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McGinley Professor Helps to Curate Art Exhibition on Abrahamic Religions


Patrick Ryan, S.J., the Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham, has helped assemble an exhibition at the New York Public Library showcasing the works of three Abrahamic religions.

Patrick Ryan, S.J. Photo by Chris Taggart

Three Faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam” will feature centuries-old sacred texts and ancient manuscripts when it opens on Friday, Oct. 22, in the Gottesman Exhibition Hall/Wachenheim Gallery at the library’s main branch at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue.

“The exhibit fits in well with what I try to do in my McGinley Lectures—establish a ‘trialogue’ between these three forms of monotheistic faith,” Father Ryan said.

“From the rich holdings of the New York Public Library, we have selected several dozen books, manuscripts and objects that demonstrate the great similarities—as well as the considerable differences—that distinguish the faith traditions of Jews, Christians and Muslims,” Father Ryan said. “I have been particularly fascinated by some of the Coptic, Ethiopic and West African pieces on display, as well as the Arabic and Persian prayer books.”

The materials on display in the Gottesman Exhibition Hall will range from the fifth century of the Common Era to the present, and include:

• the Hebrew Bible written by Joseph of Xanten (on the Rhine north of Cologne) in 1294;
• the Harkness Gospels, written in Landévennec, Brittany, around the year 900;
• the Qur’an completed by Husayn ibn Hasan in Turkey or Persia in 1333;
• as well as fifth-century amulets discovered in Jewish tombs, 18th-century depictions of Mecca and Medina, a first edition (1611) of the King James Bible, 17th-century Armenian Gospels and a 13th-century Samaritan Pentateuch.

In the Wachenheim Gallery—specially converted into a scriptorium—visitors may explore various physical aspects of the art of the book in its many incarnations.

Father Ryan was invited to participate as a guest curator by alumnus H. George Fletcher (FCRH ’62), who worked for many years with Traditio, an international journal dedicated to the study of ancient and medieval history, thought, and religion.

“He is a man with a superb eye for beautiful books and manuscripts,” he said of Fletcher, who has also worked with Fordham University Press.

“The finished exhibit, which will run until Feb. 27, is radiant with color and light. If nothing else, it demonstrates most vividly the beauty that people of faith have found and shared with others over many centuries,” Father Ryan added.

“Three Faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam” is cosponsored by Stavros Niarchos Foundation and The Coexist Foundation.


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