Monday, November 30, 2009


Advent hymns and prayers, in the Penwortham Breviary
c. 1310
Ink and pigments on vellum
21.6 x 13.1 cm
Additional MS 52359, f.1r
The British Library, London

The Penwortham Breviary preserves one of the oldest, most complete examples of the divine office according to Sarum Use, or as recited in much of medieval post-Norman England.

The first page has the prayers and hymns for the first Sunday in Advent, as the heading in red tells the reader. The beginning of the text is decorated with a picture of the Annunciation, with the words of Gabriel, the prayer 'Hail Mary full of grace,' on a scroll. The musical notations are rare in small breviaries.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Romanesque and Gothic

Cathedral of Notre Dame de Coutances

The Pope finished off his discourse on Romanesque and Gothic Architecture on 18 November 2009 with these words:

"Dear brothers and sisters, I would now like to emphasize two elements of Romanesque and Gothic art that are also helpful to us.

The first: the masterpieces of art created in Europe in past centuries are incomprehensible unless one takes into account the religious spirit that inspired them. Marc Chagall, an artist who has always witnessed to the encounter between aesthetics and faith, wrote that "For centuries painters dipped their brushes into that colourful alphabet which was the Bible". When faith, celebrated in the Liturgy in a special way, encounters art, it creates a profound harmony because each can and wishes to speak of God, making the Invisible visible. I would like to share this encounter with artists on 21 November, renewing to them the proposal of friendship between Christian spirituality and art that my venerable Predecessors hoped for, especially the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II.

The second element: the strength of the Romanesque style and the splendour of the Gothic cathedrals remind us that the via pulchritudinis, the way of beauty, is a privileged and fascinating path on which to approach the Mystery of God. What is the beauty that writers, poets, musicians, and artists contemplate and express in their language other than the reflection of the splendour of the eternal Word made flesh?

Then St Augustine says: "Question the beauty of the earth, question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air, amply spread around everywhere, question the beauty of the sky, question the serried ranks of the stars, question the sun making the day glorious with its bright beams, question the moon tempering the darkness of the following night with its shining rays, question the animals that move in the waters, that amble about on dry land, that fly in the air; their souls hidden, their bodies evident; the visible bodies needing to be controlled, the invisible souls controlling them. Question all these things. They all answer you, "Here we are, look; we're beautiful!' Their beauty is their confession. Who made these beautiful changeable things, if not one who is beautiful and unchangeable?" (Sermo CCXLI, 2: PL 38, 1134).

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord help us to rediscover the way of beauty as one of the itineraries, perhaps the most attractive and fascinating, on which to succeed in encountering and loving God."

The following passage from Sandro Magister`s The Theology That Suits the Pope Theologian may help to put the recent discourses by Pope Benedict XVI on Romanesque and Gothic art and on medieval monasticism in context:

"As is the practice, the written outline of the papal catecheses is prepared by trusted experts with competence in a particular field. Benedict XVI sees the text in advance and enhances it, prunes it, supplements it. In short, he makes it his own.

And when he finally reads it to the faithful, he often departs from it even further, improvising. ...

The main expert in this area is Inos Biffi, a medieval theology scholar of rare profundity and with a clear writing style, as can be seen in his imposing bibliography which is being published in its entirety, in magnificent volumes, by Jaca Book. With him, it is more rare for Benedict XVI to depart from the written text when he preaches to the faithful. The impression is that there is a strong harmony between the pope and his current "ghostwriter," both in thought and in manner of expression. ...

[A] book by a Benedictine scholar of the past century, Jean Leclercq, dedicated to medieval monastic theology and entitled "L’amour des lettres et le désir de Dieu [The Love of Learning and The Desire for God]." ... is a favorite of Ratzinger the theologian. As pope, he had already cited it on a previous occasion, in one of the most important speeches of his pontificate, delivered on September 12, 2008, at the Collège des Bernardins in Paris, and addressed to the world of culture. ...

The greatness of medieval monastic theology, as interpretated by Leclercq, Biffi, and Ratzinger, lies in the connection it makes between the search for God and the study of the word, of language, of literature. The search for God and the culture of the word are one and the same, not only in theology but also in spiritual elevation. And they are at the foundation of European civilization.

But alongside monastic theology, scholastic theology also blossomed in the twelfth century, in the cathedral schools. With a powerful emphasis on reason, on fruitful dialogue between "fides et ratio," between faith and reason.

With this lesson on grand medieval theology, it is as if Benedict XVI has wanted to draw the guidelines for the theology of today. As the pope theologian that he is."

Many years ago (in the early 1980s) I remember discussing with an American priest who was an academic what he thought of the Pontificate of Pope John Paul II. He was very dismissive. First he was Polish, from a Church which was "backward" and reactionary. Second he was "of a medieval mindset". I did not agree with the position taken by the academic at the time. I still do not.

In his homilies and speeches, Pope Benedict is continuing the teaching of Pope John Paul II. What he is trying to do is help the Church recover and re-value its heritage and tradition. The Church is not a "Historical Theme Park". No one wants to worship in a museum or be one of the Friends of a Historical or Art Museum or Gallery or Association. There are plenty of those about where you can even dress up and re-enact historical battles or pretend that one is a medieval lord at a medieval banquet. After a few hours of fun, you can go back to normal life

To understand the present position of the Church on a whole number of issues one must look at the historical record which has been forgotten or put aside. Many of the issues that seem to bedevil the Church today were exactly the same issues which bedevilled the best minds and greatest leaders of centuries past. The language and style may be different but the same principles apply.

Not all that was done in medieval or other times by the Church was good. On the other hand not all was bad. A lot in fact was very good. To dismiss it is foolish and self destructive. It shows a greater faith in "Human Progress" than the history would suggest is wise. Surely the wisest approach is to reform what needs to be reformed and conserve what is good.

When the delegates to the Second Vatican Council assembled in Rome, they brought with them "historical baggage" and a mindset with attitudes borne of previous times. They did not come with tabulae rasae. The product of their deliberations can only be seen in the context of the history and traditions which they brought with them to the Council. The Second Vatican Council was not meant to be a "Year Zero" as happened after The French Revolution or in Cambodia. To forget those traditions and to be unmindful of the great historical heritage of the Church is to to say the least imposing the most enormous handicap on the Church in the execution of its Mission. Tradition is after all simply the collected distilled wisdom of previous generations from the foundation of the Church onwards.

