Church paintings

Catholic Church paintings, “retablos” and murals

St. Francis Xavier, Patron Saint of Missionaries

In celebration of St.Francis Xavier

"En el Nombre del Padre..." San Francisco Javier Baptizing, retablo painting by AVonnHartung, in Parroquia San Francisco Javier (Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico)This painting shows the humble Jesuit missionary baptizing a youth

St. Francis Xavier brought more than 30,000 souls into the Faith. Known as the “Apostle of the Indies” and “Apostle of Japan”, he is said to have converted more people than anyone else has done since Saint Paul.

 

This Painting/Retablo was commissioned by Padre Julio Victor García in 2002 for Iglesia San Francisco Javier (Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico). It measures 6 feet in width by 11 feet in height and is my original design, built from solid mahogany, painted in acrylic and gilded with gold and copper leaf.

The vertical format symbolizes this world, our Church and the witness of the life and evangelizing work of San Francisco Javier.

The frame, through its striking presence displays the Sign of the Cross with which we as Christians identify ourselves in and through Baptism. It represents the tireless work of St. Francis, from sunrise to sunset, and the eternal truth, the Alpha and Omega of Christ. It acts as a window through which we enter to find further truths.

St. Francis Xavier is portrayed baptizing a youth who symbolizes the future church whose people are seen coming to the Faith.

The Holy Family is represented by any and all who do the Will of the Father in bringing young souls to be saved.

The Children brought forth by their Godparents engage us in reflection and contemplative prayer.

The Holy Trinity: Above the head of St. Francis is depicted the sacred image of The Holy Trinity, originally written (painted) by the great 15th century Russian iconographer Andre Rublev. Its inclusion is meant to draw us into the mystery of God,and to remind us of God’s love. It also prophetically reminds us of Jesus’ words as expressed in John 15: 26-27 (“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.”)

The Background: Surrounding this cascade of divinity with its luminous light and vapors, are luxurious examples of Holy Creation as expressed in the abundance of nature – by the breadfruit and mango trees, symbolizing Love, Beauty and Resurrection, and by the depiction of the dove which is drawn closer, and the serpent which is driven away.

“They who pray with faith have fervor and fervor is the fire of prayer. This mysterious fire has the power of consuming all our faults and imperfections, and of giving to our actions, vitality, beauty and merit.” (Francis Xavier)

 

Faith in Art

In his August prayer intention, the Holy Father speaks to artists, “That artists of our time, through their creativity, may help us discover the beauty of creation.

In response to Pope Francis’ prayer intention, the Catholic Truth Society requested I write an article about how I find Faith through my art. “Faith in Art” was published on 20 August 2017 on their blog CTS Catholic Compass.

Here is the Spanish translation

La Fe en el Arte

 

San Patricio (vitral en Iglesia San José)

En su intención de oración de agosto, el Santo Padre habla a los artistas: “Que los artistas de nuestro tiempo, a través de su creatividad, nos ayuden a descubrir la belleza de la creación”.

Como artista de Arte Sacro Católico, me esfuerzo por poner a Dios en mi trabajo.

Como un niño pequeño y creciendo asistí a nuestra Iglesia Católica local, San José en New London, Connecticut.

Siempre nos sentábamos en el lado sur por las hermosas vidrieras donde la luz de la mañana era más radiante; cada uno representaba un santo diferente. Creo que fue a causa de esta exposición temprana a la belleza sagrada que con el tiempo he dedicado mi regalo del arte a la Iglesia.

 

 

A medida que crecía llegué a entender que Dios estaba en todas partes, oculto en todas las cosas. Vi esto reflejada más en la magnífica belleza de la naturaleza, y al madurar en la fe vine a conocerlo a través de Cristo, en la humanidad.

 

Busco a Dios y me esfuerzo por revelarlo en mi arte. De hecho, es mi acto más fuerte de oración.

