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A sweeping story

1:59 PM  Nov 6th, 2012
by Cilla Shindell

Since 2000, thousands of students, faculty, staff and visitors have walked past or stopped to consider the Mirror of Hope, the mountain-like, many-figured sculpture in the lobby of Roesch Library.

It’s easy to pick out familiar scenes: Creation, the Nativity, the wedding feast at Cana, the Crucifixion, the Heavenly City. But the more you look, the more there is to see and the more the humanity of each small figure emerges.

There’s too much to take in all at once. But just in time for the annual crèche display, University Libraries has published , a new book tracing the history and symbolism of the sculpture as it grew from a simple Nativity scene into an account of the sweep of Christianity from the Creation to the City of God.

It’s also the story of an unusual collaboration between two men – Father Johann Roten, S.M., who wrote the book, and sculptor Kevin Hanna – working together over many months and long-distance telephone lines to bring to life the stories of the Old and New Testaments in layers of humanity, faith, art history, symbolism and the spiritual.

Roten, as the Marian Library’s director, commissioned Connecticut-based Hanna to create a sculpture distinctive to the University of Dayton, to commemorate the University’s 150th anniversary and celebrate 2,000 years of Christianity.

The five-year collaboration between Roten, the theologian, scholar and art historian, and Hanna, the deeply spiritual Protestant artist, resulted in an intricately detailed piece of 24 scenes, 12 feet long, 5 feet high, containing more than 240 figures – men, women, children, familiar biblical figures, celestial beings as well as animals – and even evokes the Immaculate Conception Chapel.

The sculpture traces a “journey of love,” Roten says, that starts with God and, then through Christ, comes back to God.

“We did the book to make sure that people don’t forget, that there is permanence, a memory of what it all means,” said Roten, now the library’s director of research and special projects and the book’s author. “It’s actually gained in popularity; we can see that no matter what the exhibit or event at the library, in the end, everyone ends up in front of it.”

Click on above photo for more Mirror of Hope images.

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