Anna just returned from Seoul, Korea. It was great to see her family and old friends but another reason for traveling to Korea was to visit an ideal location site for our Korean Pieta sculpture that was completed in our studio about a year ago. Locations we are considering for the sculpture are the Korean Catholic Art Center, the Myeong-dong Cathederal (the first Korean cathedral), Jeol Du San Sacred Place, Nam Yang Sacred Place and the Chon Jin Am site.
The Chou Jin Am site is the place of the first Korean Catholic mass martyrdom as well as the location where Buddhist monks who helped hide Catholic Christians were also executed. As a consequence their Buddhist temple was burned down by the orders of the Korean government during the Chosen Dynasty. This particular site is being considered for a new future cathedral which is estimated to be completed in about a century from now.
Catholic Christianity in Korea has a unique history. Unlike other countries, Catholicism was not spread by foreign missionaries or foreign armies, but rather was spread by local Korean scholars who studied the bible as a source of knowledge from the West. During the process of scholarship, the Korean people started converting themselves. Because of political power struggles, Korean Catholic Christians were persecuted and eventually massacred. Such is usually the fate of a conspicuous minority as scapegoats for political gains. One of the first Catholic Koreans was a butcher whose social status in Korean society was ranked near the bottom. He once remarked that his life as a Catholic Christian was like paradise because he was treated with equality and could even share a meal with noble scholars and were able to call one another brothers in faith.
The life size Korean Pieta sculpture took us over a year to complete in its clay stage. It was based on a small clay sketch Anna made earlier that was inspired by a Michelangelo drawing. The concept we worked with was unique by showing Mother Mary as a Korean peasant wearing her traditional cotton Han Bok dress. The Christ in the sculpture composition is portrayed as a Korean image of Christ. After all, every Christian culture portrays Mary and Christ in their own image and in their own particular way.
The grieving Mother Mary in our sculpture is experiencing great anguish as her son, Christ, rests on her lap. The Christ, however, looks peaceful and doesn’t appear dead which implies the coming Resurrection. Our Korean Pieta is still in its completed clay stage and will soon have a sectional mold made as a start for the eventual casting process. Once the sectional mold is completed the sculpture can be cast in any material including bronze.
Of all the sites I saw, I believe that the Myeong-dong Cathedral could be the most likely location for our Korean Pieta sculpture. If that is realized, it would certainly be a great honor and privilege. I hope that our sculpture can communicate Mary’s deep love and Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection to the viewer. I believe sacred art can help people experience devotion and deepen their faith.