Angel Maria Garcia Alvarez (from Madrid, Spain), architect designer of the new crown offered to St. James’ in Medjugorje at the occasion of the 24th anniversary of the apparitions (also designer of the magnificent Magna Monstrance offered to the Shrine in 2001) gave a testimony about how this project came about and how it was realised. The crown was blessed and the statue was officially crowned by Fr. Branko Radoš, pastor of Medjugorje, after the solemn evening Mass on June 25, 2005, the day of the 24th anniversary of Our Lady’s apparitions in Medjugorje, in the presence of two bishops: Mons. Geevarghese Mar Divannasios Ottathengil, catholic syro-malankara bishop of the diocese Bathery, Kerala (India), and Mons. Jerome Gapangwa Nteziryayo, retired bishop of Uvira (Congo).
- After having designed a magnificent Magna Monstrance for the Shrine, you have designed now a beautiful crown for Our Lady's statue, which is in the church. Why a crown for the statue? Where is the idea coming from?
This is a beautiful story that starts with the Magna Monstrance, and in my understanding, the crown is the logical conclusion of it. The Magna Monstrance was dedicated to the memory of father Slavko Barbaric. It was commissioned in January 1st 2001, about a month after his death, and was the first of several works in which we have been involved, helping the parish to renovate the most important liturgical objects: those that are related to the Eucharist (chalices and patens, vestments for the priests, ciboria for communion, altar cross, candles for the altar). After all these commissions, came the crown for the statue. I like to imagine that Our Lady takes care that all things are prepared and beautiful for the liturgy of the Eucharist and the Adoration, and then the Lord Himself is happy to see His Mother crowned with a beautiful crown.
The first time I heard about the idea to make a new crown was a comment from father Svetozar Kraljevic on the Feast of Saint Francis, 4th October 2003, after the mass, in front of the statue. I was there with my wife Amparo, when we brought a group of Spanish pilgrims to Medjugorje. Later I knew that Fr. Branko Rados, the pastor, was thinking about it since a long time ago. The commission was formally requested by the pastor the day before the Feast of the Immaculate Conception last year 7th December 2004. He wanted a nice and valuable crown for the statue, for the coming 24th Anniversary of the apparitions of 25th June 2005, in this year of the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX in 1854.
- Who is involved in this project? In which way?
The people involved, besides the pastor father Branko and father Svetozar, were my wife Amparo, the countess Felicia Traun, 14 Spanish families or individual donors, the workshop who fabricated it, and me as the designer.
At the beginning, there were no donors. The parish requested the crown like a typical commission to be paid by the parish to the workshop as usual. During the process of design someone came to me in Madrid because she was interested in giving some money for the parish. This person wished to donate half of it for the Mother’s Village, and the other half for the new crown. Then my wife and I both realized that we could find enough donors in Spain to pay for the whole crown and it would be a great honour for all of us. We asked the pastor if he would accept this donation, and he agreed. So, this crown is totally a gift from a few Spanish families and pilgrims to Our Lady and to Medjugorje.
My contribution also involved the transportation: I transported the crown from Spain to Medjugorje in my own hands.
- Can you give us some technical details about the crown?
The crown is similar to the old one, a typical 12-stars crown of a statue of the Immaculate Conception, but I tried to make it as beautiful, and valuable as possible within its simplicity. It is made totally in silver or gilded silver, and each star has a nice blue topaz. We did not wanted luxury, but majesty.
For the final design, I studied crowns of Immaculate Conception from Spanish paintings and sculptures from the XIVth to the XXth centuries. I also spent a long time thinking on the stars of the crown. I wanted a star that looked really like a star. Totally by chance my wife and I visited last Christmas in Madrid, in a private house, a master piece Neapolitan XVIII century model of Belen representing with small figures the scene of the birth of Jesus (a very old tradition that started up Saint Francis in Italy). There, on top of the cave, over the figures of Jesus, Joseph and Mary, I saw a beautiful silver star guiding the Magi. It was the star I was looking for! I requested a copy of it. It is the star of the new crown of Medjugorje.
The rest is simple: I increased slightly the size of the ring of stars because the old crown was in my understanding too small for the statue. And I placed the stars in such a manner that they configure clearly the halo around the head of the statue because two points of each star touch the point of the following stars.
- Which is the spiritual meaning of this gift for your prayer group?
As I said, this is a gift from a few Spanish families and friends. I believe there is something deep in it. The History of the Church tells that the Spanish people were the most constant defenders of this dogma, several centuries before it was proclaimed officially by the Church, and this faith was expressed also in the arts from the XIVth century onwards. So this gift recalls our spiritual memory.
But more important than that, with this donation each family or individual donor has expressed a vow of fidelity to the Immaculate, as well as a heartfelt prayer for maternal protection, in the same way that any family or person of the entire world can do.
- About Medjugorje in Spain?
Medjugorje is very little known in Spain, it is much less known than in the rest of Europe. I feel very sorry about this when I see how much good it could do to Spanish pilgrims, if they come. This place is sacred. In our present times in Spain, when Christian and catholic values (the foundation of our culture and nation), are irresponsibly ignored and attacked more and more in the civil life, there is a strong need of people transformed by the message of Medjugorje.
In my personal opinion, I believe that the reasons why Medjugorje is not known is double: first because the message of Medjugorje does not reach the Spanish people, the Spanish prayer groups and the Spanish parishes. And second, because there is very often a prejudice, which is difficult to take out from priests or laymen: many think that they could come only after apparitions are approved. But there is nothing wrong in coming here, no matter that there is not yet an official, definitive, final approval from the Church regarding the apparitions.
I hope that the Queen of Peace, out of gratitude towards all our work which we made in humility, may grant the coming of a lot of Spanish pilgrims in the future to Medjugorje. We all need a revival of the faith. And may the Magna Monstrance contribute, through its visible beauty and majesty, to increase worldwide the love to the Eucharist.
I have received from Medjugorje more than I have given: thank you. I love Medjugorje.