Thursday, December 12, 2013
Our Lady of Vilnius and Cinema Paradiso
This is Our Lady of Vilnius, 568 Broome Street, at the mouth of the Holland Tunnel.
This is Cinema Paradiso in Giancaldo, Sicily, from the 1988 film of the same name.
They resemble each other, no? Our Lady of Vilnius was the only church designed by architect Harrison G. Wiseman, well known for designing movie theaters. Both Our Lady of Vilnius and Cinema Paradiso housed statues of the Virgin Mary.
At the end of the movie, Salvatore di Vita, once the projectionist and now a famous director, returns home to Giancaldo for the funeral of Alfredo, his mentor and spiritual father. As he processes towards the church behind the hearse, he sees that Cinema Paradiso, opposite the church, has fallen to ruin and is to be demolished within days. One of the people told him that they had closed it 6 years ago because nobody came anymore... the economy, TV, video. In the film the people stand in a crowd across the square and watch, some crying, as the theater implodes.
As I wept, I kept hoping that history could be rewritten for the little theater and that the fate of Our Lady of Vilnius is not yet sealed. The church is being promoted as a "development site" by Massey Knackal.
Let us pray that it is purchased by someone who will love and preserve it and that it will not fall prey to the insidious commodification of everything.