artistic perspectives

Sacred art with a classic touch, and the masters' perspectives of the arts.

 

THE HOLY ROSARY IN ART

  Disputation of the Sacrament  by Raphael (1510)

Disputation of the Sacrament by Raphael (1510)

  The Annunciation  by Giovanni Lanfranco (1615)

The Annunciation by Giovanni Lanfranco (1615)

  The Visitation  by Raphael (1517)

The Visitation by Raphael (1517)

  The Adoration of the Shepherds  by Bartolome Esteban Murillo (1660)

The Adoration of the Shepherds by Bartolome Esteban Murillo (1660)

  The Presentation in the Temple  by Raphael (1504)

The Presentation in the Temple by Raphael (1504)

  Christ in the Temple  by Heinrich Hofmann (1871)

Christ in the Temple by Heinrich Hofmann (1871)

  Disputation of the Sacrament  by Raphael (1510)

Disputation of the Sacrament by Raphael (1510)

  The Baptism of Christ  by Antoine Coypel (1690)

The Baptism of Christ by Antoine Coypel (1690)

  The Marriage Feast at Cana  by Bartolome Esteban Murillo (1672)

The Marriage Feast at Cana by Bartolome Esteban Murillo (1672)

  Sermon on the Mount  by Carl Bloch (1877)

Sermon on the Mount by Carl Bloch (1877)

  Transfiguration  by Raphael (1520)

Transfiguration by Raphael (1520)

  The Last Supper  by Juan de Juanes (1560)

The Last Supper by Juan de Juanes (1560)

  Disputation of the Sacrament  by Raphael (1510)

Disputation of the Sacrament by Raphael (1510)

  Gethsemane  by Carl Bloch (1873)

Gethsemane by Carl Bloch (1873)

  The Flagellation of Christ  by Ludovico Carracci (1599)

The Flagellation of Christ by Ludovico Carracci (1599)

  Crowning of Thorns  by Dirck van Baburen (1623)

Crowning of Thorns by Dirck van Baburen (1623)

  Christ Carrying the Cross  by El Greco (1587)

Christ Carrying the Cross by El Greco (1587)

  Christ Crucified  by Diego Velasquez (1632)

Christ Crucified by Diego Velasquez (1632)

  Disputation of the Sacrament  by Raphael (1510)

Disputation of the Sacrament by Raphael (1510)

  Consolator  by Carl Bloch (1881)

Consolator by Carl Bloch (1881)

  The Ascension  by Benjamin West (1801)

The Ascension by Benjamin West (1801)

  Pentecost  by Jean Restout (1732)

Pentecost by Jean Restout (1732)

  Immaculate Conception  by Juan Antonio Escalante (1600s)

Immaculate Conception by Juan Antonio Escalante (1600s)

  Madonna of the Magnificat  by Sandro Botticelli (1481)

Madonna of the Magnificat by Sandro Botticelli (1481)

 

 

spiritual masterpieces

 

 Our Lady, Queen of All Hearts

Our Lady, Queen of All Hearts

 St. Joseph

St. Joseph

 St. Peter

St. Peter

 St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi

 St. Clare of Assisi

St. Clare of Assisi

 St. Anthony of Padova

St. Anthony of Padova

 St. Bonaventure

St. Bonaventure

 St. Catherine of Siena

St. Catherine of Siena

 Blessed Fra Angelico

Blessed Fra Angelico

 St. Thomas More

St. Thomas More

 St. Juan Diego

St. Juan Diego

 St. John of the Cross

St. John of the Cross

 St. Teresa of Avila

St. Teresa of Avila

 St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales

 St. Therese of Lisieux

St. Therese of Lisieux

 St. Faustina

St. Faustina

 St. Gianna Molla

St. Gianna Molla

 St. Padre Pio

St. Padre Pio

 Venerable Fulton J. Sheen

Venerable Fulton J. Sheen

 St. Mother Teresa

St. Mother Teresa

 St. Philomena

St. Philomena

 St. Louis de Montfort

St. Louis de Montfort

 St. Bernadette of Lourdes

St. Bernadette of Lourdes

 St. Zelie Martin and St. Louis Martin

St. Zelie Martin and St. Louis Martin

 St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

 St. John Paul II

St. John Paul II

 St. John Paul the Great

St. John Paul the Great

 Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI

1

“Every artisan aims to produce a work that is beautiful, useful, and enduring; and only when it possesses these three qualities is the work highly valued and acceptable."

