This grand altar in a tiny side chapel in Assisi, all marble and flowers and soft colors, has a stillness so profound you can almost hear it. Nothing sounds but your own breath. Beauty abounds and the worries of the day fades. Our hearts are restless until they rest in You, says St. Augustine.
Though the day’s light shines through the windows, time has been put on pause. All elements in the chapel point to the tiny tabernacle covered in gold within which resides the Real Presence of Jesus. The candles march out in perfect order drawing you out to the windows which angle in with the slant of the walls, pulling you back to the marble dome, down through the crucifix to the tabernacle. A pause, a beat. Then farther down to the tomb, across the altar cloth, up the flowers and back down to the tabernacle. In and out. Our breath follows the flow.
The Italy pilgrimage was marked with long walks and closed churches. so this was a particularly special moment. We had driven up to the top of Assisi and walked the path down to the town that St. Francis would have walked daily. It’s a long walk. Assisi is a convoluted town. It’s breathtakingly gorgeous, and perfectly preserved as a medieval town, but that means all the roads are winding and confusing.
My group got a little lost, found one church that was open, and then finally this one, St. Clare’s I believe, where we met up with more of the group. We had finally settled down for some prayer after all that walking, and I had just started to draw this altar which had so enamored me for the movement the flowers and candles and windows and dome were creating, when the group started to leave.
Having to content myself with a quick photo, I couldn’t help but feel a little overwhelmed. It was the first church I almost had the time to sketch, and we had to leave.
But looking back it was really good to have just taken the photo. This is one complicated altar and my minuscule journal was not ready for it. And when on pilgrimage, much like life, resting first is more important than getting things done.
Oil paint is slightly transparent, letting light bounce through thinner layers of paint to the the lower layers. The brush strokes, everywhere they are even slightly raised, catch the light, and change throughout the day as the light changes. The original painting will hold a depth that is not capturable with a print. There’s no replacing what an original piece looks like, and when you love a piece, it’s always worth it to get the original if possible.
Want to bring Jesus into your home in a special and unique way? Contact me about commissioning an altar painting of your church at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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