It’s difficult to personally visit more than 50 Greater Cincinnati Catholic churches and chapels, but those interested in spiritual inspiration still have two opportunities to see the glorious art that resides there. Robert Flischel, a Cincinnati photographer, assisted by Joe Simon and Jay Yocis, created the 200-page coffee table book, “Messages of Glory: The Narrative Art of Roman Catholicism.” In addition, about 36 of these images are being shown as a “Year of Faith” exhibit at the Roesch Library at the University of Dayton.
“I think art is a way of helping people get in touch with their faith. Like the Pieta in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome expresses an image from the Gospel in a way that words can’t, I think some of his pictures capture a spiritual thought in a way that words can’t,” said Father Jim Fitz, Office for Mission and Rector vice president. “Art has been used in the church throughout history to move people to a deeper faith.”
The Office for Mission and Rector is sponsoring this exhibit, in association with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. These “Messages of Faith” are enhanced by glorious images of Mary, the life of Christ, and prominent stories in the Bible.
“We’re celebrating the Year of Faith, and I think he’s captured the faith of the those who have gone before us in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati,” said Fitz.
The project has been 20 years in the making. Flischel worked as a photojournalist for Ohio Magazine all those years, finding and developing stories. In addition, he had been working as a wedding photographer.
“I was heading out to all kinds of chapels, churches and synagogues all over. I thought, ‘How many people have been to this many spiritual sites?’ So I started to develop this idea,” Flischel said. “It started to become too architectural, so I decided to focus on one religion using existing art in various places. The inspiration was seeing an amazing number of sacred spaces over time.”
The images captured include many stained glass windows, but also sacred oil paintings, statues, cast plaster reliefs and mosaics. “Guardian Angel” is the vibrant detail of a stained glass window at St. Agnes Church in Fort Wright, Ky. “Motherhood” shows Mary tenderly kissing the Christ child in her lap; the Italian white marble sculpture is located at St. Anne Convent Cemetery in Melbourne, Ky.
“Finding that Madonna is what I call a gift from another photographer. I told him where he could get a great image for the history of corn documentary he was working on,” Flischel said. “In exchange, he told me about this secret place in Melbourne.”
The exhibit also presents two wonderful mosaics that can be found at St. Gregory the Great Chapel in Mount Washington: “Mother and Child,” and “St. Joseph and Child.” A mesmerizing still life that shows a processional cross lit with brilliant hues from a stained glass window nearby is titled “The Eternal Cross.” It was taken at St. William Church in West Price Hill in Cincinnati.
“The picture you think you want is never as good as the picture you stumble upon on the way to the one you think you want,” said Flischel. “I was photographing some windows way up high, and I noticed the morning light cascading through the stained glass window. It illuminated this processional cross, and I thought, ‘Now there’s a photograph.’”
“Messages of Faith” has been nominated for several National Book Awards, including the Benjamin Franklin Awards, The Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Religion and The Bill Fisher Award for the Best Book, Nonfiction. This is his fifth photography book; others include images from Ohio Sate, Cincinnati Public Schools and the University of Cincinnati.
Flischel is a Xavier University graduate, who photographs family and life events. He lectures frequently on historic preservation and has been featured in numerous publications including Time, Smithsonian, Business Week and National Geographic.
“I seek peace and tranquility, and I find that in the churches. I need to take time for contemplation and meditation,” Flischel said.
How to Go
What: “Year of Faith” Photography by Robert Flischel
Where: Roesch Library Gallery, University of Dayton
When: Continues through Oct. 14
More Info: (937) 229-4214, (513) 272-2700, www.udayton.edu/libraries, www.messagesofglory.com