-- St. Bonaventure

2

“If we consider the fruit, we shall find there the union of the soul with God, for every artisan who fashions a work does so in order to derive praise, benefit or delight from it -- a threefold purpose which corresponds to the three formal objects of the appetites: namely, a noble good, a useful good, and an agreeable good."

-- St. Bonaventure

3

“It is clear also how all divisions of knowledge are servants of theology, and it is for this reason that theology makes use of illustrations and terms pertaining to every branch of knowledge. It is likewise clear how wide the illuminative way may be, and how the divine reality itself lies hidden within everything which is perceived or known."

-- St. Bonaventure

4

“And this is the fruit of all sciences, that in all, faith may be strengthened, God may be honored, character may be formed, and consolation may be derived from union of the Spouse with the beloved, a union which takes place through charity...."

-- St. Bonaventure

5

"None can sense more deeply than you artists, ingenious creators of beauty that you are, something of the pathos with which God at the dawn of creation looked upon the work of his hands."

St. John Paul II

6

"A glimmer of that feeling has shone so often in your eyes when—like the artists of every age—captivated by the hidden power of sounds and words, colours and shapes, you have admired the work of your inspiration, sensing in it some echo of the mystery of creation with which God, the sole creator of all things, has wished in some way to associate you."

-- St. John Paul II

7

"With loving regard, the divine Artist passes on to the human artist a spark of his own surpassing wisdom, calling him to share in his creative power.... That is why artists, the more conscious they are of their “gift”, are led all the more to see themselves and the whole of creation with eyes able to contemplate and give thanks, and to raise to God a hymn of praise. This is the only way for them to come to a full understanding of themselves, their vocation and their mission."

-- St. John Paul II

8

"Not all are called to be artists in the specific sense of the term. Yet, as Genesis has it, all men and women are entrusted with the task of crafting their own life: in a certain sense, they are to make of it a work of art, a masterpiece."

-- St. John Paul II

9

"In producing a work, artists express themselves to the point where their work becomes a unique disclosure of their own being, of what they are and of how they are what they are."

-- St. John Paul II

10

"In shaping a masterpiece, the artist not only summons his work into being, but also in some way reveals his own personality by means of it. For him art offers both a new dimension and an exceptional mode of expression for his spiritual growth."

-- St. John Paul II

11

"Through his works, the artist speaks to others and communicates with them. The history of art, therefore, is not only a story of works produced but also a story of men and women. Works of art speak of their authors; they enable us to know their inner life, and they reveal the original contribution which artists offer to the history of culture."

-- St. John Paul II

12

"The link between good and beautiful stirs fruitful reflection. In a certain sense, beauty is the visible form of the good, just as the good is the metaphysical condition of beauty."

-- St. John Paul II 

13

"The artist has a special relationship to beauty. In a very true sense it can be said that beauty is the vocation bestowed on him by the Creator in the gift of 'artistic talent'. And, certainly, this too is a talent which ought to be made to bear fruit, in keeping with the sense of the Gospel parable of the talents (cf. Mt 25:14-30)."

-- St. John Paul II

14

"Here we touch on an essential point. Those who perceive in themselves this kind of divine spark which is the artistic vocation—as poet, writer, sculptor, architect, musician, actor and so on—feel at the same time the obligation not to waste this talent but to develop it, in order to put it at the service of their neighbour and of humanity as a whole."

-- St. John Paul II

15

"Society needs artists, just as it needs scientists, technicians, workers, professional people, witnesses of the faith, teachers, fathers and mothers, who ensure the growth of the person and the development of the community by means of that supreme art form which is 'the art of education'."

-- St. John Paul II

16

"Within the vast cultural panorama of each nation, artists have their unique place. Obedient to their inspiration in creating works both worthwhile and beautiful, they not only enrich the cultural heritage of each nation and of all humanity, but they also render an exceptional social service in favour of the common good."

-- St. John Paul II

17

"The particular vocation of individual artists decides the arena in which they serve and points as well to the tasks they must assume, the hard work they must endure and the responsibility they must accept. Artists who are conscious of all this know too that they must labour without allowing themselves to be driven by the search for empty glory or the craving for cheap popularity, and still less by the calculation of some possible profit for themselves."

-- St. John Paul II

18

"Every genuine artistic intuition goes beyond what the senses perceive and, reaching beneath reality's surface, strives to interpret its hidden mystery. The intuition itself springs from the depths of the human soul, where the desire to give meaning to one's own life is joined by the fleeting vision of beauty and of the mysterious unity of things."

