Oldest Piece of Indigenous Christian Art to return to Cuba prior to the Pope's visit in March

The piece, a wooden lectern or reading stand that dates back to the late 15th century, was brought to Cuba at the request of Havana's Historian Eusebio Leal Spengler to the director the Vatican Museums who obtained an exceptional permission from His Most Reverend Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State.

According to a report by Granma newspaper, the lectern belonged to Brother Bartolome de Las Heras who was Christopher Columbus's Chaplain during his second trip (1943-1494) and it was used in the island in the process of converting Caribbean tribes to Christianity.

The piece was carved by Cuban indigenous people in the shape of a shell and inlaid with fine strips of fishbone and tortoiseshell in the form of a fan, laid in way to create a chiaroscuro effect.

Archeological findings show that before 1510 Taino groups had run away from La Española and settled in the easternmost region of Cuba, so that is likely the place where the oldest piece of indigenous Christian art was built.

In December 28 of 1935 Father Ernest Baudouy, of the Roma-based Augustinians of Assumption Order, donated the stand to the Vatican's Missionary Ethnological Museum. The priest had obtained the piece from Jean Baptiste Morel who had donated it for the Pope.

The lectern, which provides evidence of the changing process that began with the intercultural exchange, will be exhibited for a year at the Museum of the City, in Havana, starting February 5.

Link to original report

This is in the run up to the Pope's visit to Cuba in March 2012

Benedict XVI will conclude his visit to Mexico on Monday 26 March, when he will depart for the province of Santiago de Cuba, in the eastern part of Cuba.

That same day, he will celebrate a mass in the Antonio Maceo Plaza, for the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the image of the Virgin of La Caridad del Cobre.

On Tuesday, March 27, he will visit the Virgin's sanctuary in the town of El Cobre, before going to Havana, the capital of Cuba, where he will talk to governmental and ecclesiastical authorities.

On March 28, he will celebrate his last mass of the tour at the Revolution PLaza in Havana and in the afternoon he will return to Rome.