How Michelangelo’s 3 Pietàs speak to a suffering world

Msgr. Timothy Verdon, the director of the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, told CNA

“The images of suffering that the Pietà always implies I think will deeply touch people. I think that visitors will be moved to see these works,” he said. The image of the Pietà evokes “the personal suffering of mothers who hold their children not knowing if their children will survive.”

The 75-year-old Verdon is an expert in art history and sacred art. He was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, but has lived in Italy for more than 50 years.

“So many of the issues that face the Mediterranean world today are forms of suffering,” he said, “and so this ideal series of images of the God who becomes man [and] accepts suffering, and whose Mother receives his tortured body into her arms, these are deeply meaningful.”

“All human situations of suffering and exclusion invite a comparison with the suffering of Christ, the death of Christ. And [the Pietà] condenses and concentrates a devout reflection on that,” the priest said.

The lesser-known Pietàs

Many years after Michelangelo completed the Pietà displayed in St. Peter’s Basilica, he began his Florentine Pietà, which depicts Nicodemus, Mary Magdalene, and the Virgin Mary receiving the body of Christ as it is removed from the Cross.

The 72-year-old Michelangelo worked on the sculpture for eight years before eventually abandoning it in 1555.

According to a press release from the city of Florence, “near his own death, Michelangelo meditated deeply on the Passion of Christ.”

One way this is known is because shortly before his death, Michelangelo gave a drawing of the Pietà to Vittoria Colonna, the Marquess of Pescara, on which he wrote: “They think not there how much of blood it costs.”


Pope Francis on Lent: Jesus is with us, even when we’re tempted. “How often we heard, ‘I have done strange things, but I have helped the poor’; ‘I have taken advantage of my role — as a politician, a governor, a priest, a bishop — but also for good’; ‘I have given in to my instincts, but in the end, I did no harm to anyone’, these justifications,” he listed. “We must not fall into that slumber of the conscience that makes us say: ‘But after all, it’s not serious, everyone does it!'”

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