Friday, February 13, 2009

St. Ignatius and Contemporary Iconography.

My brother Jesuit and fellow Ciszek Hall resident Ryan Rallanka has recently started a blog sharing his own reflections on Ignatian spirituality and his experiences in the Society. This week, Ryan has been posting a series of reflections on the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola based on images of the saint produced by artist Dora Nikolova Bittau. A native of Bulgaria who has lived in Rome for more than thirty years, Bittau paints in a style that combines elements of traditional Byzantine and Latin iconography together with more contemporary influences. If you'd like to learn more about Bittau and her work, take a look at this interview (in Italian) and the gallery of images that accompany it. In Jesuit circles in the United States, Bittau is probably best known for a set of five icons depicting scenes in the life of St. Ignatius that she wrote for the Chapel of St. Ignatius at Seattle University. The above image of St. Ignatius' vision of Christ at La Storta is taken from this set; you can see the others by taking a virtual tour of the narthex of the Chapel of St. Ignatius.

Before reading the reflections that Ryan has been posting this week, I didn't realize that Dora Nikolova Bittau had also written a set of icons for the chapel of the Jesuit Novitiate of St. Francis Xavier in Portland, Oregon. The scenes that Bittau depicts in these icons are the same five that she chose for the icons at Seattle University, though there are striking differences between the two sets. For example, comparing the Vision of La Storta as presented in the icon shown above and as it appears in the icon of the same scene at the Portland novitiate shows how one event can be presented in multiple ways by the same artist. Ryan notes the dissimilarity between the two icons, but he also says a great deal more about how these images have led him to reflect more deeply on our Jesuit vocation. If you'd like to know more, please have a look at the series on St. Ignatius and contemporary iconography on Ryan's blog. I've found much to ponder and pray about in his reflections, and I look forward to reading more. AMDG.


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