Monday, May 3, 2010
Images of the peacock adorn all manner of Christian art, from catacomb painting to mosaic church decoration to liturgical objects, and the bird appears occasionally in scenes of Christ's Nativity. Take for example the image above, a detail of The Adoration of the Magi by Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi, housed at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. A peacock perched atop the stable where Christ has been born calls to mind His Resurrection, through which Christ opens for us the way to life everlasting.
Curator of Art
Sources: Saint Augustine of Hippo, City of God, Book XXI, Ch 4; Impelluso, Lucia, Nature and Its Symbols, Los Angeles: Getty Museum, 2003; Hall, James, Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1974.
In his April 26th article entitled On Beauty: A Message to Its Religious Despisers, Deal W. Hudson responds to those who claim that beauty is the "road to ruin," that it is illusory, materialistic or even unnecessary. Instead, he gives credence to the idea that "beauty can be an agent of salvation" with a cogent argument punctuated with compelling words from Hans urs von Balthasar and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He explains that there is a metaphysical unity of beauty and truth, and that "God had to make His beauty visible to the material eye in order to draw that eye back to the spiritual." Not only does "God's revelation to us [have] an aesthetic character that cannot be ignored," but "if you deny a person beauty...he may reject Him, He who is beauty itself." To read the full article, please click here.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
The chapel was designed in a simplified yet dignified Romanesque style by architect Thomas Gordon Smith, current professor (and former director of) the Notre Dame Architecture School. At 10,000 square feet, the chapel has stalls for 92 priests and seminarians in the nave, with separated seating for laity and visitors. The Fraternity is dedicated to the renewal of the Traditional Latin Mass, also known as the Tridentine Rite, and the chapel is designed for the exclusive celebration of this Rite. Featuring a 31 foot tall marble baldachino over the altar and classical columns and detailing, the chapel represents a growing rebirth of classical architecture in the Church.
Curator of Architecture
Used from the earliest days of Christianity on lamps, liturgical objects, sarcophagi, and in catacomb painting, and still in wide use today, the Chi Rho is linked to the conversion of the Roman empire in the fourth century. In 312 AD, on the eve of his battle against Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge, Constantine received a vision of this very sign blazing in the sky accompanied by a voice which assured him, "In this sign you will conquer." Constantine had this symbol put on his imperial standard and was, in fact, victorious.
While there are certainly many other symbols that represent the Resurrection, none embodies it as completely as this symbol of Christ himself. Our Lord told Saint Martha, "I AM the Resurrection and the life." Christ is the guarantor of the Christian hope in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. As was promised to Constantine, it is in the name of Christ that we achieve victory. May we live confident in the Victor, the Risen Christ, this Easter season and always.
Curator of Art
According to Russell Shaw, respected Catholic author and journalist, and former communications director for the US Bishops, "...when many of these men are priests, they will be called upon to make...important decisions about the building, renovation, and decoration of churches. Beauty is not just an add-on in worship. Beauty has its source in God, it points to and leads to God, and the beauty of our places of worship is crucial in fostering worship itself. I offer thanks and congratulations to the Foundation for Sacred Arts for this important and creative initiative." More information can be found on our website.
May you have a Blessed Triduum and Easter.
Monday, March 1, 2010
David Clayton, Crucifixion, six feet tall, egg tempera on panel, 2010.
Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, NH has recently commissioned David Clayton, the College’s Artist-in-Residence, to complete a six foot painted crucifix for its chapel.
Mr. Clayton describes the piece: "It is low so that when the priest holds the host aloft, the figure of Christ is clearly visible within the angle of vision. We have Mass both ad orientem and versus populum, so the intention here is to make sure that however the Mass is said, the focus is not on the personality of the priest but on the person of Christ.
"The cross itself is based upon the early gothic Franciscan crosses. The style is similar to that iconographic, except that the face, in the Franciscan manner, reveals his suffering. The geometric designs in the background include an octagonal motif that represents the 'eighth day' of creation, that is, the age of the life, death and resurrection of Our Lord. There is a six-winged seraph at Our Lord's feet.
"The height of cross creates a vertical dimension in a small chapel by drawing the eye up to space above the sanctuary that was hardly noticed before because it was unused. Aside from seeking to steadily introduce more art, the next step is to raise money for a new altar and a gothic-style reredos that will go against the back wall and allow for the central placement of the tabernacle."
Original interview, New Liturgical Movement
In Christian art, the pelican represents Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the Cross for our redemption. This traditional attribution stems from the belief that a female pelican will strike her breast with her beak, drawing blood to feed her young. Like the pelican, Christ shed His blood on the Cross for our redemption, and Christ offers Himself to us in the sacrifice of the Eucharist to nourish and strengthen us spiritually.
A verse from the Adoro Te Devote, a Eucharistic hymn penned by St. Thomas Aquinas, refers to Christ in the guise of this symbol:
Pelican of mercy, Jesus, Lord and God,
Cleanse me, wretched sinner, in Thy Precious Blood:
Blood where one drop for human-kind outpoured
Might from all transgression have the world restored.
As we draw near to the celebration of Christ’s death on the Cross on Good Friday, let us ask the “Pelican of Mercy” to nourish and strengthen us through His sacrifice.
Curator of Art
Thomas More College's Way of Beauty Atelier is offering a unique series of summer programs in Catholic art and inspiration that are taught by internationally renowned working Catholic artists. Artists and aspiring artists can choose from one or more of three programs in iconography, naturalistic drawing, and the principles of Catholic art.
