An Exhibition at the Shrine of Maria Stein (Dennis Aubrey)


PJ and I are delighted to have a second exhibition at the Shrine of Maria Stein in Maria Stein, Ohio. We are displaying twenty-four images of the Romanesque Sedes Sapientiae madonnas, including several Black Madonnas, from February 1 to May 31st.

These Vierges have some interesting characteristics; Mary is not usually a young mother, but a mature woman. The child is small, but is not depicted as an infant or a baby, but rather more like a small adult. Both look directly ahead at the beholder. In few of these sculptures will we find the maternal warmth of the Renaissance Madonna and Child or the sorrow of the Mater Dolorosa. Instead, there is often a distant look, as if Mary is looking into the future, into the sacrifice that will be demanded of both herself and her Son. When taken as a set, these Throne of Wisdom madonnas carry enormous symbolic power, which I find compelling. In the reborn and rejuvenated Romanesque world of France, these images symbolized the saving grace of the Church, and the protective embrace of one they considered the Mother of us all.

We will be hosting a reception at the venue on March 16, 2019 from 4:00pm to 6:00pm. If any of our readers are in the area, we would love to visit with you. We will be discussing the photographs in the exhibition and the wonders of these sculptures.

The Shrine of Maria Stein is located at 2291 St. Johns Road, Maria Stein OH 45860. Mother Maria Anna Brunner founded the Sisters of the Precious Blood in 1834 in Switzerland. The congregation expanded to the United States in 1844 and eight Precious Blood Sisters began perpetual adoration at Maria Stein on Sept. 24, 1846. Maria Anna Brunner’s son, Father Francis de Sales Brunner, was the leader of the Society of the Precious Blood. He was a collector of relics and dedicated to rescuing these fragments from the political chaos in Italy at the time. His collection and others acquired during the course of the 19th century made the Maria Stein Relic Chapel collection the second largest in the United States with 1,100 relics, exceeded in number of relics only by Saint Anthony’s Chapel in the Troy Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh with five thousand.

The Sisters of the Precious Blood administered the Shrine until 2016 when it was entrusted to a non-profit foundation.

We have an exhibition catalog for these photos that is available for purchase. If you are interested, please go to this link.

Another radio interview (Dennis Aubrey)


Sacred Heart Radio in Cincinnati, Ohio contacted us recently for an interview. Today I was interviewed by Father Rob Jack for two segments. This interview is a kind of overview of Via Lucis and our love of Romanesque churches. The interview starts at about 36:35 and continues for about ten minutes. Part 2 begins at 50:08 and continues until 56:55.



Since 2001, Sacred Heart Radio has brought Catholic programming to the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Beginning with one station (WNOP, Newport’s famous “floating radio station”) and two employees, Sacred Heart Radio now operates an AM station at the 740 frequency (heard in Cincinnati and Covington), an FM station at the 89.5 frequency (heard in Hamilton, Ohio) and 910 AM in Middletown.

In addition to carrying programs from EWTN, Ave Maria Radio, and other networks, Sacred Heart Radio produces the Son Rise Morning Show heard across the country, as well as numerous seasonal programs heard throughout the year.

Exhibition in Lancaster, Ohio (Dennis Aubrey)


The first Via Lucis exhibition for the new year is a collection of 38 images of French Romanesque and Gothic churches at the Garret Gallery at the Fairfield County District Library. The exhibition opens this Sunday, January 20. We will have an open reception from 2pm to 4pm on that day and everyone is welcome to come.

Exhibition at Fairfield County District Library (January 2019)

The Main Library is located at 219 North Broad Street in Lancaster. The gallery is on the third floor, accessible by elevator.

Interested parties can order copies of the Exhibition Catalog.

We would love to see any members of the Via Lucis community who happen to be in this area, which is about an hour south of Columbus, Ohio. The gallery space is really superb and the photos are displayed to good effect. We will be speaking on Sunday about our work, and the exhibition will run through February 16.

We’re Planning Another Trip (Dennis Aubrey)


We had mentioned earlier that when I recovered my health we were going to take a trip to France, Corsica and Sardinia to photograph the Romanesque churches there. We finally decided that I would probably be well enough to travel in Fall 2019; it was a glorious plan and we were looking forward to investigating the new worlds of Corsica and Sardinia. But when we began planning in detail, we came to realize that it was too much, too soon. The long drives to Southern France, then traversing both Corsica and Sardinia north to south and back again meant that we would have to spend two months on the trip and that was probably a risk for me, especially in an area of Italy where I don’t speak the language.

So, we went back to the drawing board and came up with a wonderful alternative. We will spend three and a half weeks shooting Norman churches in England and Wales and three weeks traveling through France, partly to shoot churches and partly to visit friends that we have not seen since I got sick. What a trip we have planned!

