Rome's New UGLY John Paul II Statue

Catholic News Service is running a piece about the new statue unveiled in Rome to commemorate Bl. John Paul II (statue pictured).

Wow is it ugly.

And inappropriate.

Even L’Osservatore Romano—the Vatican’s newspaper—has commented on how lame it is. (I guess that’s one fortunate thing about LOR‘s turn toward less anodyne commentary; if we’ve got to deal with with their less-than-helpful commentary about the Beatles, Michael Jackson, and The Simpsons, at least they now have the freedom to say when a pope statue is ugly.)

According to CNS:

Sculptor Oliviero Rainaldi intended to show the late pope with his cape billowing in the wind, as a symbolic image of welcome. The 16-foot-tall bronze sculpture was placed outside Rome’s main train station, where tens of thousands of visitors arrive daily.

But when unveiled May 18, it looked more like an open tent, or a sentry-box, or a bell, commented L’Osservatore Romano. The papal cape looks like it was split open by a bomb. More importantly, the newspaper said, it’s unrecognizable as John Paul II — the head is “excessively spherical.”

The newspaper credited the sculptor with trying to move beyond classic papal iconography and attempt something new and different.

“But overall, the result does not seem to have matched the intention, and in fact there has already been criticism,” it said.

In Rome newspaper polls, public opinion is running 9-1 against the statue.

Ya think?

The placement of the statue outside Rome’s main train station—the Termini—is particularly unfortunate, because it ensures a large number of people will see the thing. The Termini is a very important travel hub in Rome for locals and pilgrims alike.

I have to say that this statue is even worse than the one inside the entrance of the Vatican museums. That statue, titled “Varcare la soglia” (Crossing the Threshold), is a slab of marble with a bas relief of John Paul II on each side, apparently shoving a goofy-looking, modern, cell-phone clutching man out of the block of marble.

I was stunned when I first saw it.

Take a look see for yourself. Here’s one side of it:

And here’s the other:

(Sorry; couldn’t find larger images. Trust me, it’s even more hideous when you see it up close and larger than life.)


Some years ago, I visited a traveling exhibit of Vatican art treasures, with items spanning many centuries. I was struck by the quality of the older material and how the quality of the art suddenly fell off a cliff in the mid-20th century.

I can only imagine art historians in the year 2525 (if man is still alive; if woman can survive) looking back on this period and struggling to explain the sudden, appalling lack of taste and artistic sensibility.

Of course, neither the new JP2 statue or the “Crossing the Threshold” statue is the worst 20th century artistic atrocity passed off as something deeply spiritual, but I’ll tell you about that one another time.

In the meanwhile, what do you think the new statue of John Paul II looks like? A telephone booth? An agonizer booth? A bus stop?

What are your thoughts?

P.S. For extra points, how would you caption the photo of the new statue?