[ by Charles Cameron — Timbuktu tombs, cultural preservation, WWII, miracle stories, della Robbia ]
A report on Al Jazeera today is sub-headed:
Al-Qaeda-linked group in northern Mali attacks tombs of Sufi saints just days after sites put on UNESCO endangered list.
My friend Michael Robinson just pointed me to this piece by Dr. Laurie Rush on “Cultural Property Protection as a Force Multiplier, from the March-April edition of Military Review:
Preservation of cultural property can be critical for social restoration in a devastated community. During World War II, the Germans systematically blew up every single structure in the small town of Pieve Santo Stefano, Italy. Incredibly, they failed to destroy the Andrea della Robbia altarpiece relief, Assumption of the Virgin, in the local church. The MFAA wanted to remove the piece for its own protection, but the prospect of its relocation was unthinkable to the citizens of the community. Instead, the MFAA worked with them to save the altarpiece as part of the town’s restoration. Cultural property that survives war, sometimes miraculously, offers hope when all else seems lost.
Miracles and rumors of miracles…
Picking up where I left off last time: people with a non-miraculous worldview are apt to use the word “miraculous” to describe something like that altarpiece surviving, meaning roughly “fortunate” — while those whose worldview includes and welcomes miracles will use the same term in a very different sense, and with very different feeling.
These are differences that make a difference.
Here, because I was curious, is another Andrea della Robbia Assumption of the Virgin altarpiece, this one from the Victoria and Albert Museum collection, London:
Miraculous? Me personally, I’d say so.