Symbol of Rome Is Grown


In 1980, when Renée Riley was a chubby cherubic child of all of four months, she captured the heart of artist and family friend Dana Van Horn, who was then living in upstate New York.  At the time, Van Horn was hard at work on a commission he had received to paint two 16’x20’ murals depicting scenes from the life of Saint Catharine of Siena.  Painters have always immortalized their contemporaries.  Thus it was that Van Horn transformed two photographs of Baby Renée into the likenesses of Romulus and Remus, ancient Rome’s mythical twin founders, who, according to legend, were raised by a she-wolf.

Since the murals’ dedication in 1982, crowds of pilgrims and worshippers have laid eyes on Renée’s larger-than-life likenesses in our diocesan Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena.  Romulus and Remus make a curious detail to a larger scene on the Cathedral’s north sanctuary wall, wherein Saint Catharine of Siena leads a very reluctant Pope Gregory XI to the Eternal City, which the legendary twins supposedly founded.

Surprisingly enough, it was only this spring that Renée herself got to glimpse her immutable infant images.  Today she is thirty-five years old and works as a human resources information specialist at the University of Missouri.  Her parents, Mr. & Mrs. W. Carter Riley, still live outside Syracuse, New York.  All three paid a visit to our Cathedral on May 8, 2015.  Upon seeing her painted portraits, Renée Riley exclaimed: “Wow!  For years I have wanted to see these murals, and to finally see them up close and personal is a dream come true.  They are beautiful!”

There you have it.  Not quite “out of the mouths of babes,” but you get the picture.[1]



[1] Originally published in the Allentown Diocese’ newspaper, The AD Times, Vol. 27, No. 13, 9 July 2015, p. 30.  Photograph courtesy of Cathedral parishioner Cheryl Dano.