Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Brief Summary of the Fota Conference on "Benedict XVI on Church Art and Architecture"

The Fota liturgical conference in Cork, Ireland that the NLM reported on earlier took place on July 12 and 13th. The conference theme was, Benedict XVI on Church Art and Architecture.

The following brief account of events has come into the NLM from some of the organizers. (We hope to present more on this conference soon, including some images of the conference liturgies.)

[The conference] was chaired by Professor D. Vincent Twomey and divided into three sessions. The first session on Sunday evening explored some of the theological, philosophical and historical sources of the principles outlined by Joseph Ratzinger for sacred art and architecture. The second session on Monday morning continued this exploration with a paper on the importance of the Jewish notion of nuptial covenant for the disposition and decoration of early churches and a paper [by Fr. Uwe Michael Lang I believe - NLM] on Louis Bouyer's influence on the writings of Joseph Ratzinger. The third session began with Cardinal Pell's keynote address on the contribution of Joseph Ratzinger to Christian aesthetics. He emphasized above all else that contribution was essentially theological and derived from the personal theological synthesis of Joseph Ratzinger.

Turning to the practical application of the theoretical principles outlined in the earlier sessions, Professor Duncan Stroik examined the challenges facing Catholic architects especially when trying to build a church which gives physical expression to the principle mysteries of the Catholic faith.

Dr. Alcuin Reid read a very significant paper on the correct interpretation of "noble simplicity" as understood by the Council Fathers and Sacrosanctum Concilium.

Ethan Anthony of the Boston firm of HDB/Cram and Ferguson well illustrated the challenges facing parishes which want to build beautiful churches rather than glass boxes or concrete cubes, as well as the myriad of possibilities available within the matrix of traditional building design and construction methods.

A further practical aspect of providing a proper gathering space for a modern church was examined by Fr. Neil Roy, by illustrating the medieval Galilee chapel and its "transitus" character, both in terms of entering the sacral from the secular and in terms of entering the heavenly from the earthly.

The conference moved to Cobh Cathedral on Monday morning for the celebration of Mass in the Extraordinary Form with Cardinal Pell presiding in Cappa Magna.

As the question will no doubt be asked about the papers read at this conference, I am uncertain if there is any plan to publish them, but the NLM is making inquiries and will certainly let you know if there is such an intent.