“Before you leave Rome you should visit the Aletti Centre founded by Fr Marko Rupnik SJ. They make beautiful modern liturgical mosaics there. He’s also the one who designed the logo for the Year of Mercy – ‘Merciful like the Father’”. Today (Wednesday) I followed up on this kind recommendation of my dear friend and fellow amateur painter Tineke Timmers. As it turned out my visit to the ‘Ezio Aletti’ – as it is called in Italian – became a breathtaking immersion in artistic beauty and creative spirituality.
Michelle, who had promised to give me a guided tour when I contacted the centre the day before, joined me in the chapel of the Aletti Centre where I had been directed upon arrival: “She’s not here at the moment. You can wait for her there”.
When she arrived after a short while a closer look and commentary on the magnificent mosaics designed by the Centre’s director, Fr Rupnik SJ, and his team of artists which decorate the small chapel were a natural entry point into the spirit of the centre.
“It was Pope John Paul II who inspired Fr Marko Rupnik, Michelle explained. “He dreamt of an encounter between the artistic traditions of the West and Orthodox iconography”. In his own words:
“I find particularly meaningful the fraternal exchange between Catholics and Orthodox which is promoted here, fostered by men and women religious who make their own competence available. It is already evident here how living together, knowing one another and undertaking research in common is a royal road in the quest for a deeper communion between the Churches. We would like to put this Center under the protection of the Blessed Virgin .
Holy Mother of God, you are more spacious
than the heavens because you enclosed within you
the One whom the heavens cannot contain;
turn your motherly gaze on this house
where men and women seek in the silence of listening
and the communion of hearts a future of faith for Europe,
and strive to discover what the outstretched hands
of today’s men and women seek to grasp
Give them the peace of pilgrims
and the joy of walking together,
so that Europe too may increasingly welcome in her womb the Word of life,
the world’s only hope, as you did.”
“There are three distinct communities at the Alletti Centre. They form the backbone: A small group of Jesuit priests, a community of religious sisters and a large group of artists mostly from Eastern Europe with a wide variety of interests and skills”.
Walking through one of the workshops in the centre Michelle introduced me to some of the artists and students all of them working at mosaics in various stages of completion. I even spotted a young Chinese woman among them.
“The Atelier of the Aletti Centre is the place where a group of Christian artists has decided to live, pray and work together. Apart from devoting ourselves to various forms of fine art, we also study Theology, Liturgy, the Bible, Spirituality: here at the Atelier, it is our wish that a new and fresh encounter of art with faith may take place, as well as the encounter of the different Churches with artists.
Of course, this encounter will never take place at an abstract level, given that it is not just a theory. This encounter can take place only within the artist’s person. Consequently, it is of paramount importance to provide a place where artists can achieve this synthesis.
The Atelier, a permanent workshop for the Community, specializes in liturgical art”.
(From the Centro Aletti website)
Not surprisingly the Centre’s common dining room is also tastefully decorated with a mosaic of Jesus at the house of Martha and Mary in Bethany. The tables are arranged in such a way that the mosaic seems to blend into the living space of the dining room. A beautiful synthesis.
I asked Michelle what it does to her to be surrounded every day by such breathtaking beauty. “Is it true that beauty has an effect on people?”. “Oh yes, she said, beauty has a transforming effect. If you live in a beautiful environment you are transformed by it….. slowly”.
It showed in here demeanour.
Fons Eppink mhm
Chapel of the Irish College, Rome, decorated by the Centro Aletti team.