Michael Parker Doppelganger Essay

So a few weeks ago I made a mountain pilgrimage in early October to see its doppelganger.While the ethnic Catholic churches, like Saint Mary Magdalene de Pazzi built in 1851, reinforced ties to the Old Country, the Episcopal mission offered a bridge to assimilation.Zara, the first pastor, embraced the mission with zeal.Yet, the diminutive, one-room church, built in 1744 as the chapel for a medieval manor house and hunting lodge, holds its own through elegant geometry and satisfying proportions.The white facade and sides are offset by rose-colored trompe l’oeil trim that mimic the pink granite favored by more significant parish and village churches throughout the Dolomites region.I wanted both to pay homage to our lost church back home in Pennsylvania and to investigate what connections the Protestant Episcopal Mission might have to this tucked away in the far north of Italy.My husband and I drove the winding roads up to the Val de Funes, a verdant valley tucked into the magnificently craggy Dolomites, in a region the mostly German-speaking residents still call “Sud Tyrol” as opposed to the Italian “Alto Adige.” That “Sud” will be about as close to South Philly as things get up here.As we drove up, we passed a local band, men dressed in lederhosen, feathered caps, and red and white checked shirts.The women were clad in stiff dirndls and petticoats, instruments poised to serenade a pair of newlyweds.The journeyman painter hired for this task pulled out all the stops, conjuring his paintbrush into a chisel, fashioning serpentine-fluted columns and lavish capitals, surrounding the tiny windows with elaborate floral garlands of faux terracotta–achieving in paint what only the most experienced sculptors would be able to accomplish, on a grander scale in budget, in stone.The winning combination of charming architecture and awe-inspiring setting makes San Giovanni in Ranui one of the most photographed churches in the world.

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