At the recently renovated Cor Jesu Chapel at Miami-based Barry University, the artist behind the new crucifix and university chaplain in front of it are in fact the same person: Father Cristóbal Torres Iglesias, OP.
Father Torres, who became a late vocation friar in the Dominican order at age 37, says that the crucifix pays homage to the founding of Barry University by a community of women preachers in 1940.
The scene depicts a living Jesus, flanked by four Dominican women of various historical periods standing and interacting with one another. To the left of Jesus are Venerable Teresa Chicaba holding a scroll with the Biblical verse “Wisdom has built her house” (Proverbs 9:1), and Saint Rose of Lima lovingly gazing at Jesus. To his right stands Mother Mary Gerald Barry, OP, Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, one of Barry’s founders, and its first president who is holding a scroll containing her correspondence with her brothers about opening the university; and Saint Catherine of Siena, who is seen whispering in her ear urging her to take action.
“It’s a visual allegory of the founding of Barry University,” says Father Torres. “It includes figures from different historical periods, who wouldn’t have known each other in life, but would know each other in Heaven.”
Father Torres painted the original design in digital media and then commissioned a local Miami artist, Michael Javaharian, to craft it and paint the design on it to scale. The crucifix weighs 200 pounds, and stands 8 feet tall and 7.5 feet wide.
Now 45, Father Torres says he has been creating art since he was two-years-old. His work is focused on religious iconography but also includes comic books and graphic novels. His iconographical work has been exhibited from Rome to Haiti, Texas to Australia. In Haiti, Fr. Torres designed the stained glass windows for the St. Rose of Lima Chapel at Zanmi Beni Children’s Home in Port au Prince. He painted the Dominican Last Supper, which is exhibited in Texas and is part of an exhibition in Sydney, Australia. He’s currently part of a team illustrating the second volume of a graphic novel called The Shepherd that will be published later this year by Caliber Comics.
Fr. Torres describes his religious iconographical work as a form of visual theology; visual storytelling that invites the observer to engage theological questions, always from a place of prayer and encounter with God. As for graphic novels, Fr. Torres holds that they share a deeper affinity with religious iconographical traditions than we might think. He loves the graphic novel’s ability to tell powerful stories that explore rich mythical themes and imagery in ways that make it unique from other art forms.
Father Torres, who was born in New York and grew up in New Jersey and Florida, received his undergraduate degree from Rutgers University, master’s degree in social work from New York University, and second master’s degree in theology from Barry University. He is now pursuing his doctorate of ministry at Barry.
Although he felt the calling to become a priest at the age of eight, Father Torres worked as a public school teacher before joining the Dominican order. As chaplain at Barry, he oversees the liturgical life of the university where he is highly sought after due to his inspirational preaching style.
Barry University was founded by the Adrian Dominican Sisters and offers more than 100 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs. The university is composed of two colleges and six schools in the areas of Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, Law, Nursing and Health Sciences, Podiatric Medicine, Professional and Career Education, and Social Work. The university enrolls approximately 8,000 students from nearly all 50 states and 80 countries, and has more than 60,000 alumni worldwide.
To see more of Father Torres’ art, you can visit his website cristobaltorresart.com. His work will also be featured as part of an upcoming exhibit at Barry University in the fall, opening November 12 as part of Founder’s Week.
About the author: Olivia Sacks is an aspiring writer currently pursuing a dual degree in anthropology and international relations with a minor in creative writing in South Florida, where she was born and currently lives. Her passion for all cultures and countries recently inspired her to live and study in Barcelona, Spain, and Tel Aviv, Israel. Now back in the U.S., Olivia is conducting research on electoral political procedures while exploring the world of public relations and journalism.