 

Así que ofrezco esta pintura en respuesta a la llamada del Papa Francisco al diálogo y la acción en su encíclica Laudato Si’, Sobre el Cuidado de la Casa Común.

La pintura es alegórica y hace una pregunta profética, ya que nos presenta sólo dos posibles futuros. Uno en armonía con la voluntad de Dios y el otro en desarmonía.

 

"On Earth as it is in Heaven"_oil painting by AVonnHartung
   “Thy Will Be Done” oil painting  42 x 57-inches

Empecé a pintarlo en 1993 y originalmente titulado “Hágase Tu Voluntad” tomado de la oración que Jesús nos enseñó, el Padre Nuestro.

¿Cuál elegiremos vivir, dejar a nuestros hijos y a las futuras generaciones?

 

Como cristianos, hemos aprendido que Dios nos dio Libre Albedrío, cuando en el Jardín del Edén, le dio a Adán la opción de ser heredero de todo bien en su Creación, pero le prohibió comer del fruto prohibido (Génesis 2: 16-17).

Adam optó por no escuchar a Dios y le desobedeció. Así que él y todos sus descendientes fueron expulsados y sufrimos el Pecado Original.

 

 

 

Dios nos dio una segunda oportunidad cuando envió a su hijo Jesucristo al mundo para redimirnos (Juan 3:16). Una vez más, la humanidad no escuchó, lo ignoró y la orgullosa élite gobernante y sus secuaces lo rechazaron y lo crucificaron.

 

Ahora bien, Dios nos está dando otra oportunidad, claramente hablada a través de su «Vicario de Cristo» en la Tierra, el Papa Francisco, en su encíclica Laudato Si, y a través de la ciencia que ha medido y nos ha alertado sobre la última extinción espantosa causada principalmente por la actividad humana, Resultando en daño cataclísmico a su creación.

 

Vamos una vez más no escuchar a Dios, no hacer su voluntad? ¿Volveremos a optar por rebelarnos contra él? A través de la indiferencia y orgullo seguir nuestro propio camino tonto hacia la destrucción?

Hay cristianos que están esperando, de hecho daría la bienvenida a la Segunda Venida de Cristo para que pudiera enderezar nuestro lío, para elevarlos en “El rapto”! Esto no es lo que pide Laudato Si’. Nos pide ser responsables del Regalo de la Creación, ejercer nuestro libre albedrío, nuestra inteligencia consciente y atender la llamada a cuidar “nuestro hogar común”.

 

En su encíclica, Nuestro Santo Padre nos habla de San Francisco de Asís cuyo nombre tomó como suyo, al convertirse en Papa (L.S.10).

En la pintura, vemos a San Francisco en primer plano con el buey fiel, símbolo del Evangelio de San Lucas y el Libro de los Hechos, abriéndonos el espectáculo completo de la conciencia y la elección fatídica ante nosotros.

 

Una elección que debemos hacer para cuidar la Creación de Dios, en armonía con su voluntad.

 

 

 

Como tal, pinté a Cristo, el centro de la Creación

(Por medio de él todas las cosas fueron creadas … Juan 1: 3)

Su divina Belleza, Palabra y Verdad que vi y oí como un niño, me esfuerzo humildemente por revelar aquí a través de mi arte, el amor de Dios por nosotros en su don de la Creación, a través de su hijo Jesucristo, nuestro Señor y salvador.

 

“Let it be Done”

 

 

 

"Let it be Done", painting by AVonnHartung for Walsingham UK

Deep in the night with the Star of Jesus centered in the sky, Mary is in prayer, surrounded by the symbols of her faith.She prays that in some small way she might serve in the coming of the promised Messiah. Suddenly her prayers are answered!

The ceiling opens!

The Angel Gabriel descends in divine glory and declares the message from God the Father. After pondering deep in her heart the words and their meaning, Mary gives her consent.

