“It seemed like a good idea at the time….” – the new John Paul II “statue” in Rome

I was dying to find out the reaction to the new “statue” of John Paul II near Rome’s train station.  It is, in my opinion, horrendous.  In the pages of the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano there is a short blurb about this new blotch on the City.  Given the way L’OssRom has in the past gotten nearly everything wrong about the ultra-pro-abortion Pres. Obama, I figured I might find a pseudo-intellectual justification for the statues great thought-provoking depth.  It’s have provoked my thoughts, I’ll tell you.  But I digress.

In a piece by Sandro Barbagallo I read the acknowledgement that the face perched ominously on top of the menacing open-refrigerator-like glob, has “only a distant resemblance” to Bl. John Paul.  “In sum, the result does not seem to at the level of the intention.” Later, it says that the head is “excessively spherical”.

When sketches had been presented, the symbolism seemed clear.  And an idiot can figure out what this ugly thing was supposed to be saying to the onlooker. The writer also raises the point that, perhaps, given where it is situated and the number of people who will go past it the statue of Pope John Paul II could have been made in such a way that it resembled Pope John Paul II.

In an AP story I found these great quips.

Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, confirmed that the sketch “received a positive opinion by the culture commission” of the Holy See. What happened between sketch stage and the final result, he couldn’t say.

A Rome cleaning woman ventured some practical objections, as well as artistic. “With the shape of a cape, sooner or later the homeless people at the station will sleep inside it, and in no time, it will be full of bottles of beer,” said Grazia Liberti, 46, returning home after her night job.

It seemed like a good idea at the time….

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. James Joseph says:

    The cleaning-lady expressed my first thoughts.

  2. James Joseph says:

    …oh, that and… with the little or no summer rain in most of Italy below the butter line, it will smell like urine in the not so distant future.

  3. Colin11584 says:

    It seems as though it was the beginnings of the Bl. John Paul II Arena, or something of that sort. It just seems silly, and not well thought out.

  4. everett says:

    Like James, the homeless living under the shelter was my first thought as well.

  5. DisturbedMary says:

    Maybe they can donate the sculpture to us. We already have a bust of Benedict XVI at the back of St. Patrick’s Cathedral that looks like Frankie Lane.

  6. my kidz mom says:

    Now I know why this creeps me out…too similar to this guy:

  7. Henry Edwards says:

    What seems like a good idea at this time is to just demolish the thing and leave no trace of its remains on the scene. And don’t even think of replacing it by anything thought a good idea by anyone who had anything to do with this mistake. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]

  8. Brooklyn says:

    Henry Edwards, you seem to be not the only one with that idea:

    Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno, asked by APTN in an exclusive interview if the city might take down the statue, said public opinion would be considered.

    “There’s an ancient saying: ‘Vox populi, vox dei,'” Alemanno said, using the Latin for “Voice of the people, voice of God.”

    “And from this point of view we cannot help but take into consideration the opinion of the public,” he added. “If public opinion consolidates around a negative opinion, we’ll have to take that into consideration.”


    We can only hope.

  9. The Astronomer says:

    It seemed like a good idea at the time….

    Isn’t this the same line used to justify Vatican II??? ;-)~

  10. HyacinthClare says:

    “Fuso” is “melt”? I liked better the comment last night: “Scrappo Subito!”

  11. EWTN Rocks says:


    It hardly seems possible but the sculpture looks uglier in the picture included with your link to the ABC news article. Now if only we can find a closeup shot we could go from:
    ugly –> uglier –> ugliest!

  12. TomG says:

    DisturbedMary: Frankie Lane (sic) (actually, it’s “Laine”)? You date yourself!

  13. amenamen says:

    It seemed like a good idea at the time
    It really did
    It really did

    “But it seemed like such a good idea at the time,
    such a very very good idea at the time.
    I don’t know where I am, I don’t know where I went wrong
    I don’t know where to start again”

  14. KAS says:

    My first thought was that it looked like Uncle Fester from the Adam’s Family….

  15. albizzi says:

    In my opinion, the artist’s intention was to revive the memory of the glorious roman emperor Vespasian, the well know inventor of the “vespasiani”, the street urinals which much helped in upgrading the hygiene of an overcrowded megapole.
    “Divo Augusto Vespasiano Vaticanum erexit, etc”…
    Possibly one would find a vague resemblance of the surmounting head, don’t you think so?
    After the “piss- Christ” (recently destroyed in an Avigon’s museum) we just got the “pope-urinal”paid by the Vatican.

  16. William Tighe says:

    “In my opinion, the artist’s intention was to revive the memory of the glorious roman emperor Vespasian, the well know inventor of the “vespasiani”, the street urinals which much helped in upgrading the hygiene of an overcrowded megapole.”

    Yes, but it cannot be said of this monstrosity as Vespasian is reported to have said to those who complained of the indignity of having public urinals (the urine from which was sold for industrial purposes), “Pecunia non olet.” Monumentum istud maxime olet!

  17. RMT says:

    That’s the kind of statue that will give kids nightmares–parents can use it to scare them into doing chores:

    “Johnny, do the dishes or the ‘angry pope’ will come after you tonight”

  18. weneleh says:

    Oh please don’t post that picture again. It’s going to give me nightmares!!

  19. dmwallace says:

    What I want to know is, Who are these 51 people who took the poll on wdtprs and said they loved it?

  20. catholicmidwest says:

    Richard Vosko hit the button 51 times.

