Once again, a visit to Rebecca at Recuerda mi Corazon, where she hosts Mornings with Mary each Monday. Rebecca's blog is inspiring me greatly at present (two posts here in two days!!) - now I am taking the leap of participating more. This is one way of enjoying sharing with others some of my own pleasure when I travel (and when I create imagery at home) in discovering the beauty of religious art. I do not practice any one particular faith but am drawn to intense spirituality of both people and place - it fills that 'hole in my soul' that we all, I think, possess - but which is filled in different ways for different people.
The first images I would like to share are of two of those of Nossa Senhora de Fátima - 'Our Lady of Fatima' to be found in churches all over Lisbon in Portugal. This portrayal of Mary is a popular figure in Lisbon, seen in many different places, Fatima being a 'local' site of important pilgrimage, just over an hour from the capital.
Two churches - two portrayals of Mary - but how different they are in the emotions they conjure in me. The first, above, is found in the Basilica da Estrela on the outskirts of Lisbon. Like many Lisboan churches I did not find it to be welcoming - but rather dark and forbidding, and here, Mary is also distanced from those who come to look and venerate. She is separated from the viewer (and from the images of the two children who first saw her in visions) by plate glass; swathed in a lurid yellow light. My first sensation was that of being instructed to perceive this effigy of holiness from afar. Kept at much more than arms length, she had nothing to do with me, but was literally separated by a barrier that I was forbidden to cross. (My second observation was 'who on earth chose that horrible soda-light glow?!)
Compare her with the second image - from the Igreja de São Domingos in the centre of Lisbon. Again, a dark and rather depressing interior, but here, although the placement and iconography is more or less the same, no glass separates the compassionate visage from her onlookers - She is gentle, compassionate, warm and accessible. I could touch her if I wanted. The glow comes not from a switch thrown by a sacristan - but from individual candles, lit by individual human beings as invocations for intercession or remembrance in times of gratitude or difficulty. For me, the link between human and Divine is made so much more clearly here - unsurprisingly, I like this portrayal a great deal more.