Sacred ART 3

Sacred Art

Lamentation, oil on canvas. Lost.


I made some paintings with the idea that you were there in the crowd, a witness, that these events were in Revelation, part of human history. 

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   Descent from the Cross, oil, 16″ x 20″.


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Loaves and Fishes, oil, 5 x 8′.

Vision of Saint Michael the Archangel, oil, 3 x 5′, 2011.

In Rome Emperor Hadrian’s Tomb had its name changed since a vision of Saint Michael the Archangel appeared in the sky above the mausoleum. He was sheathing his sword to signify that the Plague of 590 AD would end. The bui;lding is now called Castel Sant’Angelo.

The painting is my representation of the vision seen by Pope Gregory the Great and hundreds of pilgrims as they processed from the Basilica of Saint Mary Major through the streets of Rome toward Saint Peter’s Basilica carrying an icon of the Virgin Mary, Holy Mary, Protectress of the Roman People, Santa Maria Solus Populi Romani, believed to have been painted by Saint Luke.  Saint Michael dressed in the armor of a Roman soldier, is returning his bloodied sword to the scabbard, signifying that the plague of 590 AD would end. Emperor Hadrian’s Tomb has since been called Castel Sant’Angelo.

The miraculous vision of the archangel was commemorated by a chapel dedicated to St. Michael built atop the mausoleum and later by a statue of the angel placed atop the chapel. Pope Gregory’s vision was never forgotten. It was confirmed by a similar miracle marking the end of the Black Death of 1348.”   

Information is from a history of some apparitions of Saint Michael the Archangel at Castel Sant’Angelo from The History and Decoration of Pont S Angelo, Mark Weil, 1974, The Pennsylvania State University Press: 

 F. H. Dudden, Gregory the Great, London, 1905.



Angel of Plenty, 46″ x 38″, 2008. 


Abortion, oil on canvas, I had thought that a reason a woman might have an abortion is because the act is hidden. In the painting the mother is turning away and the horse is blindfolded.

 About Abortion Pope Benedict has said “We must use our eyes.”  

Pieta, marble, 1981.

This work was stolen from a moving van on October 3rd, 1993, in Weymouth, Massachusetts.” Reward , Contact the FBI or Weymouth Police.” Ten years later: Pieta Recovered August 7, 2003. Boston Globe, NAMES by Carol Beggy, August 12, 2003.


Madonna and Child, Carrara Marble, 11 feet high, Conyers Georgia, 1998,

carved in Pietrasanta, Italy.

Madonna and Child, marble, life size, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church, Miami, FL.


Our Lady Shelter From The Storm, marble, life size, collection of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church, Miami, FL.

 Hanging Crucifix, wood, nine feet by nine feet., collection of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church, Miami, FL

In his homily at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church on September 9th, 2001, Archbishop John C. Favalora said of this corpus, ” His body has become the cross.”

Altar and Crucifix, wooden crucifix, 9′ x 9′, altar is terra cotta panels set into a three ton block of Florida’s indigenous coral rock, 1996, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church, Miami, Florida.





Dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica, pencil, 12″ x 17″.


Madonna and Child, pencil, 1982, 11″ x 14″, collection of the Artist.


Double Image, Turin Shroud Head and Crucifixion, ink and wash.

 Article published in The Italian Insider Newspaper, Rome. Does God Have a Face?    


Drawing Saint Cecilia  

Drawing the Stephano Maderno marble sculpture of Saint Cecilia, Basilica of Saint Cecilia, Rome, 2011.

From Caravaggio, A Life by Helen Langdon, p-162


Santa Cecilia, conte and pencil, 2011, collection of the artist.


Drawing of Blessed Ludavica Albertoni after the marble by Bernnini, San Francisco a Ripa Church, Rome.

 Drawings from the Life of Christ  Click on the title for a larger image. 

Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist



 Miracle at Cana                                               



   Jesus Calling Saint Peter         


                         Jesus and the Woman Taken in Adultery


  Jesus Washing the Feet of the Disciples            


    Jesus Before Pilot


Carrying the Cross 




  Three Crosses  


                                          Supper at Emaas

Risen Christ, Saint Zepherin’s Church, Cochituate, Massachusetts, Imperial Danby Vermont marble, black granite, Rosso Levanto Turkish marble, life size, 1992.

