Skip to comments.Here’s How the Church of the Future is Experimenting in the Cathedral of Milan (Kerouac for Lent)
Posted on 06/13/2006 6:09:35 AM PDT by Pyro7480
Heres How the Church of the Future is Experimenting in the Cathedral of Milan
With video installations, electronic music, and abstract art. With Lenten readings from Oscar Wilde and Jack Kerouac. With the pulpit given over to nonbelievers. All this in the great diocese whose patrons are Saint Ambrose and Saint Charles Borromeo
ROMA, June 13, 2006 One of the key phrases of the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI is new evangelization. But in the Duomo of Milan, the cathedral of one of the most important and populous dioceses in the world, governed by cardinal Carlo Maria Martini until 2002 and now by cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, this formula is being implemented in highly original ways.
Since September 22, 2005, in the cathedrals crypt, beside the relics of Saint Charles Borromeo, who together with Saint Ambrose is a patron of Milan, there has been a video installation by English artist Mark Wallinger. It is entitled Via Dolorosa. The visitor enters a darkened box with black walls and three benches inside. He sits down and watches, for 18 minutes, scenes of the Passion excerpted from the film Jesus of Nazareth by Franco Zeffirelli. Or better, he must imagine watching these scenes, because the screen is almost entirely blocked by a black rectangle, as in the illustration above. There is no soundtrack.
The video installation is intended to remain there forever. At its inauguration, monsignor Luigi Manganini, archpriest of the cathedral of Milan, said that the evangelization of the third millennium needs todays forms of art, and so the electronic image rightly enters the cathedral with the same force as the entire history of great painting and sculpture.
Manganinis right hand man, Fr. Luigi Garbini, entered more deeply into the substance of the work. From the premise that the Italian Church is stagnant in its inability to interpret contemporary phenomena, he explained that the blocking of 90 percent of the view brings the visitor into a cloud of unknowing, in which he finally faces the free decision: to believe or not believe.
Wallingers video in the crypt of Saint Charles Borromeo is not the only gesture of new evangelization that has taken the stage at the Duomo of Milan. It is part of a series of other performances, some of which are distinguished by the English title of pause.
The latest pause was held in the cathedral last June 7, during the week of Pentecost. Under the artistic direction of Fr. Garbini, and with the organizing theme of number, the audience first listened to selections from the writings of Jewish philosopher and mathematician of the XVII century Baruch Spinoza.
It then watched a video by Japanese artist Tatsuo Miyajima, entitled Counter Voice and based upon the metaphor according to which each human being has his own rhythm, and rhythm is the force that unifies the universe. The dual image that marked the entire evenings exhibition, taken from Miyajimas video, showed a young woman with her face first immersed in and then raised out of a basin full of gelatinous liquid.
Finally came the main attraction: the first-ever performance of a work composed for the occasion by one of the leading figures in contemporary music, Karlheinz Stockhausen.
Stockhausen had already composed a piece for the Duomo of Milan the year before. It was a work for organ, soprano, and tenor, entitled Klang Erste Stunde: Himmelfahrt (Sound First Hour: Ascension). And this saw its worldwide premier in the Milan cathedral on the feast of the Ascension, May 5, 2005.
This time the title was Klang Zweite Stunde: Freude (Sound Second Hour: Joy). The composer entrusted to two very young female Dutch harpists the task of singing the hymn of Pentecost, Veni Creator Spiritus, while clawing, caressing, striking, plucking, rubbing, and thrusting through their harps, exulting. Stockhausen is famous for a quartet for archery bows accompanied by the whir of four helicopters, and a work performed by 19 concert musicians required to close their eyes and seek out a telepathic rapport with one another while the conductor listened motionless in the center.
The speakers invited to the Duomo of Milan are also consistent with this style.
