The baroque-cum-neoclassical façade of St George’s Basilica in Victoria, Gozo, was designed to have space for two clocks. Usually one would be a kind of sundial and the other showing the actual time. To date these decorative circular spaces have remained idle: in fact no clock was actually placed since people have been paying regard to the visible and audible Citadel clock for time orientation. This means that the façade has remained incomplete.
Today times people do not need another clock to help them coping with the hectic life and its deadlines. They have all the clocks and watches they need and can avail themselves of other time-showing accessories that are very much at hand.
St George’s Parish, in strict collaboration with internationally-famed Gozitan artist John Grima, has developed a concept of how to make a re-invention of these unused spaces in terms of a work of symbolic art that would respect the original plan of having clocks showing time, but simultaneously introducing a new way how to understand “real” time and ultimately live one’s life to the full.
We are used to see church clocks indicating progressive time. But when it comes to our Christian faith, chronological time (chronos), that is the time when man acts, is envisaged differently from the time when God acts (kairos). In fact, Jesus himself makes a clear-cut distinction between “his” time (the opportune moment) and “his brothers’” time (a measurable resource in terms of seconds, minutes, etc.): Then Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready” (John 7:6).
Moreover, every chronological act of ours ought to be perceived in the light of God’s eternal act of love, which is the ultimate
state each one of us is destined to. That would be the optimum kairos, the perfect time when we get into the presence of the
eternal Father here on earth, and when we shall eventually and definitely become one with Him and in Him through his Son, Jesus Christ, in the end of times.
So, just like everyone did emerge from the living God, who revealed himself in Jesus Christ, in the end every person of goodwill shall find his or her perfect realization in Him as well. Thus, Jesus Christ, who is not only the Son of God but God himself, is considered the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end of our lives.
On facing the façade, the circular space on the left is made up of two areas: the white inner side with the letter Alpha at the very centre and a stationary dial, and a rimmed circumference. This is set to map out a very important belief of the Christian faith: that out of the unparalleled love of God for man, through the historical Incarnation of Jesus Christ (the Alpha) at just the “right” time, the godly kairos (the dial) pierced its way into the manly chronos or humanity (the outer circumference, with the lines defining its different paths) to
render it part of the eternal nature and glory of God (the inner white space that eventually starts imbuing and becoming part of our own lives). As the dial moves on, creation (the circumference) will gradually yield to eternity (the white inner core) by becoming part of it, as clearly shown in the second circle.
That being so, the circle on the right hand side, opposite to the façade, will be having an hour dial continuously moving, thus helping the onlooker to grasp the importance of this Christian tenet and urging him or her for action as long as time is still at hand. The Omega at the centre is there to keep reminding us that in this whole “process of salvation”, brilliantly epitomized in the Basilica’s bronze portals, it is again Jesus Christ who will bring history to its end in his second coming.
In a nutshell, then, this artistic project of the two clocks, while having to be understood into the wider context of the imposing architecture and eclectic religious art of the façade of St George’s Basilica, is meant to be a strong attestation of this fundamental truth of our Christian faith: that history begins with Christ (left clock), who continues featuring in its entire course as its sole saviour (bronze portals), and it will definitely end in Christ (right clock).
Circles: white marble
Lines: deep incisions to create clear shadows over dark grey stone backdrop
Alpha/Omega: gilt inlay
In conclusion, this work of art should encourage the people to pose questions about the significance of their lifetime. Watching the right dial moving round the clock while not knowing the exact time, induces the viewers to look beyond earthly deadlines, to look towards the ultimate and most coveted deadline of salvation, in the fullness of time.
Photos: Andrea Camilleri