Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Time to Hope: Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York Museo De San Francisco, Santiago De Chile

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Time to Hope: Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York Museo De San Francisco, Santiago De Chile

Article excerpt

Time to Hope: Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York

Museo de San Francisco, Santiago de Chile

Every friendship has special places-comers of intimacy that are treasured and remembered. And so it is for me as I remember Jim Griffiss, as I reflect on the ten years we worked together: the daily phone calls-sometimes two or three or four-the lunches out, the visits to each others office and home. I call myself blessed for those years we worked together as editor and managing editor: always colleagues, always friends, and always dependent on each others gifts, judgment, and caring.

Jim and I shared an interest in art and a love of Spain and Latin America. After solving work problems, or even to avoid them, these were the topics we turned to for fun and for discovery of each other. Jim told me stories of traveling in Spain with Louis Weil, of the years in Puerto Rico at the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Caribbean, and I spoke of my journeys in both Spain and Latin America. We bought each other art books or exhibition posters for birthdays and Christmas. And in our most exhausted moments, we planned an imaginary trip through Spain, revisiting places he had so loved and exploring towns that I longed to know. In Jim's memory, I write here of an exhibition and a museum, both of which he would have cherished.

In the Fall of 2002, the Foundation "Las Edades del Hombre" (The Ages of Mankind) in conjunction with the Government of Castile and Leon sent a gift to the city of New York: an exhibition of 101 works of art, entitled Time to Hope. As a symbol of solidarity in memory of 9/11 and in the spirit of Christ, these treasures Riled the ambulatory and five side chapels of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, drawing crowds of people from around the country to view works never shown in the United States and rarely seen even in Spain.

Directed by the Rev. Dr. Antonio-Ignacio Melendez Alonso, the Foundation has its headquarters in a former Cistercian monastery of Valladolid. There the artistic riches of Castile and Leon are researched, catalogued, and restored. The cathedrals, parish churches, convents, and monasteries of this artistically and historically rich region are the Foundations resources. Although they have now put together more than ten shows, the Foundation has displayed only a small fraction of the works available from the close to 11,000 locations they oversee.

I visited the exhibition in November 2002 and met there with Dr. Melendez and his sister, Srta. Maria Melendez Alonso, a Foundation staff member and editor of the exhibition catalogue. They described the Foundation s philosophy and the four principles underlying their art presentations. First, Dr. Melendez explained, the works must be approachable: pieces are never set at a distance nor are they cordoned off from the visitor. With the exception of manuscripts and some objects that are small and precious, the works are open and within reach. Within reach is the point. They are close. The space between viewer and object is intentionally reduced to create an intimacy which, in Melendez's words, "returns the voice to the icons." This sense is reinforced by the lighting of the objects, a second principle of the presentation. As far as possible, illumination is natural or "house" lighting. In the late afternoon at the Cathedral, as the choir practiced and the last of the day's light filtered through the windows, the works had a spiritual quiet no museum could ever match. Though some of the pieces were difficult to see, especially the small reliquary boxes in the ambulatory, the overall effect was well worth the loss of an occasional detail.

A third principle, which may have been disconcerting to many viewers, is to curtail written information within an exhibition. In the New York exhibit, although an excellent catalogue and audio guides were available, the objects had no labels. For the frequent museumgoer this is shocking-and yet, after speaking with Melendez, I found it both understandable and acceptable, even admirable. …

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