Statue of Saint Josemaría in Saint Peter’s Basilica
September 9, 2005
On August 30 a statue of Saint Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, founder of Opus Dei, was placed on the outside of Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome.
The 5-metre marble statue stands in a niche on the outside of the left transept of the Basilica, also known as ‘Saint Joseph’s arm’, very close to the entrance to the Sacristy.
Pope John Paul II decided that the niches on this part of the Basilica were to be used for statues of saints and holy founders of our time.
The statue of Saint Josemaría is grouped with others of the same size, among which are those of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, founder of the Armenian Church (by the Armenian sculptor Khatchik Kazandjian); Saint Teresa of the Andes, Carmelite nun (by the Chilean sculptor Juan Eduardo Fernandez Cox); and Saint Marcellin Champagnat, founder of the Marist Brothers (by the Costa Rican sculptor Jorge Jimenez Deredia).
The statue of Saint Josemaría was carved from a single block of marble by the Italian sculptor Romano Cosci, who spent more than a year on the work. In 2002 Cosci completed another sculpture for the external wall of the Vatican Basilica: a statue of the Spanish Saint Josefa of the Heart of Jesus, which is by the entry to the Basilican Grottoes. Over 150 statues of saints adorn Saint Peter’s, counting those on the Colonnade. This series of statues serves as a reminder that the Church is adorned with the lives of the Saints, who are a model and stimulus for Christians.
As Romano Cosci worked on the statue he found inspiration in some words of our Lord Jesus Christ which Saint Josemaría often meditated on: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself.”
Saint Josemaría referred to these words on many occasions. For example, in 1968 he said: “For many years now, ever since the foundation of Opus Dei, I have meditated and asked others to meditate on those words of Christ which we find in St John: And when I am lifted up from the earth I shall draw all things unto Myself (John 12:32). By His death on the Cross, Christ has drawn all creation to Himself. Now it is the task of Christians, in His name, to reconcile all things to God, placing Christ, by means of their work in the middle of the world, at the summit of all human activities” (Interview published in Conversations with Monsignor Escrivá de Balaguer).
Cosci’s sculpture shows Saint Josemaría in priestly vestments for the celebration of Mass, with his arms gently outstretched. Beneath are the papal shields of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, in whose papacies the work was begun and ended respectively. At the Saint’s feet are two angels (Opus Dei was founded on the feast of the Holy Guardian Angels), one of whom is presenting an open book to Saint Josemaría with the above quotation.
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