New stained glass windows for the “Little Cenacle” arrive from Palermo

“Stained glass windows” is the term that is used for convenience, but Professor Michele Canzoneri prefers to call them “transparent sculpture”. He and Fra Enrique Bermejo, guardian of the Little Cenacle (Cenacolino) monastery, were waiting for the truck that was to deliver the seven sculptures for the new chapel, coming all the way from Palermo.

Professor Canzoneri’s joy at the thought of mounting them in the coming days is mixed with a little unease. Did they make the trip safely? One of the containers might have been damaged.

Inside the chapel, where workers were busy with the final preparations, the professor’s face lights up when discusses his work. “This is the first time that I’ve had the opportunity to conceptualize an entire chapel, from the color of the walls to the stained glass windows, by way of the altar and the ambo.” The last two are being executed under the professor’s direction in Bethlehem.

An abstract artist, Michele Canzoneri created each his works on themes that were chosen through joint reflection with Fra Enrique and Mgr. Crispino Valenziano, a theologian, because “personally, I cannot create anything without the help of a theologian,” the professor explains. He indicates the frames that are ready to receive stained glass and pauses at the one in the apse behind the altar. From there, you can see the roof of the Cenacle. “This window lets the light through, breathing in the light of Jerusalem, and it’s like an ‘open book’.” When he looks at the chapel, it is as though he already sees the play of the light that will create its sculptures. “This is the last time that I will consecrate my work to the liturgy because for me Jerusalem is a destination.” To questions about the symbolism and theological message of the windows, he responds, “A church is not an art gallery,” and repeats the words he heard once heard about his work: “I don’t understand a thing, but I know that because it is here I pray better.”

The finishing touches on the chapel should take another month. But the chapel is not the only work in progress. The monastery’s little garden is also being transformed. Professor Canzoneri wanted it to be a sort of processional route, so the garden had to be completely redesigned. The work was confided to Rossella Leone, also from Palermo and Michele Canzoneri’s wife.

From the entry door to the monastery to the door of the new chapel, she sets off curved lines on the ground with low, white stone walls. “We have obtained a sort of open labyrinth between the cloister and the hortus conclusus (enclosed garden). At the center of this ‘comma’ a monument of polished stone will be like mirror for the sun and the moon. Groups will be able to pause in the garden to meditate or listen to the guide’s explanations.”

Rossella doesn’t hide her emotion at being able to work in Jerusalem, a work that requires “strength, simplicity and quality materials”, a work that is conceived as “for always”. This “for always” echoes all the more because Rossella is captivated by Jerusalem. “Even more than Palermo, Jerusalem has become my city, the city of my origin.” She is enchanted at being able to add to the beauty of the Holy City. Through their work, she and Canzoneri want to allow the pilgrim to move toward the essential, to leave the chaos of the world and move toward an encounter with the One who is the light of the world.” “We must also honor,” adds Rossella, “Father Custos Pizzaballa and Fra Enrique for following the path of so many religious who wanted to make beauty accessible and who provided the means for it.”

Fra Enrique adds that the Custody’s actions begin from a desire to serve pilgrims as well as possible. “A very large number of groups ask to celebrate the Eucharist in the shadow of the Cenacle, where it was instituted. When we had to renovate the monastery, which was in need of it, we reorganized the ground floor so as to enlarge the chapel that was already there but did not provide the best conditions for groups, especially in the summer.” In this place where the institution of the Eucharist and the giving of the Holy Spirit are commemorated, it was a matter of creating a place that was truly an invitation to prayer.

Once the work is completed, the Custody’s site will have the pleasure of presenting it to its readers in images.

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