Virgin and Child

Rogier van der Weyden about 1400–1464
Saint Luke Drawing the Virgin
about 1435–40
Oil and tempera on panel
137.5 x 110.8 cm (54 1/8 x 43 5/8 in.)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Seated before an open window, the young mother is shown breastfeeding her naked infant son, who lies in her lap, and who smiles and wiggles his hands and his feet in pleasure at her embrace.

The design is the invention of Rogier van der Weyden (c.1399-1464). There are known today about four versions, of which the original is probably that now in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston above

The enormous popularity of Rogier's original design and the fact that it was exposed to other painters in their own Guild Chapel dedicated to Saint Luke meant that it was soon widely copied

The success of Rogier's design and the many copies it inspired bears witness to the impact and enduring appeal of these new type of half-length devotional images dedicated to the Virgin and her son. This type of the Virgin breastfeeding her child, the Virgo Lactans, although not new, had gained considerable popularity in the 15th century in response to theological movements to depict the Virgin as a humble woman. In images such as this or the Madonna of Humility Mary was portrayed as a woman with whom mortal women could identify and her readiness to breastfeed exemplified her 'ordinariness'.

This idea of an accessible sympathetic model was in some contrast to the preceding medieval tradition of the Regina Coelis or Queen of Heaven in which the Virgin was traditionally enthroned or accompanied by hosts of angels.

From Carmina Mariana (1893) (arr. Orby Shipley)

Richard Verstegen (also known as Richard Rowlands) 1550-1640 was the son of a cooper established in East London. His grandfather, Theodore Roland Verstegen, a Dutch emigrant, came from Gelderland to the Kingdom of England

At the end of 1581 he secretly printed an account of the execution of Edmund Campion but was discovered and 'being apprehended, brake out of England'. In exile he resumed the name of Verstegen.

In 1585 or 1586 he moved to Antwerp, where he stayed for the rest of his life

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Benedict on the Gothic

Basilique cathédrale de Saint-Denis, North of Paris

In the 12th century the Abbot Suger (c. 1081 – 13 January 1151), the chief adviser to the French King, rebuilt portions of the Abbaye de Saint-Denis, north of Paris using innovative structural and decorative features that were drawn from a number of other sources. In doing so, he is said to have created the first truly Gothic building (Panofsky, Suger and St Denis)

The basilica is also the prototype for the Rayonnant Gothic style, and provided an architectural model for cathedrals and abbeys of northern France, England and other countries.

The gothic architect drew much of their mathematical inspiration from biblical sources, the 12 supporting columns for each the ambulatory and choir of St Denis, make manifest Suger’s statement that they were "building spiritually... upon the foundation of Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ being the keystone that joins one wall to the other."

The new Gothic abbey designed under the Abbot Suger not only represented a splendid theology of light but one upheld and championed by the French crown.

The cathedrals aim was literally to manifest this radiance, both physically and spiritually. The church becoming transparent bathed and interpenetrated by "the Light of the Father".

Abbot Suger wrote:

"The whole church shines with its middle part brightened.
For bright is that which is brightly coupled with the bright,
And bright is the noble edifice which is pervaded by the new light."

Much of the inspiration during the Gothic period for a theology of light was drawn from Pseudo Dionysius, an eastern mystic of the 5th or 6th century AD. He blended Platonism, in which light is identified with the Good and the magnificent theology of light in the Gospel of St John, where the Word is compared "to a light that shineth in the darkness, by which all things were made, and that enlighteneth every man.

Pseudo Dionysius described a world infused with divine light:

"Inspired by the Father, each procession of the Light spreads itself generously towards us, and, in its power to unify, it stirs us by lifting us up. It returns us back to the oneness and deifying simplicity of the Father who gathers us in... Jesus, the Light of the Father, the ‘true light enlightening every man coming into the world ...through whom we have obtained access’ to the Father, the light which is the source of all light. ... We must lift up the immaterial and steady eyes of our minds to that outpouring of Light which is so primal, indeed much more so, and which comes from that source of divinity, I mean the Father. This is the Light which, by way of representative symbols, makes known to us the most blessed hierarchies among the angels. But we need to rise from this outpouring of illumination so as to come to the simple ray of Light itself."

Pope Benedict XVI continued his talk on the Romanesque and the Gothic on 18th November 2009 thus:

"In the 12th and 13th centuries another kind of architecture for sacred buildings spread from the north of France: the Gothic.

It had two new characteristics in comparison with the Romanesque, a soaring upward movement and luminosity.

Gothic cathedrals show a synthesis of faith and art harmoniously expressed in the fascinating universal language of beauty which still elicits wonder today. By the introduction of vaults with pointed arches supported by robust pillars, it was possible to increase their height considerably. The upward thrust was intended as an invitation to prayer and at the same time was itself a prayer.

Thus the Gothic cathedral intended to express in its architectural lines the soul's longing for God.

In addition, by employing the new technical solutions, it was possible to make openings in the outer walls and to embellish them with stained-glass windows. In other words the windows became great luminous images, very suitable for instructing the people in faith. In them scene by scene the life of a saint, a parable or some other biblical event were recounted. A cascade of light poured through the stained-glass upon the faithful to tell them the story of salvation and to involve them in this story.

Another merit of Gothic cathedrals is that the whole Christian and civil community participated in their building and decoration in harmonious and complementary ways. The lowly and the powerful, the illiterate and the learned; all participated because in this common house all believers were instructed in the faith. Gothic sculpture in fact has made cathedrals into "stone Bibles", depicting Gospel episodes and illustrating the content of the liturgical year, from the Nativity to the glorification of the Lord.

In those centuries too, the perception of the Lord's humanity became ever more widespread and the sufferings of his Passion were represented realistically: the suffering Christ (Christus patiens) an image beloved by all and apt to inspire devotion and repentance for sins. Nor were Old Testament figures lacking; thus to the faithful who went to the cathedral their histories became familiar as part of the one common history of salvation. With faces full of beauty, gentleness and intelligence, Gothic sculpture of the 13th century reveals a happy and serene religious sense, glad to show a heartfelt filial devotion to the Mother of God, sometimes seen as a young woman, smiling and motherly, but mainly portrayed as the Queen of Heaven and earth, powerful and merciful.

The faithful who thronged the Gothic cathedrals also liked to find there, expressed in works of art, saints, models of Christian life and intercessors with God. And there was no shortage of the "secular" scenes of life, thus, here and there, there are depictions of work in the fields, of the sciences and arts. All was oriented and offered to God in the place in which the Liturgy was celebrated.