As a Traditional Sculptor I was presented with the problem of making an Architectural setting and a sculpture for the new Saint Zepherin’s Church that had the architecture of a meeting hall. I use a Renaissance Marble Carving Method .See my article- Looking over Michelangelo’s Shoulder as He Carves Marble-

The sculpture is part of a permanent Architectural element designed by the sculptor at Saint Zepherin’s Church

 I took the shape of the Palladian arch in the architecture of the building and copied that exactly in shaping and cutting the back marble slab. To symbolized the Veil of the Temple splitting I split in two the perfect piece of very expensive Rosso Levanto Turkish Marble with several well placed blows.

The slightly larger than life size head of white marble was perfect for a Risen Christ. It had monumentality from the beginning in the stone. That is reminiscent of Michelangelo’s Neo-Platonist ideas about beauty inside the block waiting to be discovered. I carved a detailed Head of Moses, it had dignity and a presence. I saw beyond that the vision of the Risen Christ and used tools to erase all surface details of Moses with the result looking for an other worldly beauty and mystery. I have been told that the features are perfect. I think that people are allowed to see what they see because the details are not so specific and therefore not limiting. Who wants to see a Photo Realistic Risen Christ? His body was glorified. The letter below by Laura Ferguson a parishioner bears this out. More about that below.

 The idea for the finish of the Risen Christ came from a marble Pieta where the Virgin Mary is clear in appearance, detailed, in our world, wheres the Christ has a different look, not so detailed, being in a different place of mystery.

I could not stand the detail and would undo the clarity and go for the mystery again and again. The beautiful marble allowed for that process to continue and indeed always called for more mystery. Doing the same thing for 13 years and expecting different results coincides with Einstein’s idea of insanity. But I did it like an artist, I expected the same results but hoped they would continue to look better. Apropos to carving one sculpture for13 years, Einstein said, “It’s not that I am so smart, it’s just that I stay with projects longer.” Thematically, in this case, it all made sense that the corpus of the Pieta could be on the road to soon be a Risen Christ.

 Pieta, Carrara Marble, life size, 2006 – 2018. in process, almost finished.

The Italian sculptor, Medardo Rosso, also in Paris with Rodin and Brancusi in 1906, made his most well known work, Ecce Puer. He put wax over plaster producing a special surface. Apparently he influenced Rodin toward an impressionism (small i) in sculpture.


  Ecce Puer, Medado Rosso

 Before and After, Moses becoming the Risen Christ                                      

The old Saint Zepherin’s was a typical church from the end of the Nineteenth Century with stain glass windows and painted life size plaster statues of saints. They would not be called sculptures. The church was replaced by something that looked like a meeting hall. My marble carving method is a Renaissance one of  carving directly on the stone guided by drawings and maybe a small clay model. The commission was to make a Modern work to fit into the contemporary space. In the idea that I had for the Risen Christ I envisioned transforming the Renaissance like detail into something more simple. I had one foot in a Renaissance school of carving and the other in the twentieth century “Direct Carving” school. That is the church that I ran around in as a child and it formed my taste. Content and meaning were paramount.

It was an honor to do this in the church where I was an altar boy for the Latin Mass. I can close my eyes and see statues and the stained glass windows and Stations of the Cross.

My mother and her friend Grace Courchine were the Saint Zepherin’s Altar Society and on Saturday Mornings they would replace the altar cloths and vacuum the rugs as I ran around the pews and studied the art.

He (St Peter)continued, “So to conclude about martyrdom. Do you know that all but two, of the fifty two of my immediate successors as Bishop of Rome are saints, most were martyrs?”

I was proud to say, “I know, someone gave me a piece of paper on the street in 2005 with a list of all the popes. Typed in at the bottom was the name of the new pope. I have kept that list. It is well worn, I will tell you how I used it. Some years ago I did tours of the Vatican Museums. There was another docent who was saying that the museums were all about propaganda and the Church reifying its power. I was not content to read the interpretations of historians of what the place was about. I hoped that I could know for myself the reality behind the grand collection and the buildings. The key was the paper that I had saved. The place is built over the grave of the fisherman, you, and on the blood of the martyrs. When I showed it to visitors they noticed the capital “M”, for martyr, after the names of the first popes, thirty three of them, often in office for a short time. Pope Cornelius made it for three years before he was murdered. I continued, Caravaggio painted many martyrdoms.”

Lamentation, oil, 36×48″.

Lamentation, oil, 36 x 48″, 2012, collection of the artist.

Last Supper

Pieta with Shroud

Christmas Painting, oil, 40″ x 40″, private collection Cuba, New York.

Madonna and Child with Lilies

Crucifix, wood, 24″ high.

Gethsemane, oil, 16×20″, 200

Saint Jerome, terra cotta study for marble, 19″ high.

