The Church of Angry Christ: Defying Norms

While most of the Catholic religious works of art depicted either agony of pain or benign, the Church of Angry Christ inside the Victorias Milling Central in the Victorias City at the province of Negros Occidental, will defy the norms of God’s face looking over man. Literally, you’ll get the feeling you’ll fear God, because the very vivid murals depicted an angry Christ! Now if you take Leonardo Da Vinci as someone who defies the stereotypical Catholic art mindset, think about Jesus being depicted as our own—Filipino! Something like a taboo? I don’t think so. Nope, this is not another Robert Langdon novel teaser for you either!

The Victorias Milling Sugar Central - Asia's Largest Sugar Central. The location of the Church of Angry Christ

Built in the 1950s, the Church of Angry Christ was built as a parish church for an already growing community within once Asia’s largest sugar refinery central.  The Salesian priests of Don Bosco were the ones overseeing the parish and the church of Saint Joseph the Worker. The priests and the VMC community have commissioned several artists including a Belgian named Ade de Bethuene and a mestizo Negrense Alfonso Ossorio.

The facade of Saint Joseph the Worker Parish

Detail of the mosaic facade

The church looks like a so-so chapel in a community when seen outside. It’s quite an ordinary thing in a community. Don’t be deceived by its humble gift wrap because the surprise gift is inside. The mosaic at its facade is just the tip of the iceberg. (Wink)

Mural at the Altar

The All-Seeing Eye

La Familia Ossorio, if I’m not mistaken, is one of the owners of the Victorias Milling Company. Alfonso Ossorio is one of them. If you would ask who painted the vivid portrait of an angry Christ with hands stretched forth and Biblical characters look with sheer awe of God’s powers over men—that would be him. Depicted that God through Christ as merciful and somehow we fear him, it gives us this sensation of the omnipresence and an all-powerful Being watching over us, judge the living and the dead and crush Satan with his minions. The glory depicted is the expressive emotion manifested in such vivid colours.

Jose y Maria

The murals itself caught the attention of not just the parishioners of the sugar central community, but also the awed visitors. Looks like we’ve found our own little Sistine Chapel right at the heart of the Philippines!

But wait, there’s more!
Most of us are used to see Jesus as someone European, puti, mestizo, and guapo. After all, He is the exalted One—perhaps in a colonial sense. Ade de Bethuene made the mosaic at the baptistery. To the surprise of many, Jesus was depicted as someone, like us—Filipino! According to my Negrense friends, it raised eyebrows of the conservative and the devout. Why should we depict Jesus as like us?! Brown-skinned and have flat-nose?! In my opinion, I don’t find that something heretic. Check out the venerated image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in México. She does not like a European maiden, but she looks like an Aztec princess! I say, c’mon and lets be proud that Jesus is amongst us Filipinos too—in a way depicted by de Bethuene.

The Baptistery Mural of Betheune

Like Lady Gaga with her meat dress, this humble church caught the paparazzi of art aficionados and the ever curious uziseros…este tourists.

With all of these controversies and seemingly deviant creations of the Church of Angry Christ, it has become a marvel of Philippine ecclesiastical art and ingenuity. It is a legacy of non-conformist proportions. Orgullo Negrense y Filipino! Although the mural and the mosaic may be outrageous, yet it still depicts the same message of evangelism and salvation through Christ—basically Catholic. The beauty of Philippine art and culture indeed!

More photos here:

The Church of Angry Christ is at…

View Church of the Angry Christ in a larger map

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