National Museum of Catholic Art and Library - Press Release - The Holy Theologians

PRESS RELEASE: March 4, 2008

The National Museum of Catholic Art and Library (212-828-5209)


Christina Cox, German American Founder / Executive Director and Italian-Spanish Mariavelia Savino, Art Curator have planned an extraordinary religious art exhibition for the unprivileged Spanish and Mexican children of Harlem around the teaching and philosophy of Pope Benedict's new books "The Apostles" and "Jesus of Nazareth". With the visit of His Holiness this April to NYC, we have invited all the neighborhood Spanish children to learn about Pope Benedict XVI, the life of Jesus and the teachings of the Doctors of the Church. The name of the show is "The Holy Theologians!"

One day last November, a Mexican American artist named Fred Villanueva came knocking at the door and he had some beautiful paintings of the Virgin Mary and Our Lady of Guadalupe. He turned to paint religious subjects after he was married and received the personal marriage blessing from Pope Benedict XVI in January of 2007 at the Vatican. Christina and Mariavelia commissioned him to create a special oil painting for the Mexican American children in Spanish Harlem of the Pope praying with all the great doctors of the Church around him. We wanted the children to learn about the work of the wonderful Saints that inspired His Holiness, explained to them through art. We commissioned Fred to do a special painting which now is a huge hit in the museum!"The Holy Theologians" is 13 feet long and a masterpiece!!

Christina Cox began this museum in 1992 after she had first received the blessing of Pope John Paul II in a diplomatic audience at the Vatican. She set forth to build the first major Catholic museum in the United States. It was written in Newsweek 16 years ago. After raising $15 million with her Board of Trustees writing grants, producing galas and receptions, the 40,000 square ft and 11 art galleries were finally finished last week to perfection. The first major Catholic Museum in this country dedicated to Christian art, music and literature for children of all nationalities with high quality exhibits.

Father Peter Rofrano, A Palantine Priest and former Pastor of Our Lady of Mt Carmel Shrine in East Harlem was a wonderful mentor and a former board member of the museum until he passed away last May. He helped Christina with her inspiration to turn a former historic 1884 Catholic Elementary School and Sisters of Charity Convent into a major Catholic museum. "Father showed her the Papal Bull signed by Pope Leo XIII to build a special place for pilgrimages to Our Lady". She knew it was a place of many miracles. The annual feast of Our Lady Of Mt Carmel is held every year on July 16th. It brings thousands of people to the Shrine to pray. Father Tony Kelly, the new Pastor is thrilled with the new museum and he is planning to have special group masses for all the new visitors to the area.

They have been searching worldwide for the most gifted international and American artists who have painted the life of Jesus, Last Suppers, Portraits of Bishop John Carroll, Bishop Fulton Sheen, Dorothy Day, or John F. Kennedy for the museum to display. We have been collecting for 16 years the history of Christianity in America with Christopher Columbus and The Declaration of Independence through oil paintings. They commission special artists to develop certain artworks, which they cannot find such as a portrait of Charles Carroll of Carrollton. They were lucky when they received their very first painting in 1995 to launch the museum. It was a famous Anthony Van Dyck's "Betrayal of Christ" a Dutch Flemish master towering 9ft high by 5ft wide that is now worth $3 million dollars.

"But now we are in the exciting stage of art collecting some of the most contemporary new spiritual and religious paintings. We have selected the best artists in the world to donate their artworks from Egypt, Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico, Miami, Poland, Portugal, Boston, LA, Italy, Columbia, Chicago, Italy, Geneva, Romania, Peru and Russia. We also have Warhol, Botero, and a large collection of Christian mystics and saints from Antonio Roig's Spanish Colonial collection from a Puerto Rican museum," says curator Mariavelia.

Other fabulous works of art are Frank Hyder's paintings of "The Fishes" and Sydia Reyes "Urban Host" made of steel and bread. These artworks teach the story from the Bible about Jesus multiplying the loaves of bread and fishes for the masses. There is a life size contemporary "Last Supper" called "The Morsel" by Paul A. Gatto. Here the children learn about Judas at the last supper as Jesus tells the Apostles, "One of you will betray me!" Another interesting Italian artist Fabio D'Aroma shows his masterwork of "The Lost Caravaggio". It is an exquisite oil painting of renaissance favor of St. Mathew writing the gospels with an angel! The children love this museum because we have created such a beautiful home for the artists such as the Venice Biennale winner Venezuelan Henry Bermudez who created "The Heavens" and Virginia Maksymowicz, a sculptress who has designed a series of "Stations of the Cross" like no other! From Botero to Warhol, fulfilled by great works of art, this museum is extraordinary to people of all religions.

After the school children visit the museum, they are so impressed that they write letters back to us to tell us their opinions. We love that! We are going to publish a Children's Magazine with their inspirational letters and their drawings of Jesus, Mary or the Saints. A group from The NY Archdiocese called Creative Class room visual art programs came to us asking to bring 2000 kids this spring to the museum but they had no funds for admission. The Director's challenge is to get corporate underwriting for the schools admission, a goody bag filled with glow in the dark rosaries beads, prayer cards, a published magazine, art tools for the kids and free pizza and soda for each class. It is a $100,000 to $250,000 project to meet these requirements for both Catholic and private school students each year by inviting a total of 5000 school students. It is worth it because they benefit artistically and spiritually. We had support in the past from Home Depot, Donald Trump and Pepsi Cola so we plan to reach out to them again plus many other businesses.

For more information and tours: 212-828-5209 and email:
We are located at 443 East 115 Street, New York City 10029