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Maurizio Cattelan’s Pope Struck By A Meteorite Sculpture

Don’t worry, it's merely an artistic interpretation of a religious figure being hit by a meteorite, not an actual pope who survived after being struck by a celestial object. This installation, titled La Nona Hora, is Maurizio Cattelan’s most controversial work-- which comes as no surprise. The sculpture depicts Pope John Paul II moments after being knocked over by an errant meteorite. It seems comedic and cartoonish at first glance, too. However, the subject matter of the artwork is actually complex and ambiguous at the same time: 

[...] Initially, the artist tackled the subject of Pope John Paul II in a very different manner: more serious, less slapstick. “In the beginning, he was supposed to be standing, with the crucifix in his hands,” Cattelan toldSculpture magazine in 2005. “When it was finished and I stood in front of it, I felt as if something was missing, that the piece was not complete. What it needed was very simple: It lacked drama and the capacity to convey the feeling of being in front of something extraordinary and powerful. It didn’t have the sense of failure and defeat.”
Melanie Holcomb, a curator in the department of Medieval Art and the Cloisters at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “I’m not ready to definitively label the piece sacrilegious,” said Holcomb. “It’s an ambiguous work to be sure, harboring elements of humor, cruelty, and irreverence, but one can also read it as paying tribute to the power of forces and institutions larger than ourselves. There is of course the awesome power of the meteor, but I’m also struck by how the Pope and the cross he carries have survived undamaged. His face remains serene, his torso is square and the cross, unbent. In the medieval world, a miraculously preserved body was a sure indicator of saintliness.”

image credit: Chesnot/Getty Images

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