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Monastic Period 1950 - 1968
Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pennsylvania, USA
Artworks during my Benedictine Monastic years at St Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania USA.. .
During my first year after art school a growing interest in spirituality and philosophy led me to Saint Vincent Archabbey located in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. On my 21st birthday, in 1950, I entered a scholastic program in preparation for a full commitment to monastic life. As a monk I pursued philosophical and theological studies that led to ordination as a priest in 1959.
Following ordination monastic assignments took me, for periods of time, to New York, Paris and Washington. During these periods I remained faithful to monastic life with this monastery as my home.
A gradual change of inner beliefs led me to withdraw from monastic life in 1968. For a brief account of this journey see: From Cloister to Nature's Sanctuary
Early Monastic Period Art (1950-1959). Taking the monastic name Romanus, I entered the cloister as a Novice in 1952, and continued studies in philosophy and theology. During these years of study my practice as an artist was limited but I was given opportunities for several murals. I continued to draw and painted several portraits including a life size portrait of the archabbot. Many of the drawings and paintings of this period were lost in a fire that devastated the monastery in 1963. St Vincent Library 1958-1960. This ceramic tile mural, measuring 22 feet by 11 feet, was designed, glazed and fired at St Vincent before I went to New York for advanced studies. .My preliminary work on this Library project began in the 1958-59 academic year and I completed firing all the tiles for the installation in 1960. The mural was installed in 1961 with the dedication date quoted in another source as 1962. I was doing graduate studies in NY at the time of its installation. Click here for detailed illustration & interpretation. Monk in New York (1960-1962). A year after ordination the Archabbot sent me to New York City as a resident monk at Saint Michael's rectory on West 34th Street. My mission was to pursue both studio and academic studies and return to the abbey to enrich a program in the arts. After completing an MFA degree at Pratt Institute (1961) I followed graduate courses in both medieval and modern art history dividing time between NYU's Institute of Fine Arts and Columbia University. France, 1962-1963. To round out these studies the Archabbot sent me to Europe to broaden my studio work and to experience primary sites in the history of western art. In Paris I pursued further studies while maintaining a modest studio and traveling to medieval monastic sites along the pilgrimage routes. More on this period. Monastery Studio, 1963-1968: struggle with change. During this very productive period my "belief" experiences underwent changes challenging the belioefs that brought me to embrace monastic life some years earlier. This struggle would lead me to depart from monastic life in 1968. This struggle can be seen in my Tennessee Notebook that was published by Jubilee Magazine in its 1968 April issue. Symptoms of struggle and changing perspectives also permeated my "Psalms in Sound & Image". Click here for details on this period. Washington, DC, 1964-1966. With the blessing of Arcyhabbot Weakland I was appointed to full Staff Editor for Art and Architecture with the New Catholic Encyclopedia (McGraw Hill, 1967). My sections for this monumental 15 volume reference work received excellent reviews ( America, March 18, 1967). While maintaining a studio and part time residence at the monastery I spent most of my time at Catholic University in Washington with the editorial staff. I also maintained a small studio on campus where I worked on my New City series while continuing to experiment with the automatic drawing I had pursued in France. More on this period and signs of change Romanus, my monastic name. It was customary when entering the monastic life to assume a new name symbolizing rebirth wherein one gives up all worldly possessions and associations in pursuit of one's spiritual journey. I chose the name "Romanus" who was, according to the "Dialogues of Gregory", a 6th Century hermit who introduced Benedict to the heremetical life and cared for him for 3 years of isolation in a cave. During this period Benedict underwent spiritual transformation, a prelude to his role as the Abbot of a community of monks at Subiaco. As their spiritual leader Benedict outlined a 72 chapter "Holy Rule" (Sacra Regula), that became the foundation of Benedictine monastic life that spread throughout Europe in the Middle Ages.
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