We may understand better the meaning attributed to a Gothic cathedral by reflecting on the text of the inscription engraved on the central portal of Saint-Denis in Paris:
"Passerby, who is stirred to praise the beauty of these doors, do not let yourself be dazzled by the gold or by the magnificence, but rather by the painstaking work. Here a famous work shines out, but may Heaven deign that this famous work that shines make spirits resplendent so that, with the luminous truth, they may walk toward the true light, where Christ is the true door". "

The Pope`s discourse to Artists

Fernando Botero (Colombian b. 1932)
Nun Eating an Apple 1981
signed and dated 'Botero 81' (lower right)
oil on canvas
40 x 36 in. (101.5 x 91.5 cm.)
Private collection

As regards the painting by Botero above, in a 1972 interview, Botero claimed, "I don't paint apples anymore. Oranges and bananas are the authentic fruits of the tropics. Apples are for snobs."

However 19 years later, he broke his rule in this sightly comic version of the tale of the origin of Original Sin.

In Nun Eating an Apple, the portly holy woman glances to the side as though just having been caught in a devious act. With a Bible in her left hand and the forbidden fruit in her right, she holds the forces of good and evil. Here evil seems to be winning out as the newly eaten apple remains slightly raised above the book.

The forbidden fruit appears in the background as well, floating or perhaps falling, on the far black wall. While calling attention to the importance of the apple here, these suspended green spheres also serve as a pictorial device

Last Saturday, the Pope addressed artists in the fabulous setting of the Sistine Chapel. I do not think that Botero was present but I could be wrong.

As reported in a previous post it was a rather thoughtful and serious attempt to persuade artists to rediscover their vocation as Christian and religious artists. To uplift culture from nihilism and the mire.

In Zenit, Elizabeth Lev discusses the speech in article entitled "Art's Extended Adolescence; Awaiting a Homecoming"

Her theme was the separation and divorce between Art and the Church. How did it happen ? She is quite fierce in her criticism of "the modern artist".

She does not view it as a separation between man and wife. More a separation between Parent and the Prodigal Son.

However I do not think that it is the whole story.

In former days the Church held the allegiance of artists by virtue of (1) its economic power in the art market; (2) artists regarded art as a vocation not simply as just a business; and (3) they believed in the message of the Church

Now art commissions by the Church are a small part of the art market.

Demand for art has increased as the populations became more educated and affluent. Bigger players include the art auction houses, Art Museums and Galleries, the universities as well as governmental bodies. There are alternative patrons: more powerful and wealthy than the church. Their message through their prestige and money is circulated through the powerful art media.

Commerce has discovered the value of art. Advertising is filled with creative artists. Art can sell goods and services. Banks, pension funds, foundations all have art collections. Art is a unit of wealth and prestige.

Art has become a commodity. Its value is determined by demand and supply. Everyone wants in on the action.

Despair ? Irreversible ? No. The Church is filled with good and committed people who truly and honestly beieve in its message. They may have to work harder than before to get the message over against hostile and indifferent players in the market. But truth and goodness always prevail. We have a Divine assurance to that effect.

Anyway here are extracts from Miss Lev`s thoughtful and thought provoking analysis:

"The Church was the greatest art patron for over a millennium, recouping the dying arts of antiquity, rescuing artists and their works from the mania of iconoclasm and offering the painters and sculptors of the Renaissance a chance to rise above their status of craftsmen and become "artists," people whose minds are as engaged in their works as their hands.

In this way the Church acted like a nurturing father, providing education and boundaries but also exhorting artists to cultivate their gifts, to learn and experiment and grow in their talents.

Patronage, derived from the Latin word for father, channeled man’s creative instinct and challenged it to the highest goals; representing the history of humanity and salvation, and encouraging their brothers and sisters to aspire to beauty in their lives.

Painters and sculptors thrived with the Church’s patronage, reaching the greatest pinnacles of artistic achievement, and earning the coveted title of artist. The Renaissance saw the masters of formal techniques such as fresco, stone carving, perspective or foreshortening become accepted as thinkers. They were enrolled among the prestigious liberal arts to stand as peers among the theologians, philosophers and mathematicians.

Flush with this achievement, the artists of the Baroque era rushed to defend the Church against the iconoclasm of the Reformation. Caravaggio’s powerful calls to holiness and Bernini’s harnessing of the supernatural though art and architecture illustrate a loving filial loyalty.

But as artists discovered their great potential to persuade as well as to confer social status, they increasingly experienced the nurturing environment of the Church as a constraint. The challenges became restrictions, the sacred stories grew stifling. Artists left the comforts of home to seek out new subjects. Nature, politics and pleasure called and artists used their finely honed talents to vividly explore the world around them. They tried to see in every aspect of nature and man the same greatness they had found at home in the Church.

At the turn of the 19th century, artists found a new subject that would captivate and enslave them: themselves.

As Freud offered man his own psyche as a principal frame of reference, the artist, like Narcissus, found himself lost in his own reflections. Soon he abandoned formal training, devoting his full attention to his own feelings and perceptions. Expressionists, Surrealists, Modernists became their own muses.

And so it came to pass that today’s angry, sulky, self-absorbed adolescents of art chose to provoke instead of persuade, titillate instead of stimulate, and rage instead of reason. And like many teens before them, they marked their maturity by rejecting their fathers. Producing a frog on a cross or the Blessed Virgin in elephant dung became "art." They ridiculed, disdained and desecrated their ancestral home in the name of an unspecified "freedom."

And as is the case with such adolescents, people stopped paying attention to them.

The Holy Father has been standing at the doorway -- Paul VI in 1964, John Paul II in 1999 and now Pope Benedict last Saturday -- calling out for their lost children and waiting with open arms for their return.

The real question is, when will the prodigal sons decide they have had enough of the pigsty? ...

Like the epic story of Michelangelo’s commission to fresco the vault of the Sistine Chapel, the valiant attempt to re-establish the dialogue between art and the Church last weekend had its moments of agony and ecstasy.

That artists found the initiative to ask to meet with the Holy Father brought a spirit of cooperation to the events, an openness on their part to seeing the Church with mature and appreciative eyes.

The Pontifical Council for Culture responded by inviting artists of all types; architects, musicians, authors, filmmakers, installation artists as well as painters and sculptors. Art historians know we have an interdisciplinary field; literature, music and space play a large part in many works of art. The opportunity for these men and women from their varied disciplines to unite amid the art of Michelangelo was like scattering seeds on the most fertile of soil to see what might grow.

Furthermore, the artists visited the extensive collection of Modern Art held in the Vatican Museums.

