Numbered sections 7 through 9 give the readers a brief overview of art history in a Christian context. This is more of a professor talking and a philosopher reflecting than an artist. But after all, John Paul II was all these things.
The earliest days, of which we have very little remains to speak of …
7. The art which Christianity encountered in its early days was the ripe fruit of the classical world, articulating its aesthetic canons and embodying its values. Not only in their way of living and thinking, but also in the field of art, faith obliged Christians to a discernment which did not allow an uncritical acceptance of this heritage. Art of Christian inspiration began therefore in a minor key, strictly tied to the need for believers to contrive Scripture-based signs to express both the mysteries of faith and a “symbolic code” by which they could distinguish and identify themselves, especially in the difficult times of persecution. Who does not recall the symbols which marked the first appearance of an art both pictorial and plastic? The fish, the loaves, the shepherd: in evoking the mystery, they became almost imperceptibly the first traces of a new art.
Pope John Paul II’s Letter To Artists is available in its entirety online here.