“Power and Grace – The Patron Saints of Europe” (October 8 through January 10, 2010, at Rome’s Palazzo Venezia), as Italian Foreign minister Franco Frattini pointed out at the exhibition preview, offers an opportunity to “re-advance the theme of the Old Continent’s Christian roots,” which is made all the more topical by “the persistence of the Union’s crisis of identity.”
Promoted by the Italian government and the San Floriano Committee of Illegio (a small mountain village of 350 inhabitants in north-eastern Italy which has become a national case because of its magnificent initiatives on this field), this great exhibition will be the first dedicated to the fascinating and complex interplay between the history of Europe and its peoples with the Christian vicissitudes of Western civilization, namely, to the saga of the encounter and the conflict between power and religion, civitas and ecclesia, crowns and halos.
More than one hundred and twenty works—coming from the most prestigious museums of Europe—by artists such as Van Eyck, Memling, Mantegna, Del Sarto, van Dyck, Tiziano, Veronese, El Greco, Guercino, Caravaggio, Murillo and Tiepolo will be on display.
The basic focus of the exhibition are the biographies, in their iconographic version, of the patron saints of the different European states and the six saints who are the guardians of Europe itself: Benedict, Cyril and Methodius, Catherine of Siena, Bridget of Sweden, and Teresa Benedict of the Cross (Edith Stein). Of course, all is aimed to throw light on the society, politics, religion, and cultural context of the times in which they lived and played their important role. The Christian roots of Europe being the result of this role and of the dynamic interplay of civitas and ecclesia, politics and religion, liturgical and devotional phenomena and social and ethnic phenomena.
A very interesting and unique cultural operation. As Frattini also pointed out, Europe’s Christian roots include “the values of the person and his dignity” from which to “depart in giving Europe back its soul.” Which is not an easy task given the state-of-the-art in this field and our intellectually Christophobic elites, as one leading Catholic neoconservative philosopher, George Weigel, stressed in his excellent The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America, and Politics Without God.
It is to be hoped that this initiative will be crowned by success and soon followed by others of the same kind throughout the Western countries.