Pope gets illuminated Genesis

  •   Israeli artist presents Pope with 'Illuminated Book of Genesis'
    Israeli artist Avner Moriah, accompanied by Israeli Ambassador to the Vatican, Mordechay Lewy and Angelica Berrie, President of the Russell Berrie Foundation, presented Pope Benedict XVI with his Illuminated Book of Genesis during a special audience at the Vatican on May 16.

    The Illuminated Book of Genesis – the product of two years work – will join a list of works produced over two millennia found in the Vatican Library. Presenting biblical stories alongside vibrant biblical images, the final result is a visual midrash with exquisite Hebrew text executed by calligrapher Izzy Pludwinski. Prof. Yair Zakovitch, a lecturer in Bible studies, and Shalom Sabar, a professor of art history and Jewish folklore served as advisers.

    A native of Jerusalem, Moriah told the Jerusalem Post that he conceived of the project while his wife was battling cancer, ​from which she subsequently recovered. “I wanted to give something back to mankind,” he said. “The Vatican has works of art which have inspired man throughout the ages and I wanted to be able to contribute to that.” Because Genesis’ descriptive scene-setting is minimal, Moriah – who comes from a non-religious background – claims that there is great freedom to imagine the physical setting. “We’re free to imagine whatever we want it.”

    “The whole idea of text is too keep studying it, to keep reinterpreting it,” Moriah claims. “The beauty of text is that it doesn’t belong to any one stream, it belongs to all of us and everyone can study and review its interpretation.”

    The manuscript was brought to the attention of Ambassador Lewy by Rabbi Jack Bemporad, professor of interreligious studies at the Vatican’s Angelicum University. Lewy in turn introduced the work to Vatican Library officials, who were instantly enthusiastic.​ ​

    Other works by Moriah can readily be found in prestigious libraries, museums, and private collections, including the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harvard University and Yale University, which will soon be displaying their own copies of the Illuminated Book of Genesis.