Giacomo Manzu

St Theresa of Lisieux

Dates: b.1908 - d.1991

Gender: Male

Nationality: Italian

The sculptor Giacomo Manzu is most noted for the bronze ‘door of death’ he made for St Peter’s Basilica in Rome in 1964. Read more…

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Door of Death, 1964-67, St Peter's Basilica, Rome

Biography:

The sculptor Giacomo Manzu is most noted for the bronze ‘door of death’ he made for St Peter’s Basilica in Rome in 1964. The door was commissioned by his friend Pope John XXIIII and has large modeled panels that depict the deaths of Mary and Christ, as well as lesser panels that show the deaths of saints and ordinary people.  Vatican officials were wary of Manzu’s communist politics and criticized his refusal to temper his unflinching depiction of death and human suffering with a more spiritual theme. Particularly shocking was his depiction of a cardinal looking at a man being crucified up side-down, a reference to the execution of fascists after WWII.

Born in Bergamo, the son of an impoverished shoe maker, Manzu was apprenticed to a wood carver at a young age. Aside from a few evening classes he received no formal training in sculpture and was almost entirely self taught. Fiercely independent he refused to align himself with any particular movement saying, 'For me there is just work … esthetic and intellectual theories do not concern me.'  He completed numerous secular and religious commissions including two reliefs for the Palazzo d'Italia in Rockefeller Center and a large bronze of a woman holding a baby outside the United Nations headquarters. In 1969 a permanent gallery of his work was built in Ardea with money donated by prominent patrons from 14 countries.