Hundreds upon hundreds of works testify to the popes' continued interest in their efforts while a few jewels by Van Gogh, Matisse and Chagall demonstrated that artists who had garnered fame and fortune in the secular realm had eventually confronted the tremendous legacy of sacred art.

The address of Benedict XVI evoked the spirit of patronage of old. The Holy Father praised the contribution of the arts to the Church’s “unvarying message of salvation." Emphasizing tradition and transcendence, the Pope described the true nature of “shock art” that “opens afresh the eyes of his heart and mind giving him wings, carrying him aloft." As the Sistine Chapel amazed and the Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Teresa dazzled, viewers could glimpse the sublime of the supernatural, hidden just beyond their mortal eyes.

By contrast, the art that jolts people through say, a rotting cow’s head (Damian Hirst) or a porcelain effigy of Michael Jackson and his pet monkey Bubbles (Jeff Koons) offers nothing to bring man out of himself ...

The most jarring aspect of the event to the ears of this art historian was the repetition of the tired old mantra, “art must be free." Caravaggio was not free to do as he liked and when he did, his work was rejected. Bernini, Velasquez or Jan Van Eyck were not at liberty to execute any passing fancy. The idea that one might give a Gospel to an artist and then let his imagination run wild is very similar to suggesting that a theologian interpret the Bible in whatever way he feels is best.

But the excitement of anticipation has not deserted art completely.

In a brilliant spirit of engagement, the Vatican has proposed to set up a pavilion at the Venice Biennale, one of the most important contemporary art shows in the world. The proposed project would be scenes from Genesis, given to different artists to engage not only with the Biblical text but with the greatest themes man can consider: creation, evil entering the world, the first murder, the origin of love etc.

This challenging commission, inviting artists to look outside of their own experience and think in terms of universality is a first, important step toward the reconciliation of art and the Church."

Séraphine Louis

Séraphine Louis, dite Séraphine de Senlis, 1864 - 1942
L'arbre de Vie, 1928-30
Oil on canvas 1,44 x 1,12 m
Musée d'Art et d'Archéologie. Senlis.

Séraphine Louis, dite Séraphine de Senlis, 1864 - 1942
Feuilles, 1928-29,
Oil on canvas
Fondation Dina Vierny-Musée Maillol, Paris

Séraphine Louis, dite Séraphine de Senlis, 1864 - 1942
Tree of Paradise. (c. 1920–25)
Oil on canvas, 6' 4 3/4" x 51 3/4" (194.9 x 130.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

I do not know much about Séraphine Louis, better known as Séraphine de Senlis. Her story has been made into a bio-pic in France which has won a number of French Oscars.

It is a sad story. Her work lives on. She was truly a master.

Romanesque Art

Master Mateo (active 1161-1217)
Portico de la Gloria
Cathedral, Santiago de Compostela

The study of medieval art began in earnest in the decades following the iconoclasm of the French Revolution.

Art historians in the early nineteenth century, following the natural sciences in an effort to classify their field of inquiry, coined the term "Romanesque" to encompass the western European artistic production, especially architecture, of the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

The term "Romanesque" was employed for the first time by Norman archaeologist Charles Duhérissier de Gerville.(1769-1853)

Gerville's friend Arcisse de Caumont (1801-1873) is more correctly accorded the honour of publicly applying, in French, the label Romane, i.e. "Romanesque" style to architecture of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, in his Essaie sur l'architecture du moyen âge, particulièrement en Normandie, 1824.

Caumont is considered one of the founders of modern archaeology in France, which came to later include (as used in the French meaning of archéologie) the study of art history as well. His writings on Romanesque sculpture revived the interest in that period of medieval art.

Caumont's work laid the foundation for national monument preservation in many countries. Caumont was also a champion of decentralized intellectual institutions, both scientific and historic.

As both a legitimist and a devote Roman Catholic, he criticised the "Jacobin cancer" of centralisation in Paris.

Romanesque art borrows from a variety of sources: Ancient Roman, Carolingian, Antique as well as Byzantine, Middle Eastern and Celtic

The term “Romanesque”was then used as an architectural term for the heavy and massive medieval buildings with rounded arches that echoed Roman forms. It then developed an additional aesthetic meaning. Romanesque art emphasized a simplification of form, pattern, and a lively linearity

The Romanesque style in England is more traditionally referred to as Norman architecture.

While emphasizing the dependence on Roman art, the label ignores the two other formative influences on Romanesque art, the Insular style of Northern Europe and the art of Byzantium, nor does it do justice to the inventiveness of Romanesque art.

The Crusades and the Norman conquest of Sicily, a trading interface of East and West, brought close links with Byzantium. The splendours of Constantinople were ever a source of admiration, inspiration and, ultimately, covetousness for westerners

In architecture the architects of the Romanesque style adapted the plan of the Roman basilica with a nave, lateral aisles, and apse, and these churches typically have a transept crossing the nave. Churches on the pilgrimage routes included an ambulatory (a gallery allowing the faithful to walk around the sanctuary) and a series of radiating chapels for several priests to say Mass concurrently.

For the first time since the fall of the Roman empire, monumental sculpture covered church facades, doorways, and capitals. Monumental doors, baptismal fonts, and candleholders, frequently decorated with scenes from biblical history, were cast in bronze, attesting to the prowess of metalworkers.

Emile Male begins his book Religious Art of the 12th and 13th centuries with the bald statement "Sculpture was reborn in France in the eleventh century"’ and gives the credit for it to the two great Cluniac patrons: Hugh of Semur and Peter the Venerable.

Frescoes were applied to the vaults and walls of churches

Rich textiles and precious objects in gold and silver, such as chalices and reliquaries, were produced in increasing numbers to meet the needs of the liturgy and the cult of the saints.

More important than its synthesis of various influences, Romanesque art formulated a visual idiom capable of spelling out the tenets of the Christian faith.

Romanesque architects invented the tympanum on which the Last Judgment or simiar apocalyptic scenes were depicted. Emile Male has shown how many tympana were inspired by manuscript illuminations in the first instance

Inside the faithful encountered other scenes from biblical history, on doors, capitals, and walls and were drawn into the narrative by their dynamic, direct language.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Romanesque

Ste. Marie, Souillac, France. c. 1130

Abbey Church, Fontenay, 1139-47

Église Notre-Dame de l'Assomption (Church of the Assumption of Our Lady), Gourdon, Burgundy, 12th century

Gislebertus, Giselbetus or Ghiselbertus, sometimes "of Autun" (flourished in the 12th century),
Last Judgement on the Tympanum of the cathedral St. Lazare in Autun, Burgundy (about 1120-1135)

Abbey Church of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe, near Poitou (Second. God appears to Abraham; Third. Noah`s Ark)

"In the Catecheses of the past few weeks I have presented several aspects of medieval theology.

