CASC Lumen Magazine_Spr 2021

Common Good Profile

The famous mosaic apse in the Church of San Clemente, which St. Thomas students study during their Rome semester Art History course.

AMOST SACRED SPACE In the spring of 2020, Purkapile’s mother fell gravely ill – she was terminal. And as sober a task as it was, Purkapile decided to make his mother’s casket. “It was a nice gift to be able to give the family,” he recalls, “but it was also a really hard process to go through, to know what it would ultimately be used for. It was meaningful.” His mother was never healthy enough to see the finished work, but she knew her son was making it for her, and that it would be beautiful. It was time-

intensive, detailed and personal. Since then, he has designed and created other caskets. “Designing sacred spaces,” says Purkapile, “there’s so much theology that goes into that,” and it was a notion he took up when selecting the images that would adorn his mother’s casket, which has become a prototype for other caskets he’s working on. The lambs that appear on the side are reminiscent of those in the mosaic apse of Rome’s San Clemente, one of his favorite churches from his Art History course at the Angelicum.

“I even put the twelfth lamb on there,” he says, running his hands along a casket that currently sits in his shop, “He’s looking away to signify Judas.” “I was really blown away by the use of art in early Christianity to communicate the basic truths of the faith,” he remembers, “and how simple beauty can move the hearts of people to God. Rome is a good example of how our perception of beauty has changed over time, but certain aspects of art seem to be timeless and effective through the ages.”

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