This week, I encountered the work of a Romanian artist Mircea Cantor at the Castello di Rivoli. His video called Sic Transit Gloria Mundi is a powerful work that represents a ceremonial ritual using images of composed bodies in relation to the camera. Hailed bodies offer their hands into a circle where we as the spectators witness the line of fire travel slowly across each hand.
Sic transit gloria mundi is a Latin phrase that means “thus passes the glory of the world”. It has been interpreted as “Worldly things are feeling”. The phrase was used in the ritual of papal coronation ceremonies between 1409, when it was used at the coronation of Alexander V, and 1963. As the newly chosen pope proceeded from the sacristy of St. Peter’s Basilica in his sedia gestatoria, the procession stopped three times. On each occasion a papal master of ceremonies would fall to his knees before the pope, holding a silver or brass reed, bearing a tow of smoldering flax. For three times in succession, as the cloth burned away, he would say in a loud and mournful voice, “Sancte Pater, sic transit gloria mundi!” (“Holy Father, so passes worldly glory!”) These words, thus addressed to the pope, served as a reminder of the transitory nature of life and earthly honors. The stafflike instrument used in the aforementioned ceremony is known as a “sic transit gloria mundi”, named for the master of ceremonies’ words.