Christianity and the Fine Arts
|A wall from the Sistine Chapel|
One of the most frustrating failures of the church has been the gradual decline and subsequent abandonment of the fine arts, at least in a substantial sense. We growl in all our righteous contempt as our children are confronted with art, films, television programs, and other media that contain Leftist propaganda designed to destroy their Faith and any vestiges of Christian culture remaining, but do little to take up the role we once had in protecting and promoting true beauty. Such hasn't always been the way. What follows is a very brief glimpse of the church's influence on the fine arts.
''Take away the monuments of Christian art from the time of the catacombs to the present day; eliminate from public and private collections all the marvels of painting and sculpture due to Christian genius, and you will have," as Jean Germain Armengaud (1797-1869) justly observes in his Les oeuvres de 'art Chretien, ''the best proof of this fact: that religion was the sole inspiration of great art, the founder of all the rival schools, and the nursing mother of artists. It belonged to her and to her alone to complete the sublime beauty of pagan form by the still more sublime beauty of Christian sentiment: ancient art had deified matter, Christian art has breathed into a soul."
Evidence of this can be found just by examining the great Christian artists of Italy: Fra Bartolomeo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Perugino, Andrea del Sarto, Correggio, Giuho Romano, Daniel de Volterra, Michael Angelo, Palma the elder, Titian, Paul Veronese, Tintoretto, the Caravaggios, Guido, and Domenichino.
The great sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822) wrote Napoleon:
"All religions foster art, but none in the same degree as ours!"
That was certainly the case for a significant part of Western cultural history, but no more. As the church decided to capitulate to the secular worldview, rather than insist on Christ as King in the social order, it lapsed into a pathetic indifference to the fine arts, such that Modernity is hostile to the order and beauty of traditional architecture, of sculpture, painting, music, and dance. We justly admire the meditative and touching melodies of the Gregorian chant, and the learned compositions of Orlando de Lassus, of Palestrina, of Allegri, while preferring "worship bands" and bland shopping mall "architecture".
|Water tower? No. MIT Chapel.|
While the church at one time, along with the possession of Truth, gave us an appreciation for the beautiful and the desire to express it in art, many well meaning, but seriously erring Christians today eschew anything that looks remotely beautiful or orderly, preferring the banality of modern "worship" songs that replace traditional hymns, the pounding of drums and electric guitars to the beauty of plainsong, and the bare walls of their shopping mall gathering places to beautiful cathedrals. What has happened is that the church has been penetrated by the spirit of the world, of which the operative philosophy, Cultural Marxism, is the enemy of aesthetics, of beauty and order-of the Faith and the arts. In withdrawing or degrading the imagination from the faculties of man, it reduces art to a tool of oppression, of immorality, and of enslavement to a purely Naturalist, and aesthetically vacant worldview. This attack on Christianity in the fine arts should be considered both a temporal and spiritual attack, rooted in the rebellion of Satan and those miserable angels who followed him. If this rebellion continues to be successful, it will establish another age of barbarism. Our task is to see that we do all we can to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and His social kingship, and take back the fine arts, since art rightfully belongs to God and should express His will for Man and the social order.