Visions and Ecstasies: Artistic Exhibition of 17th and 18th Centuries

In Vatican’s Restored “Charlemagne Wing”

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 2, 2003 ( An exhibition at the Holy See entitled “Visions and Ecstasies: Masterpieces of European Art Between the 17th and 18th Centuries” includes some standout expressions of Baroque art.

The exhibition, which opened Oct. 10 and will continue until Jan. 18, celebrates the reopening to the public of the famous “Charlemagne Wing,” which was closed for a decade to undergo restoration.

Caravaggio, Pietro da Cortona and Gian Lorenzo Bernini are among the artists whose works are being exhibited. For the first time, the best depictions of ecstasies, visions, stigmata and levitations in European religious painting are on display.

There are close to 100 works, in which the iconography of saint predominates. The principal figures portrayed are Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. John of God.

The religious art of this period “is not limited to celebrating the saints’ virtues, but exalts and radiates the images of their visions and ecstasies,” the explanatory panels state.

The exhibition starts with an introductory section entitled “The Call,” in reference to a vocation, in which the saints are depicted in an attitude of prayer.

The second section is “The Response,” which entails suffering and the imitation of Christ.

The third is “The Consolation,” which includes apparitions and visions that make it possible to “hear the music of heaven,” the organizers say.

The fourth section of the exhibition brings together the ecstatic visions, stigmata and levitations.

The exhibition was prepared for the fourth centenary of the birth of St. Joseph of Cupertino (1603-2003).

The mystical experience was not only a characteristic subject of Baroque art, but also the main argument of Karol Wojtyla’s doctoral thesis, which was dedicated to St. John of the Cross. The exhibition is being presented for the 25th anniversary of John Paul II’s pontificate.

The “Charlemagne Wing” is on the left of St. Peter’s Square, at the very start of the colonnade. Bernini designed the hall, a brilliant example of Roman Baroque.

The director is Giovanni Morello of the Vatican Apostolic Library.

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