Friday, August 27, 2010


I came across the word pieta today while reading The Color of Blood by Declan Hughes, it means "a representation of the Virgin Mary mourning over the dead body of Jesus" ( In the story Mr. Hughes writes this:

Shane Howard had been on his feet when I recounted the history of his daughter's sexual relationship with her cousin, his hands balling into fists, his eyes blurring with rage; but the news of David Brady's murder hit him the hardest. Sandra went to him and wrapped her arms around his great shoulders and pulled his head to her breast and they subsided to the floor, Sandra whispering to her little brother and stroking his sand-colored hair. It was touching and pathetic, a grotesque pieta that was moving and disturbing.

I would have gotten the idea without the specific word, but that one word added quite a bit more to the picture. As I'm blogging, I'm finding that carefully chosen words really do add to the whole of it. I've even been thinking about the etymology...(which is a scary thought in itself), and in case you are wondering, here's what The Free Dictionary says about it:

The term "pietà" (Latin: pietas) originated from a custom of the Roman Empire around the time of 64 AD, referring to the act of prostrating oneself, and putting forth an "Emotion...of great love accompanied with revering fear....of the [Roman] gods."

Another good juxtaposition I read while reading an excerpt from a book compared the coming daylight to Guinness settling after it's poured. I particularly liked that one too.


seana said...

Nice delving in. I did know what a pietas figure was, having seen a few in the course of my travels, but I did not know that the term dated back to pre-Christian Rome. Wonder how it first came to be applied to Mary mourning the dead body of her son.

Glenna said...

I wondered about that too, but about the only thing I found is that pieta means pity. How it came to be the word for that particular and specific picture I don't know.