The Christian faith, however, deeply rooted in the men and women of those centuries, did not only give rise to masterpieces of theological literature, thought and faith.

It also inspired one of the loftiest expressions of universal civilization: the cathedral, the true glory of the Christian Middle Ages. Indeed, for about three centuries, from the beginning of the 11th century Europe experienced extraordinary artistic creativity and fervour.

An ancient chronicler described the enthusiasm and the hard-working spirit of those times in these words: "It happens that throughout the world, but especially in Italy and in Gaul, people began rebuilding churches although many had no need of such restoration because they were still in good condition. "It was like a competition between one people and another; one might have believed that the world, shaking off its rags and tatters, wanted to be reclad throughout in the white mantle of new churches. In short, all these cathedral churches, a large number of monastic churches and even village oratories, were restored by the faithful at that time" (Rodolphus Glaber, Historiarum, libri quinque, 3, 4).

Various factors contributed to this rebirth of religious architecture.

First of all more favourable historical conditions, such as greater political stability, accompanied by a constant increase in the population and the gradual development of the cities, trade and wealth.

Furthermore, architects found increasingly complicated technical solutions to increase the size of buildings, at the same time guaranteeing them both soundness and majesty.

It was mainly thanks to the enthusiasm and spiritual zeal of monasticism, at the height of its expansion, that abbey churches were built in which the Liturgy might be celebrated with dignity and solemnity.

They became the destination of continuous pilgrimages where the faithful, attracted by the veneration of saints' relics, could pause in prayer.

So it was that the Romanesque churches and cathedrals came into being.

They were characterized by the longitudinal development, in length, of the aisles, in order to accommodate numerous faithful. They were very solid churches with thick walls, stone vaults and simple, spare lines. An innovation was the introduction of sculptures. Because Romanesque churches were places for monastic prayer and for the worship of the faithful, rather than being concerned with technical perfection the sculptors turned their attention in particular to the educational dimension.

Since it was necessary to inspire in souls strong impressions, sentiments that could persuade them to shun vice and evil and to practise virtue and goodness, the recurrent theme was the portrayal of Christ as Universal Judge surrounded by figures of the Apocalypse.

It was usually the portals of the Romanesque churches which displayed these figures, to emphasize that Christ is the Door that leads to Heaven. On crossing the threshold of the sacred building, the faithful entered a space and time different from that of their ordinary life.

Within the church, believers in a sovereign, just and merciful Christ in the artists' intention could enjoy in anticipation eternal beatitude in the celebration of the liturgy and of devotional acts carried out in the sacred building."

(Pope Benedict XVI, The Cathedral from the Romanesque to the Gothic Architecture: The Theological Background, at General Audience, Rome on Wednesday, 18 November 2009)

The Burgos Cope

An angel holding instruments of the Passion.
Detail from the embroidered orphreys of the Burgos cope, 1437
Embroidery in silk and gold thread
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

This is part of a cope that once belonged to Don Alfonso of Cartagena.

He was born of a converted Jewish father who had risen rapidly in the Spanish church. He was Bishop of Burgos from 1435 to 1456. While attending the Council of Basel, he expanded his power and prestige. This particular cope, along with forty others in a series of which twenty-four survive, is thought to have been presented to the Cathedral of Burgos by the bishop upon his return from Basel in 1437

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Commission of Investigation in the sexual abuse of children by priests in the Archdiocese of Dublin

The Report by the Commission of Investigation into the handling by Church and State authorities of allegations and suspicions of child abuse against clerics of the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin can be downloaded from the website of the Irish Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform or from here.

The Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin made the following comments today about the Report:

"Commission of Investigation in the sexual abuse of children by priests in the Archdiocese of Dublin

26th November 2009

t is difficult to find words to describe how I feel today. As Archbishop of a Diocese for which I have pastoral responsibility, of my own native diocese, of the diocese for which I was ordained a priest, of a Diocese which I love and hope to serve to the best of my ability, what can I say when I have to share with you the revolting story of the sexual assault and rape of so many young children and teenagers by priests of the Archdiocese or who ministered in the diocese? No words of apology will ever be sufficient.

Can I take this opportunity to thank Judge Yvonne Murphy and her team for their diligent and professional work in producing this Report, which I expect will provide an invaluable framework for how we can better protect the children of today and the future.

The Report of the Commission gives us some insight into the crimes that took place. But no report can give an indication of the suffering and trauma endured by the children, and indeed the suffering also of their family members.

Many survivors have not yet been able to speak about abuse they experienced. For them the publication of the Report must be truly traumatic. I urge them to turn to some trusted friend, to a counsellor or counselling service of their choice, to the health services, to the Gardai or if they so wish to the Diocesan Child Protection Service.

The report focuses on a representative sample of cases, but the Commission examined many other cases. The Report highlights devastating failings of the past. These failings call on all of us to scrupulously apply clear guidelines and norms. There is no room for revisionism regarding the norms and procedures in place.

The sexual abuse of a child is and always was a crime in civil law; it is and always was a crime canon law; it is and always was grievously sinful.

One of the most heartbreaking aspects of the Report is that while Church leaders – Bishops and religious superiors - failed, almost every parent who came to the diocese to report abuse clearly understood the awfulness of what has involved. Almost exclusively their primary motivation was to try to ensure that what happened to their child, or in some case to themselves, did not happen to other children. Their motivation was not about money or revenge; it was quite simply about that most basic human sense of right and wrong and that basic Christian motivation of concern for others. The survivors of abuse who courageously remained determined to have the full truth heard by all deserve our recognition and admiration.

How did those with responsibility dramatically misread the risk that a priest who had hurt one of those whom Jesus calls “the little ones” might go on to abuse another child if decisive action was not taken? Excuses, denials and minimisations were taken from priest abusers who were at the least in denial, at worst devious in multiple ways, and decisions were taken which resulted in more children being abused.

Efforts made to “protect the Church” and to “avoid scandal” have had the ironic result of bringing this horrendous scandal on the Church today.

The damage done to children abused by priests can never be undone. As Archbishop of Dublin and as Diarmuid Martin I offer to each and every survivor, my apology, my sorrow and my shame for what happened to them. I am aware however that no words of apology will ever be sufficient.

