by Niko Devera of FIU in Sienna, Italy

I find myself in the crossroads. An eerie and unfamiliar inbetween intersection of devout religion and apathetic abhorrence of its faith based phenomena. This trip is ironically the first time I’ve been able to escape the looming presence of religion that has shrouded my mundane life, fleeing the pious demands of my mother and comfort-intended advice of friends. The same trip to a country that is the effortless host of the same inevitable religion, and the same one that supplied me with the cacophonous cluster of questions that sought to find the purpose of my existence if it contradicted everything I believed in. I have no explanations addressing the creation of the world, the meaning of life, or even why I exist, but the inner conflicting dialogue of logical rationalization versus curiosity and fear of death means I can never fully commit to either side.

It was difficult viewing Duccio’s panel pieces from a wholly neutral perspective because of the distant reminder of the time I was wholeheartedly believed in them. Yet, it was refreshing to discover that they hadn’t even been considered art at the time of their creation, like most early religious pieces, but solely depictions of biblical scenes for the easy understanding of illiterate commoners. These pieces were selfless attempts to accurately portray the gospel with a substantially limited knowledge of what is now considered art. They were revolutionary in their ability to begin grasping the idea of accurately portraying 3-dimensional spaces on to 2-dimensional planes. They weren’t showy displays of a profound understanding of technical skills, but rather a truly religious intent to bring people closer to God.

When did religion become show? A boastful display of intricate and lavished decor that supposedly brings people closer to God rather than distance them from her. A building that blatantly compares its grandeur to its subordinates and labels exactly how much they fall short. When did money become holy? When did Jesus become hateful? When did I stop believing?

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