A Statue of Pope John Paul II Brings Out the Critic in Italians






ROME — The backdrop may be the Termini train station, but the chatter these days evokes a Damien Hirst opening. The object of the attention is a 17-foot-tall bronze sculpture of Pope John Paul II unveiled on May 18, his birthday.

The verdict, at least as registered by the Italian news media and several online polls, is a merciless thumbs down.

The starkly spare sculpture by a Rome-based artist, Oliviero Rainaldi, depicts the pope condensed into a massive mantle as if to envelop the faithful. It has been alternately described as a sentry box, a bell and a papal vespasiano, as Romans call a urinal. (Vespasian was the first-century emperor who levied a tax on urine, which was used for tanning leather.)

The crescendo of outrage grew so rapidly that Rome’s traffic cops had to be deployed to keep a 24-hour watch to ward off potential vandalism until video cameras could be installed on surrounding lampposts....




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