-- St. John Paul II

19

"All artists experience the unbridgeable gap which lies between the work of their hands, however successful it may be, and the dazzling perfection of the beauty glimpsed in the ardour of the creative moment: what they manage to express in their painting, their sculpting, their creating is no more than a glimmer of the splendour which flared for a moment before the eyes of their spirit."

-- St. John Paul II

20

"The knowledge conferred by faith is of a different kind: it presupposes a personal encounter with God in Jesus Christ. Yet this knowledge too can be enriched by artistic intuition. An eloquent example of aesthetic contemplation sublimated in faith are, for example, the works of Fra Angelico. No less notable in this regard is the ecstatic lauda, which Saint Francis of Assisi twice repeats in the chartula which he composed after receiving the stigmata of Christ on the mountain of La Verna: 'You are beauty... You are beauty!'.

-- St. John Paul II

21

"Every genuine art form in its own way is a path to the inmost reality of man and of the world. It is therefore a wholly valid approach to the realm of faith, which gives human experience its ultimate meaning. That is why the Gospel fullness of truth was bound from the beginning to stir the interest of artists, who by their very nature are alert to every 'epiphany' of the inner beauty of things."

-- St. John Paul II

22

"Among the many themes treated by Augustine we find De Musica; and Hilary of Poitiers, Ambrose, Prudentius, Ephrem the Syrian, Gregory of Nazianzus and Paulinus of Nola, to mention but a few, promoted a Christian poetry which was often of high quality not just as theology but also as literature. Their poetic work valued forms inherited from the classical authors, but was nourished by the pure sap of the Gospel, as Paulinus of Nola put it succinctly: 'Our only art is faith and our music Christ'."

-- St. John Paul II

23

"A little later, Gregory the Great compiled the Antiphonarium and thus laid the ground for the organic development of that most original sacred music which takes its name from him. Gregorian chant, with its inspired modulations, was to become down the centuries the music of the Church's faith in the liturgical celebration of the sacred mysteries. The 'beautiful' was thus wedded to the 'true', so that through art too souls might be lifted up from the world of the senses to the eternal."

-- St. John Paul II

24

"The strength and simplicity of the Romanesque, expressed in cathedrals and abbeys, slowly evolved into the soaring splendours of the Gothic. These forms portray not only the genius of an artist but the soul of a people."

-- St. John Paul II

25

"An entire culture, albeit with the inescapable limits of all that is human, had become imbued with the Gospel; and where theology produced the Summa of Saint Thomas, church art moulded matter in a way which led to adoration of the mystery, and a wonderful poet like Dante Alighieri could compose 'the sacred poem, to which both heaven and earth have turned their hand',(15) as he himself described the Divine Comedy."

-- St. John Paul II

26

"Writing from this Apostolic Palace, which is a mine of masterpieces perhaps unique in the world, I would rather give voice to the supreme artists who in this place lavished the wealth of their genius, often charged with great spiritual depth. From here can be heard the voice of Michelangelo who in the Sistine Chapel has presented the drama and mystery of the world from the Creation to the Last Judgement, giving a face to God the Father, to Christ the Judge, and to man on his arduous journey from the dawn to the consummation of history. Here speaks the delicate and profound genius of Raphael, highlighting in the array of his paintings, and especially in the “Dispute” in the Room of the Signatura, the mystery of the revelation of the Triune God, who in the Eucharist befriends man and sheds light on the questions and expectations of human intelligence. From this place, from the majestic Basilica dedicated to the Prince of the Apostles, from the Colonnade which spreads out from it like two arms open to welcome the whole human family, we still hear Bramante, Bernini, Borromini, Maderno, to name only the more important artists, all rendering visible the perception of the mystery which makes of the Church a universally hospitable community, mother and travelling companion to all men and women in their search for God."

-- St. John Paul II

27

"Even in the changed climate of more recent centuries, when a part of society seems to have become indifferent to faith, religious art has continued on its way. This can be more widely appreciated if we look beyond the figurative arts to the great development of sacred music through this same period, either composed for the liturgy or simply treating religious themes. Apart from the many artists who made sacred music their chief concern—how can we forget Pier Luigi da Palestrina, Orlando di Lasso, Tomás Luis de Victoria?—it is also true that many of the great composers—from Handel to Bach, from Mozart to Schubert, from Beethoven to Berlioz, from Liszt to Verdi—have given us works of the highest inspiration in this field."

-- St. John Paul II

28

"It is true nevertheless that, in the modern era, alongside this Christian humanism which has continued to produce important works of culture and art, another kind of humanism, marked by the absence of God and often by opposition to God, has gradually asserted itself. Such an atmosphere has sometimes led to a separation of the world of art and the world of faith, at least in the sense that many artists have a diminished interest in religious themes."

