Artist Brings Gospel to Life on Parish Walls

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By Tony DeGol
Proclaim!

Like most good Catholics filling the pews, Allen Capriotti sits in the same spot for Mass each week.

In his case, his seat in the back of Saint John the Evangelist Parish in Altoona gives him a bird’s eye view of the entire worship space.

After the parish built a new church building a number of years ago, Capriotti, an accomplished local artist and long-time parishioner of Saint John, painted a large mural in the back of the worship space as a gift.

Despite the art being a welcome addition to the new structure, Capriotti – from his perch in the back – felt there could be other opportunities to enhance the entire area.

His next project was a mural of the Crucifixion on gold leaf behind the altar.

“But still, I felt the church needed something,” he recalled.

Before long, he noticed the spaces on the upper portion of all of the walls. From his perspective, they were blank canvases for his future creations.

After much consideration and research, he proposed painting scenes from the Gospel of John.

Thanks to a monetary Christmas gift from his parents, Capriotti was ready to roll.

He was going to start with one panel, and go from there.

“What amazed me was, it didn’t seem like a big project at the time, but I went back to the studio and stretched a canvas that was nine feet long by four feet high,” he reminisced. “I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into! This was going to take longer than I thought! But I continued on.”

Indeed, he did. The majority of the spaces are now filled with scenes including the Appearnace at the Sea of Tiberias, the Last Supper, and the Burial of Jesus – each exhibiting remarkable detail.

“I make the figures read just like it does in the Gospel so you can just follow the story the whole way around the church,” Capriotti noted.

 Monsignor Michael Becker, Pastor of Saint John the Evangelist, said the art is a valued addition to the worship space.

“There is not a person who comes to the church who doesn’t find themselves awestruck by the beauty of the sanctuary with the marvelous story of the Gospel of John beginning with the Baptism of Jesus and concluding with the Resurrection,” Monsignor noted. “We are most grateful to Allen. Few parishes have the blessing of having their own artist in residence, if you will, but this parish is one. We are certainly blessed.”

And if you ask Capriotti, he, too, is blessed to be able to share his time and talent with his parish family.

Each panel takes roughly three months to complete. With five more panels to go, Capriottti hopes to have the entire project completed by 2021 when the parish will mark its 100th anniversary.

If, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, then the walls of Saint John the Evangelist Parish speak volumes thanks to Allen Carpiotti.

Along the way, Capriotti continues to embrace his relationship with the Lord.

“Like most people, your faith is a journey,” he admitted. “I was always surrounded by my faith, but it didn’t make any sense until I started to live it.”

Editor’s Note: See more of Allen Capriotti’s art at Saint John the Evangelist Parish and a behind-the-scenes look in his studio as he continues his creations on Proclaim! TV December 8 at 10:30 a.m. on WATM ABC 23.