John Paul II Exhibition in Rome Promotes Beauty as a Source of Hope and Life

The event marking the first centenary of the Polish pope’s birth may be the only cultural event of the Eternal City for this anniversary because of COVID-19 restrictions.

(photo: Galleria Arte Poli)

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of John Paul II’s birth, an exhibition of photographs, relics and art works about the saint is being held in Rome at the Arte Poli Gallery, located just steps away from the Vatican. 

The exhibition, which was inaugurated Oct. 16 and will be open to public until April 2, 2021, will probably be the only cultural event taking place in the Italian capital for this centenary as the country is still under heavy COVID-19 restrictions.  

“In these very troubled times, as many people have lost their bearings and tend to become more and more afraid, defying, nervous and even mean, our wish was to spread a message of hope connected to the figure of St. John Paul II,” Andrea Mezzetti, artistic director of Progetto Arte Poli, the Verona-based art laboratory promoting the event, told the Register.

In his view, the Polish pope’s testimony of life, especially his famous “Be not afraid,” is the best antidote against the current climate of anxiety and uncertainty that is creating so much pain and frustration in people’s lives. “By paying a tribute to this holy pope who is so important in countless people’s lives, we would like to encourage everyone to go back to solid principles such as brotherhood, loyalty, friendship and solidarity, which are literally disappearing from our century!”

Sponsored by the Polish Embassy to the Holy See and the John Paul II Vatican Foundation, the exhibition offers a selection of 24 photographs — curated by Catholic Press Photo — from the large archive of papal photographers Giancarlo and Alessia Giuliani, remembering the highlights of John Paul II’s pontificate.  

The photographs will be accompanied by several objects — provided by the Museum of Popes — that belonged to the Polish pope, including his chasuble, relics of his blood and hair, an original manuscript of two papal audiences, and an autographed photograph of him. 

Several artworks by Albano Poli, the 85-year-old artist who gave his name to the internationally renowned art workshop, are also on display. The most famous of all is the 10-foot-high statue called “Suffering John Paul II,” commissioned by Cardinal Edoardo Menichelli and exhibited in the square of the cathedral of St. Cyriacus in Ancona. 

Poli’s Renaissance-style workshop is 65,000 square feet in size and has 60 employees who help produce stained-glass windows, frescoes, bronze, marble and iron works, most of which are destinated to places of worship and civil environments. 

Albano Poli, who made sacred art one of his core activities, notably gained fame through his numerous artworks dedicated to John Paul II — from Loreto, Frosinone and San Giovanni Rotondo in Italy, to Warsaw and Krakow in Poland and the cathedral of Havana in Cuba. 

“In spite of his great age, Poli is still very active because he bears in mind what John Paul II liked to recall by quoting Dostoevsky — that is the fact that beauty will really save the world,” Mezzetti said. “As ugliness can provoke and accelerate the collapse and decadence of this world, we are convinced that love for beauty can change the way people think and act.” 

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