Christian and Pagan Goddesses

by Kiko Matsing

San Simeon, CA (2015)

Statues of the Madonna and Child stand on opposite sides of a wall in the dining room at Hearst Castle. It is aptly referred to as the Refectory from its Medieval monastic décor–another example of its owner’s eccentricities. Mary, bearing the child Jesus, is the exemplar of motherhood, and is the fitting figure to stand guard in this domestic space. She is the Christian goddess protecting the virtues of family.

The movie theater, however, where Hearst entertained visitors, is lined with Roman nymphs bearing branches with light bulbs for fruits. What a fitting way to illuminate your path into the dark aisles of blood-red carpeting, into the visual pleasures of Hollywood, the modern-day sublimation of Roman paganism.