Three religions at the heart of diplomacy

Benito Badolato and Pasquale Godano, Boat with the holy family saving a migrant, Tropea, 2013, Parish of San Gerlando, Lampedusa

As often, it is a highly political exhibition that takes place at Musée de l’histoire de  l’Immigration, in Porte Dorée, where « Il était trois fois, Lieux Saints partagés » treats of Judaism, Christianism and Islam in their shared geography of the Mediterranean. This original exhibition has matured over five years (it was first shown in a shorter version in Marseille two years ago) and is curated by Dionigi Albera and Manoël Penicaud, both anthroplogists at CNRS (centre national de recherche scientifique). As a conclusion, it shows a model of the « House of One », a monument being built in Berlin,  on the site of a XII th century church, which will unite a synagogue a church and a mosque under the same roof.

Nativity, Crete-Venitian school, at Petit Palais

At the exact time that Louvre Abu Dhabi opens with a room showing a XV th century Torah, a XIII th century gothic bible and a X th century page from the Coran, Paris is exploding with three exhibitions dedicated to Oriental Christians. At Institut du Monde Arabe, “Chrétiens d’Orient, deux mille ans d’histoire” shows a series of mosaics and photographs of churches and monasteries that let us enter the world of Iraki and Syrian Christians. And we travel to Lebanon and Jordan.

Father R. Saviganc, photo of the young Medaïeh Ibrahim Al Toual from the Christian tribe of Azeizat, in Jordan 1905 at Institut du Monde Arabe

Illuminated books and icons illustrate the growth of Christianism in the Orient but the small rooms of the museum make it difficult to enjoy the beauty of the pieces. What I liked best was a film shot in 1997 in Aleppo for Marie Seurat. It is edited by her daughter Zalfa, who was not part of the trip, and shows wonderful scenes in the souk which is now destroyed. Photographs shot in 1905 by Father R. Savignac of young Azeizat Christians in Jordan are wonderful. (until January 14)

St George at Petit Palais

Another show of precious Icons is taking place at Musée du Petit Palais which is opening (with the help of Fondation Sisley d’Ornano) a new room of Oriental Christian art and Byzantine icons, from Russia, Greece, Ethiopia and the Balkans. They were given to the museum in 1998 by Roger Cabal who collected them over fourty years and they are now assembled with the Brother Dutuit’s donation from 1902 which is exceptionally beautiful.

Manöel Pénicaud and Dionigi Albera, the curators of the show, are both anthropologists

But back to Musée de la Porte Dorée, you will discover there a number of fairly unknown sites in the Mediterranean sea which share the three religions. On Mount Carmel above Haïfa in Israel, the Jewish sanctuary is shared by Druzes and Muslims who consider it the third holy city after Mecca and Medina.

Manoël Penicaud, Sculpture in the church of Aiguebelle Abbey, Montjoyer, France, 2016 (linked with the monastery of Tibhrine in Algeria)

Jerusalem of course is the most well known holy city with the Wall of lamentations, the mosque and the church in one single spot: it is illustrated here by a 1740 painting. In Djerba, Tunisia, Jews and Muslims share the island and the synagogue is still active. As in Crete, Greece, where a historical synagogue was restored by Nikos Stavroulakis in 1990.

Félix Bonfils, Pilgrims entering Bethlehem on Christmas Day, end of 19 th century

The island of Lampedusa,  often mentioned in the migrant’s drama today, has a grotto visited by Christians and Muslims alike. It was described by Jean Jacques Rousseau and Denis Diderot who consideered it an utopic island. Sailors and fishermen have kept the grotto alive today.

Mûsa bin Istifân, St George slaying a dragon, Aleppo, 1699, ceramic from Musée duLouvre

In Büyükada, an island near Istambul, St George attracts pilgrims from many religions on April 23 every year.

In Algeria, the Virgin Mary is also venerated under the name of Maryam by Muslims. In Palermo, Sicily, the catholic sanctuary of Santa Rosalia, is celebrated by orthodox Christians and Muslims but also by Tamul Christians and Hindus from Sri Lanka.

Abd el Kader who fought Duc d’Aumale in Algeria, lived in France and retired to Damascus where he preached an open islamism. He still has many followers. Louis Massignon, one of French foremost islamologist (1883-1962) was nicknamed the Muslim Catholic. He founded in Brittany the muslim christian pilgrimage of « Les Sept Dormants » based on seven young christians in Epheseis who reufsed to give up their faith in the third century.

Model of the future “House of One” being built by Kuehn Malvezzi in Berlin

These three exhibitions which take place at the time of Abu Dhabi’s Louvre political and diplomatic inaugurations, are interesting each in their own dimension. At Porte Dorée, you will discover a historical and intellectual vision of the problem. It is one of the most original and courageous museum in Paris at the moment. (until January 21, 2018)

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One Comment on ““Three religions at the heart of diplomacy”

  1. Karen

    Sublime…. very interesting article in current National Geographic called The Real Jesus :what archaeology reveals about his life.

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