At that very moment she is filled with the luminous light of grace as she vows to fulfill the will of the Father and to deliver His only Son incarnate as Jesus Christ into the world according to His divine plan for our salvation.

This original painting by AVonnHartung (acrylic 36″x 60″) was created for EWTN (UK)’s new welcoming center at the National Shrine of England (Mary’s House of Nazareth) in the village of Walsingham. The painting is an interpretation of the visions received by Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (Augustinian Nun) in 1821, with some added symbolism by the Artist to enhance and clarify the spiritual and prophetic consequences of the Annunciation Event.

THE WALSINGHAM STORY

“In 1061, the widow of the lord of the manor of Walsingham (Richeldis de Faverches) had a series of visions of the Virgin Mary, who showed her the house in Nazareth where the angel Gabriel made his revelation of the forthcoming birth of Jesus. Our Lady asked Richeldis to build a replica of the holy house in Walsingham.” It was at a time when it was extremely dangerous to visit the Holy Land, so this replica of Mary’s House would afford English Christians the opportunity to pay homage to her house in their own country. Walsingham became the premier shrine, and a large Christian community and monastery grew in its proximity.

“During medieval times, Walsingham was visited by thousands of pilgrims from all over Britain and Europe, including nearly all the kings and queens of England from Henry III (c1226). Royal visits continued right up to Henry VIII (1511). Then came the Reformation in 1538.”
When the pope refused to grant him a divorce from Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII ordered the destruction of Mary’s House in 1538. It was burned to the ground and the statue of Our Lady was taken to London to be destroyed.
READ MORE

The Shrine at Walsingham is visited today by 350,000 pilgrims annually.

 “When England returns to Walsingham, Our Lady will return to England.”

(Pope Leo XIII)

SYMBOLISM IN THE PAINTING

The opening of the roof exposes the open sky showing the constellations of Virgo and Leo and the location of the holy house in Nazareth. The Star of Jesus, better known as the Star of Bethlehem, is used here to signify the presence and the will of the Father.

Mary’s Halo shows an ethereal lightening, a shimmering of the atmosphere around her head, indicating her divine nature; her luminosity and state of grace.

The Scroll on the prayer table symbolizes the prophecy of Isaiah (“Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Immanuel” Isaiah 7:14).

Mary’s belt shows a symbol of the Fetus.

The Three Lilies on the prayer table remind us of the promise of Joseph to honor Mary’s vow of virginity and dedication to the Lord.

The Three Lilies carried by the angel Gabriel are a sign of the fulfillment of her vow and a blessing of her faithfulness.

The Rug (woven in lamb’s wool) represents Mary’s faith and prayer life. Its design, which emanates from and surrounds the Star of Jesus (“For we have seen his star in the east…” Matthew 2:2) is made up of symbols and scenes in the life of Christ to come.

The design of the the Floor Tiles symbolizes the flow which spread the Christian Faith from nation to nation throughout the world (“Go ye and teach all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and of the Holy Spirit” Matthew 28:19).

The Fireplace is a symbol of the home and family, of warmth, well-being and security.

The Drawn Curtain on Mary’s bed reminds us of the torn veil of the temple (Matthew 27:51); a symbol of hope reminding us of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, death and resurrection and promise of eternal life; the faint spectrum of color emanating from the curtain, a symbol of revelation.

The Hope Chest beneath the bed reminds us of the simplicity and humble social status of Mary, the young bride of Joseph the Carpenter. This same Mary who will become the Mother of God.

Amen

Forever Young, Siempre Joven, Christ Among Us

A 27 sq ft work of art by A.VonnHartung for the students of Colegio (High School) San Juan Bosco at Parroquia Maria Auxiliadora, Cantera, San Juan, Puerto Rico (Párroco Padre Colacho SDB).

Commissioned by the Director and Theology Professor, Padre Jorge Santiago SDB .

Was installed in the main hallway of the school on the Feast Day of San Juan Bosco 31 January 2017.

