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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/SPENCER TIREY Spanish artist Angel Pantoja sculpts life-like, detailed pieces of religious art. St. Mary Catholic Church in Siloam Springs commissioned a crucifix, an image of Jesus on the cross, for its sanctuary. Pantoja visted the church last week to unveil his work to mark the Feast of the Cross on Friday.

Parishioners of St. Mary Catholic Church in Siloam Springs celebrated the Feast of the Cross on Friday in a special way. Angel Pantoja, a sculptor in Spain, traveled to Arkansas to unveil a beautifully detailed crucifix to be displayed in the church sanctuary.

The crucifix is Pantoja's third piece at the church. Last year, the church unveiled his Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and Jesus as an infant.

An anonymous donor approached the Rev. Salvador Marquez-Munoz shortly after the pieces were placed last year, the pastor said. While the church already displayed a crucifix, the family wanted to give the church a crucifix on this grand, life-like scale and one to match Pantoja's other pieces.

"I never thought we'd have anything so beautiful in Siloam Springs, in our church," Marquez-Munoz said. He noted that people not associated with the church come to view the pieces.

While Pantoja's work is known in Spain, the pieces in Siloam Springs are his only in the United States. He came to the attention of the congregation when Marquez-Munoz saw the artist's work while traveling in Spain.

The bulk of Pantoja's work is religious art, he said. Members of various religious organizations in Spain carry his work through the streets on floats to celebrate the Passion of Christ during Holy Week.

His pieces are detailed, with special attention paid to the eyes. He explained that he paints them and then adds points with varnish, suggesting a reflection in the figure's eyes. Pantoja explained the faces -- especially the eyes -- draw the viewers in and are most important in a sculpture as a way to transmit faith.

Pantoja also calls on his own faith to sculpt the pieces, rather than using models. "It's not an earthly face. You will not find anybody who looks like that," he said.

"Every piece is unique, one of a kind, and will never be repeated," Marquez-Munoz said. "It comes from his imagination and from his heart."

The crucifix serves as a central devotional to those of the Catholic faith. "It's a reminder of how we met God. God really loves us. God went to the extreme and sacrificed his son for our sins," Marquez-Munoz said.

Catholics celebrate Feast of the Cross each year to commemorate the cross used in the crucifixion of Jesus. "The cross is the instrument of salvation," Marquez-Munoz said.

NAN Religion on 09/15/2018

Print Headline: Feast of the Cross

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