  21. TravelerWithChrist says:

    As with your other post about the early morning mass in danger, do we say ‘this is so horrible we’d rather have nothing’, or otherwise? I ask because I’m torn about the way to think about these things. Tonight our church and school had a ‘graduation mass’ that ended up being more like a competition of most revealing clothing of all attending – do we say ‘glad they made it to mass’ or ‘rather they didn’t even come’??
    I’m guessing it’s time to get on my knees again and pray.

  22. “And an idiot can figure out what this ugly thing was supposed to be saying to the onlooker. “

    I guess I am lower than an idiot; I can’t make heads or tails of it. If it were a horse on a race track, they would raise a screen around it…

  23. sisu says:

    Perhaps this is only the beginning and we are too quick to judge. Each year, until he is canonized, a smaller bronze statue will be nested inside the first — like nesting dolls…ad infinitum. Or something. Wow. That cranium is round.

  24. rroan says:


  25. rroan says:

    ack – i meant “kanamit”

  26. frjim4321 says:

    Appraisals of artistic merit are by nature very subjective. I would be curious to read some critiques in scholarly artistic journals. Meanwhile, I must admit the sculpture is not to my personal taste.

  27. Isn’t he Pope St. John Paul II now? Just checking.

    About that statue – someone seriously needs to kill it with fire.

  28. Mundabor says:

    I think the lady migh thave been even too optimistic, as the shape of the thing make it ideal to use as a pissoir; which, given the particular situation near the central station, is the most likely use of the object.


  29. pelerin says:

    In 1986 Pope John Paul II blessed the city of Lyon in France from the Fourviere hill. On October 5th this year will be unveiled a statue of him. Cast also in bronze but there the similarity with the Rome statue ends. He will be shown smiling arms outstretched and with a ‘proper body’. The model shown on one website looks quite beautiful and will be a worthy monument in memory of his visit there. This one is by a lady sculptor and shows great feeling unlike the other.

  30. RichardT says:

    “in no time, it will be full of bottles of beer”

    That’s got to be an improvement. And it does look a bit like a refrigerator with the door open.

  31. Here is an article about the Lyon, France statue that Pelerin mentioned. Now that looks like Bl. John Paul!

  32. catholicmidwest says:

    In the US, it would exist for 40 years and become a pile of rust, then be taken down for a parking lot.

    In Rome, it will probably be there for a long, long time, becoming the butt of many jokes, some of them indiscreet but very funny. It will get covered with graffiti and become a tourist attraction, and then finally be incorporated into the wall of an ugly apartment building.

  33. St. Louis IX says:

    Verily, our generation is not experiencing an artistic springtime. I think there has never been a more poor generation that what was born of the 1960s –70s revolution.
    Poor in Art
    Poor is Archetechture
    Poor in worship
    Poor in thought
    Poor in Deed

    No Springtime…

  34. catholicmidwest says:

    Actually, St. Louis IX,
    It was the commercialization of such that’s the problem. Everything now either looks like it was made on a Chinese assembly line, OR it’s avant-garde ugly. Sometimes it’s both.
    So this statue isn’t much of a surprise, even in Rome. Ugly is the norm and has been for many years. Western culture is bankrupt for themes because it doesn’t take time to recognize itself in the mirror and get to know itself. Our children are ignorant because we allowed them to be.

  35. pelerin says:

    Thanks to HeatherBarrett for giving the link so that readers can see a real tribute to Bl John Paul II. (I’m sorry I have no idea how to do a link like this.)

  36. St. Louis IX says:

    Certainly much of that is true. I also know that after the council( Vatican 2) a document was issued, that directed a simplification of structures and art, so as not to offend the sensibilties of the poor.
    This was an active intentional move to DE-Sacralize Art and Churches and the perception of Beauty. This has had a profound and disturbing affect on Western society.

  37. catholicmidwest says:

    Which document, St. Louis IX?

    There was one in the US that was used for political purposes, called Environment and Art in Catholic Worship. It really wasn’t a USCCB document as it only came out of a subcommittee and was never voted upon by the whole conference. Nevertheless, it was used as justification for much of the damage and most catholics didn’t know any better.

  38. St. Louis IX says:

    I will try and find it for you. I suspect their will be someone on this site that has instant recall.
    If you can stomach it, look in the New Catholic Encyclopedia under Church Architecture. You will find to your dismay, that the Catholic Church (her theologins) took us down this banal road of desolate artisic expression.

  39. irishgirl says:

    Pelerin and Heather-now that’s a nice statue of Blessed John Paul II! I didn’t know that he visited Lyons!
    TC-that’s a good posting by Fr. Eric! He’d say something like that!

  40. catholicmidwest says:

    Thanks, St. Louis IX,
    I wasn’t aware of anything bigger than this document from the subcommittee of the USCCB. That’s the one that usually gets used as an excuse in the US for renovations. I’d be interested to know if there’s another one.

  41. I think this is a perfectly acceptable representation of Blessed John Paul II, and a fitting tribute to the spirituality of the modern Church over which he reigned.

    What are you guys complaining about?

  42. catholicmidwest says:

    Very funny, David.

  43. Vox clamantis in deserto says:

    The reactions contribute to comparative studies of Italian regions. It seems that i romani have better understanding of what is ugly than il Lombardi.

    And I like the “Fuso subito!” :-))

    By the way, have a look at the photo at

    It is a blog written by a Polish nun. She took the photo in Wynohradiv (Ukraine) – there used to be a Lenin statue. After the fall of communism it was melted down and a statue of St. Michael was made from the material.

    So why not to melt down the ugly statue of bl. John Paul II and make a nice statue of bl. John Paul II?

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