Friday, 21 September 2018

Fascinating interior paintings of St. Aloysius Chapel, Mangalore - Antonio Moscheni's masterpiece

Interior painting. St. Aloysius Chapel,mangalorean.com
St. Aloysius Chapel, also known as  the chapel of St. Aloysius College in Mangalore, state of Karnataka is a beautiful place of Christian worship and is on the lighthouse hill. Italian Jesuits built the  College in 1880 and the Chapel  in 1884 as part of their Evangelical work during the Mangalore Mission  (1878). The Italian Jesuits  took keen interest in the welfare of the Christian and other communities in this area and were instrumental in establishing various educational institutions, etc.

 This historical  Chapel built by them is a unique one and its glory is enhanced by a series of awe-inspiring and mind-boggling paintings on the interior walls done by the Italian artist Br.Antonio Moscheni (1854 –1905).  In India it is rare to see a Chapel with fine interior paintings. Every inch of the wall, including the ceiling is covered with nice paintings  and this Chapel is comparable to that of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Devotional and religious experiences made many talented artists come up with beautiful paintings, art work and sculptures, drawing inspiration from them. No doubt, the interior wall paintings of  the chapel of St. Aloysius College are finest examples in India and constitute a national treasure that need to be preserved for the progeny. 
Interior painting. St. Aloysius Chapel, Mangalore. tourmet.com

Jesuit Brother Moscheni took up his work seriously(1899 to 1901) and  came up with three types of paintings: Frescos - paintings on wet plaster, Tempara - paintings on dry plaster and finally Panal painting - painting on canvas and fixed to the ceiling; the last one being a time consuming work and needs lots of patience. Ceiling ought to be bone dry and should be protected against possible seepage.  Many of his images are life-like and this was possible by deligent use of  light and shade, giving a sense of depth, creating three dimensional effects. He creates divinity in many painting by carefully choosing the various color combinations to highlight the divine subjects such as angels.
Painting on the ceiling, Aloysius Chapel, Mangalore. alamy.com

  Yet another distinctive approach by Brother Moscheni is his well-planned lay out which has three divisions. The central ceiling and the wall behind the altar of the Chapel depict the life of Aloysius Gonzaga, the patron of the college and who renounced dukedom to dedicate his life to God.  The first three panels bring out the early life of Aloysius: Aloysius, as a child before  the Altar of Mary in Florence, promises  to dedicate his life to God;  he is preaching about God to his townsfolk; his first ever  communion and Aloysius is seeking admission to the Jesuit Order.  Right above the Altar on the wall  one can see the other episodes from the rest of his life;  the paintings in the center show him  serving the people affected by the plague  in Rome; the other painting shows him contracting  the disease and died in 1591 from it, at the young age of 23.
Interior painting. St. Aloysius Chapel, Mangalore. alamy.com

The sloping ceiling panels depict  the Apostles, with floral garlands weaving through the panels.The striking feature is no two garlands have the same flowers. Impressive are the life-size Angels that hold  the garland. The upper arches depict the saints of the Church  whereas the lower ones depict Jesuit saints. These paintings include: St. Thomas, Apostle of India with a spear in his hand; St. Francis of Assisi, Patron of environmentalists; St. Peter Claver, who served the slaves in Columbia  as his equals with love and care. Bl. Rodolfo Acquaviva, who was held in high esteem in the  Court of Mogul ruler Akbar. St John de Britto, the first missionary to wear the dress of a sanyasi (Indian saint). He was a scholar who studied Sanskrit, Tamil and Indian customs.
St Aloysius Chapel in Mangalore  aroundmangalore.com


The rear walls carry the  painting  showing  Jesus as the friend of children.  The entire work is simply a  masterpiece of Br. Moscheni, known for their exceptional beauty and and depiction.
There are many paintings which take up the life of Jesus from his birth, the wedding feast at Cana, the  Crucifixion of Jesus, etc. 

 Being in the coastal area where the SW monsoon brings in lots of rain, because of unavoidable seepage some paintings on the ceiling and walls were covered with formation of fungus and calcium carbonate crystals. It has now been restored but a patch of the un-restored painting has been left untouched below the woman seated at the right.
Br. Moscheni had spent more than two years on the paintings and it is strongly believed, that he used  the Sistine chapel in Rome as his model. So impressed by the perfection and speed of the artist who created an inspiring mater piece within the confines of Aloysius chapel, late Sri. C. Rajagopala Chari (Rajaji), first Gov. Gen. of independent India, former CM of Tamil Nadu and a great lover of Indian culture and heritage said,
Artist Br.Antonio Moschenien.wikipedia.org/wik
''It is an education and elevation. As you enter it, your heart is ennobled and you soar to higher things. Even a fanatic would shed  every drop of his fanaticism in the face of such  humanising glory.''

This Chapel is worth a visit. 
http://www.istampgallery.com/st-aloysius-college-chapel-paintings/
https://navrangindia.blogspot.com/2018/09/the-st-aloysius-chapel-mangalore-built.html
http://www.mangalore.com/documents/aloychapel.html