Italy proved the perfect place for De La Salle Catholic College’s student pilgrims and artists to reflect and prepare for their HSC years.
About 15 Visual Arts, Ancient History and Studies of Religion students visited significant cultural sites in central Italy over two weeks before returning to begin Year 11 at the Cronulla school.
The trip began in Venice, where they spent time at St Mark’s Basilica and the Peggy Guggenheim museum. It ended in Rome, where Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, John McCarthy QC, took students behind the scenes at the Casina Pio IIII.
The Renaissance-era summer house in the Vatican Gardens is now the site for Vatican diplomacy and humanitarian efforts. It also houses the first official portrait of Pope Francis, painted by Bundeena artist Jiawei Shen. The former refugee’s painting was commissioned by the Australian Government as a gift to the Pope.
College captain Madeline Tripodi said she was deeply honoured to meet the Bishop Sanchez Sorondo during the tour. The head of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences oversees the Global Freedom Network, a movement which aims to end slavery and human trafficking.
“While it is wonderful to see the rich history and artistic heritage of the church in Italy, it is more meaningful to me to see the Church bringing world religions together to address real contemporary issues like forced child labour,’’ Madeline said.
“The work of the Global Freedom Network is truly inspiring and has made me ask important questions about the products I consume.”
History, art and religion were brought to life for the students, who followed the medieval Cammino through central Italy.
Visual arts and English teacher Byron Hurst said the students made a memorable stop in San Gimignano, a hillside town famous for its medieval towers and a home to Australian artist Lloyd Rees.
“The Via Francigena was the route travelled by St. Francis of Assisi as well as innumerable pilgrims heading for Rome to pray at the tomb of St. Peter,’’ Mr Hurst said.
In San Gimignano, the students took the opportunity to imitate Rees and sketch one of the world’s oldest cultivated landscapes.
“We only stayed in San Gimignano for one night but seeing all the scenery and getting to draw was excellent,’’ said Tabitha Chapman, 16.
“We went onto one of the hotel verandas and drew landscapes. Even some of the people who weren’t art students came to draw.”
Brittany Livingston will use her sketch as the basis of a painting to enter into the Clancy Prize for Religious Art, held in March. “This was a great opportunity to see and draw what one of Australia’s greatest artists saw and drew,’’ she said.
Mr Hurst said the students stayed in convents in Venice, Sorrento and Rome and saw the preserved tongue, larynx and jaw of St Anthony at a church along the Cammino. It was the first experience of the cult of relics for many of the young pilgrims who also enjoyed being on Vatican soil.
“It was pretty incredible standing in a room where a few weeks prior all these world and religious leaders had just signed an amazing document agreeing to work together to stop slavery and human trafficking,” said student Ben Jennings, 16.
For Daisy Lukins and Stephanie Hession, both 15, the highlights were in Venice.
“The Peggy Guggenheim museum held a different style of art to what we saw most of the time, this was more modern art. There were some artist we’d heard of – Greg Miller, Salvador Dali, Picasso – and some we’d never heard of and a mix of sculptures and paintings.” Stephanie agreed.
“It was cool to see them in real life and not in books,” she said.
“My Highlight was Venice. Everything was so photogenic and we spent a whole day walking around. It was so beautiful.”