Ecclesiastic Kitsch Hits Holy Town
Czestochowa, Poland - The world's largest Papal statue honoring Pope John Paul II was unveiled this week. The 45-ft high sculpture is fashioned from fiberglass and weighs five tons.
Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network expected a more sophisticated homage in Poland's holiest town.
The art work depicts the pope standing with outstretched arms blessing the city of Czestochowa in southern Poland, where it has been erected. The city is home to the Jasna Gora monastery, with its famous icon, the Black Madonna.
The company that created the statue is well known for their fiberglass dinosaurs produced for theme parks across Europe. This sculpture has been compared to the Stay Puft marshmallow man from the film Ghostbusters, by some critics.
The project was funded by Leszek Lyson who said he wanted to give thanks to John Paul II for the life of his son, whom Mr Lyson saved from drowning during a family holiday in Croatia three years ago.
The statue has sparked controversy after commentators called it Kitsch and lacking in craftsmanship.
Karol Wojtyla, the former Archbishop of Krakow was elected as pope in 1978 at the age of 58. Taking the name John Paul II, he was the first non-Italian pope in more than 450 years, He died in 2005 age 84 and beautified a saint in 2011.
Town of Black Madonna
Legend has it that the town's most famous icon, The Black Madonna, was painted by St. Luke on a table panel used by Jesus' family. Jasna Gora monastery, near Katowice, is responsible for keeping this religious treasure safe.
The next time we hear of the painting is in 326 A.D. when St. Helen found it in Jerusalem and gave it to her son and had a shrine built for it in Constantinople. During a battle, the picture was placed on the walls of the city, and the enemy army fled.
The picture was owned by many other people until 1382 when invading Tartars attacked a Prince Ladislaus' fortress, where the painting was located. A Tartar's arrow lodged into through the throat of the Madonna. The Prince transferred the painting to a church in Czestochowa, Poland.
In 1430, the church was invaded and a looter struck the painting two times with his sword, but before he could strike it another time, he fell to the ground in agony and pain, and died.
The sword cuts and the arrow wound are still visible on the painting. The miracles worked by Our Lady of Czestochowa seem to occur mainly on a public scale. During her stay in Constantinople, she is reported to have frightened the besieging Saracens away from the city.
Similarly, in 1655 a small group of Polish defenders was able to drive off a much larger army of Swedish invaders from the sanctuary. The following year, the Holy Virgin was acclaimed Queen of Poland by King Casimir.
In the early 1980s, Lech Walesa didn't drape himself in the Polish flag when he was leading the outlawed Solidarity movement; he placed an Our Lady of Czestochowa lapel pin on his jacket. Poles knew it to be a subversive message.
Pope John Paul II, a native son of Poland, prayed before the Madonna during his historic visit in 1979, several months after his election to the Chair of Peter. The Pope made another visit to Our Lady of Czestochowa in 1983 and again in 1991.
Why is She Black?
There have been reports for centuries of miraculous events such as spontaneous healings occuring to those who made a pilgrimage to the portrait.
It is known as the 'Black Madonna" because of the soot residue that discolors the painting. The soot is the result of centuries of votive lights and candles burning in front of the painting.
With the decline of communism in Poland, pilgrimages to the Black Madonna have increased dramatically.
Unfortunately, dating the work precisely has confounded experts; restoration attempts have rendered discovering the exact century in which the icon was originally painted almost impossible. Experts say the icon could date from the 6th century to the 14th century.