A Monastery for Mosaicists

Well not quite perhaps, but near enough.

The Centro Aletti in Rome is an international community of artists and theologians from the Orthodox, Oriental and Catholic Churches.

The director is the distinguished Jesuit mosaic artist Father Marko Rupnik, best known for mosaicing a Vatican chapel for Pope John Paul II, and commissions don’t come much more distinguished than that, as Michelangelo would confirm.

First, about that chapel.

Back in November 1996 the Catholic Church celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s ordination to the priesthood. The cardinals in particular had a whip-round and gave the pope a sum of money to spend on anything he liked. He decided to spend it on mosaicing the Redemptoris Mater chapel in the Vatican. And he wanted it decorated in a way which would embody the encounter between Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Western Church. As he put it, “The chapel will be a sign of the unity between the Eastern Churches and the See of Peter. It will also have a particular ecumenical value and be an important presence of the Eastern tradition in the Vatican”. It would in fact be a bit of Byzantium in the heart of Rome.

The task of planning, designing and executing the chapel mosaics was given to the Centro Aletti of the Pontifical Oriental Institute; in other words to Father Marko Rupnik S.J. and his assistants. As was proper, Rupnik invited a Russian mosaicist to contribute, one Aleksandr Kornukhov, who did the east wall. Ironically, as some of our readers may recall, when the chapel was re-opened in 1999 it was Kornukhov who got the publicity and the photo-ops with the Pope, not Father Rupnik. You can enjoy a virtual reality tour of the finished chapel by going to Redemptoris Mater.

Father Rupnik is a theologian and mosaic artist from Slovenia, and he has done mosaics for many churches. You can get a very good idea of how he and his team operate by visiting the website of the Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, Connecticut, USA; there are photos and videos of them working directly on the wall of the chapel. The direct method is of course the preferred method for any church mosaic mural, being the method the Byzantines always used; it gives a life and sparkle to the surface that the reverse method cannot begin to provide.

And now for the Centro Aletti.

The Centre is primarily a study and research centre where Christian scholars and artists from Central and East Europe meet Western colleagues and seek answers to the questions raised by today’s women and men.

The Centre offers a space where Orthodox and Oriental and Catholic Christians live together and work towards meeting the future and the challenges that it will bring. Together they study the encounter between the Christian faith and the cultural dynamics of the modern age. They seek answers that take into account the Christian tradition of the East and West in such a way that together they point to the living Christ. (So it was no wonder Pope John Paul gave them the Redemptoris Mater job.)

The Centre fosters a style of life in which intellectual research, spirituality, the apostolate, and the practical aspects of everyday life are integrated. This is achieved by persons and Churches encountering each other, finding inspiration in traditions, questioning current issues, and embodying a theology which translates itself into pastoral activity. Artistic creation contributes to forming a precise methodology, in such a way that theology, spirituality, liturgy, and culture constitute a living organism.

Areas of Activity:
- Hospitality for scholars and artists who live and work at Centro Aletti for a period of time.
- Seminars, courses, and conferences that Centro Aletti organizes on- and off-site in collaboration with other institutions. The principal themes dealt with, in the light of the Eastern and Western tradition, are spirituality and theology in dialogue with contemporary culture, as well as art and liturgy.
- The study of spiritual art takes place in an atmosphere where art and faith meet creatively, deepening the relationship between art and liturgical space at the theoretical and practical level of work. The workshop in fact creates works in liturgical spaces; for example, by making mosaics for churches and chapels…

Centro Aletti
Via Paolina, 25 – 00184 Rome
Tel. +39-064824588
Fax +39-06485876




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