Proposal for a large marble for Sant Jeromes Church, Fort Lauderdale, FL.

The Good Shepard, terra cotta study for marble, 22″ high.

Proposal for a large marble for Good Shepard Church, Kendall, FL.

Head of Christ, pencil.

Bronze Angel. I learned that Ancient Greeks used marble molds carved in reverse for casting bronze.

 This was done as an Artist in Residence at the Rhode Island School of Design Foundry.

Ave Maria University SealExhibit: The Sacred Art of Cornelius Sullivan

  • 04 PM

    An exhibit of works by artist Cornelius Sullivan is up in Ave Maria University’s Canizaro Library for one more week. The exhibit, “Sacred Art and the Theology of the Body: Cornelius Sullivan Paintings, Sculpture, Drawings,” opened on April 15 and runs through May 15, 2015. It is free and open to the public.

    Mr. Cornelius Edmund Sullivan earned his B.F.A. from Rhode Island School of Design in 1991, and completed his M.F.A. from the University of Miami in 1996. He has taught and lectured around the world, including at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, the University of Miami School of Architecture, the Danforth Museum, Florida International University, and frequently in Rome.

    Most recently, Sullivan co-taught a course at Ave Maria University with Dr. Michael Waldstein, “The Theology of the Body in Renaissance Art: Michelangelo, Titian, and Caravaggio” (THEO 595), which sought to “stimulate awareness of the non-verbal theology of the great Renaissance artists” (cited from the course description). Jesus came to earth in the flesh, Sullivan pointed out. He did not arrive “with a list of moral principles” but with an offer of love. One of the arguments of the Theology of the Body is that concupiscence is due to a loss of vision stemming from a lack of love; man has forgotten how to see himself, and others, in relation to God. The answer to concupiscence is not in the memorization of moral principles, but in the restoration of man’s proper vision.


    “Blessed is the Fruit of Thy Womb,” oil, 30 x 40″, 2014. 

    Appropriately then, the course co-taught by Sullivan and Waldstein aimed at helping the students see the art they studied. The professors told the students: “Just look. Learn how to look.” By slowly stripping away the characters and ancillary elements, Sullivan explained, the class would arrive at the “essence of the painting.” He recounted the story of how, during one class, they spent three hours stripping away the elements of Caravaggio’s painting “The Calling of Saint Matthew” until only the figures of Matthew and Christ remained. As the class continued to look, Waldstein exclaimed: “It’s love at first sight.” They had arrived at the essence of the painting and a deeper understanding of Christ’s call.

    Of the twenty-four works on display in the Canizaro library, perhaps Sullivan’s “Loaves and Fishes” (c. 1984) stands out the most—not just because of its large size. The figure of Jesus, his face obscured in shadows, his back and miracle-working hand bathed in light, reaches over a table filled with colorful fish exploding outwards toward the viewer. Various characters, crowded and yet isolated, are seen coming and going. “I want it to be like you’re there, you’re in the crowd, while this cosmic event is taking place,” Sullivan commented. He achieves a similar effect in his “Descent from the Cross,” and more mysteriously so in his “The Annunciation” (neither of which is currently on display).


    “Loaves and Fishes,” oil, 5 x 8′, c. 1984.

    Perhaps something a viewer of “Loaves and Fishes” can take away is the everydayness of the working of grace and the open invitation to come and eat.

    Sullivan is a figurative artist—his works are representations of the real, most often of the human figure. Yet he considers himself a modern artist, balancing figure and form, representation and medium. “I want the object itself to have a presence,” he said, “so I push it until it does.” In his work, there is a clear sense of the medium, be it the thick drips of paint on the canvas, or the rough edges of the marble reminding the viewer of the stone’s original form. But these elements, he insisted, are not a break from his teachers or guides—artists like Michelangelo and Caravaggio. “Renaissance artists were modern artists,” Sullivan said. The rough cheeks of Sullivan’s sculpture “Cararra Madonna and Child” (2014) and the face trapped in, or emerging from, the marble of his “Angel” (2012) are not so far removed from some of Michelangelo’s sculptures (see, for instance, Michelangelo’s “Awakening Slave” or “Atlas”).


    “Angel,” marble, 2012.

    Far from being non-finito or unfinished, Sullivan said, these works by Michelangelo were intentionally left as they were. He explained from his own experience carving the “Cararra Madonna and Child” how the marble was soft, so that when he sanded it down, he would lose a significant amount of dimension and contour. With his “Pieta,” he left the base of the marble to retain the sense of the original block and to convey how the figures were found within. Michelangelo carved in a similar way, peeling back the marble and “discovering” his forms in the stone. Sullivan understands his art as continuous with the past and part of a long tradition.


