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.
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.
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
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…
Via Paolina, 25 – 00184 Rome