Cardinale Crescenzio Sepe
Metropolitan archbishop of Naples
I wanted to set up the Diocesan Museum of Naples, opened in the presence of the President of the Italian Republic the Honourable Giorgio Napolitano, to show how to enhance and promote religious cultural heritage which is so fundamental to the Church's pastoral mission to convey the idea of the sacred, beauty, truth, ancient and modern.
This Museum began its life as a place to preserve those parts of the historical and artistic heritage of the Archdiocese of Naples that are generally no longer used or are difficult to house in other premises and to present them for the enjoyment of the general public. However, I do not want this new institution to become a container of disused objects; Instead, my hope is that it will become a precious instrument for enabling evidence of the past to interact with religious life for the benefit of the local area in order to coordinate museums, monuments, vestments, altar cloth and holy vessels, miracle plays, religious devotion, archives, libraries, collections and other local traditions.
The proposal of the Archdiocese to set up a new Museum for the city was designed to rediscover something which belongs, both culturally and spiritually, to everyone; the aim is not merely to boost tourism, which is not the task of the religious community, but a humanistic one, since the Church is an expert in humanity.
I imagine that the Diocesan Museum could become an important reference point both for a learned reappraisal of the religious history of the local community expressed in the form of the arts, and for a similarly learned cultural interpretation of the present. I also believe that it may become a key element for Christian evangelisation within the ambit of the pastoral care of art and culture, with an ear to the ground to pick up all the social, political and cultural dynamics of the local area. Last but not least, I hope it can become, in a completely harmonious way, a place for humanity and religion, aimed at heaven and earth alike, capable of perceiving and announcing God, who is everything in everyone (cf. 1 Cor 15, 28).
Despite being so full of modernity, our era is sensitive to the memory of the past. The south of Italy, while reaching out towards Europe and the Mediterranean, is also careful to preserve the spirit and identity of its origins and its history.
The Church of Naples, profoundly embodied within this context, cannot react any differently and must strive, in this religious context, to use its historical and artistic heritage to highlight the sensus fidei which has always distinguished the Christian people and continues to do so. I would therefore like to thank and encourage all those who have contributed to this praiseworthy achievement and to those civic institutions which support it, using the words of the great Pope John Paul II. An admirer of art and an enthusiastic artist himself, he gave the following advice to experts in sacred art in 1981. "Go and explore in order to discover the message assigned to the object by the creative imprint of the artists of the past. Endless wonders will come to light whenever the benchmark is religion".
Don Adolfo Russo
Director of the Diocesan Museum of Naples – Episcopal Vicar for culture
What is the secret of beauty that captivates the eyes and seduces the heart? Does it lie in proportion, luminosity, the correspondence between form and function or is it necessary to search for it in a general assessment of the work, in its interaction with the subject, within its global context? And from this perspective, what importance does its religious inspiration possess?
Visitors to a museum of sacred art will undoubtedly ask themselves these questions. Ancient philosophers like Plato and Aristotle had established a relationship between pulcrum and verum and bonum. This led to a broader understanding of the aesthetic phenomenon. It was decided that beauty is the splendour of truth and that there is a typical "goodness" in beauty which cannot be experienced elsewhere.
There is an aspect here that is worth underlining. Indeed, goodness can only be enjoyed if one possesses it, while beauty arises simply through contemplative perception. Thus, in order to be used, material goods need to be divided and parcelled out. What is mine is not yours. Art works, on the other hand, can be admired without being divided. A painting or a sculpture can be seen by many people without anyone feeling that they have been deprived of something.
The hope is that this museum - like other places of art - will enable the Neapolitan public and foreign visitors to Immerse themselves completely in the beauty of the past. It should be treasured not just as the historical evidence of an important and artistic urban experience, but also as an opportunity to share cultural heritage and to cultivate public spirit. It represents a precious resource for a city that is emerging from a period of degradation and is becoming a European metropolis that is open to the main currents of thought, a city that is destined to play a key role at the heart of the Mediterranean.