Here for the first time is a piece by iconographer, Keri Wiederspahn. She will be doing a series of posts about her faith and her work as an icon painter and influences on both. She is on the faculty of Pontifex University, which will offer courses in the Fall. We haven’t featured France much on the Way of Beauty to date (perhaps its a reflection of my being English, I don’t know), but this certainly helps to redress the balance. Thank you Keri!
Here it is:
Beauty leads the way to inspire wonder and holds the key to mystery and a call to transcendence.
By Keri Wiederspahn
Several decades ago, as an unchurched 15-year old drawn to art and already identifying myself as an aspiring artist, I was blessed with a transformative encounter on a trip to the ancient cliff-side village of Rocamadour in the South of France not far from where my parents and I were spending the year on my father’s sabbatical in the Dordogne Valley.
Medieval discoveries were now expected daily in our lives in this new land, but this pilgrim experience became something altogether different — my first encounter with the infinite beauty and love of God received through a sacred aesthetic experience. A true source of theology was manifest in this place of tangible space, color and sculpted form, celebrating the joy and mystery of salvation while revealing an unexpected door of mercy that initiated my early hunger and thirst for God.
With flights of steps worn smooth from the centuries of pilgrimage by kings, bishops, nobles and common folk, various legends and fact intermingle surrounding Rocamadour through St. Amadour who is said to have built the cliff-side chapel in honor of the Blessed Virgin, attributed to also having carved the simple Black Madonna known for its miraculous happenings.
The sense of the Other is profound in this place, rich with the gift of Divine inspiration.
The carved Black Madonna remains cloistered in its chapel to this day, and it was from within the centuries-old resonance of prayer that Christ somehow became real to me for the first time through this most simple presentation of Christ through his Mother.
It turns out that many conversions happened in this humble chapel — composer Francis Poulenc was one of them, a great talent influenced and mentored by Eric Satie, who after spending extended time in the chapel, dedicated the remainder of (Read More)