Iconography for Unity
JERUSALEM – For the second consecutive year at the convent of St. Saviour in Jerusalem, there was a crash course in iconography. Under the leadership of Andres Bergamini 19 students decided to embark on this experience of sacred art; a true path of unity.
On July 4, the work is finished, the students of the iconography course returned to their homes. For 10 days they practiced the art of writing icons. Twelve of them were beginners and were dedicated to “Pantocrator“; the seven most advanced who had taken the course last year worked on the icon of “Mother of God“. Regardless of the students’ level, these courses offer each one to produce icons according to a pedagogy that enables progress in the design and mastery of tools to use in writing. It is not to be good at drawing but to have an inner desire that calls for the creation in prayer. “This year, the beginners course has been such a success that, unfortunately, not all applicants could be accepted” says Andres Bergamini, the course leader.
Among the participants from different countries (Italy, Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Syria, Jordan) there were a number of seminarians Neo-Catechumens, seven Franciscans, five Sisters of St. Dorothy, a Passionist Sister, an Elizabethan Sister, a member of the Hebrew language community. Ginetta Aldegheri, an Italian student in the advanced course, was very pleased about the “beautiful environment where you feel really at home … and meet the other communities.”
Andres Bergamini was joined by two other experienced iconography teachers: Lella and John Paul. Learning how to write an icon is an adventure. A spiritual adventure. The Art of the icon is for all practical purposes in the service of the Church to proclaim the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus through signs and accurate colors. In Jerusalem, the city of salvation, this dimension of the proclamation of the Good News, takes on a very special value. Indeed, Andres Bergamini ponders, “Jerusalem is a unique place for icons. Here there is great sensitivity due to the presence of the various Eastern rites. Even the Catholic Church over the last thirty years has rediscovered icons, with a great interest in learning. Icons, for example, are very much used by the catechism. “ In a word, the West discovers the icon and the icon discovers the West. If you listen to this passionate iconographer you understand how icons are the patrimony of the Universal Church. The East and the West have contributed to it. It is, in some ways, a bridge of unity thanks to religious art. Many Westerners find the icon that provides them support in faith and prayer. Rafael, a student on the course, a Franciscan of Melkite origin, says: “I always liked to design. I am Greek-Melkite and in our church the icon represents the living image of Christ. As a tabernacle. That’s why we kiss the icons. I always had a great desire to paint an icon, aware of the sacredness of this object. It’s a great joy to be here. The icon embodies the Person. “
This art is conceived in prayer
This is the heart of the sacred object: the encounter with the image does not stop the gaze but leads necessarily to communion with what is represented, so that the person can share the vision of the Divine. The faithful who pray before an icon tend towards spiritual communion, communion with God. A question arises: “What are you thinking as you write the icon?”. One student responds, “I think especially of those who will pray before this icon. For now it is me but later it will all.” The icon itself becomes then a symbol of this unity of believers gathered in the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ: That they be one as we are one: I in them and You in Me that they may be perfectly one (Jn 17, 22-23).
Amélie de La Hougue et Christophe Lafontaine
To see more photos: blog of Andres Bergamini