Via Pulchritudinis: Beauty Inspired by the Faith, Part 1

Let’s discuss Christian art. We’ll take section A) Beauty Inspired by the Faith in two bites. Starting here:

Christian-inspired works of art, which constitute an incomparable part of humanity’s artistic and cultural patrimony, are the object of a veritable infatuation for crowds of tourists, believers and non, agnostics and those indifferent to religion. This is a phenomenon affecting all kinds of people regardless of culture or religion. Culture, in the sense of spiritual patrimony, is strongly democratized: thanks to the extraordinary development of technology, works of art have been brought closer to the people. Now a tiny electronic device can contain the complete works of Mozart or Bach, and thousands of images from the Vatican library.

The Judeo-Christian story continues to inspire within the flock and outside of it. Let’s keep in mind that in the era of Bach and Mozart and most of the artists who produced paintings and sculpture in the Vatican library, the only way to engage art was in person. Local concerts and artists unless you went on pilgrimage. The PCC references phones and ipods, but for the last century, we’ve had recordings and picture books–things unknown and unimagined two or more centuries ago. Art of those eras was the domain of the 1%. More egalitarian today, but also experienced through the barriers of the printed page, the pixelated screen, and the digital experience of sound.

When the PCC writes of culture being democratized, that is an experience largely driven by technology. But many of the world’s peoples still have limited access to the firsthand experience of art in the way most would define the “classics.” That said, classical music and art is not the limit of beauty.

The face of Christ in His singular beauty, scenes from the Gospel, the great prophetic episodes of the Old Testament, Golgotha, the Virgin with Child, and the Virgin of Sorrows have long made up a rich source of inspiration for Christian artists. With extraordinary and burgeoning imagination, artists seek, through continual research and ceaseless novelty, to present the beauty of God revealed in Christ to make Him near, almost touchable and visible. In some ways, the artist extends Revelation by providing it with form, image, color and sound. In showing how beautiful God is, the artist shows how much God is for (us), as (our) own good and the ultimate truth of (our) existence. Christian beauty carries a truth bigger than the heart of (a person), truth that surpasses human language and indicates (human) good, the only essential.

The full document is here.

Image: the rose window at Notre Dame in Paris, By Zachi Evenor based on File:North rose window of Notre-Dame de Paris, Aug 2010.jpg by Julie Anne Workman – CC BY-SA 2.0,

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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