During the Great Panathenaia festival (around August 15th) Athena’s wooden effigy was enwrapped in a lengthy veil woven by girls of aristocratic origin. A procession, depicted in the reliefs of Parthenon frieze, brought the ‚peplos/veil‘ to the Acropolis of Athens. This is a fact we all know.
Imagine my surprise today, when I enter a 17th century Catholic church and see two wooden effigies waiting to be dressed:
Madonna and child are staring at me – fragile and humane in their „underwear“.
Maria and child stand on a podium with beautiful flowers by their feet. A catalogue attached to the chapel’s iron gate shows impressive garments in gold, yellow, green or blue Maria wears on various occasions. Tiny golden crowns are also reserved for her and baby Jesus.
The iron gate of the chapel is decorated with white garlands. It looks like a girl’s room in her early teens.
I am impressed.
It feels like ‚making contact‘ with the ancient litany heading to the Acropolis hundreds of years ago.
Why do we dress divinity?
To make it appear strong and adorable or rather ordinary and vulnerable?
Sint Andries Church, Antwerpen, May 2011.