“May you always find beauty!”
That was the response of Hildegard Letbetter’s mother to her then 6-year-old’s found treasure in post-World War II rubble on the way to the Cologne Cathedral: a shard of china featuring a delicate blue flower.
Her mother’s blessing took. For over three decades Letbetter, a German native who moved to Littleton, Colo., in 1972, has shared her eye for beauty through the exquisite sacred art and religious gifts she carries in her shop, Creator Mundi. The gallery specializes in works from Germany, Lithuania, Italy, Poland and France, as well as some from Colorado artists.
“We try to represent exceptional art, real art, not sweatshop stuff,” Letbetter told the Denver Catholic, explaining she strives to support the work of religious communities and lay artists dedicated to bringing the Scriptures alive through art.
“They are images for healthy spirituality and living,” she said, adding that it’s important to her that the artists are justly compensated for their efforts.
Entering her Englewood gallery is like stepping into a sacred space.
“People tell us that all the time,” she said with a laugh. “Some will come and just sit for 30 minutes.”
When you are a guest in a country, you want to contribute. I feel I had something to offer that no one else could have done because they didn’t know about it.”
That reaction pleases her as the works Creator Mundi offers — crafted from bronze, glass, enamel, wood, pewter and ceramic — are meant to help people “create sacred spaces.”
Letbetter opened Creator Mundi, Latin for “creator of the world,” in 1987 after an unsuccessful attempt to find a first Communion gift she liked at local stores.
“I wrote to a Benedictine men’s monastery in Germany that I knew had a line of beautiful items, mostly bronze,” she said. “They sent me 12 pieces. I showed them to friends and they were immediately gone! It was meant to be.”
Originally called Precious Gifts, Letbetter ran the business out of her home before opening a shop in downtown Littleton. There it operated as Creator Mundi for three years before moving to Denver’s Cherry Creek North in 1997, where it was a fixture for 18 years. Today, Creator Mundi is located at 901 Englewood Parkway, Suite 112.
For the last year, the shop has celebrated its 30th anniversary. In gratitude for the milestone, the observance will be capped with a Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 22) drawing for a bronze wall plaque called “Angel of Contemplation,” which was forged at Maria Laach Abbey in Germany. (Find drawing details at creatormundi.com)
“It’s been quite a journey,” Letbetter said about her life and successful business. “There have been many miracles along the way.”
The first was fulfilling her childhood dream of immigrating to the United States in the 1960s through the generosity of American friends. Then, armed with a degree in Germanic languages, Letbetter landed a job as a college dean’s assistant. That was another miracle.
“It was a gift put into my lap,” she said. “I met my husband and eventually we came here.”
The couple was already blessed with three daughters when they arrived in Colorado from Texas. Initially hoping to teach at a college, Letbetter’s eye for beauty instead led her to her business as she shared the sacred art treasures she knew about with others.
“I myself am not an artist. All my [children and grandchildren] are — they are all in art or music. But I have a good eye,” she said with a smile.
Knowing that she is connecting individuals and organizations with extraordinary sacred works from around the world (she helped the Diocese of Orange County, Calif., get a rare tabernacle by German sculptor Egino Weinert for its Christ Cathedral set to open next year), thereby aiding those artists to continue “co-creating with God,” brings her great satisfaction.
“It’s fulfilling,” she said. “When you are a guest in a country, you want to contribute. I feel I had something to offer that no one else could have done because they didn’t know about it.”
Letbetter also sells wholesale and online. She still carries works from the monastery that sent her the first dozen pieces she sold.
“We have become like family,” she said.
As well as offering statues, sculptures and wall art — including crosses, crucifixes, icons and illuminated manuscripts — her inventory includes nativities, rosaries, jewelry, cards and a few liturgical items, such as chalices.
Items range from gifts for children to adults, and are appropriate for sacraments, Christmas and Easter. Prices range from $2.50 for a pewter angel medallion, to over $4,000 for a large wooden Madonna and Child carved by an Italian artist.
Although Creator Mundi specializes in Catholic sacred art, the shop draws other Christians and even those of other faiths.
“It’s marvelous — I feel we have done something for the unity of Christianity,” Letbetter said. “And you know, angels, many faiths have that in common — the Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions. Even Buddhism has … figures that act as angels, as messengers.”
Letbetter hopes that people find their own treasure from her unique inventory that inspires and deepens their faith.
“It’s a good feeling,” she said.
See what sorts of gifts Creator Mundi has to offer at creatormundi.com.