Image via Elchino Pomares / RNS

An artist who converted an abandoned church in Spain into an indoor skateboarding park is defending the project against critics who consider it an act of desecration.

Alessandro Speciale 08-08-2012

ROME — Even in the heartland of global Catholicism, a life-size Madonna on a street wall is an uncommon sight — especially if you leave the cobblestone alleyways of the historic center for the drab concrete of the city's former industrial districts.

But bringing sacred art back to Rome's run-down streets is exactly what a street artist known as Mr. Klevra has set out to do.

Mr. Klevra, a 34-year old Italian artist and a committed Catholic, paints Madonnas and other saints on thin paper posters and then glues them onto walls under the cover of darkness.

"I love the adrenaline of putting up the paintings while hiding from the police," he said. "I love the randomness of having your art torn down after five minutes or see it stay in its place for years and years.''

Mr. Klevra is his artist's name — like many street artists, he doesn't give out his real name, and prefers to keep his identity secret, even shielding his face from cameras.

In his paintings, he combines the millennia-old techniques of Eastern Orthodox iconography with modern tools such as spray paint and Uni Posca pens. Pop culture references sometimes find their way into his work, such as a Madonna with the motto "Only after disaster can we be resurrected,'' a line from American author Chuck Palahniuk's novel, Fight Club.

the Web Editors 11-03-2011

Occupy Wall Sreet, false idols and a moral economy. Breaking the cycle of poverty. Poorest poor in U.S. hits a new record: 1 in 15 people. As poverty deepens, giving to the poor declines. Arianna Huffington: Shakespeare, the Bible and America's shift into a punitive society. Peaceful Occupy Oakland march followed by late-night clashes.

Troy Jackson 03-26-2010

From the window of my hotel room in Bethlehem, I could see the "security" wall that separates the West Bank from the rest of Israel.

One of the reasons the St. Francis quip, "Preach the gospel always, if necessary use words," is so often quoted is because it pokes fun at Christians' propensity to think sharing our faith is primarily about words. And for good reason.