Maike Hickson

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Cathedral art contest seeks ‘modern’ clothing for Marian statue

Maike Hickson Maike Hickson Follow Maike

AACHEN, Germany, August 21, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A German diocese launched an art contest inviting proposals for a new dress for the historic statue of “Our Lady of Aachen” in the Aachen Cathedral, showing the Blessed Mother holding Baby Jesus. The sought-for new dress is meant to be a “normal” dress “for the everyday.” The organizers are even open to having a swimsuit for Mary. Faithful Catholics are indignant about this desacralization and have now started a petition against this ecclesial initiative.

On July 3, the Chapter of the Aachen Cathedral, Germany issued a press release (see here for a shorter English version) presenting this art contest. It is scheduled to end on September 27 and will award prizes ranging from 1,000 to 5,000 euros (roughly 1,000 to 5,000 U.S. dollars). The occasion for this art contest is the 40th anniversary of the Aachen Cathedral's honorific placement on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites List. Aachen Cathedral is the resting place of Emperor Charlemagne, the “Father of Europe.”

The centuries-old statue of Our Lady is currently placed right next to the altar, and many miracles have been attributed to it down the years.

According to the press release, the Aachen Cathedral is now explicitly looking for drafts – proposed designs – for an ordinary dress for Mary, and “not a festive one.” Mary is “to be portrayed as a person and as our fellow,” the text states. “Desired is a modern dress for daily life. Color and nature are to be freely chosen, and the same standard is to apply whether or not a dress for the Child Jesus is to be drafted, as well.” The statement makes it clear that Mary and Jesus are together carved out of one piece of wood. The goal of this contest is “to increase the sensual formative quality of the liturgy and of the Church building, and to modernize the forms of devotion.” National and international designers, artists, tailors and others are invited to participate. From February 2019 on, a selection of the submitted items will be exhibited in the Aachen Cathedral.

The head of the Aachen Cathedral treasury and organizer of this contest, Dr. Birgitta Falk, has made it clear – in a July 3 interview with the German radio and TV channel WDR – that the new dress should not be something “magnificent for Mary as the Queen of Heaven,” but for “Mary coming from among the people.” She says it shall “lead tradition into modernity,” and may very well be a little bit immodest. “We are open for everything,” explains Falk. When asked whether airy swim clothing or some dress with pants would also be welcomed and admissible, she responded: “If it is an expression of art, or if it has an artistic message, then one has to discuss it.”

In this TV report on Mary's new dress, one designer proposes to imitate the dubious clothing of the U.S. singer Madonna, expressly with an erotic outlook.

In light of these proposals and invited novelties, a group of laypeople has now organized a petition which is addressed to the Bishop of Aachen, Dr. Helmut Dieser, who was made head of the diocese by Pope Francis in 2016. The organizers of the petition name as their reason for this public step that “the initiative 'A dress for Mary' is an unbelievable insolence which could turn into blasphemy in its phase of implementation.” To remove from the Queen of Heaven her royal symbols and clothing is described by the petition as being “unworthy beyond measure.” “Under the mantle of artistic freedom and modernity, the Mother of the Lord is to be degraded, mocked, sexualized, and demeaned. Other initiatives by modern artists for new church interiors have unfortunately caused us to fear for the worst!”

The Blessed Mother, the authors say, has been honored for years in Aachen as the Heavenly Queen, and “even as empress.” “To dress the Blessed Mother in jeans would be a slap in the face of those faithful who cherish her and who pray to her for help,” the petition continues. “For many, it is a joy to defile the Mother of God and to drag her and our faith through the mud! This has to stop.”

For these reasons, the petition now “requests, in the name of all Catholics, that Dr. Birgitta Falk and the Aachen Cathedral Chapter, immediately cancel this contest.”

Thus far, more than 900 people have signed this petition. Those of our readers who are interested in supporting this initiative could sign here.

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Maike Hickson

Dr. Maike Hickson was born and raised in Germany. She holds a PhD from the University of Hannover, Germany, after having written in Switzerland her doctoral dissertation on the history of Swiss intellectuals before and during World War II. She now lives in the U.S. and is married to Dr. Robert Hickson, and they have been blessed with two beautiful children. She is a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.

Dr. Hickson published in 2014 a Festschrift, a collection of some thirty essays written by thoughtful authors in honor of her husband upon his 70th birthday, which is entitled A Catholic Witness in Our Time.

Hickson has closely followed the papacy of Pope Francis and the developments in the Catholic Church in Germany, and she has been writing articles on religion and politics for U.S. and European publications and websites such as LifeSiteNews, OnePeterFive, The Wanderer, Rorate Caeli, Catholicism.org, Catholic Family News, Christian Order, Notizie Pro-Vita, Corrispondenza Romana, Katholisches.info, Der Dreizehnte,  Zeit-Fragen, and Westfalen-Blatt.