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The Annunciation – Cornelius Sullivan on Márton Váró’s magnum opus

The Annunciation, with Sculptor Márton Váró, Ave Maria, Florida

Ave Maria, FL, March 25, 2015 – The Blessed Virgin Mary strides forward breaking the confines of the sculptural relief format. That is only one original aspect of this Annunciation.

Márton Váró  is a figurative sculptor who understands beauty and he is experienced in showing the beauty of women.

The scene is a break from the traditional Virgin figures who are shown passively reading or praying. Often she would be shown surprised. Here, her pose indicates that this may be after her fiat, after her yes. Váró’s Virgin is a substantial figure who is strong and active. We may read her expression not as surprised but as inspired.

The Archangel Gabriel kneels respectfully before the Virgin Mary. We may imagine that as Gabriel left on his mission he may have asked, “Should I kneel?” Perhaps God responded, “Artists might show you kneeling, or on your toes, or in the air. Don’t worry you will know what to do.”

Sometimes Artists compress time to tell a complete narrative. Gabriel is speaking and Mary has already said yes. It is in the nature of relationships on earth, that there must be a back and forth, and therefore there is always waiting. We may guess that there was a moment when heaven and earth waited for her yes.

The two other innovative qualities of this sculpture are, first that the sculptor is a Direct Carver and every inch of the marble relief was touched by his hands.

Secondly, the work was completed on site and the whole community became a part of the creative process.

The normal procedure for a project of this magnitude would be for a small two foot model of the design be sent to Carrara or Pietrasanta, Italy where it would be enlarged and carved by artisans. With some luck you could have it resembling the model in a general way in a few years. There would be no guarantee that what looked good at two feet would work at thirty five feet. In Ave Maria the sculptor alone began and completed this sculpture and he also supervised the installation.

The church is in the center of the town of Ave Maria in Florida. It dominates the main piazza like a European Cathedral, a Duomo, and it faces Ave Maria University. The church, the town, and the university are all dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Annunciation takes up a very large proportion of the “cathedral”, the Oratory. The art is both traditional and innovative and it signifies that the building is a Roman Catholic Church.

The sculpture saves the odd Post Modern building that kids call a space ship and that has been compared to an airplane hanger. Its silhouette, front and back, resembles a Bishop’s mitre. The architectural vocabulary of the Oratory, employing both masonry and steel, is a mixed metaphor, not having a particular style. The project did not have an architect, it was the vision of a businessman executed by engineers with no regard to the cannons of traditional Catholic Church architecture with its vocabulary of arches and domes and religious art designed for the inside of the church as well as the outside. It is recognizable now as a church because of The Annunciation sculpture.

A parishioner objected to my characterization of the Oratory as an odd Post Modern building. In teaching at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the School of Architecture, I was required to define terms and understand movements such as Post Modernism.  That does not mean that I don’t love the church. It is my church too. Sacraments are lived there.

In The Annunciation the beauty of the message and the beauty of the sculptural form are one and work together.

Lest anyone think that art like this is extravagant I remind them of a sentence by Pope Benedict that proclaims the truth that art is essential to the Church.

The only really effective apologia for Christianity comes down to two arguments, namely, the saints the Church has produced and the art which has grown in her womb. – Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, The Ratzinger Report, Messori, 1988.

On any given day you can see small groups of people in the remote location on the edge of the Florida Everglades taking pictures of The Annunciation of The Blessed Virgin Mary. Those photographs will subsequently go around the world.

Annunciation sculptor Marton Varo

Márton Váró  worked for long hours each day in public before the whole community. Covered with white marble dust, (and “looking like a baker” as Leonardo da Vinci said of Michelangelo) he would stop and answer questions for students and pilgrims. When asked at a discussion forum, when the work was nearing completion, if the Virgin Mary had communicated anything special to him, he responded, “Yes, she said keep working.”

* * *

Click here to see an image of the unfinished side angels and to read more about the Ave Maria Oratory and The Annunciation.

Artist--1Cornelius Sullivan, MFA, is a prolific writer, painter, engraver, sculptor, art historian and lecturer whose work  – even his non-religious work – reflects his Catholic faith. He has taught at several universities including the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, and currently is an adjunct at Ave Maria University. For years Cornelius has been part of the fabric of life in Ave Maria. His art and writing can be discovered at www.SullivanArt.com

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Patience and Feasting: Annunciation milestones in Ave Maria

It takes time. And God has all the time in the world. Just look at Barcelona’s Sagrada Família Basilica Church, which remains unfinished more than a century after construction commenced in March of 1882.

