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The power of Pietà: How Michelangelo’s masterpiece depicting love and despair offers comfort and hope in darkest moments

17 April 2019

Michelangelo’s marble sculpture Pietà (translated as The Pity) is one of the most enduring images of Jesus. Housed in St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, it depicts Mary cradling her son after the Crucifixion.

It is a powerful study of love and grief, and one which comforted Rosa Murray when she lost her son, John Michael.

Speaking on At the Foot of the Cross she explained, “I look at it and I can almost feel the vibrancy from the sculpture, from the whole image that’s there.”

Pietà consoled Rosa in her darkest moments.

“I think that when something as terrible as the loss of your own child happens, there’s a place where words run out; there is no language. That was something I struggled with really deeply.

“I think when that happens, when words run out, it’s art, it’s images and it’s poetry and writings that begin to take that space and help to articulate feelings that are lying deep within.”

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Turning to art when words run out

Finding comfort in Pietà

Rosa Murray turned to Michelangelo’s masterpiece following the loss of her son.

Lessons from Pietà

Encountering Pietà in St Peter’s Basilica had a profound impact on Philip Blackledge, a priest in Melrose.

“The first thing I saw was that Jesus was dead as dead can be,” he explained. “There’s nothing of life in him. Mary is holding the weight of her dead son.”

It is a distressing image, but one in which Philip found great solace.

“When you look up at Mary there’s something in her face which is utter love and utter despair sort of mingled in the same place.”

“It really taught me that we find the divine in the very human, and the more humanity we see the more divinity we see.

“In that beautiful statue, which is modelling the statues of Mary cradling her baby and is actually her cradling her dead adult son, there is something incredibly human and because of that it points straight into the heart of God. ”

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