For more information, please click here.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
His Eminence, a Dominican Father and a modern-day "Thomas Aquinas," was the principal editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. A prolific author, his publications include God’s Human Face: The Christ Icon, which investigates the theological foundations of iconography. His Eminence was in Washington, DC to celebrate Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew and then to speak in his office as the Grand Chancellor of the International Theological Institute at a dinner hosted at the Army and Navy Club, a prestigious "members only" club located at Farragut Square. Many notable ITI graduates, scholars, staff and theologians attended this event.
We were most fortunate to meet with His Eminence twice that evening -- briefly at the Cathedral after Mass, and later to make this Rosary presentation to him at the reception prior to dinner. On both occasions, he received us with great enthusiasm, interest and warmth. It was quite an experience, facilitated by our friend and supporter, John Henry Crosby, Founder of the Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy Project, who is also an Advisory Board member to the Foundation.
Our gift to His Eminence was a traditional Dominican Rosary hand-crafted by Mary A.D. Petrino, a member of our Board of Directors. The Rosary, which includes the heavily-indulgenced Sterling silver "Pardon Crucifix" designed by Pope St. Pius X, features "Ave" beads of red flake jasper and snowflake obsidian beads, symbolizing his position as a prince of Holy Mother Church and as a member of the Order of Preachers. The first three "Ave" beads are rendered in lapis lazuli, bloodstone and red flake jasper, signifying the three theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity. The "Paters" are handmade Sterling beads, designed to resemble the bishop's mitre; and the Sterling "Scapular" center medal features a carved image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, with an image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel embossed on the reverse. Finally, the box illustrates the two great apostles, Saints Peter and Paul, appropriate to the office of the Cardinal.
Top image, left to right: Ann Marra, Executive Director; His Eminence Cardinal Schönborn; Mary Petrino, Board of Directors; Rachel Ross, Curator of Art. Bottom left: Foundation Member Mary Petrino presents the hand-crafted Rosary to Cardinal Schönborn. Bottom right: The hand-crafted Rosary presented to His Eminence.
Monday, February 1, 2010
Curator of Architecture
"The Sacred Made Real: Spanish Painting and Sculpture, 1600-1700, which will be housed at the National Gallery in Washington, DC from February 28th to May 31st, showcases major paintings by Diego Velázquez, Francisco de Zurbarán, and Francisco Pacheco, as well as painted and gilded sculptures by Gregorio Fernández, Juan Martínez Montañés, and Pedro de Mena, among others. Many of the sculptures have never before been exhibited away from their Spanish churches, convents, and monasteries. Click here to read the full article on the London show. For more information on the DC exhibition, please click here.
Our blessings are evident as we continue to develop our programmatic outreach for 2010, and the Foundation is pleased to announce "Shadow, Image & Reality: The Church as Sacramental Building" a lecture by Dr. Denis R. McNamara offered Satuday, May 1st at St. Thomas a' Becket Catholic Church in Reston Virgina. Please visit the Events section of our website for more information. Ad majorem Dei gloriam.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Kusz's "Ave Maria", is an exercise in devotion moving from contemplative fragility to powerful affirmation. Fr. Kusz -- a recently ordained Dominican who lives in Krakow -- simultaneously studied sacred music and choral conducting while training for the Priesthood. His work has already become a staple in many Churches around Poland, and is a leading musical force in the "new aesthetic" in liturgical art currently taking place there. The "Ave Maria", like his other sacred works, grows strongly out of Catholic contemplative tradition while also giving a strong nod to the Gregorian Chant idiom. While the "Ave Maria" is built upon a renaissance aesthetic, the clever harmonic choices and vocal density make it a thoroughly modern work. As a composer, Kusz certainly stands on the shoulders of giants before him, looking ahead to a new musical renaissance within the Church. To listen to "Ave Maria", please click here.
Curator of Architecture
Additionally, the shell symbolizes pilgrimage. In Caravaggio's Supper at Emmaus, also above, the figure at right wears a scallop shell pinned to his vest, identifying him with all pilgrims who seek and encounter Christ at the end of their own "road to Emmaus". This symbol and practice are closely tied to the Spanish shrine of Santiago de Compostela, one of the most prominent sites of Christian pilgrimage since the Middle Ages.
These two meanings are linked. Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are born to new life in Christ and cleansed of original sin. The gates of heaven which were closed after the Fall are reopened to us through our reception of the Sacrament. Our life, therefore, is a pilgrimage through this world, and union with God in heaven is the goal of our journey.
Curator of Art
The Return of the Prodigal Son
The Church's historic relationship with the arts might best be understood as paternal rather than spousal. This is the view put forth by art historian Elizabeth Lev following the Holy Father's recent address to artists in Rome. The Church, as patron (from the Latin pater, meaning father), "acted like a nurturing father, providing education and boundaries but also exhorting artists to cultivate their gifts." Thus rather than characterizing the modern estrangment of this relationship as a "divorce", as it has been widely described, Lev contends that an "extended adolescence" is to blame. Modern artists, bent on self-promotion and self-expression, found the Christian narrative and aesthetic traditions contricting. "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." The Holy Father's call to artists, therefore, is for maturation, and for a return to the nurturing arms of their pater. To read the full Zenit article, please click here.