The Piazza of Santissima Annunziata
This past year I bought a sweet little painting, by Osamu Tanimoto, which depicts the church of Santissima Annunziata in Florence under the falling rain. When I first saw Osamu share the image, I was immediately transported back to my first visit to Florence in October of 2012. Five years ago now.
I had gone on my own to explore the city for the first time away from a tour group and I remember being in the city while it was raining. It was time for me to be on my way across town to meet Sacred Artist, Dony Mac Manus in his studio for the first time, an artist who I had been in contact with for years but had yet to meet in person.
My destination was a straight shot across town and after a few minutes of walking I came across the piazza of Santissima Annunziata, the church shown in the painting. I recall it feeling oddly deserted for being so close to the main Cathedral where all the tourists gathered. I stepped through the doors of the cloister that precedes the main body of the church. Though I was inside, it was still raining! Slowly looking up at the glass ceiling covering the cloister I could see rain leaking through. I paused as the rain continued to fall. It felt so surreal, like that of a dream.
After this profound moment and taking a short time exploring the church I continued on my way to meet Dony. Upon meeting him and talking with him, he invited me to consider trying to get to Florence to study Sacred Art sooner rather than later, a desire I had been communicating with him about. Though at the time it seemed kind of crazy to me, a conviction stirred up in me. He was right, I had to make a concentrated effort to return to Florence immediately. The following month was a competition for a scholarship that would enable me to place in the first ever cohort of the Sacred Art School. One thing lead to another and the next thing I knew we were already going over to the home of the secretary of the school. Soon I was filling out the paperwork for the application process. Running back to the hotel through the pouring rain to meet my mother and the tour group for dinner, I recall having just this sense that I truly would be back in Florence soon.
Though a fair amount of challenges with Visa’s and so forth took place in-between, I did happen to find myself back in the quaint Italian city just one month later. In competing for the scholarship I was successful and started the program! Yet, the drama was not over. I remember returning to New York to resolve my student visa situation and being told by the consulate that they could not grant me my visa. Wandering around Manhattan with my heart sunk I was in a mild state of panic. “What will I do?”
In prayer and with a determined spirit, I did manage to receive my visa just a few days after and was back on the plane to Italy. This time, I would remain for a year and a half and be forever changed. I encountered such beauty in Florence. Beauty that gave my life direction. Particularly, this early experience of the beauty of Florence– standing in the cloister of Santissima Annunziata with the rain coming through the glass ceiling– a moment that this painting brings me back to, helped to stir up a conviction in me to take a risk.
Today, even though it’s been several years since I’ve left Florence, my experience of that which is utterly beautiful drives my mission as an artist and educator to bring people to a transformative power of beauty through sacred art. Beauty inspires a response and perseverance in trial. An experience of beauty draws one deeper into the mystery of God.
Shana Smith is a young Catholic artist dedicated to exploring the mystery of God and man in her work. Inspired by Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and his Letter to Artists, she seeks to reveal the image of God through the human person and to invite others to delve into the mystery of the Incarnation. She teaches art at St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago.
Artwork by Giovanni Micico, Osamu Tanimoto: http://www.giovannimicico.com/en/
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