Faculty 2012: Dony Mac Manus

May 17, 2012

Dony Mac Manus
Founder of the Sacred Art School, Florence, Italy

Dony Mac Manus has been a part of the Rome Experience since 2009.  He is an accomplished international artist with more than twenty years of experience producing and teaching visual arts.  And, he is the guide and instructor of the Rome Experience’s course, “Pilgrimages and Tours of the Churches, Art and Architecture of Ancient Rome”.

Born in Dublin in 1971, Dony Mac Manus graduated with a Bachelor of Design (1995) and Higher Diploma in Art and Design Teaching (1998) from the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, Ireland. In 2001, he received a Masters in Fine Art from the New York Academy of Art.

Upon completing his Masters in New York, Dony moved to Italy where he set up his studio first in Rome for a year and a half and then Florence for the next year and a half.  He returned to Dublin in 2004 to establish the Irish Academy of Figurative Art.

In 2007 Dony entrusted the Academy to his faculty and students in Dublin and he returned to Florence to establish the Dony Mac Manus Studios-Sacred Art School where he continues working on large international commissions while training his apprentices and students from around the world.


Faculty 2012: Dr. Elizabeth Lev

May 15, 2012

Dr. Elizabeth Lev
Art Historian and Author
Faculty of the University of St. Thomas Catholic Studies Rome Program, Italy

This year, the Rome Experience will be adding a new course to the core program titled the “Historical and Cultural Roots of the Roman Catholic Church”.  And, we are very pleased and privileged to welcome Dr. Elizabeth Lev as the instructor for this exciting new course.

Elizabeth Lev is an American-born art historian who, while doing graduate work at the University of Bologna, first traveled to Rome to research her thesis on the Church of San Giovanni and Petronio.  She soon realized that, like Queen Christina of Sweden before her, she couldn’t live another day if she didn’t live it in Rome!  The Eternal City has been her home ever since.

Among a small number of Americans who has passed the stringent licensing exam for guides in Italy, Elizabeth’s services as a guide are in high demand and she has been privileged to accompany many distinguished visitors, including former First Lady Laura Bush, through the Vatican Museums and to other sites of interest in Rome and beyond.

Elizabeth served as art history advisor on the films “The DaVinci Code” and “Angels and Demons” based on Dan Brown’s novels of the same names.  She appeared in the History Channel’s program “Angels and Demons Decoded” and served as the host of “Catholic Canvas,” a 10-part television series on the art of the Vatican Museums that aired on EWTN.  She has written numerous articles for Inside the Vatican, Sacerdos and First Things magazine, and also writes a regular column with Zenit News Agency. In addition to all this, Elizabeth has found time to recently complete her first biography, The Tigress of Forli: The Remarkable Story of Caterina Riario Sforza, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Press.


June 8, 2009


At Florence we visited the Duomo, which is the second largest church in Christendom, and we were given the privilege to celebrate mass at the side chapel of the Madonna.  Fr. Eric Nielsen is distributing Holy Communion.  Fr. John Baker (background) gave the first homily of our trip here in this chapel. The outside of the Duomo is covered in beautiful green, red, white, and yellow marble. The inside is more austere mostly granite.   It was a practice of Cistercian monks to decorate their chapels sparsely so as not to distract one from prayer. The dome of this cathedral is very ornately painted with a scene of the Last Judgment with Heaven and Hell. 

Our guide in Florence was an Irishman named Dony (short for Donnell) MacManus. He showed us his Beato Angelico art studio, which he founded in order to re-establish the making of sacred art for religious use. He focuses a lot on the masters such as Michaelangelo, Raphael and Bernini. We learned that the body has a language and great artists know how to use the body in art to convey a message. Beautiful art expresses the goodness of the human body and the greatness of God. We discussed how the current misunderstanding of the body and human sexuality (mostly due to the separation of the mind from the body) leads to a modern art that is formless or perverted. 

-Photos and text submitted by seminarian Ryan O’Neill 


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