-- St. John Paul II

29

"You know, however, that the Church has not ceased to nurture great appreciation for the value of art as such. Even beyond its typically religious expressions, true art has a close affinity with the world of faith, so that, even in situations where culture and the Church are far apart, art remains a kind of bridge to religious experience. 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, artists give voice in a way to the universal desire for redemption."

-- St. John Paul II

30

"In order to communicate the message entrusted to her by Christ, the Church needs art. Art must make perceptible, and as far as possible attractive, the world of the spirit, of the invisible, of God."

-- St. John Paul II

31

"Art has a unique capacity to take one or other facet of the message and translate it into colours, shapes and sounds which nourish the intuition of those who look or listen. It does so without emptying the message itself of its transcendent value and its aura of mystery. 

"The Church has need especially of those who can do this on the literary and figurative level, using the endless possibilities of images and their symbolic force. Christ himself made extensive use of images in his preaching, fully in keeping with his willingness to become, in the Incarnation, the icon of the unseen God."

-- St. John Paul II

32

"The Church also needs musicians. How many sacred works have been composed through the centuries by people deeply imbued with the sense of the mystery! The faith of countless believers has been nourished by melodies flowing from the hearts of other believers, either introduced into the liturgy or used as an aid to dignified worship. In song, faith is experienced as vibrant joy, love, and confident expectation of the saving intervention of God."

-- St. John Paul II

33

"The Church needs architects, because she needs spaces to bring the Christian people together and celebrate the mysteries of salvation. After the terrible destruction of the last World War and the growth of great cities, a new generation of architects showed themselves adept at responding to the exigencies of Christian worship, confirming that the religious theme can still inspire architectural design in our own day. Not infrequently these architects have constructed churches which are both places of prayer and true works of art."

-- St. John Paul II

34

"The Church therefore needs art. But can it also be said that art needs the Church? The question may seem like a provocation. Yet, rightly understood, it is both legitimate and profound. Artists are constantly in search of the hidden meaning of things, and their torment is to succeed in expressing the world of the ineffable. How then can we fail to see what a great source of inspiration is offered by that kind of homeland of the soul that is religion? Is it not perhaps within the realm of religion that the most vital personal questions are posed, and answers both concrete and definitive are sought?"

-- St. John Paul II

35

"In fact, the religious theme has been among those most frequently treated by artists in every age. The Church has always appealed to their creative powers in interpreting the Gospel message and discerning its precise application in the life of the Christian community. This partnership has been a source of mutual spiritual enrichment. Ultimately, it has been a great boon for an understanding of man, of the authentic image and truth of the person. The special bond between art and Christian revelation has also become evident."

-- St. John Paul II

36

"With this Letter, I turn to you, the artists of the world, to assure you of my esteem and to help consolidate a more constructive partnership between art and the Church. Mine is an invitation to rediscover the depth of the spiritual and religious dimension which has been typical of art in its noblest forms in every age. It is with this in mind that I appeal to you, artists of the written and spoken word, of the theatre and music, of the plastic arts and the most recent technologies in the field of communication. I appeal especially to you, Christian artists: I wish to remind each of you that, beyond functional considerations, the close alliance that has always existed between the Gospel and art means that you are invited to use your creative intuition to enter into the heart of the mystery of the Incarnate God and at the same time into the mystery of man."

-- St. John Paul II

37

"All believers are called to bear witness... but it is up to you, men and women who have given your lives to art, to declare with all the wealth of your ingenuity that in Christ the world is redeemed: the human person is redeemed, the human body is redeemed, and the whole creation which, according to Saint Paul, 'awaits impatiently the revelation of the children of God' (Rom 8:19), is redeemed. The creation awaits the revelation of the children of God also through art and in art. This is your task. Humanity in every age, and even today, looks to works of art to shed light upon its path and its destiny."

-- St. John Paul II

38

"The Spirit is the mysterious Artist of the universe. Looking to the Third Millennium, I would hope that all artists might receive in abundance the gift of that creative inspiration which is the starting-point of every true work of art."

-- St. John Paul II

39

"On the threshold of the Third Millennium, my hope for all of you who are artists is that you will have an especially intense experience of creative inspiration. May the beauty which you pass on to generations still to come be such that it will stir them to wonder! Faced with the sacredness of life and of the human person, and before the marvels of the universe, wonder is the only appropriate attitude."

-- St. John Paul II

40

"Artists of the world, may your many different paths all lead to that infinite Ocean of beauty where wonder becomes awe, exhilaration, unspeakable joy... 