    “Pieta,” marble, 22″ high, 1981.

    Modernists break from the past when they dispense with representation. The break stems from a Cartesian dualism, Sullivan said, and the meaning of the art becomes entirely subjective.

    Frustrated with his experience at art school in the 1960s, Sullivan turned to the Masters for guidance. Rather than reinvent painting every time he started on a blank canvas, he began imitating artists of the past. He’s had a long journey, full of trial and error. Things that Caravaggio would have learned when he was fourteen, Sullivan quipped, he himself was just coming to realize now. Sullivan’s works are part of an ongoing process, a dialogue between the artist and his creation.

    The exhibit “Sacred Art and the Theology of the Body” is an invitation to move one step closer towards a fuller vision of man in his relation to others and to God. The beauty of the human form in art has the power to move man to a deeper understanding of the divine.

    In the oft-quoted, off-the-cuff remarks of Pope Benedict XVI to priests in Brixen, he said:

    “For me, art and the saints are the greatest apologia for our faith… All the great works of art…they are all luminous signs of God and therefore truly an appearing, an epiphany of God. And in Christianity it is precisely a matter of this epiphany: that the hidden God became Epiphany—he appears and shines… Christian art is a rational art… but it is the artistic expression of a greatly expanded reason, in which heart and reason encounter each other. This is the point. I believe that in a certain way this is proof of the truth of Christianity: heart and reason encounter one another, beauty and truth converge, and the more that we ourselves succeed in living in the beauty of truth, the more that faith will be able to return to being creative in our time too, and to express itself in a convincing form of art.”

    Sarah Blanchard for Academics AMU


Sacred Art and Modernism

Looking over Michelangelo’s Shoulder as He Carves Marble

Papa Wojtyla as Capeman Sculpture of Pope John Paul II by the Train Sation, Rome  June 30, 2011    “Erudite”-J. P.     


Caravaggio Speaks to the Modern Age       June 20, 2012

Caravaggio’s Raising of Lazarus

Who is Saint Matthew for Caravaggio

Rome’s extravagant celebration of Caravaggio- How can we know another man’s death.  

Caravaggio, Saints and Sinners- Caravaggio painted sinners as saints.           

Caravaggio, the most Unlikely Candidate

Caravaggio on the Run in Malta   

Caravaggio, The Interview   

Interview with Saint Peter, the Art of Martyrdom                                                              November 3, 2012

Attacks on Caravaggio I saw him there in the street, the narrow street, Via del Leone,                June 4, 2012

Caravaggio Reveals Himself- The most unlikely candidate                                                       August 3  

Caravaggio and the Marilyn Elvis Syndrome-  Only the good die young.                                   July 25

 Caravaggio and the Aesthetics of Meaning- Caravaggio is the antidote to Conceptual Art.          September 27,

Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Vermeer, not just realists-  Caravaggio used light to tell the story.   September 6  

Who is Saint Matthew for Caravaggio         August 7, 2012, revised June 2, 2018

 Another Bogus Caravaggio Discovery         July 10,  2012 

Tranquillo Caravaggio, the Town                 June 26, 2012

Caravaggio Borrows from Michelangelo     December 18, 2011


Michelangelo in Rome                         November 15, 2011 

Michelangelo in Rome II  

Carving Marble by the Michelangelo Quarry in Carrara      Summer 2014 

A Lost Michelangelo, don’t get your hopes up                         July 18, 2012

Art Mysteries Solved


Sacred Art and the Theology of the Body, Caravaggio, 

Sacred Art and The Theology of the Body, Part One, Caravaggio  related- Exhibition at Ave Maria University, 2015,   


The first article published by The Italian Insider Newspaper-

Capeman II: Papal Statue not Improved                        November, 20, 2012 “Well said”.- M.P., “Great Article”-C.S., P.A.

 The Annunciation, Ave Maria

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as Mao                              February 2012

Art Mysteries Solved, a Leonardo, a Michelangelo, and a Raphael       October 11 

Moor Fountain in Piazza Navona vandalized                                          

Does God Have a Face? 

Sacred Art and The Theology of the Body     

Sacred Art                                                                


American Views of the Amanda Knox Verdict                       November 3

The Roman Forum                                                              June 8, 2012

March 23, 2016 I wrote this short piece yesterday for John and Ashley in Rome who produce Voice of the Vatican,

  for a TV video they are shooting today.  Crucifixion with Saints, Pietro Perugino

all content copyright Cornelius Edmund Sullivan 2020