– Miracle in the Church of the Cesarea in Naples of the statue of Saint Philomena’s facial transformation.
In June 1925 the Charitable Miss Maria Cementano, accompanied by her friend Maria Compare, went to the studio of the famous artist Louis De Luca and, with sincere and courageous words, she exposed her fervent wish of a statue of Saint Philomena for the Church of the Cesarea. It was to be made of paper mâché and the artist had to create only the hands, head and feet, since the young devotee wanted to dress the Saint personally with a white dress and a purple cloak.
At first he refused saying that, as he was a famous artist, he was used to making his artistic shapes in bronze and marble, not paper mâché. He wanted to give full expression and life to his figures. He did not just make mutilated heads and stumps of Saints. Later on, convinced by the insistence of the young woman, he accepted.
He fell in love with his subject; he lived that period of virginity and martyrdom in the intimacy of his heart and he completed the statue, which was presented on August 13, 1925. Some days later, De Luca was no longer happy with his work. While everybody praised it, he felt the need to correct it. For a full month he relived his Saint Philomena and only on September 30 was the statue was returned in the Sanctuary of the Cesarea.
The first of October was the important vigil. In the morning there was a very animated discussion between Louis De Luca and Msgr. Fabozzi, Superior of the Sanctuary. The latter believed that the statue was a masterpiece; perfect features, beautiful expression, but the people would not recognize in this statue their Saint, because De Luca had decided to represent an agonizing young girl, giving the image a cadaverous look. The eyelids down, the lips a purplish colour. This statue represented a dying person, perhaps a heroine, but certainly not a martyr. On that lovely face there was no rosy glow, or trace of mystic passion.
The reason for which the statue had “no life” was simple; the artist did not have spiritual sensibility. Msgr. Fabozzi tried to explain to De Luca that Saint Philomena was a martyr and that martyrs, in the supreme moment, they are luminous, they are inflamed with love of God; they are never as alive as in the instant in which they die.
De Luca did not want to listen to any of this. The barrier between them was not about a different concept of art, but a different concept of faith.
The work was temporarily placed in the sacristy. During that day it was seen by many priests, nuns, ladies of charity and they all shared the same opinion; she was nice, she was beautiful but she looked like a cadaver. The same young ladies who had ordered the statue were unhappy and tried to persuade the artist to colour her up a little, but when they heard that this would have requested more time, they decided to leave it as it was. Disappointed, they asked De Luca to personally place the purple cloak artistically on the statue.
The next day was the 2nd of October, feast of the Angels, and Msgr. Fabozzi was celebrating the Mass in their honour, where there was an altar dedicated to them. When Fr. Di Millo, who was to celebrate the next Mass, arrived he did not think it was convenient to put his clothes in the sacristy during the celebration of a religious service and, contrary to his usual behaviour, went in the last room.
Driven by curiosity he lifted the newspapers that covered the statue and he too was struck by that deathly colouring. A short while later De Luca went in and he suddenly came out very agitated, trembling, emotionally moved. Turning to Msgr. Fabozzi he asked who had modified the statue.
The priest told him that nobody had retouched it, but seeing that he was not convinced, they both went into the last room. He too was astonished. The image was no longer the same. The features had remained the same, but on them an unknown hand had spread an extremely delicate rose shade. It was subtle pink, virginal. The colour was not uniform, only the cheeks, the nostrils, the chin, even under the nails had this astounding shading.
These were not patches, but admirably artistic. Particularly surprising were the lips; the purplish color had disappeared, and there was now a pinkish color not uniform but full of different shades and tones. The statue was fully dry, as if it had been painted over fifteen days before. As a matter of fact, the hair that De Luca had placed the week earlier was still “sticky”, while the face, painted now by a mysterious brush, was completely dry. They tried to give little publicity to the event because they wanted to study the surprising phenomenon.
In the daily newspaper ,Roma, there was an article that suggested a check to verify this. If De Luca still had left-overs of the colors used for the statue, why not paint a head, place it in the same environmental conditions and then verify after a few days what happened?
The experiment was immediately accepted and was carried out with scientific standards. The head of a statue was painted with the left-over of the colors used by De Luca, using the maximum precaution. A few days later, the seals were removed, the result was verified; the head had remained yellow, pale, cadaverous.
At this point somebody talked about chemical reaction. De Luca was questioned and they asked him what materials he had used for the painting. He declared that he had used yellow clay and silver grout, adding some amber and some green clay. Mixing the yellow clay with the bleak silver grout, he had achieved a pale colour, nearly cadaverish. He gave three coatings of this paint to the work, leaving some days between each one of them to allow for each coating of color to dry properly. With such technical and chemical elements it was impossible to have a reaction so anomalous to generate a pinkish colour. What had happened was supernatural!
As a matter of fact, the members of the Artistic Club of Naples sent a report to the Ecclesiastical Authorities, signed by the Court of Enquiry, in which it was declared that, in those environmental conditions, a chemical reaction could not have produced the known phenomenon.
These, we have to admit, were very brave people, since to state the truth in a century pervaded by sceptics is a real act of courage. We report exactly the Sentence of the Canonical Process;http://philomenafamily.org/?page_id=147