Liturgical arts firm VitreArtus to give a glimpse of heavenly beauty during Papal Visit

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It is not about the business anymore. It is about being part of history, of being in the service of the Holy Father and the Church for a once-in-a-lifetime event. For Engr. Robert Cruz and his liturgical arts company, VitreArtus, it is also to craft liturgical furnishings to give us a glimpse of heavenly beauty.

Based in the City of San Pedro in Laguna, VitreArtus will provide the papal chairs, altar, and other furniture needed in the four venues that Pope Francis will visit in the country between January 15-19, 2015.

Eng'r. Robert Cruz, proprietor of VitreArtus, stands beside the base of the unfinished altar Pope Francis will use for his Mass at Quirino Grandstand (photo by Matt Sison)

Engr. Robert Cruz, proprietor of VitreArtus, stands beside the base of the unfinished altar Pope Francis will use for his Mass at Quirino Grandstand (photo by Matt Sison)

Cruz, president of VitreArtus, said the Pontiff’s four papal chairs would be made of Philippine mahogany, without many embellishments. VitreArtus has been in the service of providing Catholic churches and other institutions in the Philippines and abroad with liturgically and theologically correct religious art, iconography, and furniture for almost 25 years.

Two of the papal chairs were commissioned by the University of Santo Tomas for the Youth Encounter with the Pope, while the rest of the needed items — two papal chairs for Luneta and SM Mall of Asia Arena, the altar for the Luneta Mass, 11 chairs for the concelebrating bishops, 16 for the server-deacons, 10 for the papal entourage, seven candelabras, and a 5-foot lectern — will be pro bono. “It is more of giving back, to give our own share to the success of the papal visit,” Cruz said.

He considers this opportunity an answer to a prayer he made seven years ago. He prayed that if ever there would come a time for a papal visit and he would be given the privilege to do even just one papal chair, he would be more than happy to do it. The invitation did come. He considers it a blessing to him and to VitreArtus.


Noble, simple, beautiful

Knowing Pope Francis’ preference for simplicity, VitreArtus artists will make sure that the finished products follow three guiding principles: nobility, simplicity, and beauty.
“We know how simple Pope Francis is. So if we give him a grandiose chair, he might not use it. He might pull a monobloc chair instead,” Cruz told CBCPNews in an interview.


Filipino touch

For the papal chair that will be used during the Holy Mass at the Quirino Grandstand in the afternoon of January 18, the papal coat of arms will be prominent, flanked by wooden carvings of anahaw leaves to give it a more Filipino touch. The shape of the anahaw will decorate the papal chair because this tropical palm known for its round fan-shaped leaves represents the strength and resilience of the Filipinos.

Its base and sides will also be adorned with bamboo, while a small relief sculpture of a shepherd that looks like the typical Filipino farmer, and guava trees with the inscription “Ang Mabuting Pastol” (or the Good Shepherd), will be placed above the backrest.

VitreArtus will also fabricate the altar, which Mr. Cruz said would be painted pale yellow with a copper accent and green anahaw patterns.

Mr. Cruz pointed out that the altar measures approximately 1.5 meters high, 2 meters wide and 3 meters long. “It is more than twice the usual size of an altar because (the Mass would be held in a big venue and) so it has to be seen from afar for visual impact,” he said.

Six million Filipinos are expected to attend the Holy Mass at Luneta, which will formally conclude the Pope’s apostolic visit to the country before he travels back to the Vatican the following day.

Carved images of the anahaw decorate the papal altar (photo by Analyn Perucho)

Carved images of the anahaw decorate the papal altar (photo by Analyn Perucho)


Spanish-inspired, modern papal chairs

For the Pontiff’s encounter with the youth in the morning of January 18, Pope Francis will use a papal Spanish-inspired chair with the arms of Asia’s oldest Catholic university (UST Manila) and those of the Dominican Order flanking the coat of arms of Pope Francis.

The papal chair at the meeting with families at SM Mall of Asia Arena on January 16 will be more modern but still without adornments except for some gold-painted leaves that will provide accent. Closely looking at the papal chair, one can see the indirect use of the popular eye-shaped logo design of SM MOA Arena.


Overtime work

Fr. Alex Bautista, chairman of the Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church in the Diocese of Tarlac, also helped with some of the designs of the furniture, which Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle had delivered to the Vatican for approval.

“The designs were already approved either last week of November or first week of December. We already stopped accepting new commissions to finish these on January 10, in time for the papal visit,” said Mr. Cruz, who has 70 artists working from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m., except holidays.

The VitreArtus workshop in San Pedro, Laguna, is almost occupied with sacred furniture all for the Papal visit. (photo by Matt Sison)

The VitreArtus workshop in San Pedro, Laguna, is almost occupied by sacred furniture being crafted for the Papal Visit. (photo by Matt Sison)

It’s all about God

While everything would be simple, he said it was still important to put serious and careful work into the furniture as this would help people experience God through the liturgy.

“The liturgy is about the worship of God so everything in it has to be directed toward the glorification of God just like sacred music so we also have to produce beautiful sacred furniture,” he explained.


Seeing God in sacred arts

Cruz disclosed that he had offered VitreArtus’ services six months ago to Fr. Genaro Diwa, head of the office of liturgy of the Archdiocese of Manila. “I am not asking for anything in exchange.”

“We don’t consider this a business but more of a ministry or apostolate. We are happy that by means of our sacred furniture we are able to provide the faithful with a glimpse of heavenly realities. They see the beauty of God in our work so it is not about us but about seeing God in our work,” he added. (Carl Jamie Simple S. Bordeos / CBCPNews)

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