The Vatican: Art and Astronomy

  • Book
  • 100 pages
  • Level: all audiences

In the 1990s, the artist John David Mooney visited the Vatican Observatory and created a number of temporary art installations (click here for a sampling of these) that are shown in this coffee-table book entitled The Vatican Observatory and the Arts: The Sculpture of John David Mooney at Castel Gandolfo, now available from the University of Notre Dame Press.

A book about art is not the unusual undertaking that it might seem for the Vatican Observatory. As a scientific research institute of the Church it is dedicated to research in astrophysics and cosmology. But it has also over the past decade or so ventured into areas of interdisciplinary interest. Such adventuresome efforts are actually deeply rooted in the Observatory’s traditions which can be traced back to the Tower of the Winds, a sixteenth-century monument to both art and science, that arises above the Vatican Museums in Rome. There we find beautiful frescoes depicting the four winds and serving as a backdrop to a meridian line which was used to observe the passage of the Sun with the seasons. The foreshadowings of the Vatican Observatory are here.

In June 1994 the Observatory explored new territory as it entered for the first time into organized dialogue with the arts, literature, history, and the social sciences. The occasion was a conference on “The Inspiration of Astronomical Phenomena” to study how celestial events have influenced humans throughout history. As an artist in residence during the conference, John David Mooney created a number of outdoor sculptures at the Observatory’s rooftop telescopes and in the adjoining Papal gardens. The sculptures were temporary creations. This book preserves in over 100 beautiful four-color photographs, designs, and text the original work of Mooney as an inspiration for future dialogue between astronomy and the arts. It is in itself a work of art.

Click here for further information from the University of Notre Dame Press.