By Matthew Lau
A replica of one of Michelangelo’s greatest Renaissance works was the idyllic centrepiece to mark South Perth Parish’s hundredth year in 2017.
The Pietà statue is situated in the Columbarium at St Columba Catholic Church.
The Columbarium was officially opened and blessed by Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB on 29 October 2017, marking the centenary since the foundation of the Parish.
Parish Priest Monsignor Brian O’Loughlin, said the only significant difference between the original and the one at South Perth was that the replica was without Michelangelo’s autograph and was 1.5 times smaller than the original.
The sacrosanct original Pietà is a five-foot, eight-inch sculpture carved out of a single block of marble.
The famous work of art depicts the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion. It is housed in St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City.
Michelangelo famously said that he could see the sculpture inside the block of marble, and that it was simply his job to remove the extra stone and free the image inside.
Mgr O’Loughlin commissioned the piece, which cost $16,000 to craft and ship over to Perth.
The statue was carved by Perth Monumental Works’ suppliers in Quanzhou in Fujian province, just north of Xiamen, China. It is made of Bianca Carrara white marble from Italy.
“We were negotiating over some years to actually build a Columbarium, I put it to the parish council that it would be wonderful to have a centrepiece statement of faith, I couldn’t think of any such better centrepiece than a replica of the Pietà,” Mgr O’Loughlin said.
“The Vatican does not object to people making copies, but they obviously have this insistence that it can’t be the exact same as the original.”
Joan Jaques, Perth Monumental Works General Manager, said South Perth Parish’s carving was the only large marble Pietà the company had brought in from overseas.
“As far as we know it is the largest in Perth. I am sure that there was a special guiding hand behind the making of this sculpture and He certainly knew what He was doing,” she said.
“We insisted on using Italian marble as it is nice to carve and produces an excellent result.”
The sculptor took about one week to send Jaques an attached photo of the completed model in the factory.
“We were so excited as it is such an excellent copy of the original Pietà. We were even worried about copyright because it is so good,” she added.
“When the two pieces arrived in wooden crates, we were afraid to open them until they were taken to St Columba Church in case they were marked or damaged in any way.”
South Perth Parish Finance Committee member Laurie O’Meara helped coordinate the Columbarium project, including sourcing the Pietà from Perth Monumental Works.