"May you be guided and inspired by the mystery of the Risen Christ, whom the Church in these days contemplates with joy.

"May the Blessed Virgin Mary be with you always: she is the 'tota pulchra' portrayed by countless artists, whom Dante contemplates among the splendours of Paradise as 'beauty that was joy in the eyes of all the other saints.'"

-- St. John Paul II

41

"At this gathering I wish to express and renew the Church’s friendship with the world of art, a friendship that has been strengthened over time; indeed Christianity from its earliest days has recognized the value of the arts and has made wise use of their varied language to express her unvarying message of salvation."

-- Pope Benedict XVI

42

"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."

-- Pope Benedict XVI

43

"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?"

-- Pope Benedict XVI

44

"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."

-- Pope Benedict XVI

45

"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."

-- Pope Benedict XVI

46

"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."

-- Pope Benedict XVI

47

"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."

-- Pope  Benedict XVI

48

"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!"

-- Pope Benedict XVI

49

"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."

-- Pope Benedict XVI

50

"It may have happened on some occasion that you paused before a sculpture, a picture, a few verses of a poem or a piece of music that you found deeply moving, that gave you a sense of joy, a clear perception, that is, that what you beheld was not only matter, a piece of marble or bronze, a painted canvas, a collection of letters or an accumulation of sounds, but something greater, something that 'speaks', that can touch the heart, communicate a message, uplift the mind."

-- Pope Benedict XVI

51

"A work of art is a product of the creative capacity of the human being who in questioning visible reality, seeks to discover its deep meaning and to communicate it through the language of forms, colour and sound. Art is able to manifest and make visible the human need to surpass the visible, it expresses the thirst and the quest for the infinite."

-- Pope Benedict XVI

52

"However some artistic expressions are real highways to God, the supreme Beauty; indeed, they help us to grow in our relationship with him, in prayer. These are works that were born from faith and express faith. We can see an example of this when we visit a Gothic cathedral: we are enraptured by the vertical lines that soar skywards and uplift our gaze and our spirit, while at the same time we feel small yet long for fullness....

"Or when we enter a Romanesque church we are spontaneously prompted to meditate and to pray. We perceive that these splendid buildings contain, as it were, the faith of generations. Or when we listen to a piece of sacred music that plucks at our heartstrings, our mind, as it were, expands and turns naturally to God."

-- Pope Benedict XVI 

53

"I remember a concert of music by Johann Sebastian Bach in Munich, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. At the end of the last passage, one of the Cantatas, I felt, not by reasoning but in the depths of my heart, that what I had heard had communicated truth to me, the truth of the supreme composer, and impelled me to thank God."

-- Pope Benedict XVI

54

"Dear friends, I ask you to rediscover the importance of this path also for prayer, for our living relationship with God. Towns and villages throughout the world contain treasures of art that express faith and beckon to us to return to our relationship with God. May the visits to places filled with art, then, not only be opportunities for cultural enrichment — that too — but may they become above all moments of grace, incentives to strengthen our bond and our dialogue with the Lord so that — in switching from simple external reality to the more profound reality it expresses — we may pause to contemplate the ray of beauty that strikes us to the quick, that almost 'wounds' us, and that invites us to rise toward God."

-- Pope Benedict XVI

55

"…if you are friends of genuine art, you are our friends…. Today, as yesterday, the Church needs you and turns to you. Do not allow an alliance as fruitful as this to be broken. Do not refuse to put your talents at the service of divine truth…. Do not close your mind to the breath of the Holy Spirit."

-- Blessed Paul VI

56

"This world in which we live needs beauty in order not to sink into despair…. Remember that you are the guardians of beauty in the world. May that suffice to free you from tastes which are passing and have no genuine value, to free you from the search after strange or unbecoming expressions. Be always and everywhere worthy of your ideals and you will be worthy of the Church…."

-- Blessed Paul VI 

57

"Like any other human activity, art is not an absolute end in itself, but is ordered to and ennobled by the ultimate end of man."

-- Catechism of the Catholic Church

58

"Sacred Art is true and beautiful when its form corresponds to its particular vocation: evoking and glorifying, in faith and adoration, the transcendent mystery of God...."

-- Catechism of the Catholic Church

59

"This spiritual beauty of God is reflected in the most holy Virgin Mother of God, the angels, and saints."

-- Catechism of the Catholic Church

60

"Genuine sacred art draws man to adoration, to prayer, and to the love of God, Creator and Savior, the Holy One and Sanctifier."

-- Catechism of the Catholic Church