Controversial statue gets a makeover

January 12, 2012

Just eight months after being un­veiled, a controversial statue of
Pope John Paul II in Rome is receiving a major makeover. The 16-foot
statue, which stands just outside the city's main railway station, since
last May has been met by harsh criticism from locals and art experts

The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano,
criticized it for bearing "little resemblance" to the image of the late
pope and described the head as "excessively spherical." Federico
Mollicone, president of Rome's city council culture commission, called
the statue "a permanent and sacrilegious mud stain" on the memory of
John Paul II.

More than eight out of ten people who responded to a poll by the newspaper Il Messaggero
said they didn't like the statue, and Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno was
forced by the criticism to form a commission of experts to evaluate its

Now, scaffolding surrounds the statue, and in the coming
weeks it will get a new head, the pope's cape will be modified and the
sculpture will be placed on a higher pedestal. Its outer layer of paint
will be restored because rain and smog turned the bronze green, and new
lighting will be set up around it.

Sculptor Oliviero Rainaldi
responded to criticism last May by saying the foundry didn't adequately
execute his design. The statue is hollow inside, leading many to compare
it to "a sentry box." Rainaldi said the design was meant to showcase
the late pope's desire to welcome humanity. —RNS