Saturday, June 20, 2015

Montini on Art 1931

Eliseo Fumagalli 1887 - 1943
Design for The Annunciation for The Church at Maccio
1931 - 1932
Acquarelle on canvas
 77 cm x 56 cm
Museo Valtellinese di Storia ed Arte, Sondrio

Eliseo Fumagalli 1887 - 1943
Design for The Adoration of the Shepherds for the Church at Maccio
1931 - 1932
Charcoal and pastel on canvas
197 x 186 cm
Museo Valtellinese di Storia ed Arte, Sondrio

Eliseo Fumagalli 1887 - 1943
Design for The Crucifixion for the Church at Maccio
1931 - 1932
Charcoal and pastel on canvas
360 cm x 308 cm
Museo Valtellinese di Storia ed Arte, Sondrio

The First World War, the economic dislocation and political disappointment at the Peace Treaties, D`Annunzio, the rise of Fascism , mass emigration all led to political, economic, cultural and religious changes in Italy in the 1920s and 1930s

Destruction of the past. Worship of the future were two themes

In July 1931, a new religious magazine was published: Arte Sacra

The full title of the magazine shows what it was about: «Arte Sacra. Rivista trimestrale dell’arte sacra di oggi e di domani»

A young Monsignor, Giovan Battista Montini was on the editorial Committee. 

The Committe published a "Manifesto"

In the first edition Monsignor Montini wrote and published an article entitled "Su l`arte sacra futura" (“On sacred art of the future”)

He rejected the demons of the Italian art movement called Futurism

Futurism was the first of the right-wing avant-gardes

He made a distinction between "modernity" and "modernism"

He disapproved of Modernism

He was hopeful of modern artists coming up with catechism for artists in the modern age

He wrote:
“[S]acred art faces the supreme problem of expressing the ineffable ... [and through sacred art one should] initiate oneself into mysticism, and to reach with the experience of the senses a reverberation, a flutter of the invisible Light ... 
One can also see how and where true sacred art is born: from the devout and believing, prayerful, wishful artist who watches in silence and goodness, awaiting his Pentecost.... 
I think it is the task of our Christian artists to prepare with their works a state of mind in which our spiritual unity, now torn apart, is pieced together in Christ; unity, I say, that reconciles in due harmony the impression and the expression; the interior and the exterior world; spirit and matter; the soul and the flesh; God and man” 
For Montini, the artist and art had to have as its motivation: L’omnia instaurare in Christo - to be valid and authentic

He rejected the idea of art for the sake of art

After the First World War and the subsequent ecoonomic and political dislocation, the young Montini was following in the steps of the theologians of art who were debating or discussing the theology of art: Jacques Maritain, Jean Guitton, Simone Weil, Pius XII and in the Italian sphere Mario Sturzo 

The Italian priest, publisher and intellectual Don Giuseppe De Luca was sharply critical of the article, illustrating the deep divisions in Italian society and the Italian Church of the time

De Luca and Bargellini were the promoters of a rival magazine Frontespizio which from 1929 to 1940 was the principal Italian magazine for the arts in the Italian Catholic world

It was only later that Montini and De Luca corresponded and perhaps came to an accomodation, an agreement that there should be an insistence that religious values, both in art and in literature , which had been lost should remain autonomous in relation to the political power of the time

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Églises en péril

The Church of Saint-Jacques d’Abbeville in the course of being demolished

One of the great concerns of the French art history web magazine La Tribune de l'Art  is the threat to the destruction of the patrimony of France by the destruction of church buildings in France which recently seems to have stepped up a gear or three

Both local and central government in France seem determined that such vacant buildings should simply be demolished

Slowly (maybe not so slowly) but steadily the environment in France will be devoid of church buildings as well as the sound of bells

It is but a symptom of a much deeper malaise

Here are twenty three of its articles on "Églises en péril"

And 216 articles on French government policy

Old buildings are expensive to renovate and maintain

With dwindling congregations and less or no private revenue, the charge of the upkeep of French ecclesiastical buildings has to fall on the state

The Combes administration in 1905 passed the loi du 9 décembre 1905 concernant la séparation des Églises et de l'État for state secularism: a type of church-state relations, hostile to organised religion and totally unlike the American concept of the First Amendment

Emile Combes boasted of taking office for the sole purpose of destroying the religious orders. He closed thousands of what were not then called 'faith schools

Among other things the law provided that all religious buildings were property of the state and local governments and that the government put such buildings at the disposal of religious organisation at no expense to these, provided that they continue to use the buildings for  purpose of religious worship

Saint Pope Pius X led the resistance in Vehementer Nos (11th February 1906)

This was followed by his Encyclical Gravissimo Officii Munere on 10th August 1906

Now the attack on religion is not direct but indirect and much more subtle

It comes from within and without

Secularisation is most evident in the modern arts and in modern institutions

Religious art is displayed in modern secular art galleries and museums in an environment which strips religious art of its meaning, significance and power

The appropriation of religious imagery, ritual  and language for secular purposes is most evident in the arts, politics and public life in general

But religion has in its turn appropriated wholesale secular imagery and language for religious purposes

Now the church buildings - the husks of a religious life and culture - are being obliterated 

Gradually the collective memory of Christianity is being removed from life in France and other parts of Western Europe

Popular paganism now holds sway

In 1906, liberals and the intelligentsia thought that the French Church should accomodate itself to the new French laws and join "cultural associations". Members of the French Academy thought so and publicly said so. They earned the title of the "cardinaux verts". 

Pius X rejected this approach in Gravissimo Officii Munere  and has earned opprobrium in certain circles ever since

But his approach was successful and was set out in Vehementer Nos

He said:
"You know the aim of the impious sects which are placing your heads under their yoke, for they themselves have proclaimed with cynical boldness that they are determined to "de Catholicise" France.  
They want to root out from your hearts the last vestige of the faith which covered your fathers with glory, which made your country great and prosperous among nations, which sustains you in your trials, which brings tranquillity and peace to your homes, and which opens to you the way to eternal happiness. 
You feel that you must defend this faith with your whole souls. But be not deluded - all labour and effort will be useless if you endeavour to repulse the assaults made on you without being firmly united.  
Remove, therefore, any causes of disunion that may exist among you. 
And do what is necessary to ensure that your unity may be as strong as it should be among men who are fighting for the same cause, especially when this cause is of those for the triumph of which everybody should be willing to sacrifice something of his own opinions.  
If you wish, within the limits of your strength and according to your imperious duty, to save the religion of your ancestors from the dangers to which it is exposed, it is of the first importance that you show a large degree of courage and generosity. ... 
As for the defence of religion, if you wish to undertake it in a worthy manner, and to carry it on perseveringly and efficaciously, two things are first of all necessary: you must model yourselves so faithfully on the precepts of the Christian law that all your actions and your entire lives may do honour to the faith you profess, and then you must be closely united with those whose special office it is to watch over religion, with your priests, your bishops, and above all with this Apostolic See, which is the pivot of the Catholic faith and of all that can be done in its name.  
Thus armed for the fray, go forth fearlessly for the defence of the Church; but take care that your trust is placed entirely in God, for whose cause you are working, and never cease to pray to Him for help."