FEATURE IMAGE: Detail (top portion) of the East Bronze Door by Italian artist Biagio Governali depicting the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii, Chicago.
The four exterior doors of the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii in Chicago – known as The Bronze Doors of the Holy Rosary of Our Salvation – visually narrate the twenty mysteries of the Rosary – the Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and Luminous mysteries. The East Bronze Door narrates the five Luminous mysteries.
Inspired by the main gate (“Porta del Paradiso”) of the Baptistry of Florence made by Florentine goldsmith and sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378-1455) between 1425 and 1452 and located in front of Florence’s cathedral, the contemporary bronze doors in Chicago were made by Biagio Governali, native of Corleone, Italy. With the artist following the time-honored methods of bronze relief sculpture used by medieval and Renaissance artists, the doors were dedicated and blessed by Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I. (1937-2015), on October 11, 2004.
Our Lady of Pompeii was originally established in Chicago in 1911 as an Italian national parish and is the oldest continuing Italian-American Catholic Church in Chicago. The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii was proclaimed in 1994 by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin (1928-1996) as a place to pray for peace that embraces pilgrims of all faiths. The bronze doors are intended to endure as a herald of the Catholic faith and give homage to the Shrine’s Italian roots.
Pope Saint John Paul II (1920-2005) established the Luminous Mysteries near the end of his almost 27-year pontificate in 2002. About the entire rosary itself the pope said, “To meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary is to look into the face of Christ.”
According to The Catholic Encyclopedia (“The Rosary,” Herbert Thurston and Andrew Shipman, volume 13, Robert Appleton Company), the structure of the rosary including its 15 mysteries (five each for Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious) had been officially unchanged for 500 years – from the 16th to 20th centuries.
In 2002, Pope John Paul II instituted the five Luminous Mysteries. In his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, published on October 16, 2002, the pope marked out 4 broad areas as reasons to pray the rosary:
1. The rosary aids in contemplating Christ with Mary;
2. The rosary aids in contemplating the mysteries of Mary;
3. The rosary is a way of assimilating the mystery of “It is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20); and,
4. The rosary is a way of praying for, and arriving at, peace in one’s life, family, neighborhood, and in the world.
In the same letter (Chapter 3), the pope observed that icons and other religious visual images can assist the human imagination to meditate and contemplate upon the mysteries of the Christian faith, particularly those of the rosary. Appealing to the Church’s traditional spirituality as well as that of St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) in The Spiritual Exercises, the pope’s exhortation to artistic representations as aiding mental prayer imbues Chicago’s great bronze portals depicting the mysteries of the rosary with the authenticity of standing at the threshold between time and eternity and the sacred and profane.
The pope acknowledged that although all the rosary’s 20 mysteries can be termed “luminous” – that is, pertaining to mysteries of light – the five new Luminous mysteries fill the gap between the infancy and hidden life of Christ (i.e., Joyful) and Holy Week from Palm Sunday to Resurrection Day (i.e., Sorrowful and Glorious).
The Luminous mysteries present five significant moments from Christ’s public ministry. Each of these mysteries, the pope writes, “is a revelation of the Kingdom now present in the very person of Jesus.” (For more see- https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_letters/2002/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_20021016_rosarium-virginis-mariae.html).
1. The Baptism in the Jordan (top, left)
“And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.”‘ (Matthew 3:16-17).
2. The Wedding Feast of Cana (top, right)
“On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.”‘ (John 2:1-5).
5. The Institution of the Eucharist (center)
“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.”‘ (Matthew 26:26).
3. The Proclamation of the Kingdom of God (bottom, left)
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15).
4. The Transfiguration (bottom, right)
“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light.” (Matthew 17:1-2).