LuxTenebra, a day of study on Tabor and Gethsemane

LuxTenebra, a day of study on Tabor and Gethsemane

Light and darkness, mountain and valley, Tabor and Gethsemane. The day of study in Jerusalem and (online), promoted by the “Scientific Committee for the celebration of the jubilees of the Basilicas of Tabor and of Gethsemane”, swayed between these two contrasts. The two basilicas were consecrated in the month of June one hundred years ago. At the time, Pope Pius XI sent his delegate, Cardinal Oreste Giorgi. Today, with the war underway, the Committee had to put aside the idea of inviting a Pontifical Delegate and opted for day’s day of study.

In his introductory greeting, the Custos of the Holy Land, fra Francesco Patton, stressed the importance of initiatives with a cultural character in this jubilee year and recalled the spiritual benefits of the centenary, especially the indulgences.

Light and Darkness

“LuxTenebra” is the title of the exhibition on the two basilicas of Tabor and Gethsemane and is also the topic of this Day of Study. “This tension between splendour and shade was made tangible by the architect Antonio Barluzzi  in executing the two projects that had been assigned to him by the Custody of the Holy Land,” fra Alessandro Coniglio, director of the Scientific Committee, emphasized, introducing the proceedings. In the article “The Architect of God”, published in the Osservatore Romano in 1969, Pia Nicodemo, who knew him well, wrote: “Whoever was close to him could realize his intimate torment in the effort of translating into architectonic lines, two contrasting moments of the life of Christ: the Transfiguration on Tabor, the solitary agonic in the olive grove.”

“In the Holy Land, each place where there is a shrine is a precise reference to a specific mystery in the life of Christ. The desire was thus born to (…) bend art to express the feeling provoked by this mystery,” Barluzzi himself wrote in his essay “The new architecture of the shrines of the Holy Land.”

Archaeology and history

The papers in the morning concentrated on the archaeological and historical aspects. The papers by Professors Eugenio Alliata on Gethsemane and Gianantonio Urbani on Tabor presented to the public – including with the help of photographic material of the time – the main archaeological discoveries in the two areas and showed how the work of Barluzzi appreciated the archaeological aspect even when – it is the case of both basilicas - he proceeded with a completely new work.

It was then the turn of two papers with a historical approach. Fra Narcyz Klimas, through documents and historical sources, spoke of the Franciscan presence in the two Holy Places, which sometimes fades into stories with a legendary tone, as in the case of the emir Fakhr ed Din, whose donation is at the origin of the Franciscan presence on Mount Tabor. After him,  Prof. Giuseppe Buffon (in a video link), examined in depth the figure of the Custos of the time, Ferdinando Diotallevi, a great “builder” to whom we also owe the inauguration of the  Studium Biblicum Franciscanum.

Art and restoration

In the afternoon, there was room for a more artistic approach. After the contribution from a philosophical angle by Andrea Bizzozero (by video link) on the “ambiguity of the light,” it was the runs of the architect Vincenzo Zuppardo, one of the members of the Scientific Committee. He outlined the architectonic solutions linked to the use of light in the basilicas and  told the story of a “little mystery” in the stained glass windows of Tabor, on which he himself worked in the phase of restoration about ten years ago.

The last two speakers were Gian Maria Secco Suardo and Carla Benelli. The first, whose family was friendly with Barluzzi’s. spoke of the artists and the manpower that collaborated on building the basilicas. The second, who worked on the restoration of the mosaics of Gethsemane between 2012 and 2014, illustrated how the restoration was done, with its reasons and phases. To conclude the day, a concert offered by the Magnificat Institute, of the Custody of the Holy Land, aimed to evoke, through music, the same tension between light and darkness.

Marinella Bandini