The fact that the abusers were priests constituted both and offence to God and affront to the priesthood. The many good priests of the Archdiocese share my sense of shame. I ask you to support and encourage us in our ministry at what is a difficult time. I know also that many others, especially parents, feel shocked and betrayed at what has been revealed. I hope that all of us - bishops, priests and lay persons - working together can rebuild trust by ensuring that day after day the Church in the Archdiocese of Dublin becomes a safer environment for children.

I ask the priests of the diocese and the Parish Pastoral Councils to ensure that the wide reaching measures introduced into our parishes and organizations regarding the safeguarding of children are rigorously observed and constantly verified and updated. This scandal must be an occasion for all of us to be vigilant so that the abuse of children - wherever it takes place in our society - is addressed and the correct measures are taken promptly.

The hurt done to a child through sexual abuse is horrific. Betrayal of trust is compounded by the theft of self esteem. The horror can last a lifetime. Today, it must be unequivocally recalled that the Archdiocese of Dublin failed to recognise the theft of childhood which survivors endured and the diocese failed in its responses to them when they had the courage to come forward, compounding the damage done to their innocence.

For that no words of apology will ever be sufficient. "

Irish Church accused of abuse cover-up

A damning report into child abuse in the Dublin archdiocese has criticised the Catholic Church hierarchy for covering up the abuse.

The report investigated how Church and state authorities handled allegations of child abuse against 46 priests.

It found that the Church placed its own reputation above the protection of children in its care.

It also said that state authorities facilitated the cover-up by allowing the Church to operate outside the law.

Reacting to the report, the current Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said "no words of apology would ever be sufficient" and offered "to each and every survivor, my apology, my sorrow and my shame for what happened to them".

He added that the "many good priests of the archdiocese" shared his sense of shame.

The "Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin" covered a period from 1975 to 2004.

It has laid bare a culture of concealment where church leaders prioritised the protection of their own institution above that of vulnerable children in their care.


The report said the avoidance of public outrage, which would inevitably follow high-profile prosecutions, appeared more important than preventing abusers from repeating their crimes.

Victim Marie Collins said : "This is the end of a very long road"

Instead of reporting the allegations to civic authorities, those accused of horrific crimes were systematically shuffled from parish to parish where they could prey on new, unsuspecting victims.

The report stated:

"The Dublin archdiocese's pre-occupations in dealing with cases of child sexual abuse, at least until the mid 1990s, were the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church, and the preservation of its assets."

It also said that the archdiocese "did its best to avoid any application of the law of the state".

It found that four archbishops - John Charles McQuaid who died in 1973, Dermot Ryan who died in 1984, Kevin McNamara who died in 1987, and retired Cardinal Desmond Connell - did not hand over information on abusers.

The report said that authorities in the Dublin archdiocese who were dealing with complaints of child sexual abuse "were all very well educated people".

It added that, considering many of them had qualifications in canon law, and in some cases civil law, their claims of ignorance were "very difficult to accept".

Above the law

Civic authorities in Ireland, especially the police, were also criticised for their cosy relationship with the Church.

Irish Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said : "Persons who committed these dreadful crimes...will continue to be pursued"

The report states that senior members of the force regarded priests as being outside their remit and it claims some police officers reported abuse complaints to Church authorities instead of carrying out their own investigation.

The commissioner of the Irish police, Fachtna Murphy, said it made for "difficult and disturbing reading, detailing as it does many instances of sexual abuse and failure on the part of both Church and State authorities to protect victims".

He added: "The commission has found that in some cases, because of acts or omissions, individuals who sought assistance did not always receive the level of response or protection which any citizen in trouble is entitled to expect from An Garda Síochána (the Irish police).

He said he was "deeply sorry" for the failures.

The Irish Minister for Justice, Dermot Ahern, whose department commissioned the report, called it a "scandal on an astonishing scale" where the "welfare of children counted for nothing".

He vowed to bring those who had carried out the abuse to justice, regardless of the amount of time which had passed.

The Commission's work concentrated on a "representative sample" of complaints made by 320 children against 46 priests, 11 of whom were convicted of sexual assaults on children.

The number of complaints of abuse made by boys was more than double those submitted by girls.

The Commission said it was satisfied that "effective structures and procedures currently in operation" and that all complaints of clerical child sexual abuse are now reported to police.

Thursday's report comes six months after the publication of the Ryan report in May, which took submissions from 2,000 people who said they had suffered physical and sexual abuse while in the care of Catholic-run institutions.

The Ryan report, also known as the report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, found church leaders knew that sexual abuse was "endemic" in boys' institutions.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Self portraits

The Alinari Brothers
The Gallery of Self Portraits in the Uffizi 1890

"Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter," says the artist in Oscar Wilde's Portrait of Dorian Gray to a friend. "The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas, reveals himself."

When an artist paints his own portrait, however, the opposite often occurs.

The Uffizi in Florence has one of the largest and most famous collection of self portraits by artists extending over a great period of time.

The above photograph illustrates how they were displayed in the nineteenth century. They are now mainly in the Vasari Corridor proper, which is lined with hundreds of artist self portraits from the Uffizi collection

One has to specially book to see the self portraits

It is regarded as an honour if an artist is asked by the Uffizi to contribute a self portrait to the collection

Can you spot the portraits in the Alinari photograph of:

Gianlorenzo Bernini c1635 (1598 - 1680);
Elisabeth-Louise Vigee-Lebrun 1790 (1755 - 1842);
Fillipino Lippi 1485 (1457 - 1504);
Diego Velazquez 1643 (1599 - 1660);
Lorenzo Lippi c1655 (1606 - 65);
Raphael (1483 - 1520);
Carlo Dolci 1674;
Andrea de Sarto (1486,- 1530) ?

"You Are the Custodians of Beauty"

On 21st November 2009 Pope Benedict XVI spoke to an invited audience of artists in the Sistine Chapel. There were about 250 artists present.

Zenit gives the full text of the address.

It marks the tenth anniversary of Pope John Paul II`s address "Letter to Artists" when he wrote that the Church "needs art."

He also referred to the twenty fifth anniversary of Blessed Fra Angelico as "the patron of artists"

Again he referred to the contribution of Pope Paul VI of the "historic call" of the Church to artists when he apologised for some of the previous attitudes of the Roman Catholic Church towards artists

Art used to have a very close relationship with the Church, which nowadays is not the case.

Interestingly his discourse probably went deeper than either of his two predecessors did in their pronouncements. He discussed the philosophical concept of "Beauty" and its pursuit, referring to Plato, Dostoevsky and Braque. He discussed the concept of "True Beauty" and its pursuit from that of "False Beauty" and its pursuit.