We cross the channel from France from Cherbourg to Portsmith and spend time shooting in the Dorset, Wilshire, and Devon areas, move north into Somerset toward Wells and Bath, then into Wales for five days. My father’s side of the family came from Abercynrig in Wales and we will visit there as well as photograph the great churches of Heresfordshire and Gloucestershire. The we run further north to the Scottish borderlands to photograph the great cathedral churches in Durham and Carlisle. The last ten days we work our way south to Canterbury via Lincoln, Ely, Cambridge, Saint Albans, Waltham Abbey and Rochester. Overall we plan on photographing about 35 churches in the 24 days we will be in England; ambitious, but very exciting.

We then take a short break of three days in Ghent, just to relax and see the sights (echoing to the words of Jacques Brel, Entre les tours de Bruges et Gand). Then we go to Saint Quentin to photograph the great Gothic basilica there with its spectacular examples of entasis in the nave. Then we go to Amiens to photograph Notre-Dame d’Amiens, one of the greatest Gothic cathedrals in the world, also possessor of examples of entasis in the nave columns. The challenge of adequately capturing the intentional deformations in the columns is great, but I can’t wait to try. From Amiens we return to Chartres for three days to photograph the progress on the restoration and to see our many friends there. We stay in the most wonderful little hotel – the Parvis – which is literally a 150 feet from the west portal. Such a pleasure to park the car for three days and spend the rest of the time walking and photographing!

South ambulatory entrance, Cathédrale Notre Dame de Chartres, Chartres (Eure-et-Loir) Photo by PJ McKey

After Chartres, we head to the Dordogne and Quercy to photograph the churches there. In Souillac, we stay at a hotel that I have visited year after year since 1986, the Pont de l’Ouysse, and we photograph one of our favorite churches, the Abbaye Sainte Marie de Souillac. with its astonishing sculptural ensemble.

Nave from east, Église Sainte Marie, Souillac (Lot) Photo by PJ McKey

From the Quercy region, we head to the Puy de Dôme to another of our “homes” in France, the Cour Carrée in Perrier, near Issoire. The Vilette family has honored us with their friendship, culinary mastery and hospitality for years, and we always look forward to returning. It helps that the area is one of the richest in Romanesque masterpieces, including the nearby Basilique Saint Austremoine in Issoire.

South side aisle, Basilique Saint Austremoine, Issoire (Puy de Dôme) Photo by PJ McKey

From the Puy de Dôme we make our way to the final stop, the third in our holy trinity of hotels, the Crispol in Vézelay. Paule and Christian Schori have befriended and hosted us for over fifteen years and no trip to France is complete without staying with them at their wonderful hotel/restaurant. In addition, we always get the opportunity to visit our favorite Romanesque church in the world, the Basilique Sainte Madeleine.

North side aisle, Basilique Sainte Madeleine, Vézelay (Yonne) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Another reason to visit (as if we needed one) is much more melancholy – we will make the trip to the Monastery of La Pierre Qui Vire and visit the grave of our beloved friend, Angelico Surchamp, who died last year. His last words to us were, ““We are separated by thousands of kilometers and a great ocean, but our hearts are close.” Now we are separated by eternity, but our hearts are still close.

PJ with Dom Angelico Surchamp in Le Villars

From Vezélay, we return home, via Boston. We have had such a good time planning this trip – having the confidence that we will be able to travel again and take up the mantle of our work. I can only imagine what it will feel like to be back in the saddle.

One thing we ask of our readers, however. We have never photographed in the English churches and cathedrals and would appreciate any tips that we can get. As you know, we have pretty much unfettered access in France, but don’t know if we will be so welcome in England. We will begin our research soon, but will be thankful for your knowledge and advice.

A Radio Podcast Featuring Via Lucis


Last summer when we had our exhibition at the Marian Library at the University of Dayton, we were interviewed by Radio Maria. Here is a link to the interview (about 45 minutes long) where we talk about the Vierges Romanes and Black Madonnas that we photograph in France and Spain. Enjoy!

Rediscovered Gems (Dennis Aubrey)


PJ and I have been doing an enormous amount of work preparing for our exhibition this week at the McConnell Art Center in Columbus, Ohio. We had to select our photos, color correct and proof each one, arrange the printing, framing and wrapping the selection of thirty-eight images. We deliver the images tomorrow with all of the associated labels and the proof of the exhibition catalog.

One of the great joys of doing this was rediscovering images that we had forgotten, images that we liked so much that we included them in the show. Here are five that I particularly enjoyed. The first is Poitier’s Basilique Saint Hilaire. This shot of the strange upper ambulatory shows the complex nature of the rebuilding, additions, and renovations that have taken place over the centuries, as the purity of the original design have long been replaced by a hodgepodge of structures. It is easy to see the complexity in the ground plan.

