Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

“Annunciazione” by Pietro Perugino, ca 1489

We break from our Lenten fast to keep the Solemnity of the Annunciation, when Gabriel delivered God’s message to Mary and she said yes

 Visit Deacon Jim‘s weblog, Servant of the Word, for today’s liturgy and homily


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Via Rome Reports, I have this video and transcript of our awesome pope addressing one of my favorite topics:  art as a conduit of grace.

November 18, 2009. My dear brothers and sisters, i have been speaking in recent weeks about medieval theology, and would now like to turn my attention to how the Christian faith of the Middle Ages inspired some of the greatest works of art of all time: the cathedrals of Europe.
Romanesque cathedrals are distinctive for their size and for introducing to churches beautiful sculpture, including the image of Christ as the Universal Judge and the Gate of Heaven. By entering through Him, as it were, the faithful enter a space and even a time different from everyday life, somewhere they can anticipate eternal life through their participation in the liturgy.

Gradually, Gothic architecture replaced the Romanesque, adding height and luminosity to the previous style. The Gothic cathedral translates the aspirations of the soul into architectural lines, and is a synthesis between faith, art and beauty which still raises our hearts and minds to God today. When faith encounters art, in particular in the liturgy, a profound synthesis is created, making visible the Invisible, and the two great architectural styles of the Middle Ages demonstrate how beauty is a powerful means to draw us closer to the Mystery of God. May the Lord help us to rediscover that “way of beauty”, surely one of the best ways to know and to love Almighty God.  [emphasis mine]


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La Pieta by an evangelist named Michelangelo Buonarroti of Florence   Countless conversions have occurred at its pedestal.

La Pieta by an evangelist named Michelangelo Buonarroti of Florence. Countless conversions have occurred at its pedestal.

From Paulist Father Tom Holahan at the Catholic News Service Blog (via Intentional Disciples) comes this beautiful description of the evangelizing qualities of Rome:

Rome, in its way, is a 500-year-old evangelization machine. The buildings and art created as a response to the Protestant critique still call to people who are searching and create a mood of reflection. Just before I arrived in Rome, I met an industrial psychologist who was a Christian but now follows a Native American practice. He told me that, when he went to the Vatican, sunbeams from the dome of the church hit Michelangelo’s Pieta and brought tears to his eyes.

A week ago I heard from two nuns, dressed in habits, who were stopped on the street by a Japanese tourist. She wanted to know, could they possibly spare a few moments to explain Christianity to her? Yesterday a Syrian found his way to our English-speaking church (he knew no Italian) asking the same question. He told me he had no particular faith, but he had been impressed with the Syrian Orthodox while in his own country and now, before he had to leave the country because of a document problem, he wanted to find out more. He asked his questions urgently, “And, so, Jesus was the Son of God?” “He promised eternal life?” Searching Americans approach the faith issue differently. One recently told me he “gave up on God” when the Supreme Being did not cure his depression and taking a little pill did. I said there may come a time when something can’t be fixed, then what?

Now friends, when you hear nonsense like “the Pope should sell the Vatican and give the money away to the poor”, you know the answer for yourself.  Even if the Pope could sell off Vatican treasures (he can’t) and there were someone to buy them (who could afford the price tag of the Pauline Chapel?), why would we sell off one of the best conversion-delivery systems we have?  That is why we are here, to bring ourselves closer to our Lord and bring all the world the Good News of Jesus Christ.  The wonder that is Rome– the collection of centuries of sacred art, architecture, and culture– belongs to all of us, rich and poor alike, Italian, American, Japanese, Syrian, Catholic or Agnostic who may walk around not only Rome but within the Vatican and share in their treasures, and bask in their beauty.  It is this beauty through which God permits His grace to flow, changing minds and converting hearts.   This is what Pope John Paul the Second called “the beauty that saves.”  Fr. Holahan is right:  Rome is an evangelization machine.

The Church has long recognized the power of the sacred arts to communicate truth and to turn souls devoutly toward Christ. Throughout Christian history, the Church has commissioned great works of art, architecture, and music to advance her mission of worship, catechesis, and evangelization, inviting the world more deeply into the mysteries of the faith.–The Foundation for Sacred Arts Mission Statement

Rather than feed the poor for a day, let’s give them the food of eternal life.

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Ophelia (And he will not come back again) by Arthur Hughes

Ophelia ("And he will not come back again") by Arthur Hughes

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Winged Figure by Thayer

Winged Figure by Abbott Handerson Thayer

Spent some very lovely time at the Art Institute of Chicago.  Wow.


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Speaking of conversions…

Caravaggio masterpiece

Caravaggio's Conversion on the Way to Damascus

The great masterpiece of chiaroscuro art, Caravaggio’s Conversion on the Road to Damascus.  Clearly, in my previous post I wasn’t talking about the instantaneous and complete kind of conversion such as Paul had. 

(btw-I remember studying this painting in Humanities my freshman year of college.  I didn’t even know the story.  Imagine being introduced to one of the most important events in your faith via a humanties class!) 

I really think the use of the shadow and light technique used here is brilliant, and I’ve always loved that Caravaggio does not tell the whole story for the viewer.  First, he could assume we all knew the story and I am sure that all his contempory viewers did, as they did for centuries before and after.  So, with that freedom, he keeps the Divine presence just ‘off-stage’.  The close quarters (somewhat claustophobic, don’t you think?) gives immediacy to the action, and emphasizes the physicality of the event, not just that Saul’s body was  struck down, but emphasizing too, I think, the ability of God through his Son to work bodily as well as spiritually.  Emphasizing the duality of Christianity, the corporal and the spiritual.  This isn’t a peaceful depiction with angels and spiritual beings and emphasizes that at his conversion, Paul went about the very human task of spreading the Gospel.  I also love the way that the light hits Saul’s outstretched arms, which are fending off harm, but from our vantage of knowing Paul’s works, we also know his arms are simultaneously reaching out with desire for Christ.


The master painted it in 1601 for the Cerasi Chapel of the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, in Rome, where you can see it today.

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