Fifteen to twenty years ago, my wife and I brought a Franciscan Father to Quebec City. We took him in a monastery where he wanted to spend the night. In the monastery I met a man, Dino Fruchi. He was Italian, and he was interested in art. We engaged in a very interesting conversation where the name of “Guido Nincheri” emerged many times. Guido Nincheri…A Florentine Artist…that left Frescoes and stained glass windows…here in Canada? I could not believe it. I told the gentleman that my wife and I were planning to go in Italy for a few weeks. We exchange phone number and addresses and we parted.
When I came back from my vacation I called Dino and he told me about the history of Guido Nincheri. I was fascinated! But Frescoes? Here in Canada? I could not believe it!
So I started to phone around. I called the Italian Embassy first, but they had just cancelled the Cultural Attaché position! I called the French Embassy, but they could not help me. The National Gallery of Canada vaguely mentioned the name of Prof. Ian Hodkinson of the Faculty of Art Restoration and Conservation at Queen’s University in Kingston. They gave me Prof. Hodkinson home phone number.
I called Ian at around 9 am one Friday morning, but there was no answer. I left a message to call me back. The next Monday morning Ian called me back. I told him that I would like to have his opinion about Frescoes! He told me that he will be in Ottawa at the National Gallery the following week: “We can meet then, after my meeting” he said. And so we did. We visited Notre Dame Cathedral across the street from the National Gallery. Once in the Cathedral, Ian went to a pew, he got up high enough so to show me the signature on the bottom right corner of the stained glass window. The signature says: “G. Nincheri Montreal” Then Ian told me that “The Friday you called my home, at 9 am I was here and I discover this Great Art of Guido Nincheri!”
Was it a coincidence?…. I still ask myself!
Ian ask me if I knew of other art works of Guido Nincheri here in Ottawa. He also asked me what I knew of Guido Nincheri.
I went with Ian to S. Anthony’s Church in Ottawa’s Little Italy. Once in the church Ian analyzed very carefully the Frescoes in different parts of the church and then he told me what I will never forget! “YES! Those are True Frescoes!” I could tell that Ian was very excited for what he discovered. I was happy that Ian recognized that the frescoes were True Frescoes, but I was still puzzled. Frescoes in Canada? Only with time I was able to know exactly why it is possible to have true frescoes here in Canada… in Ottawa’s Little Italy!
Ian gave me some explanations about frescoes: how they are made; what are the challenges to making frescoes….. But then Ian turned to the stain glass windows. He told me how they were made, what they represent and how the message is represented. He said that Guido Nincheri`s windows are very didactic. The message that they convey to the viewer is done very simply, respectfully, and in a very efficient way.
Take for example the St. Joseph windows. It is a triticale, which means there are 3 windows in one. Well, with time I learn that St. Joseph is the Patron Saint of Canada! He is the Patron Saint of the workers and the carpenters, the Patron Saint of the Holy Death because he died with St. Mary and Jesus at his sides!
The window of S. Pellegrino Liziosi, the Patron Saint of the cancer patients is almost a 3 dimensional window! It is what we call a “trompe ouil” design form! A must see window!
“This is the best example of the true renaissance art,” Ian stated. Renaissance Art in Ottawa`s Little Italy? Who could have even imagined this! But it is true! And certified by Prof. Ian Hodkinson!
I was so trilled and excited and I kept gathering information about this great Artistic Heritage that was left to us. I learned that the Licari were doing the plaster very early in the morning before they went to work, the Artist then came in when the plaster was still fresh and he was painting on the wet/fresh plaster. That’s why it is call “Fresco,” meaning from fresh plaster. This was a race against time! The artist had to finish painting, with natural paint, before the plaster was too dry… A race against time, I repeat! Once the plaster was getting dry the un-painted plaster was scraped off, the part that was done is called “La giornata,” a day of work. We can clearly see the different giornata at S. Anthony’s Church.
I started to give tours of St. Anthony’s church, as well as the other churches here in Ottawa where there is the art of Guido Nincheri: Dominican College, St. Patrick’s Basilica, St. Therese’s Church, and Notre Dame Cathedral. I was also ask to give tours in Montreal of Notre Dame de la Defence and St. Leon De Westmount. Both of those churches are now National Historic Sites of Canada because they contain the art of Guido Nincheri that was also called “The Michelangelo of North America!”
To end this story I would like to ask everyone to please take time to enjoy this unique art form, an art that conveys to the viewers a positive message no matter who you are and where you came from! Call me, and we will set up an appointment. I will take you through the experience of your life time! Without going in Italy! I promise!
– Luciano PradalLeave a reply →