Neocatechumenal Founder Makes His Mark in Cathedral

Kiko Argüello Decorates an Apse in Madrid

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MADRID, Spain, MAY 11, 2004 (Zenit.org).- As the founder of the Neocatechumenal Way, Kiko Argüello has had an impact on the Church. Now, as an artist, he has had an impact on the Cathedral of Almudena.



Argüello was the artist chosen to execute the paintings and stained glass windows of the apse of the Madrid cathedral.

Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, archbishop of Madrid, recently presented the works of art -- the "crown of mysteries" centered on the "fundamental moments of the mystery of Christ," Veritas agency reported.

The "crown of mysteries" comprises seven paintings, painted on a wall prepared with Roman stucco, representing Christ Pantokrator, his baptism, transfiguration, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension, and Pentecost.

The cardinal noted the "wise idea of having united [in the works] the tradition of the Eastern Church and that of the Latin Church at a time when Europe wants to be one."

These paintings will help visitors "to encounter the mystery of Christ, with the Word made flesh, the One who will come and who commands us to forgive our enemies," the Madrid cardinal said.

Among the reasons for choosing Argüello, he said, was the need to make it possible for "the People of God" to "experience in greater depth what the Cathedral of Almudena signifies, the place of the real and sacramental presence of the Lord, the place where the mystery of the Church comes alive."

For his part, Argüello, who received Spain's National Prize for Painting in 1959, explained that with this work he wanted to unite "tradition and modernity."

"It is important for me that, behind these paintings, is the faith of centuries," he said.

"The composition and the structural contents of the iconography represented follow the oldest tradition, which until the 15th century was common in the Churches of the East and West," the artist explained.

Argüello said that he and his team prayed much while working and fasted, asking the Blessed Virgin for inspiration so that their work would be of service to the faithful.

Neither Argüello nor his collaborators will charge for their work. The only cost to the Church will be the materials used.

The Pantokrator, in the "crown of mysteries," is holding a book that states: "Love your enemies. I am coming soon!"

With this message, Argüello wants to remind the faithful that Christians "have conquered death in Christ. He has freed us from the fear of death. Faith gives us eternal life, and whoever has it can love beyond death."

At the center of the stained glass windows, made in Venice's island of Murano, is the word Mary, "the most beautiful name the Church has," Argüello said.

The seven colorful, modern stained glass windows are dedicated to "the Word," which appears written in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, Cyrillic and Spanish.

For the presentation, the Madrid Archdiocese's press office published an article in which Italian journalist and writer Vittorio Messori says that behind the present mediocrity "of architecture, sculpture and painting applied to the sacred" is hidden "a crisis of faith."

For Messori, the crisis of faith that empties sacred art of its content, with "a rationalist look that is able to analyze reality, dissecting it even in its most profound particles," robs it of "the mystery that penetrates and surrounds it."

"It is not enough to be a master full of science and intuition to create the venerable image of our Lord," Messori said. "I think it is necessary that the artist lead a Christian and even holy life, so that the breath of the Spirit reaches him."