The painting expresses an Epiphany of Faith, Joy, Love of Community and Learning, so much evident in the Christ-filled spirit of the school.

Director of School Padre Jorge Antonio Santiago SDB with artist Arturo Vonn Hartung and Felix “Junior” Rodriguez

Stations of Mercy

With great joy I share the news of this booklet recently published by the Catholic Truth Society (Publishers to the Holy See), “Stations of Mercy with Pope Francis” by Amette Ley ©2016, illustrated with my paintings of the Stations of the Cross, commissioned in 2001 by Mons. Antonio “Tito” José Vázquez for Parroquia Santa Rosa de Lima in Guaynabo (Barrio Amelia), Puerto Rico, blessed in 2002 by our Archbishop Mons. Roberto González Nieves OFM.

Booklet by Amette Ley published by Catholic Truth Society©2016 with paintings by AVonnHartung
Booklet by Amette Ley published by Catholic Truth Society©2016 with Stations of the Cross paintings by AVonnHartung
Jesus takes up his cross, ViaCrucis station 2 painting by A.Vonn Hartung
The book cover image is a detail of the second Station of the Cross painting (Jesus takes up His Cross)

Here is the description of this booklet from the Catholic Truth Society website:

“A journey with Pope Francis along the well known Stations of Christ’s passion to discover at every step the boundless and life giving mercy of God. Each Station is accompanied by a brief scripture passage and pertinent words of Pope Francis, giving his own particular insights into mercy. These themes of forgiveness and mercy, so important during the Year of Mercy, are readily absorbed by way of this simple and long-standing devotion.”

The Catholic Truth Society is a non-profit company which has been publishing booklets for the Holy See since 1868.

I give thanks for this Blessing and Honor!

Purchase this booklet
See the video of these paintings
Learn more about these paintings

 

 

Doors of Mercy

Commissioned by the Archbishop of San Juan, S.E.R. Monseñor Roberto González Nieves for the arch above the main doors of Catedral San Juan Bautista in San Juan, Puerto Rico to commemorate Pope Francis’ declared Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy 2015-2016.

Cristo Abriendo Las Puertas de Misericordia_AVonnHartung
                                                     Painting by A.Vonn Hartung

Our Merciful Christ opens the Doors of Mercy and Forgiveness to all who pass through them with repentant hearts.

The waves bow down to our Lord as when He calmed the Sea of Galilee, also representing the Island of Puerto Rico as well as Earth “Our Common Home“, an Island in the vast darkness and empty space of the endless universe which surrounds us.

The Doors open onto the paradise that is Heaven, the reward of all the faithful and repentant souls.

Christ Opening the Doors of Mercy at Catedral San Juan Bautista
Christ Opening the Doors of Mercy at Catedral San Juan Bautista
InstallingMisericordiaCatedralSJ
Installing painting at Catedral San Juan Bautista

 

 

And they saw the tomb was empty…(Mark 16)

When Jesus was resurrected, becoming for us The Christ, in that moment the world was changed for his believers forever! Earth burst into blossom. Earth glowed with light in the deep dark night of time. Everything, all creation was illuminated with divine light, hope.

AS SUCH I PAINTED THE STATIONS OF THE RESURRECTION (Via Lucis-The Way of Light)

And they saw the tomb was empty_ViaLucis1_painting on glass by AVonnHartung
And they saw the tomb was empty

The intense color is meant to bring this miraculous change into our consciousness. The colors are super infused with hue. Each color becomes the heightened essence of itself. To the uninformed eye these “stained glass” windows on the Resurrection might look fantasia-like. They’re meant to be however,  simple in form and basic in color.

 

"Mary Magdalene encounters the risen Jesus" ViaLucis2 painting on glass by AVonnHartung
Mary Magdalene encounters the risen Jesus

The figures show emotion in their gestures, their exaggerated movements. This is to show that reality was turned on its head.

