The Seven Franciscan Joys of Our Lady
The Greco Roman interior of the Church is dominated by beautiful murals. Many people, just by sitting in the church and reflecting on the murals, have found their way back to God. The seven great paintings depicts the Franciscan Crown (or Rosary) of the Seven Joys of Our Lady. Devotion to the Joys of Our Lady flourished in the Franciscan Order from its earliest days and is represented within the Order over the centuries by a number of such crowns of varying form. By happy coincidence the design of Mary Immaculate, with its three bays on either side of the nave and its blind rear wall to the sanctuary, proved an ideal setting for depicting the seven decade Franciscan Crown. The Joys commemorated in the Crown are:
- The Annunciation by the Angel Gabriel to Mary,
- Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth,
- Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem,
- The Adoration of the Magi,
- The Finding of the Boy Jesus in the Temple,
- Jesus’ Resurrection and Appearance to His Mother.
- The Assumption and Coronation of Our Lady in Heaven.
The structure of the Franciscan Crown is seven decades on the above seven themes. Each decade is of one Our Father and ten Hail Marys. Following the final decade there are two additional Hail Marys to total the seventy-two years that Our Lady is believed to have lived. The Crown concludes with an Our Father and Hail Mary for the Pope’s intentions. A stunning Antonian mosaic covers the rear wall of the shrine of St. Anthony on the east side of the Church. The artist was Stephen Moor of “Ars Sacra” Studios for Religious Art in Burwood, NSW. The actual work – especially the mosaic – was done by the two Melocco Brothers artisans Franco Collusi and Aldo Rossi.
The Italian artist, Cesare Vagarini was Professor of Fine Art in Italy in the 1930s when he was employed by the Franciscans in the Holy Land to paint murals in a number of new churches being built.
After Italy’s entry into World War 2 he was interned by the Allies and sent with Signora Vagarini to Australia to the internment camp at Tatura in Victoria. At the intervention of the Australian Franciscans they were released from internment and came to Waverley early 1945 to begin Vagarini’s monumental work in the church.
He used local models. The angels are based on the girls from St Clare’s College, Waverley. Sister Margaret-Mary Morris RSJ, who was then a student at St Clare’s, modelled for an angel. Mary was modelled by Valerie Lindsay now Mrs Crowley. Val was walking past the church to go to ballet training when spotted by the artist.
Three paintings (Annunciation, Resurrection-Appearance and Assumption- Coronation) were finished whilst Cesare Vagarini was in Waverley. At the end of World War 2, international convention required that Signor Vagarini be repatriated which occurred in 1948. He returned to the Holy Land to complete his commission for the Franciscans there after he went back to Italy.
The four remaining panels for Mary Immaculate (Visitation, Nativity, Adoration and Finding) were painted in his studio at San Gimignano and dispatched to Waverley over a period in the 1950s.