Friday, February 15, 2013


Yes, we’re still on the same document.  This week’s chapter is on Sacred Art and Sacred Furnishings (beginning with section 122.)  First, it names art as “the noblest activities of man’s genius, this is especially true of religious art and of its highest manifestation, sacred art.”  (Long time readers of A.A. know I have some particular opinions in this discussion.)  For this reason the Church has always been a patroness of the arts and “has been particularly careful to see that the sacred furnishings should worthily and beautifully serve the dignity of worship.”  (Editor’s note: maybe not on an individual basis from time to time, but as a whole – if you catch my drift.)
Art is tricky.  One man’s art is another man’s handi-wipe (and sometimes the opposite is true also – quite literally.)  So, some guidelines were set forth:
(123)  There is no particular style that the Church embraces, rather, the artistic expression of all people’s and times is to be cared for and preserved.  (Hang on to those felt banners.)


(124)  Bishops are charged to make sure that art in their diocese is worthy and to promote its commissioning and preservation.  True art is to be held in esteem and “sumptuous display” is to be avoided.  (I’d like to know what they had in mind with that phrase.  Some of my favorite churches I would label sumptuous.)  Conversely, bad, pretentious, and mediocre art is to be “removed from the house of God.”
(125)  The placing of statues and such is to be maintained but in “moderate” numbers (one man’s moderate is another man’s dehydration) and in “proper order” in order to maintain proper orthodoxy.
(126)  There should be a commission of experts in a diocese to assist a bishop in determining what pieces of art are worthy and he is to make sure that no such art is damaged or destroyed.
(127)  Bishops and priests who love art should have a special concern for artists and guide them in creating works of sacred art, even to the establishing or supporting of schools of art that would accomplish this endeavor.  Artists need to keep in mind that they share an imitation of God the Creator.
(128) This section basically says to take these points and develop new norms for sacred art.
(129) Seminarians are to be given classes in the history and production of art, its preservation, and be able to give good advice to artists.

(Painting by Eric Armusik)


Anonymous said...

Dear Fr.V,
thank you for your article.
I am a Catholic religious artist who also restores the same.
I was a toddler when this document was written so I am seeing it thanks to you for the first time.
I visit lots of different churches and I wonder could you comment on the straggly house plant displays that churches hang on to when past their best?
Especially the leggy swiss Cheese plants and philodendrons ( devils Ivy - should be chucked by virtue of the name alone!) that have yellowed from over watering. The ones no one dare throw out.
Perhaps thats just a U.K. thing...?

Anonymous said...

Can I add too, that most of the clergy I know seem to have not availed themselves of the "history and production of art classes" advised in the document.
I know "Fr.(?)" can't be good at everything;...I hate to say it but they are generally pretty poor at aesthetics, and it is an uphill struggle to explain the value of the above, meanwhile the congregation whince quietly about the dusky pink on the walls and green carpet "Fr.(?)" just spent their contributions on.
Artists need a lot more support and co-operation from the clergy here in the U.K. to do what God meant them to...