Thursday, November 26, 2009

It's an okd building, in the ancient city close to the old Royal Castle, and the sign outside promised an exhibition of religious art.
We went in on one of those impulses I so enjoy following on holiday.
There was religious art, yes, but it was art owned by, or donated to, the late pope John Paul II, who was the real focus of the museum.
There was the football shirts presented to him, the bicycle he owned, and the canoe. The gorgeous gowns he wore while saying mass, and wall after wall of photographs of him.
What a beautiful man he was when he was young: how full of life, how charismatic...
And I could feel a play coming: about the transformation of someone so full of hope and beauty, such a fierce and important focus of resistance to oppression, to an implacable defender of an ironclad reactionary, backward looking and utterly destructive tradition.
It gave me a kind of mischievous pleasure to be there, too, in skirt and boots: doubly condemned, as a transsexual, and the perpetrator of an apparently blasphemous play condemned by the catholic archbishop of Glasgow. A spy in the enemy camp, gravely receiving the attentions of the no doubt deeply pious custodian as he showed us a cross that came from Scotland, following his insistence I write something pious in the visitors book...
There was one piece of amazing religious art.
It was a replica of a 13th or 14th century figure of a Madonna and Child. She was holding the child in her arms, loving, serene, and could also open out to reveal the figure of the father within, bearded and crouched and a little anxious looking...
So touching and beautiful an image of the primacy of the Mother and the androgynous nature of God. Right there in the Holy Father's house, in the heart of the traditions of the church, and so tragically ignored by both.

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