by Nicole Martinelli
A debate over war and religion in an Italian town has lead to the creation of a ‘pacifist’ statue of St. Michael, the archangel credited with defeating the devil.
City council members in Monza, 12 miles north of Milan, voted last year to spend 150,000 euro ($183,000 USD) for a new statue of St. Michael, or Michele as he is called in Italian, to grace the town’s main square.
The largely left-leaning council was, however, uncomfortable building a tribute to a fighting saint when Italian public opinion has been largely against the war in Iraq. And so St. Michael was commissioned without his usual attribute, a prominent sword.
The archangel found in Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions is sometimes referred to as a “warrior-prince” for his role at the helm of celestial armies against wicked forces. Depicting saints with attributes is a common practice that dates back to when art was the only means of relating episodes of the bible to a largely illiterate community.
His ‘disarmament’ has led to wide protest, including one by Massimiliano Romeo, of the Lega Nord party, who rushed into city hall brandishing a plastic toy “Zorro” sword. Political opponents aren’t the only ones to take issue with the new statue; religious groups have taken the protest to the web arguing that the unarmed statue strips the saint of his significance.
The new, peaceful St. Michael was unveiled to the 700 Micheles and Michelas of Monza, namesakes of the saint, and the parachutists St. Michael also protects on Sept. 29. Petitioners, wearing t-shirts asking for the resignation of the mayor, were also out in force gathering signatures to add a sword and ‘correct’ the 3.8 meter-high(12 feet) bronze statue.
One local religious figure, says the debate over the sword, though far from over, misses the target. Monsignor Enrico Rossi reminds both sides that it is high time to brush up on iconography, pointing out that sculptor Benedetto Pietrogrande took his inspiration from an historic local fresco where the saint is empty-handed.?1999-2004 zoomata.com
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