In this day and age when religious extremism threatens us both at home and abroad, it is both proper and necessary to be reminded that, at their benevolent hearts, most of the world’s religions say pretty much the same thing about the human condition. All religions are manifestations of a human will to believe in a higher power, a divine plan at work in the universe.
Pilgrimage and Faith: Buddhism, Christianity and Islam at the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts (through April 1) is an exhibition of 75 religious images and objects curated by Virginia Raguin, professor of visual arts at Holy Cross and Dina Bangdel, associate professor at art history at Virginia Commonwealth University, with input from F.E. Peters, professor emeritus of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies, history, and religion at New York University.
“The global scope of the exhibit and accompanying collection of essays moves beyond an East/West opposition or the limitations of these faiths,” says co-curator Virginia Raguin. “It addresses shared goals of personal development and communal solidarity as deep human needs.”
The elevating display of icons and devotional artifacts is accompanied by a 350-page catalogue featuring essays by 25 scholars. Cantor gallery director Roger Hankins says Pilgrimage and Faith is the most ambitious show the Cantor has mounted since he arrived in 2001. The exhibition was four years in the making and features sacred and secular objects borrowed from private collections as well as from Harvard University Art Museums, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Loyola University Art Museum, Newark Museum, Boston College, and the Boston Public Library.
The rare and beautiful objects in the exhibition include, among other things, reliquaries, amulets, pilgrim badges, processional crosses, chalices, robes, prayer mats, holy books, prints, and a replica of a nail from Christ’s Passion. One group of objects all relate to a pilgrimage made to honor Thomas