to capture their spirit, to speak in a way they understand. 

“We pray and we ask God to give us the ability to do something worthy of the responsibility they’ve entrusted to me.”

Other artists commissioned to create sacred art for Christ Cathedral include: the Ferdinand Stuflesser Studio in Ortisei, Italy, which made the corpus for the Crux Gemmata; the Valerio Lendarduzzi Studio in Fontanafredda, Italy, which is creating the Our Lady of Guadalupe mosaic, and the coats of arms mosaics in the narthex (an architectural element consisting of the entrance or lobby area, located at the west end of the nave, opposite the church’s main altar); Mia Tavontatti, an award-winning artist and painter, who is creating the baptistery mosaic; and ceramicist Brother Martin Erspamer, a monk of Saint Meinrad Archabbey, who is making the tapestry of the Pantocrator, or Christ seated in glory as the Lord of Creation. 

Bro. Woeger says some of the cathedral’s sacred art is inspired by the Egino Weinert tabernacle completed in West Germany in the 1970s, which was acquired from the Weinert family in 2015. Tabernacles are used to hold the Eucharist and provide a place where congregants often pray.

“There is so much sacred art out there that may be well-intentioned, but is no good,” Bro. Woeger notes. “If it’s mediocre art, you look at it and move on. Good art will challenge and engage you – you may not like it at first, but you may come to like it because it won’t let you quit considering it.”

The Sacred Art Commission includes Bishop Vann, Mission Basilica Rector Emeritus Monsignor Art Holquin, consultant to the Architecture and Renovation Committee; Father Smith; Bro. Woeger, a member of the Brothers De La Salle based in Omaha, Nebraska; Lesa Truxaw, director of the Office for Worship for the Diocese of Orange; Monsignor Mike Heher, pastor, St. Anne Catholic Church in Seal Beach; and Tony Jennison, vice president for philanthropy for the Orange Catholic Foundation.

More than 30 sacred art and Cathedral campus items have been reserved by generous donors. Commemorative items are available for gifts of $150,000 or more; gifts of $100,000 or more are recognized as Christ Cathedral Guild members.

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