THE MIRACLES OF ST ALOYSIUS COLLEGE CHAPEL PAINTINGS
Mangaluru: St. Aloysius College Chapel, Mangaluru the world’s second-most painted Church (8874 sq ft), is a heaven for the exquisite beauty of its murals. The Chapel, which is actually a replica of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, manifests meticulous detail and exact brushwork giving it a realistic appearance. The entire Chapel was painted single-handedly by a renowned Italian painter Br Antonio Moscheni SJ who spent just two and a half years (March 1899 – August 1901) to complete the work.
There are three main themes depicted in the chapel: the life story of St. Aloysius Gonzaga; the life and teachings of Jesus; and images of the twelve apostles and several church saints, particularly the Jesuit saints. The iconic chapel is also made up of frescoes, oil paintings, and stained glass. Everyone who comes here has different feelings, sensations and emotions that these paintings evoke. The images are scientifically and logically well-constructed and are truly amazing.
The world-famous Chapel consists of paintings related to events that occurred in the life of Jesus Christ and St Aloysius arranged in a sequential order. This means that the artist did extensive planning before beginning his work. In addition, the artist has mentioned verses from the Gospels to indicate the inspiration he drew from them. The Italian painter’s works of art are also known for their miraculous finish. Frescoes required speed and precision in painting over wet lime plaster before it had time to dry. Thus, his quickness and expertise in the field of painting is focused.
One of the greatest wonders of these world-famous paintings is that they have withstood the heat and dust of Mangalore. Technically no special preservatives were used, but by protecting them from light and dust, the 123-year-old painting is still intact in terms of colour and overall quality. It’s amazing how the colour quality is so good despite heavy monsoon rains and fungal attacks in the past.
The iconic chapel is also known for its amazing natural colours, which come from vegetables, fruits, leaves, clay, lead, linseed oil, and other natural resources. Since he could not obtain them from Europe at the time, he created the colours by grinding the dried pigments of all these objects with pure water. Moreover, no one can imagine how he was able to balance on top of a scaffolding system which was some 48 feet high and paint portraits of saints on the upper arches.
The paintings did not appear on the walls and ceilings overnight but through deep meditation and contemplation by the painter on the Gospel. The mural was basically created from his thoughts and considerations. Is it not a wonder that he had such great visual abilities?
The paintings in the Chapel include the following: The Nativity of Jesus, the Homage Paid by the Magis, the Baptism of Jesus on the river Jordan, the Wedding feast of Cana, the calming of the sea, the Centurion’s Visit to Jesus, women caught with adultery, the Last Supper, the raising of Lazarus from death, the crucifixion of Jesus, the ascension of Jesus, Gospel parables and several other.
The artistic works draw visitors of all faiths not only from India but also from Europe and the rest of the world towards the iconic chapel. This is the glory and importance of the Chapel that it has gained over the years. To mark the 100th anniversary of these paintings, the Postal Department of India has issued a stamp that is imprinted with one of the paintings of the Chapel.
The paintings on the walls and ceiling of the Chapel have been preserved by the Mangalorean Jesuits for future generations to contemplate. Much of the credit goes to the Mangalore Jesuit Educational Society (MJES) for their tireless work in preserving these paintings, which are worth beyond a million dollars.
Kiran Crasta is a Second Year B.Ed at St Aloysius Institute of Education, Mangaluru