Posts Tagged ‘The Organization of American States’


The Prophet Daniel

The prophet Daniel is the hero of the Book of Daniel in the canon of sacred Jewish writings and the Christian Bible, who was a celebrated Jewish scholar, a master interpreter of dreams, and who received apocalyptic visions.  He is one of four Major Prophets in Hebrew Scripture, along with Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.   And he is famous for successfully interpreting the proverbial “writing on the wall” and for miraculously surviving being thrown into the lions’ den.

During this lunchtime bike ride I discovered a statue of the prophet Daniel.  But it was not located at a synagogue or church, as you might expect.  The statue is displayed on the grounds of The Organization of American States, located at  200 17th Street (MAP) in Downtown D.C.  The 8-foot tall statue is made from concrete, and is based on an original 1805 soapstone sculpture by Antonio Francisco Lisboa,  better known as “Aleijadinho,” a sculptor and architect of Colonial Brazil.  It was a gift to the Organization of American States from the government of Brazil, and dedicated in 1962.

I decided to learn a little more about Daniel later when I got home.  But there is so much known about him from his writings and from history that I will only include a few of the more interesting highlights here.

  • Daniel was a good-looking man.  We know this because King Nebuchadnezzar’s criteria for serving in his court included physical appearance, and Daniel makes the grade.
  • Daniel was renowned for his wisdom and intelligence.
  • Daniel was descendant of the royal family of David.
  • Perhaps most appropriate for D.C., Daniel was a government official.  He served in Babylon under four kings: Nebuchadnezzar; Belshazzar; Darius the Mede, and; Cyrus the Persian.
  • And finally, and absolutely shocking for government official in this city, Daniel was scandal free.  In fact, when his political opponents tried to get dirt on him, their only option was to make it illegal to obey God.


ProphetDaniel02       ProphetDaniel03       ProphetDaniel04
[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]


Statue of the Prophet Daniel

There are a number of different public works of art on the grounds of the Headquarters of the Organization of American States, located at 200 17th Street (MAP) in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of northwest D.C.  And on this lunchtime bike ride I went there to see a statue entitled The Prophet Daniel, which is located north of the building and behind some trees near the corner of 17th Street and C Street.

The eight-foot statue depicts the prophet Daniel, one of four Major Prophets in Hebrew Scripture, along with Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Daniel was the hero and traditional author of the book which bears his name, and nearly all that is known about him is derived from the book ascribed to him, making the book more than a treasure of prophetic literature but also one that paints a picture of Daniel as a man of God.

Daniel was  born around the 6th century B.C.  Although there is not much known about the early years of Daniel’s life, it is thought that he came from an upper class family, perhaps even from a royal family. His lifetime spans the whole of Jewish captivity in Babylon, where as a teenager Daniel was taken, along with other hostages, on the orders of King Nebuchadnezzar.  Daniel and the other hostages were taken into the Babylonian court and the account given in the book of Daniel begins to unfold.

The statue of Daniel was a gift from the Brazilian government in 1962.  The statue is made of concrete, and shows significant signs of weathering and age, with many of its details faded and cracked. It is a replica of a soapstone statue sculpted in 1804 by a prominent Brazilian sculptor named Antônio Francisco Lisboa, also known as Aleijadinho, which translates as “The Little Cripple.”

Aleijadinho was born in 1738, and for the first half of his exceptionally long life was perfectly healthy, and considered a man-about-town and a womanizer, despite his religious upbringing and beliefs. As a talented artist, he was much in demand and set up a workshop with apprentices while still a young man. But in the late 1770s, Aleijadinho’s entire life changed. He began to suffer from a progressively debilitating disease, thought to have been either leprosy, scleroderma or syphilis.

As the progressively severe effects of his disease took its toll, Aleijadinho became a recluse and would only venture out in the dark. His physical condition became so bad that he lost his fingers, toes and the use of his lower legs. It is said that at times the pain would get so unbareable that his apprentices had to stop him hacking away at the offending part of his body with a chisel.

In spite of his physical disabilities he also became increasingly obsessed with his work. In fact, working with hammer and chisel strapped to his wrists by his apprentices, who moved him about on a wooden trolley, he actually increased his productivity.  And it was under these conditions that he sculpted what is widely considered to be his masterpiece, the 12 massive figures of the prophets and the 64 life-size Passion figures for the Basílica do Senhor Bom Jesus de Matosinhos. The Twelve Prophets are arranged around the courtyard and stairway in front of the church.  The statue here in D.C. is a replica of the figure Daniel from that series.