He discussed how Art can take on a religious quality, thereby turning into a path of profound inner reflection and spirituality. He compared the journey of faith and the artist's path as evidenced by religious art.

His quotations from Hans Urs von Balthasar, Simone Weil (was she not one of Pope Paul VI`s favourite authors ?) and Hermann Hesse illustrate the great breadth of vision and learning of this Pope and that his voice is not simply addressed to Catholics and Christians but to all men and women of goodwill.

His discourse and his final offer to artists is a call or invitation to rescue Western civilisation from the present worship and elevation of false values and its sinking into decay and unreality.

His message is complex and profound and well worth further study and debate.

The interest in religious art should not be seen in isolation from the rest of the present Pope`s teaching. In recent weeks he has discussed:

One awaits with interest the forthcoming future dissertations and theses on the aesthetic theory of Pope Benedict XVI

".... Today's event is focused on you, dear and illustrious artists, from different countries, cultures and religions, some of you perhaps remote from the practice of religion, but interested nevertheless in maintaining communication with the Catholic Church, in not reducing the horizons of existence to mere material realities, to a reductive and trivializing vision. You represent the varied world of the arts and so, through you, I would like to convey to all artists my invitation to friendship, dialogue and cooperation.

Some significant anniversaries occur around this time. It is ten years since the Letter to Artists by my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II. For the first time, on the eve of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the Pope, who was an artist himself, wrote a Letter to artists, combining the solemnity of a pontifical document with the friendly tone of a conversation among all who, as we read in the initial salutation, "are passionately dedicated to the search for new 'epiphanies' of beauty". Twenty-five years ago the same Pope proclaimed Blessed Fra Angelico the patron of artists, presenting him as a model of perfect harmony between faith and art.

I also recall how on 7 May 1964, forty-five years ago, in this very place, an historic event took place, at the express wish of Pope Paul VI, to confirm the friendship between the Church and the arts. The words that he spoke on that occasion resound once more today under the vault of the Sistine Chapel and touch our hearts and our minds. "We need you," he said. "We need your collaboration in order to carry out our ministry, which consists, as you know, in preaching and rendering accessible and comprehensible to the minds and hearts of our people the things of the spirit, the invisible, the ineffable, the things of God himself. And in this activity ... you are masters. It is your task, your mission, and your art consists in grasping treasures from the heavenly realm of the spirit and clothing them in words, colours, forms -- making them accessible."

So great was Paul VI's esteem for artists that he was moved to use daring expressions. "And if we were deprived of your assistance," he added, "our ministry would become faltering and uncertain, and a special effort would be needed, one might say, to make it artistic, even prophetic. In order to scale the heights of lyrical expression of intuitive beauty, priesthood would have to coincide with art." On that occasion Paul VI made a commitment to "re-establish the friendship between the Church and artists", and he invited artists to make a similar, shared commitment, analyzing seriously and objectively the factors that disturbed this relationship, and assuming individual responsibility, courageously and passionately, for a newer and deeper journey in mutual acquaintance and dialogue in order to arrive at an authentic "renaissance" of art in the context of a new humanism.

That historic encounter, as I mentioned, took place here in this sanctuary of faith and human creativity. So it is not by chance that we come together in this place, esteemed for its architecture and its symbolism, and above all for the frescoes that make it unique, from the masterpieces of Perugino and Botticelli, Ghirlandaio and Cosimo Rosselli, Luca Signorelli and others, to the Genesis scenes and the Last Judgement of Michelangelo Buonarroti, who has given us here one of the most extraordinary creations in the entire history of art. The universal language of music has often been heard here, thanks to the genius of great musicians who have placed their art at the service of the liturgy, assisting the spirit in its ascent towards God. At the same time, the Sistine Chapel is remarkably vibrant with history, since it is the solemn and austere setting of events that mark the history of the Church and of mankind. Here as you know, the College of Cardinals elects the Pope; here it was that I myself, with trepidation but also with absolute trust in the Lord, experienced the privileged moment of my election as Successor of the Apostle Peter.

Dear friends, let us allow these frescoes to speak to us today, drawing us towards the ultimate goal of human history. The Last Judgement, which you see behind me, reminds us that human history is movement and ascent, a continuing tension towards fullness, towards human happiness, towards a horizon that always transcends the present moment even as the two coincide. Yet the dramatic scene portrayed in this fresco also places before our eyes the risk of man's definitive fall, a risk that threatens to engulf him whenever he allows himself to be led astray by the forces of evil. So the fresco issues a strong prophetic cry against evil, against every form of injustice. For believers, though, the Risen Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. For his faithful followers, he is the Door through which we are brought to that "face-to-face" vision of God from which limitless, full and definitive happiness flows. Thus Michelangelo presents to our gaze the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End of history, and he invites us to walk the path of life with joy, courage and hope. The dramatic beauty of Michelangelo's painting, its colours and forms, becomes a proclamation of hope, an invitation to raise our gaze to the ultimate horizon.

The profound bond between beauty and hope was the essential content of the evocative Message that Paul VI addressed to artists at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council on 8 December 1965: "To all of you," he proclaimed solemnly, "the Church of the Council declares through our lips: if you are friends of true art, you are our friends!" And he added: "This world in which we live needs beauty in order not to sink into despair. Beauty, like truth, brings joy to the human heart, and is that precious fruit which resists the erosion of time, which unites generations and enables them to be one in admiration. And all this through the work of your hands . . . Remember that you are the custodians of beauty in the world."

Unfortunately, the present time is marked, not only by negative elements in the social and economic sphere, but also by a weakening of hope, by a certain lack of confidence in human relationships, which gives rise to increasing signs of resignation, aggression and despair. The world in which we live runs the risk of being altered beyond recognition because of unwise human actions which, instead of cultivating its beauty, unscrupulously exploit its resources for the advantage of a few and not infrequently disfigure the marvels of nature. What is capable of restoring enthusiasm and confidence, what can encourage the human spirit to rediscover its path, to raise its eyes to the horizon, to dream of a life worthy of its vocation -- if not beauty? Dear friends, as artists you know well that the experience of beauty, beauty that is authentic, not merely transient or artificial, is by no means a supplementary or secondary factor in our search for meaning and happiness; the experience of beauty does not remove us from reality, on the contrary, it leads to a direct encounter with the daily reality of our lives, liberating it from darkness, transfiguring it, making it radiant and beautiful.

