Ecstasy of Saint Francis

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Motion graphic artist Agustin Vidal Saavedra uses After Effects to create a fascinating video of the painting “Ecstasy of Saint Francis.”

In western architecture, since the Christian adoption of a Roman invention, the dome has represented heaven. Heaven was thought to be in the sky above, and under visual observations the sky appears to be a dome. In the Bible’s Book of Genesis, God is said to have created heaven as a dome over a flat earth. After Pythagoras posited that the earth was not flat, and since Copernicus theorized against a geocentric universe, the architectural symbolism of the dome cast overhead as a representation of God’s overruling presence from heaven has been fraught with a sense of error. This sense of error reached its symbolic nadir when earth was observed from outer space in photographs taken by astronauts above its thin blue atmosphere.

In regards to representation of heaven using architectural domes, what is successful in Saavedra’s animation is that the artist creates a series of interconnected vertical passage though a montage of domes that terminates in outer space. The religious journey of a saint being taken up into heaven uses the motif of the dome not as heaven itself, but as a passageway to heaven and the afterlife. This animation is a great example of breathing new life to a symbolically depleted architectural formal gesture.