FEATURE IMAGE: Detail (top portion) of the Central Bronze Door by Italian artist Biagio Governali. On the left are the five Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary and on the right are the five Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary.
The exterior doors of the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii in Chicago visually narrate the twenty mysteries of the Rosary. These are the Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and Luminous mysteries. The faithful can use each door panel as a meditation to pray each decade of the Rosary.
In Europe, most of the complete works of art that have survived undamaged and unrestored from the Middle Ages and Renaissance to today are bronze doors, most of which are in Italy.
Even when the Shrine doors are closed, the sanctuary calls to all passersby to look, ponder, and personally experience the Gospel that these doors present in its fine artwork of the mysteries of the Rosary.
The Central Bronze Door’s Artwork Explained
1. The Agony in the Garden (top, left)
“Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here, while I go yonder and pray.’ And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.’ And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.'” (Matthew 26:36-39).
2. The Scourging at the Pillar (top, right)
“Pilate released Barabbas to them, but after he had Jesus scourged, he handed him over to be crucified.” (Matthew 27:26).
3. The Crowning With Thorns (center, left)
“Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the praetorium, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe upon him, and plaiting a crown of thorns they put it on his head, and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him they mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!'” (Matthew 27:27-29).
4. The Carrying of the Cross (center, right)
“And they compelled a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull).” (Mark 15:21-22).
5. The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus with Mary and John (center)
“And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ …It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last” (Luke 23:33-46).
1. The Resurrection of Jesus (center)
“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel; and as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”‘ (Luke 24:1-5).
2. The Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven (top, left)
“So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.” (Mark 16:19).
3. The Holy Spirit comes upon Mary and the Apostles (top, right)
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts of the Apostles 2:1-4).
4. The Assumption of Mary into Heaven (bottom, left)
“Henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me.” (Luke 1:48-49).
5. The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven (bottom, right)
“And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” (Revelation12:1).
At the bottom of the Sorrowful Mysteries bronze door, the angels hold a tablet emblazoned with Latin text that contains statements on the rosary by two post-Vatican II modern popes. A translation of the text reveals the importance of the rosary to Pope Paul VI (1897-1978) and John Paul II (1920-2005), both canonized saints. Pope Paul VI: “Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul.” Pope John Paul II: “To meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary is to look into the face of Christ.”