F is also for Friday: A tradition of Sanctuary


the goatherds of castel gandolfo
jean-baptiste-camille corot – 1866

Benedict, Pope Emeritus, awoke this morning to look out on Lake Albano one of the flock rather than the shepherd.  Gone is the life in a style to which he had become accustomed, the weight of the world as it were lifted from his shoulders, the red shoes and the Ring of the Fisherman accessories no longer in his service to the Church. Castel Gandolfo will be his place of respite until an awkward return to the monastery Mater Ecclesiae in the Vatican when a successor is elected.

The small coastline town southeast of Rome, which Benedict is no doubt familiar with, has a history long associated with not only the papacy but the European artistic community as well.  Painters, many considered Old Masters, from the French, British and Italian schools found a source of inspiration in the area’s rolling hills and classic vistas. It provided all the elements that more northern climes could not –  a softness of light from mediterranean skies that kissed the ground with warmth, dusty variegated greens that knew little of seasons with snow and the requisite peasants with their animal charges seemingly dropped by the muses into an idyllic setting waiting to be immortalized on canvas. The Castel Gandolfo is often small and blurred in the distance, an architectural feature that is the only hint at man’s imprint on the face of nature.

It is has been for centuries a place of sanctuary, a bastion of solitude in a world torn by war and strife  – may it bring to Benedict, as it did to generations of artists and writers, divine inspiration.

More on Castel Gandolfo in art next week.

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