Unfortunately, the series of figures was his swansong, as failing eyesight finally forced him to stop working. Aleijadinho died in 1814 at the age of 76, impoverished, forgotten and a recluse. He is buried in a simple grave in the church he attended all his life, Nossa Senhora da Conceição, in Ouro Preto, the Brazilian town where he was born and spent his entire life. 

ProphetDaniel02     ProphetDaniel03     ProphetDaniel04
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

The Story of Daniel in the Lions Den

What is perhaps the best known story about Daniel is that of him in the den of lions, which took place near the end of his life when he was in his 80’s. Through a long life of hard work and obedience to God, Daniel had risen through the political ranks as a one of the administrators of a pagan kingdom.  In fact, Daniel was so honest and hardworking that the other government officials were jealous of him and wanted to remove him from office.  So they tried to use Daniel’s faith in God against him. They tricked the king into passing a decree that during a 30-day period, anyone who prayed to another god or man besides the king would be thrown into the lions’ den.  Daniel learned of the decree but continued to pray and worship God.  So the other government officials turned him in, and at sundown they threw Daniel into the den of lions.

At dawn the king found Daniel still alive and asked him if God had protected him.  Daniel replied, “My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king.” (Daniel 6:22, NIV).  The king then had the men arrested who falsely accused Daniel, and along with their wives and children, they were all thrown into the lions’ den, where they were immediately killed by the beasts.   Then the king issued another decree, ordering the people to fear and show reverence to the God of Daniel.


Amerigo Vespucci Statue

With the holiday weekend celebrating America’s birthday now over, I decided on this lunchtime bike ride to visit a statue of our country’s namesake.  So during this ride I visited the grounds of the Pan American Union Building, which serves as The Headquarters for the Organization of American States, located on 17th Street between C Street and Constitution Avenue (MAP) in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of northwest D.C.  One of the sculptures there is of an early Italian explorer named Amerigo Vespucci, who is the namesake of the continents of North and South America, and subsequently the United States of America.

The stone sculpture depicts a bust of Amerigo wearing a sea-farer hat of his era, and stands on a circular stone pedestal base with a relief of the globe inscribed on it. The base also contains an inscription which reads, “Amerigo Vespucci, 1454 – 1512.”

Amerigo Vespucci was born on March 9, 1454, in Ognissanti, Florence, Italy, the third son of Ser Nastagio Anastasio and Lisabetta Mini, members of a prominent Florentine family comprised of statesmen, philosophers, and clergy, which intermarried with the renowned Medici family who ruled Italy for more than 300 years. After being educated by his uncle, Amerigo worked for the Medicis as a banker, and later as a supervisor of their ship-outfitting business in Seville, Spain, where he moved in 1492. Amerigo’s position allowed him to see great explorers’ ships being prepared before they sailed off in search of new discoveries. In fact, Amerigo’s business helped outfit one of Christopher Columbus’ voyages, giving him the opportunity to talk with the explorer with whom he would one day be compared.

Fascinated with books and maps since he was young, his meeting with Columbus further fueled a fire burning inside him for travel and exploration. The fact that his business was struggling helped Amerigo, already in his forties, decide to leave the business behind and set out on his own voyage to see the “New World” while he still could.

Although historians are unsure of exactly how many voyages he embarked on, through his travels Amerigo was the first to be able to demonstrate that South America and the West Indies did not represent Asia’s eastern outskirts as initially conjectured from Columbus’ voyages, but instead constituted an entirely separate and previously unknown landmass. Based on the work of a German clergyman and amateur cartographer named Martin Waldseemüller, he labeled a portion of what is today Brazil as “America”, deriving its name from Americus, the Latin version of his name. Later, in 1538, a mapmaker named Gerardus Mercator applied the name “America” to all of the northern and southern landmasses of the New World.  The continents have been known as such ever since.

So here in the District of Columbia, a name which references Christopher Columbus and was chosen at a time when many people were still upset that we hadn’t actually named our new nation Columbia, I visited the statue of Amerigo Vespucci.  And although he never visited here on any of his voyages, Amerigo’s name is forever associated with our 239-year old country.

Vespucci03     Vespucci02
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]