As Ave Maria prepares to celebrate the town’s patronal feast day, the Feast of the Annunciation, on March 25, it is fitting to recall the milestone events that have occurred on Annunciation days in the history of the still unfinished Ave Maria Oratory:

–  In 2006, the Oratory’s cornerstone was laid prior to the town’s construction.

– In 2008, the Oratory was dedicated by Bishop Dewane on the town’s first Annunciation day celebration.

– In 2011, Márton Váró’s magnum opus Annunciation sculpture was unveiled.

– In 2013, the annual Grand Annunciation Feast celebrations were inaugurated by Ave Maria University, during which the university and the townspeople celebrate with Mass, procession, wine, food, song and dancing, under the backdrop of the magnificent Annunciation.

One future milestone will be the installation of the two side sculptures planned to accompany Váró’s Annunciation. We don’t know when that might be – and in fact there is no plan for the completion of these sculptures. But that is how it is with churches – it takes time and patience. When these sculptures are completed, their blessing and unveiling will be another great way to mark the town’s feast day.

This year the Annunciation celebrations will fall on Wednesday, March 25.

Ave Maria Oratory with side angels by Marton Varo - Photo courtesy of Marton Varo

Rendering of the Ave Maria Oratory with side angels by Márton Váró – Photo courtesy of Márton Váró

Ave Maria Oratory left side maquette by Marton Varo - Photo courtesy of Marton Varo

Ave Maria Oratory left side maquette by Márton Váró – Photo courtesy of Márton Váró

Ave Maria Oratory right side maquette by Marton Varo - Photo courtesy of Marton Varo

Ave Maria Oratory right side maquette by Márton Váró – Photo courtesy of Márton Váró

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Scythian delights a dancing crowd at the Grand Annunciation Feast in 2013

Robb Klucik has lived with his family in Ave Maria since it opened in 2007. In addition to running his law practice in Ave Maria, Robb edits this blog, administers a facebook forum for 1000 Ave Maria residents, serves as the President of the West Point Society of Naples, and enjoys spending time with his family and friends.

Patrick Cassidy, composer of “Calvary” soundtrack, visits Ave Maria

calvary-film

It is not very often that a film with an overtly Catholic theme portrays people of orthodox faith in a positive light, portrays them realistically and without saccharine, and offers the viewer an experience of truth, beauty, and goodness. Rarer still do both critics and audiences laud such a film (see National Catholic Register’s Steven Greydanus, First Things, Roger Ebert, New York TimesPatheos, The New Yorker, and Rotten Tomatoes).

That film, Calvary, is currently playing in theaters here in the Naples area and throughout the United States. You can view the trailer here. You can listen to the soundtrack here and here.

This week, the man who composed Calvary’s soundtrack and score, Patrick Cassidy, and the producer of the soundtrack, his brother Frank Cassidy, have been visiting Ave Maria, Florida. Patrick and Frank CassidyHailing from Ireland but now living in Los Angeles, Patrick’s artistic accomplishments speak for themselves. People in town might recall that Patrick wrote the “Ave Maria” that was played during the unveiling of Marton Varo’s magnum opus, the “Annunciation” sculpture that graces the façade of the Oratory (click video to listen).

Carved in stone: Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariæ

The Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is normally celebrated on March 25 (tomorrow), which is nine months before the Feast of Christmas. It is also known as the Feast of the Incarnation and the Annunciation of the Lord. annunciations

The feast marks a gospel episode that has been portrayed in art countless times through the centuries, often with the angel Gabriel kneeling before a standing Mary.

Of course, the town of Ave Maria is named after this Incarnation episode. Ave Maria Annunciation Marton-and-AnnunciationFronting Ave Maria Boulevard (but with the altar facing east) and situated in the middle of Annunciation Circle, the Oratory at the very center of town features the massive Annunciation sculpture, carved here in town in glistening white Carrara marble by Márton Váró from 2009 to 2011. The sculpture is composed of huge carved blocks that are stacked on top of one another and set into the arched tympanum on the front of the Oratory. The carved block portraying Mary’s head and torso was lowered into place from a crane at 6:00 p.m. on January 7, 2011, at which point onlookers joyfully prayed the Angelus (led by Dan Guernsey).

This is how the Annunciation story is told in Luke 1:26-38:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!”But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. 

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no husband?” And the angel said to her,

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.

And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

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