Aquinas College has been augmented in recent weeks with artworks that have been generously funded by old collegians.
In the Chapel of St Thomas, a newly commissioned Marian icon has been installed above the Presider’s Chair. Meanwhile, the stairwell of the MacKillop Building is now home to 18 metal sculptures which comprise a contemporary Way of the Cross.
The icon was written by Melbourne iconographer, Ursula Betka. It depicts Mary under the title ‘Sedes Sapientiae’ – ‘Seat of Wisdom’, along with four early Marists – St Marcellin Champagnat (founder of the Marist Brothers), Ven. Jean-Claude Colin (Founder of the Marist Fathers), Jeanne-Marie Chavoin (Foundress of the Marist Sisters), and Françoise Perroton (Pioneer of the Marist Missionary Sisters).
In her conceptualising the icon, Dr Betka, drew not only from two traditional types of the Theotokos in ancient Greek iconography, but on two famous artworks: Madonna della Clemenza in Santa Maria Church, Trastevere (Rome) and Mary with Child Enthroned by Margarito d’Arezzo (now in the NGA in Washington DC).
The Way of the Cross was sculpted in the 1950s by surrealist artist, Voitre Marek (who already has two other metal artworks at Aquinas). They were in St Martin de Porres Church, Lock SA, until that church was decommissioned last year. Unlike a traditional Way of the Cross, these 18 stations begin with Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis and end with the Coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles. In their new home, they are quite stunning.
The College Rector, Brother Michael, said that Aquinas has long tradition of acquiring religious art, from the time of its second Rector, Fr Michael Scott SJ, who helped to establish the Blake Prize for religious art in Australia.
‘I believe that places such as Aquinas should be patrons of the arts,’ said Brother Michael. ‘The arts tap into our deeper purposes and express meaning. In the functional, secular and immediate age in which we find ourselves, art can help to take us to a different place.’