Thursday, March 25, 2010
Templo Adventista Del Septimo Dia
Every time I would head to home Brooklyn from the lower east side I would do a double-take while passing the Templo Adventista on the corner of Delancey and Forsyth. A large mural facing Delancey would perplex and surprise me as I tried to get a full understanding of what was going on in the giant picture. I passed by it dozens, if not hundreds, of times and each time I would shake my head in disbelief. Surely I was reading it wrong? It appeared to be a jubilant Jesus getting toweled off after a refreshing shower by two young boys. I tried to see it in a different way, but this is the way my mind interpreted it. With all the Catholic priest scandals and Vatican cover-ups, it seems a strange depiction to put on display.
After many years the mural finally was consumed by the ravages of nature. The last time I saw it intact was this past fall when it was torn and tattered, hanging on by a few strings after wind and rain made their disastrous mark. Today, there is no sign of the old painting, a distant memory. Luckily a friend of mine photographed it before its downfall and I have since studied the seemingly perverted depiction in depth and realize my view, while understandable, is probably a bit off-base.
First a word on the Templo Adventista Del Septimo Dia. The building was originally built as a synagogue back when the lower east side was a Jewish-immigrant bastion; sometime in the early 20th century. It probably became a seventh-day adventist church sometime in the seventies as the areas ethnic makeup shifted and changed. Like the Jewish worshippers before them, Adventists observe the Sabbath on Saturday, unlike most other Sunday Christian denominations.
So, the picture? Well, upon closer examination, I see it is actually a depiction of the Bible story of the Jesus resurrection. You can see the primitive stone door of his tomb moved open in the left background as described in the gospels. The two "young boys" are supposed to be the two angels in the gospel of Luke and John, anointing Christ for his ascension into heaven. The Jesus character looks quite modern and I think he must be depicting someone the artist may have known, perhaps the artist himself. In a way, I wasn't that far off in my assumption because anointing is in a way bathing and angels are usually depicted as young boys in many renaissance paintings.
Either way you look at it, deviant or devout, the mural is now gone, perhaps ascended to the heavens itself.