Rome’s (unfortunate) statue of Blessed John Paul II

Statue of Blessed Pope John Paul II (CNS/Reuters)

ROME — This week the city of Rome erected its first statue of Blessed Pope John Paul II. The Vatican newspaper said yesterday what a lot of people were thinking: it’s ugly.

Sculptor Oliviero Rainaldi intended to show the late pope with his cape billowing in the wind, as a symbolic image of welcome. The 16-foot-tall bronze sculpture was placed outside Rome’s main train station, where tens of thousands of visitors arrive daily.

But when unveiled May 18, it looked more like an open tent, or a sentry-box, or a bell, commented L’Osservatore Romano. The papal cape looks like it was split open by a bomb. More importantly, the newspaper said, it’s unrecognizable as John Paul II — the head is “excessively spherical.”

The newspaper credited the sculptor with trying to move beyond classic papal iconography and attempt something new and different.

“But overall, the result does not seem to have matched the intention, and in fact there has already been criticism,” it said.

In Rome newspaper polls, public opinion is running 9-1 against the statue.

While the Vatican newspaper has its critical artistic eye open, it might take a look at some of the statues placed in recent years in the outside niches of St. Peter’s Basilica. Although made of Carrara marble, they would never be confused with works of Michelangelo. Some are downright clunky.