Plan, Basilique Saint Hilaire, Poitiers (Vienne)

This photograph taken in the ambulatory shows the unique passageways on the sides of the chancel. From a photographic viewpoint, I love the welter of columns and arches in every direction and how the light varies from region to region.

Ambulatory, Basilique Saint Hilaire, Poitiers (Vienne) Photograph by Dennis Aubrey

PJ’s shot of the altar at Notre Dame de Nazareth in Vaison-la-Romaine is a beautifully balanced photograph, but I particularly love the way the chancel crossing looms in the darkness at the top. As happens so often, the lighting fixture is a distraction on the central column but there is nothing that can be done about that. The austere, undecorated stones of the building are shown to great advantage here.

Altar, Cathédrale Notre Dame de Nazareth, Vaison-la-Romaine (Vaucluse) Photo by PJ Aubrey

This next shot of the altar at La Souterraine took me totally by surprise. What seems to be a simple, uncomplicated shot features a striking counterfocus in the internal elements. The diagonal line from the bible on the altar to the flowers to the stone font is trisected by the statue in the niche to the right. In addition, the shiny lightning bolt section of the floor in the foreground leads directly to both the font and the statue. This gives an unexpected sense of motion to the otherwise stable composition and is another example of PJ’s surprising eye for detail in composition.

Altar from side aisle, Église Notre Dame, La Souterraine (Creuse) Photo by PJ Aubrey

I am always a sucker for symmetry in these churches, and the photograph of the north side aisle at Coutances’ cathedral is a perfect illustration of that. This is just a simple shot but pleases me immeasurably, particularly the lighted central passage terminating at the stained glass window in the dark wall at the end.

North side aisle, Cathédrale Notre Dame, Coutances (Manche) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

This next photograph of Saint Étienne in Blomac was astonishing to me – the composition, the color and the layering of detail give this great emotional resonance. PJ always talks about how these small churches hold the history of the communities. Every detail reaffirms that here – the flowers at the foot of Mary’s statue (supported by a wooden stump), the floor pattern, the rug at the altar, the metal table in the left foreground, and especially the collection of objects on the table next to the pillar. This is a shot that we both missed for years and then rediscovered.

Nave detail, Église Saint Étienne, Blomac (Aude) Photo by PJ Aubrey

This final shot was taken in 2007, our first year of photographing for Via Lucis. PJ has taken a split composition, usually a bad idea, and made it beautiful. The obvious charm is the vignette with the statue framed on the right side, with the candles in the photograph in perfect position as if lighting the scene. But the secondary framing is astonishing – both the left and right framing pillars are perfectly vertical, as we always try to accomplish with our tilt-shift lenses, but the interior pillars are all leaning. This is one of the graces of these old churches, how they settle over the years into compositions of their own.

Side chapel from aisle, Église Notre Dame, Cunault (Maine-et-Loire) Photo by PJ Aubrey

Our exhibition in Columbus is open for the rest of the year and we would love for readers who live in the area to come visit and let us know what you think. For those who are interested in the photographs but can’t attend, here is a link to the catalog.

McConnell Arts Center Catalog

Some Changes to our Web (Dennis Aubrey)


As I heal from my bout of illness, it is clear that there was much neglected on the Via Lucis sites in the last year, especially with the amazing flurry of activity that has begun with our exhibitions. We have had four exhibitions so far this year and have at least two more scheduled for fall and two more in January. These will all be announced, but people have asked how they could see a listing and schedule of events. I finally opted to try the WordPress widgit for Eventbrite. This can be found at the bottom of the right column of the blog and lists all upcoming events. If you are interested in attending, you can simply hit “Buy Tickets” and you will get a free ticket to the event. There are, of course, no charges for gallery exhibitions. You can also just select the exhibition title and a full description will pop up with dates, locations, and all the other pertinent information.

Second, the more we exhibit, the more people are asking to buy prints of our work. We have been working for almost a year with another vendor to do this, but they seem to be more interested in their blockchain currency than they are in working with photographers, so we started by embedding a store for prints on our website. We are offering prints by our exhibition collections.

These offerings can be seen by clicking on the “Shop” heading on the lower menu and the collections appear above.

Photographs from each exhibition are offered as a signed custom print from an edition limited to ten prints, or a slightly smaller custom print, unsigned, limited to fifty prints. Right now we have embedded payment options with Paypal and credit cards. Later we will probably add Google Pay and Apple Pay.

We haven’t forgotten our Via Lucis articles either, but we are in the midst of proofing dozens of images for exhibition and that takes a great deal of time and there is a deadline. But we have three articles in the hopper and more coming after that. It is an amazing thing to have energy again and to be able to work at a sustained level. Thank you all for your patience as we get the Via Lucis train moving again on the tracks!