On May 16 the speaker was Ramon Panikkar, theologian and mystic, previously a member of Opus Dei and a favorite disciple of Saint Escrivá de Balaguer, who then became a supporter of theories of dialogue that join Christianity and the Asiatic religions. His contribution was published before the fact in the weekly magazine Lespresso under the title The Gospel according to Gandhi. Balancing his theses from the point of view of the canonical Gospels was biblical scholar Gianfranco Ravasi.
On March 10, the prior of the monastery of Bose, Enzo Bianchi, was called upon to inaugurate the program of Lenten preaching. He proposed that Christians everywhere should accept silent martyrdom, like the Trappist monks killed in Algeria in 1996. Bianchi did not preach in the Duomo, but in the nearby church of San Carlo, while the cathedral hosted two of the following events in the cycle: a reading from the writings of the martyred Algerian monks, and a concert dedicated to Saint Francis by singer-songwriter Angelo Branduardi. The thesis supported by the prior of Bose raised protests from the Milan chapter of the Movement for Life, headed by Paolo Sorbi. The board of the Movement met with the archpriest of the Duomo, monsignor Manganini, in order to express their criticisms to him, and through him, with a letter to the archbishop of Milan, cardinal Tettamanzi.
On May 11 of 2005, an invitation to speak in the cathedral to introduce the cycle dedicated to the book of Job was extended to professor Massimo Cacciari: in addition to being the mayor of Venice, he is a nonbelieving philosopher like others who in past years have taken part in meetings promoted by cardinal Martini under the title of Nonbelievers at the pulpit. Cacciari spoke in glowing terms of living without faith and without certainty. Monsignor Ravasi again spoke to balance his statements a bit.
But what was perhaps the most revealing instance of how the Duomo of Milan intends to carry out the new evangelization came in Lent of 2004, which was also part of the cycle referred to by the name of pause.
The stated intent of the three evenings was to meditate upon the last words of Christ on the cross. But instead of the texts of the four Gospels, the audience gathered in the cathedral heard famous intellectuals and actors read pages from authors like Oscar Wilde, Marguerite Yourcenar, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and Jack Kerouac.
Everything was accompanied by music and video. The singers included Alice, winner at the music festival of Sanremo in 1981. The video artists included Bill Viola and Michiel van Bakel.
The videos were projected on an immense screen that covered the entire wall on the other side of the front entrance to the Duomo. At the base of the screen was a stage for the musicians and singers.
To permit the public to admire the great multimedia event, the benches occupying the cathedrals central nave had all been turned toward the entrance, with their backs turned to the main altar.
But the altar wasnt even visible anymore, obstructed by a framework holding the reflectors, projectors, and light and sound controls.
On the last of the three evenings, the program assigned a place to the presence of the archbishop, cardinal Tettamanzi.
But the Duomo had already seen the precursors of this new course with his predecessor, cardinal Martini. In the summer of 1997, at the culminating moment of the funeral for the stylist Gianni Versace, which was broadcast worldwide, a piano stood at the center of the Milan cathedral. And Elton John played and sang Candle in the Wind.
It's also used in the corporate logo of Faema coffee machines.
The cathedral measures 520' x 250', with the central nave 148' high. In the form of a Latin cross, it contains 14,000 square yards of space, and can accomodate 40,000 worshippers.
The earliest part of the church and the most Gothic (French Gothic, in particular) is this eastern end with the apse. The large apse windows have beautiful tracery in the "Flamboyant" Gothic style.
Ummmmm ......... great coffee :-)
I guess they couldn't afford a parish hall to put on these little productions. Rent an auditorium somewhere, guys.
If this is 'new millenium' art, it all seems very similar to avant-garde early 20th century stuff.
If you have ever heard anything by Stockhausen, you will know that it a raucus, hideous, cacophony of oddball sounds and clatters, toots, whistles, plunks, and booms, screeches, and yodels.
In a cathedral setting?
Ummm...Perhaps you guys ought to speak up about...,
oh, nevermind (sigh, po, po, po! shaking an old Balkan head).
Just to be fair, before he died, Kerouac became a devout Catholic.
This is true.