Indeed, an essential function of genuine beauty, as emphasized by Plato, is that it gives man a healthy "shock", it draws him out of himself, wrenches him away from resignation and from being content with the humdrum -- it even makes him suffer, piercing him like a dart, but in so doing it "reawakens" him, opening afresh the eyes of his heart and mind, giving him wings, carrying him aloft. Dostoevsky's words that I am about to quote are bold and paradoxical, but they invite reflection. He says this: "Man can live without science, he can live without bread, but without beauty he could no longer live, because there would no longer be anything to do to the world. The whole secret is here, the whole of history is here." The painter Georges Braque echoes this sentiment: "Art is meant to disturb, science reassures." Beauty pulls us up short, but in so doing it reminds us of our final destiny, it sets us back on our path, fills us with new hope, gives us the courage to live to the full the unique gift of life. The quest for beauty that I am describing here is clearly not about escaping into the irrational or into mere aestheticism.

Too often, though, the beauty that is thrust upon us is illusory and deceitful, superficial and blinding, leaving the onlooker dazed; instead of bringing him out of himself and opening him up to horizons of true freedom as it draws him aloft, it imprisons him within himself and further enslaves him, depriving him of hope and joy. It is a seductive but hypocritical beauty that rekindles desire, the will to power, to possess, and to dominate others, it is a beauty which soon turns into its opposite, taking on the guise of indecency, transgression or gratuitous provocation.

Authentic beauty, however, unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond. If we acknowledge that beauty touches us intimately, that it wounds us, that it opens our eyes, then we rediscover the joy of seeing, of being able to grasp the profound meaning of our existence, the Mystery of which we are part; from this Mystery we can draw fullness, happiness, the passion to engage with it every day.

In this regard, Pope John Paul II, in his Letter to Artists, quotes the following verse from a Polish poet, Cyprian Norwid: "Beauty is to enthuse us for work, and work is to raise us up" (note. 3). And later he adds: "In so far as it seeks the beautiful, fruit of an imagination which rises above the everyday, art is by its nature a kind of appeal to the mystery. Even when they explore the darkest depths of the soul or the most unsettling aspects of evil, the artist gives voice in a way to the universal desire for redemption" (no. 10). And in conclusion he states: "Beauty is a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence" (no. 16).

These ideas impel us to take a further step in our reflection. Beauty, whether that of the natural universe or that expressed in art, precisely because it opens up and broadens the horizons of human awareness, pointing us beyond ourselves, bringing us face to face with the abyss of Infinity, can become a path towards the transcendent, towards the ultimate Mystery, towards God.

Art, in all its forms, at the point where it encounters the great questions of our existence, the fundamental themes that give life its meaning, can take on a religious quality, thereby turning into a path of profound inner reflection and spirituality. This close proximity, this harmony between the journey of faith and the artist's path is attested by countless artworks that are based upon the personalities, the stories, the symbols of that immense deposit of "figures" -- in the broad sense -- namely the Bible, the Sacred Scriptures. The great biblical narratives, themes, images and parables have inspired innumerable masterpieces in every sector of the arts, just as they have spoken to the hearts of believers in every generation through the works of craftsmanship and folk art, that are no less eloquent and evocative.

In this regard, one may speak of a via pulchritudinis, a path of beauty which is at the same time an artistic and aesthetic journey, a journey of faith, of theological enquiry. The theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar begins his great work entitled The Glory of the Lord -- a Theological Aesthetics with these telling observations: "Beauty is the word with which we shall begin. Beauty is the last word that the thinking intellect dares to speak, because it simply forms a halo, an untouchable crown around the double constellation of the true and the good and their inseparable relation to one another." He then adds: "Beauty is the disinterested one, without which the ancient world refused to understand itself, a word which both imperceptibly and yet unmistakably has bid farewell to our new world, a world of interests, leaving it to its own avarice and sadness. It is no longer loved or fostered even by religion." And he concludes: "We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past -- whether he admits it or not -- can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love."

The way of beauty leads us, then, to grasp the Whole in the fragment, the Infinite in the finite, God in the history of humanity.

Simone Weil wrote in this regard: "In all that awakens within us the pure and authentic sentiment of beauty, there, truly, is the presence of God. There is a kind of incarnation of God in the world, of which beauty is the sign. Beauty is the experimental proof that incarnation is possible. For this reason all art of the first order is, by its nature, religious." Hermann Hesse makes the point even more graphically: "Art means: revealing God in everything that exists." Echoing the words of Pope Paul VI, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II restated the Church's desire to renew dialogue and cooperation with artists: "In order to communicate the message entrusted to her by Christ, the Church needs art" (no. 12); but he immediately went on to ask: "Does art need the Church?" -- thereby inviting artists to rediscover a source of fresh and well-founded inspiration in religious experience, in Christian revelation and in the "great codex" that is the Bible.

Dear artists, as I draw to a conclusion, I too would like to make a cordial, friendly and impassioned appeal to you, as did my Predecessor. You are the custodians of beauty: thanks to your talent, you have the opportunity to speak to the heart of humanity, to touch individual and collective sensibilities, to call forth dreams and hopes, to broaden the horizons of knowledge and of human engagement. Be grateful, then, for the gifts you have received and be fully conscious of your great responsibility to communicate beauty, to communicate in and through beauty! Through your art, you yourselves are to be heralds and witnesses of hope for humanity! And do not be afraid to approach the first and last source of beauty, to enter into dialogue with believers, with those who, like yourselves, consider that they are pilgrims in this world and in history towards infinite Beauty! Faith takes nothing away from your genius or your art: on the contrary, it exalts them and nourishes them, it encourages them to cross the threshold and to contemplate with fascination and emotion the ultimate and definitive goal, the sun that does not set, the sun that illumines this present moment and makes it beautiful.

Saint Augustine, who fell in love with beauty and sang its praises, wrote these words as he reflected on man's ultimate destiny, commenting almost ante litteram on the Judgement scene before your eyes today: "Therefore we are to see a certain vision, my brethren, that no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived: a vision surpassing all earthly beauty, whether it be that of gold and silver, woods and fields, sea and sky, sun and moon, or stars and angels. The reason is this: it is the source of all other beauty" (In 1 Ioannis, 4:5).

My wish for all of you, dear artists, is that you may carry this vision in your eyes, in your hands, and in your heart, that it may bring you joy and continue to inspire your fine works. From my heart I bless you and, like Paul VI, I greet you with a single word: arrivederci!

[The Pope greeted the artists in various languages. In English, he said:]

Dear friends, thank you for your presence here today. Let the beauty that you express by your God-given talents always direct the hearts of others to glorify the Creator, the source of all that is good. God's blessings upon you all!"