20 August – 7 September 2019
APAVM had the pleasure of hosting Dr Elizabeth Lev, world-renowned art historian and Vatican expert, on a tour of Hong Kong, Manila and Singapore from 20 August to 7 September 2019. She gave a series of very well-received talks on Catholic art based on her latest book “How Catholic Art Saved the Faith: The Triumph of Beauty and Truth in Counter-Reformation Art”. This book which is on the Amazon best seller list, is filled with Dr Lev’s deep insights into Renaissance art and has many photos of the paintings, sculptures and architecture that she writes about.
Her talks were at the following venues:
29 August: Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church
30 August: The Hong Kong Club, for CEO Hong Kong
31 August: Shanghai Garden Restaurant, for the Hong branch of APAVM
2 September: Manila House, Bonifacio Global City, for YPO Gold Philippines. Santuario de San Antonio Parish, Makati
3 September: Church of the Transfiguration
4 September: St Ignatius Church
5 September: Cathedral of the Good Shepherd
6 September: China Club for CEO Singapore
7 September: Novotel on Stevens, for the Singapore branch of APAVM
At the various churches in these 3 cities, Dr Lev’s talk was entitled “How Catholic Art Saved the Church”.
“Sistine Chapel – From Local to Global” was the topic of her talk when she addressed CEO organisations in the 3 cities and the APAVM branches in Singapore and Hong Kong.
Those attending were not only awed by the pictures of the artworks that Dr Lev presented but were also entranced by her warm and engaging presentation.
A brief summary of the Dr Lev’s presentations
During the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church was in a state of chaos. The faithful were confused by the different religions that were trying to win people over. This was also the time the printing press was invented and it was used to print pamphlets with words that were harsh and polemical.
One of the Church’s responses to all this turmoil was to use the beauty of art as a peaceful way to teach and draw people away from conflict.
At that time, there was much confusion and doubt about the validity of sacraments and so art was commissioned by the Catholic Church to teach the faithful about the sacraments.
Art depicting saints, guardian angels and purgatory helped to reinforce visually the value of intercessory prayer. There was also art teaching the faithful how to live a good Christian life.
Dr Lev’s talk was a wonderful opportunity for Catholics to renew their faith through the beauty of great and ageless works of Catholic art, and to discover the stories that led to their creation.
The non-Catholics who heard her speak also appreciated what Dr Lev had to say because the thrust of her talks was on art as a medium of communication.
Everyone appreciated Dr Lev’s insights and photos of priceless masterpieces, whose creators are Renaissance Masters such as Michelangelo, Raphael, Caravaggio and Bernini who have inspired generations of artists worldwide. Today, these masterpieces attract 6 million visitors to the Vatican museums annually, people of all faiths and nationalities, who form long lines just to their timeless and enduring beauty.
About Dr Elizabeth Lev
“I consider myself an art historian who specializes in sacred art. I use my training to return the magnificence of the mystery portrayed in these works inspired by holy people and events. Art is more than just displays of technical virtuosity, and while it is important to understand how the works are constructed, it is their meaning and their capacity to point to something greater than ourselves that makes them timeless.”
Dr Elizabeth Lev
Education and Academic Engagements
Dr Elizabeth Lev was born in the US and studied at the University of Chicago in 1989 before moving to Northern Italy for her graduate work at the University of Bologna. While researching her thesis on the Church of San Giovanni and Petronio in Rome, she fell in love with the Eternal City and became a denizen 1997. Rome allows Dr Lev to have the perfect environment to pursue her many passions. On an average day, one can find her working on her latest article or book, preparing for one of her worldwide speaking engagements or guiding visitors through the treasures of Rome.
She started teaching Art History at Duquesne University’s Italian campus in 2001 where she continues to be a faculty member to this day. She also taught Renaissance Art at John Cabot University for five years and has since joined the teaching staff at the Pontifical University of the Angelicum in Rome as well as at Christendom College. She has been a fellow of Notre Dame University’s De Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture since 2015 and was awarded the Myser Visiting Fellowship at the Center in 2018. She has been a keynote speaker at the Centre’s Fall Conference for many years.
When she is not teaching, Elizabeth can be found writing for multiple media and literary outlets. She has published numerous articles for First Things, Sacerdos, Magnificat and Inside the Vatican magazines, the College Art Association, and Zenit News Agency. Her most recent regular series of articles appear online on Aleteia and she is currently working on an academic article on women in the art of Michelangelo.
She has written four books, The Tigress of Forli: Renaissance Italy’s Most Courageous and Notorious Countess, Caterina Riario Sforza de’ Medici, Roman Pilgrimage: The Station Churches with George Weigel and A Body for Glory: Theology of the Body in the Papal Collections with Fr. Jose Granados.
Her latest book, How Catholic Art Saved the Faith, released in 2018, is an Amazon bestseller and has received praise from Cardinal Timothy Dolan, EWTN host Raymond Arroyo and Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Speaking Engagements and Media
With her dynamic and engaging speaking skills, Elizabeth is a sought-after public speaker who has spoken at events all over the world. She has presented a TED talk on “The unheard story of the Sistine Chapel” which has garnered 1.6 million views.
Her media engagements include many television and radio interviews. She worked as a Vatican analyst for NBC, and has appeared on the Today Show, ABC’s Nightline, 60 Minutes and in Mo Rocca’s CBS Easter special in 2017. She was featured in the series ‘Museum Secrets’ for History television and Brad Meltzer’s “Decoded”. She also wrote and hosted “Catholic Canvas”, a 10-part television series on the art of the Vatican Museums aired on EWTN.
She presented “An Evening with Raphael” at the United Nations and was one of the featured speakers at the Legatus 2019 Summit in Dana Point. She has made presentations at numerous Vatican Patrons of the Arts chapters. During the 30th anniversary of the Vatican Patrons, she was the speaker at the Sistine Chapel.
This year she spoke at Tom Monaghan’s founding chapter of Legatus and was a keynote speaker at the Legatus Summit. She also spoke at the Atlanta Eucharistic congress which draws a crowd of 30,000 people.
A licensed guide of Rome and Vatican City State, she also served as a commissioner on the Rome tourism board, and as a consultant on art and faith for the Vatican Museums. In the latter capacity, she wrote “Vatican Treasures: The Via Pulchritudinis,” a film presented to Pope Benedict XVI, and created a formational course for the Vatican Museum guides.
She has led tours for twenty years, showing people from all over the world around the Eternal City. In 2017, she brought the twenty-eight leaders of the European Union on a tour of the Sistine Chapel, as part of the EU’s 60th Anniversary.
Her latest project is an episode on the BBC World Service radio programme called Heart and Soul. The episode she co-wrote and hosts is about the faith and the Last Supper and will air on 9 August.
In 2018, Lev served as a Juror in the St Vincent’s Catholic Art Competition and in 2019 has been selected for the scientific committee of the Biennale d’Art Comtemporain Sacre in Menton, France.
Dr Lev and her family live in Rome, minutes from St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum.