Hawthorn School aids Vatican Museums

  • June 12, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - When Grade 9 student Christina Mavroidis saw the famed Pieta and other art wonders of the Vatican and its museums this year, her love for art was transformed.

“I don’t know how they were able to put so much emotion into so many statues,” she said.

But just as the art has changed students like Mavroidis, so have the students affected the art. Every year, Hawthorn School for Girls, an independant Toronto school based on Catholic values, raises money for the restoration of Vatican Museums artifacts. It became a member of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums after the Canadian chapter was established in 2000. Over the years, the school has presented between $6,000 and $9,000 for the Vatican Museums.

During the 10-day trip to Italy in mid-April, Mavroidis, who loves to paint and draw, said she learned the importance of putting religion into art and said she would try to do that from now on.

“Everybody has a different interpretation (of religion), but in art, your emotions go into it too and people feel that,” she said.

Coming from a Greek Orthodox background, Mavroidis said it was eye opening to learn about the Roman Catholic roots in much of the artwork and architecture studied in textbooks.

The trip, held every two to three years, was first organized in 1992 by the school’s former head, Dr. Teresa Tomory. Tomory, who has a PhD in art history and archeology, had travelled extensively in Europe and Turkey for work and study. She was also one of the founders of Hawthorn, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Though she retired from Hawthorn last year, Tomory continues to accompany the students on the Vatican trip, helping to arrange the tours and to share her wealth of knowledge on art, history and religion.

“(The trip) began as a strong cultural, intellectual and spiritual experience for the students on so many levels,” she said. “The fact they can spend 10 days there — it would equal a year of studies on the same topics.”

During the trip, students visit a number of Italian towns surrounding Rome and attend a papal audience at the Vatican. They get to tour the Scavi, the excavations under the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica, and as Patrons get a private tour of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel where they are able to see the artifacts their school has helped to restore. A sign with the name of their school now accompanies a pair of Canaanite cymbals, an Etruscan funerary urn and an Etruscan bronze dish. In the next five years, they plan to donate $5,000 towards restoration projects of the necropolis of Santa Rosa, Tomory said. The necropolis, discovered in 2003, is often considered the most important archeological find of the past century, with tombs dating back to the first century BC and the fourth century AD.

The students were excited to have come within just a few feet of Pope Benedict XVI during one of his Wednesday audiences.

Cecilia Charles, a Grade 10 student who also went on the trip in her Grade 8 year, said she appreciated the experience much more this time around, especially since the day trip to Assisi coincided with the Franciscan’s 800th anniversary.

Charles said it felt amazing just to stand where someone significant had stood before. But Rome was without doubt her favourite place.

“It was the centre of Catholicism,” she said. “It was very enlightening to see the Pope and hear him speak.”

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