Saturday, March 22nd, 2008
By Janie Southard
P. Trost C.PP.S. inv't et pinxit 1906 et 1926
  CARTHAHENA - Often called "a modern Michaelangelo" by fellow priests at St. Charles , Paulinus Trost's art was always for the glory of God, and so it remains.
The ceilings of area Catholic churches and hundreds of religious murals, paintings and illustrations all bear witness to the German-born priest's talent.
Contained in information provided last week by the Rev. Milton A. Ballor, C.PP.S., archivist at St. Charles for the past 30 years, are the milestones of the life of the artist/priest who died at St. Charles at age 83 in 1939.
Trost was born in 1856 in western Germany into a family of artists. As a small boy, it was his father who taught him elemental painting techniques. The young boy must also have shown natural ability, for in 1889 his superiors at Carthagena approved his three-year study at the Academy of Arts at Munich, Bavaria.
His first painting after returning to Carthagena was of St. Jerome, which now hangs in the local seminary's library. At one time much of his art decorated the entire chapel at St. Charles, but no more.
"Father Trost designed the chapel when he was Superior here. He was the one who painted all the art around the sanctuary in fresco. Unfortunately, when the chapel was remodeled we could not save his work and it was plastered over," said Ballor who spoke with the newspaper on an informal tour of Trost's paintings hung throughout St. Charles hallways.
The sanctuary art was fresco, meaning a painting done on wet plaster. However, much of his art was created on canvas.
"All the (paintings on the) ceilings, at the churches in St. Rose, Cassella, St. Anthony, Philothea and so forth, was done on canvas and pasted on the ceiling. And, of course, our paintings here of Sorrowful Mother and St. Joseph used to be on either side (of the sanctuary)," said Ballor who related the story of his recent discovery of more of Trost's art.
Ballor was doing some research for a friend who is computerizing St. Henry church records. As the priest was looking through an old bound copy of "The Messenger," the former in-house newspaper at the seminary, he was surprised to find more of Trost's art.
In the old book he saw some fancy lettering of initials and sacred embellishments that he identified almost immediately as the work of Troste. Carefully examining the illustrations he found the tiny signature of the old priest
"Typically Father Trost signed his paintings in Latin but sometimes just his name and year. The Latin reads 'P. Trost, C.PP.S., pinsit (he painted) and the year.'," Ballor read from a painting of St. Joseph and the Christ Child.
In 1927, an area newspaper wrote of the "white-bearded Father Paulinus" spending his time at 72 years of age still painting in the quiet of St. Charles. "Try as he may, the old priest is unable to estimate the vast number of pictures that have felt his brush," the article says.
None of Troste's paintings were ever displayed in art galleries and he never accepted payment. "Only one reward I seek; only one voice I hear," he said in that long ago press conference.
On a couple occasions Trost painted himself into a crowd - a group of souls in Purgatory, in one painting. The St. Charles archives houses a small gray painting, perhaps 12 inches square, of an aged Trost sitting in a library as the hooded emissary of death approaches. The lettering reads "Salve, Frater Mors!" - Greetings, Brother Death!
Trost died on Nov. 2, 1939 and is buried at St. Charles cemetery, but, of course, his art lives on in 11 area locations: St. Joseph, St. Rose, St. Anthony, St. Mary, Cassella, St. Aloysius, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, Maria Stein chapel, Immaculate Conception school, and Holy Trinity in Bryant, Ind.
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