Pope Francis and Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, have unveiled two works of art, both of which will be displayed at Louvre Abu Dhabi.
The two works, introduced in the presence of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, are both religious artefacts – one Christian; one Islamic – and embody the message of peace and tolerance that defined the Pope's historic visit to Abu Dhabi this week.
The first is titled 'Christ showing his wounds' and is a life-size statue of Christ, dressed modestly in a loin cloth and wearing a crown of thorns. He is holding his hands up to display the marks of the crucifixion. The painted wood sculpture is believed to have been carved in Germany or Austria in the early 16th century. According to the Louvre Abu Dhabi statement, “the sculpture triumphantly celebrates the incarnation of the Christian God at the time when individual piety was modelled on the figure and beliefs of Jesus Christ".
The second work, 'Four leaves from the Blue Qur’an', dates back to 800-1000 AD and is a section of the famous manuscript, which is known for its dark-blue dyed parchment and gold lettering with dark-brown outlines.
The origin of this manuscript has been the subject of much debate – one scholar has suggested that it was produced in Iraq in the ninth century – but a description of the Blue Qur’an, dated to 1294, was discovered in the Great Mosque of Kairouan. This would appear to confirm that the manuscript resided in Tunisia until the late 1200s when pages of it were dispersed around the world.
Islamic manuscripts produced on dyed vellum are not uncommon, with a number of yellow manuscripts in circulation. However, blue-dyed vellum is particularly rare. It will be on display at Louvre as a private loan from the Zayed National Museum.
Mohammed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Abu Dhabi Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism said, “The unveiling of these two rare artworks, each representing a different faith, only served to enhance the theme of the conference – that openness and cultural dialogue are essential tools for building positive intercultural and interfaith relations".
Pope Francis and the Grand Imam have just concluded a three-day visit to the UAE in which interfaith relations were at the forefront. During their visit, the two principal figures in their faiths signed a Human Fraternity Document, which sought to find peace and end conflicts by improving mutual understanding between faiths.