Something so unbelievable had occurred that it changed consciousness forever. The world became full of hope, full of meaning because death had lost its power, its grip on humanity. Hallelujah! He has risen!

"After the Resurrection Jesus appears to the women" ViaLucs3 painting on glass by AVonnHartung
After the Resurrection Jesus appears to the women

These 14 Stations of the Resurrection (Via Lucis) adorn the upper reaches of the nave of Capilla San Juan Bosco in Orocovis (Barrio Gato), Puerto Rico. They were commissioned by Padre Jorge Santiago Cartagena, SDB. Twelve similar windows were also commissioned by Padre Jose Luis Gómez, SDB for the church San Juan Bosco in Villa Palmeras, San Juan.

In 1998 Father Sabino Palumbieri, Salesian priest and professor of theological anthropology in Rome, “proposed the creation of a new set of stations [to complement the Stations of the Cross] centered upon the resurrection and the events following it so as to emphasize the positive hopeful aspect of the Christian story which, though not absent from the Stations of the Cross, is obscured by their emphasis upon suffering. The first major public celebration of this devotion was in 1990…”
It was officially sanctioned by the Vatican in 2001. (From Wikipedia-“Stations of the Resurrection”)

Contemplative Images for Holy Week

View a video of these Stations of the Cross, accompanied by sacred music

 The reason for the use of Sacred Art in the Church is to make visible what is invisible, to bring us to a more heightened state of awareness and connection with God and His Saints that we might share more fully in His Glory and Love for us, that we might go forth and DO HIS WILL.

Sacred Places of Jesus’ Life, Death and Resurrection have always been venerated – early pilgrims retraced the Way of the Cross. So it was that the pilgrims brought back from The Holy Land the idea of recreating those sacred places and events to share with the faithful of their home churches.

It is said that Saint Francis of Assisi began the practice of the Stations of the Cross. It then spread throughout Italy and Europe. It was his practice to reproduce in a realistic way the events of our Lord’s life and deeds (an example, is his reported installation of the stable and manger with live animals and people in commemoration of the birth of Jesus).

In a similar way I conceived these Stations of the Cross to bring immediacy to the Passion of our Lord.

Each one measures 4-ft x 8-ft. This is because of the cavernous size and interior simplicity of the nave of the church, Santa Rosa de Lima, in the town of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.  Intimacy was achieved by the use of local people as models and customs so that the faithful might better identify with the trials that Our Lord and Savior suffered and died for because of His Love for us.

 

Jesus is condemned to death. ViaCrucis Station 1 painting by AVonnHartung

Here we see Jesus, centered, surrounded by many but COMPLETELY alone, only those admitted from the status quo on both sides (although we see Flavia, wife of Pilate and perhaps Nicodemus who represent a small group of inside sympathizers).

In the midst of a crowded room He is a lonely figure. All signs point to Him, the columns, the center aisle and all who gesture, single Him out in accusation. He is The One! The cause of all their troubles, indignation and hatred! He must DIE!

 

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Our Lady of Guadalupe with St. Juan Diego

"Apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe with St. Juan Diego" painting by AVonnHartung
“Apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe with St. Juan Diego” painting by AVonnHartung

Today we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of Mexico and Empress of the Americas…today December 12, the day that she left her image imprinted on Juan Diego’s tilma. (translation from La Palabra Entre Nosotros)

This painting also celebrates St. Juan Diego, whose Feast Day is December 9th.

In 2003 I was commissioned by Parroquia San Ignacio (9:30 Community) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to paint “Our Lady of Guadalupe” to be given as a gift to Father Donald Vega SJ, on the occasion of his 50th anniversary as a priest. (She is his personal patron saint)

I added a personal detail by including his dog Luigi in the foreground. Luigi and Lola were orphaned dogs taken in by Father Vega. They would lie down before the altar and in the first pew everyday as he celebrated mass.

Here is a brief history of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Spanish translation follows

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